Battered, bruised, and horrified today. But it’s more important than ever to make it clear that this was not in my name. Not in my name, and not in most of yours, if my Facebook and Twitter feed are anything to go by. I’ve never felt more upset by an election/referendum decision (despite having never once got what I voted for), and I’ve never been more furious to be associated with bigotry and xenophobia simply by being ‘British’. So I’m not going to be quiet about this one.
The Leave campaign was built on hate and fear, and on making people blame immigration, not cuts, for the problems they’re facing. Immigration is not fundamentally problematic. We can’t stress that enough right now. (See here for a far more balanced economic view on immigration than I could muster: https://next.ft.com/content/0260242c-370b-11e6-9a05-82a9b15a8ee7?siteedition=uk). We should never have had this referendum, and now we find ourselves waking up to a country where hate has won. And it’s going to have an impact everywhere. In a short space of time, our scientific and medical research will be lagging way behind (it’s mostly EU-funded: see here http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexitvote/2015/12/05/debunking-the-myths-about-british-science-after-an-eu-exit/). What remains of it will no longer be subject to the (very good) broader EU ethical codes. There are more implications than I can list here, and you don’t need to hear it, but I want to add that parts of the UK that were already neglected – through austerity or geography – will be the first to feel all of this. Deprived communities have been told lies. Another practical ramification: roads in remote parts of Scotland and elsewhere will start to suffer. These things weren’t really talked about in the main campaigns, but they should have been (with apologies to everyone I’ve rolled out this spiel to over the last month or so, and with thanks to my amazing mum for the link to the LSE blog). But what really matters here is that hate beat hope. I hoped and believed that within the EU, we could work together to create a welcoming, multicultural Europe, that our economy would be stronger, that collaboration in all sectors and in all senses was better than isolationism. But now we are going to leave. And now what do we do?
There are small things that make a difference. My brilliant friend Hannah runs a language café in Hull, which started from nothing and has recently made it into the news. This, at its very heart, celebrates multiculturalism and diversity. In Edinburgh – and across the country – Refugee Action Scotland (https://www.facebook.com/groups/re.act.now/) are doing incredible work every single day. Wherever you are, there will be something you can do. It’s never been more important that we support initiatives like this, whether small-scale and personal, or on a city-wide or national scale (I’d say international, but right now that just makes feel even more keenly what we’ve lost). We have to think about the key principles we were voting for – for me, that means welcoming, hopeful, and forward-looking – and find ways to make them happen ourselves. Go to the pub and bemoan the state of the world. Lie in the bath and cry. And then do something. Show love, make people feel welcome and wanted, and above all do not fall prey to divisiveness, fear, and hate.
One more thing: I’ve had a growing, nagging feeling that posting on Facebook and Twitter is essentially pointless. We all curate our social media sphere and with every election that passes I realise I know the world less and less. This is why we have to go out and DO SOMETHING. But other people’s posts have inspired me to be more active, and have armed me with better arguments than I would have had otherwise (thank you), so I do think it’s a valid course of action — but it can’t be our only one.
I’ve never written anything quite like this before because I’ve always been scared — that I don’t know enough, that someone will make me look stupid, that it will get upsetting, and what difference can my words make anyway? But I’m far more scared about what the UK voted for yesterday and, above all, that fear could ever displace love. And with that I’m sending lots of love to everyone who is upset today, to the snot-covered faces like mine, and – most importantly of all – to everyone who no longer feels welcome in this country. You are loved, and you are welcome here, and now we all have to find ways to make that abundantly clear.
PS. Thank you to lovely Eloise for sharing Jo Cox’s maiden speech this morning. It was one of the first things I saw when I woke up and has given me words to cling onto.