My Mazamet

Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho

A Lesson From ‘Brexit’: On Immigration, Feelings Trump Facts – The New York Times

“Many citizens, particularly those who have suffered under the economic pressures of globalization, express their anxiety over these changes by focusing on another form of change: foreigners in their midst. Halting immigration, even if the actual effect is to worsen their own economic situation, seems like a way of staving off those larger changes.”

Source: A Lesson From ‘Brexit’: On Immigration, Feelings Trump Facts – The New York Times

Must read article from the NYT- packed with interesting information; like for example that net immigration from Mexico to the US has been zero since 2010 and yet talk of building a wall still engenders applause from a certain sector of the population.

What this article and others are missing is the False Memory Syndrome aspect of the process. People are trying to preserve or recapture a past that never really existed. I’m 38, which isn’t too old, but old enough to remember how much less comfortable and convenient life was in a pre-globalized, pre-free-trade world. Much of what we consider normal today, the generations before us considered great luxuries. In the year I was born, for example, a 22 inch television cost 8.3% of the yearly salary of an NHS nurse or a Police constable (£3500 at the time). A two television home? Luxury. A two car home? Luxury. A cordless home phone? Not everyone had one.

We live longer and healthier lives than ever before. We’re more comfortable in winter than ever before (double glazing only became standard for new builds in the UK in the mid 1980’s.) We have access to a whole range of foods that used to be reserved for the wealthy. Our cars are safer than ever before…

There are only two areas that buck the improvement trend- one of which is a double edged sword. Real estate prices have indeed increased dramatically. Back in my reference year, 1978, the average house price in the UK was £16,000. Meaning approximately 5 years of wages for the NHS nurse or the police constable. But to achieve that sort of low price, that meant someone had to feel the squeeze- and that was labourers who that year were earning from £15 to £40 a week (depending on their level of expertise.) Costs of materials were also considerably lower and that was also dependent on labourers working in the production of those materials being squeezed.

Related to the dramatic increase in house prices (because property ownership is a major factor in the inequality index) is the factor which I think is the big player as the main catalyst to fomenting othering/xenophobia: knowledge of inequality. Not inequality itself, that’s always existed. There were and will always be people who are prettier, more competent, more successful, wealthier and so on and so forth- but they weren’t a part of our lives in the way they are today.

Technological connectedness means we’re bombarded with information about other people’s lives hundreds if not thousands of times per day. That means people aren’t comparing their homes to their neighbors, who probably have similar socioeconomic backgrounds and lifestyles, but the comparisons are to people in entirely different circumstances. Physically the comparisons are to models. Financially the comparisons are to incredibly wealthy and successful individuals. This can only create feelings of discontent and inadequacy- and if a clever manipulative politician comes along knowing how to exploit the phenomena… we get something like Brexit.

11 comments on “A Lesson From ‘Brexit’: On Immigration, Feelings Trump Facts – The New York Times

  1. Hariod Brawn
    June 29, 2016

    There is no Brexit. Only a vote for it. Two different things.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, we don’t know if the extremists will end up in power or not? Yesterday the allegedly pro-union Cameron was saying the EU should reconsider rules on freedom of movement. What does that say about where his party truly stands on the matter?


      • Hariod Brawn
        June 29, 2016

        You may just have detected I am no fan of The Nasty Party, Pink. I think we have to be open to the possibility that even if Johnson/Gove take the reins (not a given), then invoking Article 50 is not a given. There is a precedent of the U.K. (what an absurd name that now looks) government making an apparent pledge to the EU and yet never fulfilling it. Here is my thinking (fwiw), as an alternative to Rachman’s position of agreeing an emergency brake on immigration:

        Cameron has cleverly handed the task of invoking Article 50 to his successor. No one but Farage wants to do it!. Now, his successor is going to need a new mandate at a General Election. That means having a new manifesto, and such a manifesto could include an obligation to invoke Article 50 only when certain conditions are met in respect to a trade deal with the EU. The conditions would be constructed so as to be politically impossible to meet, though seemingly plausible to the electorate, and therefore Brexit would never happen. This is what the British Govt. did under Labour with respect to ditching Sterling in favour of the Euro. Gordon Brown set key tests which had to be met, yet which were impossible to meet in actuality, not least of all due to their vagueness – i.e. they were movable goal posts. He therefore blocked joining the Euro without ever explicitly claiming to do so. It’s not a done deal.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Very good article, btw. My fear, though, is that politics are being held hostage by extremists. Last year Marine Le Pen and her niece actually came close to winning regional elections. Had it not been for Manuel Valls urging socialist voters to vote for moderate conservatives (rather than for socialists) where those candidates had a chance of winning- the two Le Pen’s would be in power today.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hariod Brawn
        June 29, 2016

        Politics is being held hostage by extremists. That is why the referendum was held – a (failed) strategy of the Tories to kill off UKIP. Did you see Le Pen being interviewed by Emily Maitlis on Newsnight last night?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nooooooooooo. You know she appears more on foreign stations than on French television. None of the three French 24 hour news channels showed her speaking after Farage in Brussels. Meanwhile CNN, SKY, Fox and even the BBC did.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hariod Brawn
        June 29, 2016

        Disingenuous in the extreme, one might say:


  2. Cara
    June 29, 2016

    Politics is being held hostage by extremists, certainly here in the States. Donald Trump wants to ban Mexicans and Muslims AND criminalize abortion, and as extreme as he is, people actually WANT HIM TO BE OUR NEXT PRESIDENT. He has them convinced he can somehow undo the last 60 years & give them back an America where white men rule supreme (and it’s a pie in the sky he’s selling)

    Liked by 3 people

  3. darthtimon
    June 29, 2016

    I fear for my country. I’ve read posts on Facebook that spoke of winning back independence and freedom – did they genuinely believe the EU was a dictatorship over Britain? The ignorance at work has been frightful.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


This entry was posted on June 29, 2016 by in activism and tagged , , , , .
%d bloggers like this: