Category Archives: Future – Futur

The long read: Brexit – After thoughts

Overall.

It’s a “I want to divorce!” not just thrown in the face of the European Union, about whom it is difficult to say how much the people do care, but also, and most importantly for them, from the UK to the UK itself. So of course, there are the usual steps of copying: surprise, anger, denial, inner fighting and inner questioning. However, when there could be a way to find peace and solutions, all I see is bitterness and even greater divide.

The Remainers.

They are the divorcee but the ones I blamed the most. They did not fight enough: arrogance? hubris? taking results granted? “Even a simpleton would see it’s bad to leave”, one said to me. They are the ones who thought they had the upper-hand on all aspects of the marriage, felt threatened towards the end but as they never thought they’d have to try and convince anyone, it was too late. They failed and never managed to convince its disgruntled other half to go along with what they think is the best for both.

Of course they are sore losers. Who wouldn’t? They genuinely believe that their vision is the way forward, not just for themselves but for everyone: old and young, poor and rich, natives and migrants, here or there, alive or to be born.

So, yes, they are sore and hurting. As a European in heart and mind, I understand it goes far beyond saying “yes” or “no” to some what kind of food we want to import or tax rates. It’s about their future falling apart. For them everything is gone by now. Hopes and dreams they never bothered to communicate have been replaced by fear their leaders played on. It backfired, they are the ones to be dreading and angry, not the opposite side.

What I don’t understand is the violence with which they are now attacking the Brexiters who are all dismissed as daft peasants whose racism and xenophobia equal their inability to see what’s good for them. They are good for nothing, they know nothing. Just check..everywhere! “Old”, “without a degree”, “poor”, “illiterate”, “easily fooled”, “intolerant”…

Who are you to talk about tolerance when you are happy to dismiss the choice of a majority and/or demand to be heard again because you have convinced yourself that only you know better?

For me, London encompasses what Remainers are sadly becoming. They could change their old ways of disdain for others whilst contemplating their own achievements and start to listen so they could find empathy and try to find solutions. They could stop looking down on whoever thinks differently and insult everyone who has different views because this is actually part of what lead the second city of the country to vote “Leave”.

The Remainers could try to accept and rebuild under their own terms, if they are so powerful and clever. No, instead, they are dismissing the choice of 52% of voters because it’s not their own, they are wishing the worse on them all the while pushing for a referendum that, this time, will be binding because they are convinced the results will satisfy them, they are pushing their beloved self-appointed beacon of civilisation (London) to part ways with the rest of that “stupid, outdated, backward-looking, good-for-nothing and racist’ country. Not a good way to rebuild and be strong as one.

I might be the harshest on them because I expect better from my peers. And I also know they will manage to get the better out of this situation because they do have the intellectual, economic and political means so instead of punishing the other half, be a better person and try to mend your ways.

 

The Brexiters

The divorcer. They want out, they are fed up, they want their country back, whatever that means.

It’s difficult to picture a Brexiter because I know many and none of them are the same person and I can’t help but feeling that they are going to be the worst affected by this decision and I do have pity for them before anger.

They are the  xenophobes, the ones who unforgivably blame their own failure on foreigners, but they are also foreigners themselves. I know people from outside the EU who say they voted “Leave” because it’s not changing anything as far as they are concerned, but also because they have grown fed up of being told they were stealing British jobs. “Make the continentals go and see if those lazy Brits will actually accept to do their job…That should shake the rust off their racist back!”

The first ones believed Nigel Farage, the seconds bought happily to the Tory rhetoric of skiver vs strivers. They watch Benefit Street populated by lazy white people living the good life on benefits while they are working 15hrs/day to barely make a living and be able to diligently pay their taxes.

I am fascinated by Brexiters as I am trying to understand the scale of their wilful self-harm. A self-harm that comes with a smile and cheer. Why? For months, I have read and watched a lot about them, I have listened to them a lot and there is complete blindness and simplistic thinking in desperation.

There is foolishness too and a gob-smacking amount of narrow-mindness, especially within the older generation, the same who voted “IN” in 1970s and who refuses see the world for what it really is. I am not talking about accepting neo-capitalism and its jungle-like fight for survival for they are the first to champion these views. I am talking about this bovine refusal to leave a time that is not anymore.

When you hear them chanting “Great Britain will be great again”, you see the colonial past behind it where England was dominating everything: if not the world, at least the British Isles. They want to go back to a time before Brussels came in and forced London, not only to cough up the cash, but mostly to consider the other nations of the UK and devote them some power.

Today, they are happy. England is still at the wheel. Scotland said IN, they said OUT…It’s OUT then. Brilliant, we are still in control and will forever be now. Everybody’s happy.

But beyond the nostalgia of the ones who love to rewrite history they never bothered to learn because they “lived it”, there is the desperation of the ones who believed what they were told, did everything they were told to do and got nothing in return. Because they had nothing and still have nothing, they firstly did not buy to the Cassandras in the Remain Camp predicting economic Armageddon. For them, it’s a reality, not an oracle. Nothing has been, is and will be going to be better for them, nor their children and that’s they cannot see that the UK is what it is because of its own politicians, not because of Europe.

Yes, I do feel pity for these ones because they were, once again, used and abused by the ones fighting for power.

 

The politicians.

In a nutshell, when you play with fire you are going to get burnt.

First, Tories and Labour, forty years of blaming the EU for every single of your own unpopular policy is not going to be wiped out within two months of lukewarm campaigning. We like to say that people don’t listen to politicians anymore, it’s true. Most Brexiters think Farage and Johnson are as corrupted and deceiving as the leaders of the Remain camp. But in the long term, words do sink in. The 2010 and 2015 Tory victories were won on scaremongering about immigration, “EU diktats” and making Britain great again. Labour has found nothing better to do than join in or remain silent in fear of losing the votes.

The Brexiters did nothing except believe the endless Brussels bashing and finger-pointing London has been doing since the day it entered. Just look at the opinion of Europe since 1973 and it’s constantly going down, governments after governments. I think the only thing we can admire the Liberal Democrats for is to have always proudly advertised their pro-Europeans stance.

The Labour? Well, it should be ashamed to have let the Tories take control of the debate on the EU they actually endorse. Yes, their reputation is in tatters after they left their own voters behind, became aloof and ignoring of what people wanted (the No to the war in Iraq) but they went the easy way. They could have regained dignity breaking away with Blair and his murderous and corrupted cronies. Only Labour can be the link between the elite and the working class today, through unions mostly, so they could have educated their voters on the benefits of the EU everytime the Tories went on the attack since the 1970s. However, they made the mistake of leaving it to people to figure out the Conservatives were lying and when the damage was done, they became scared of alienating their few voters left further so they just joined the half-baked and outlandish scaremongering of the Tories. No hopes, just fears. That’s not what the Left should be selling.

Speaking of fears, Cameron eventually paid the price by wanting to ride the ones of the voters for political gain. I talked about it earlier but something did not add up during this frankly daft campaign. Europe went from the source of all evil in 2014 to the best thing that has ever happened to the UK in mid-2016. I know he was trying to straddle every Tory fences and have it both ways. We talked about him maybe being a political genius in managing such a feat. No, he became yet another victim of his own making by lighting the fire under a slow-cooker with no pressure valve called “Populism.”

Farage’s and Johnson’s reputations precede them but Cameron is now going to be the one who triggered the end of the United Kingdom and serves him right.

 

The media.

Two words: excruciatingly appalling. I am not talking about tabloids, they think publishing pictures of Xabi Alonso’s half-naked toddling daughters playing on the beach is in the public interest just because their faces are pixelated.

I am talking about the newspapers. Even the Guardian, my favourite. The analysis has been fantastic since the Leave vote but where were they before? Even the most serious newspapers threw proper journalistic investigation to the wind and became an open platform for both side’s dismal scaremongering. I got so fed up with the Guardian’s daily “Armageddon is coming with Leave” that I almost wrote to them to ask them if their columnists had been locked in the basement so no one could actually analyse what was behind the terrible forecasts they were made.

We had a couple of good analysis on how ridiculous it was for the Remain camp to bring in the big guns (Chiefs of IMF, Bank of England, NATO, EU…) to pile up the fear of voting Leave on the poor neighbourhoods of Northern England for the people, even Remainers, distrust these unelected elites and aloof institutions in the first place.

In the face of abysmally poor political debate, I was expecting the serious press to be there to inform us, to guide us and I truly believe the outcome of the vote would have been different had they done their job properly of informing and educating the adults. Instead, they set themselves as nothing but a relay for one or the other side.

The EU.

We’ll be fine. We’ll kick out the UK asap with harsh negotiations to ensure no one else is tempted to leave and regroup as 27. Notwithstanding, there is now only hope that the elite reflects (for more than 2 weeks before the holidays!) and understands that populism is nothing to be dismissed or used for political gain. It is a time bomb waiting to explode. People who are afraid are not all racists or xenophobes, people who hate are not all bad in essence and deserve to be ignored, people who rebel are not all a threat and the majority’s silence does not mean it agrees with you.

We say France is next. I would not be surprised. All above is exactly what is happening with a man who think his winning the majority of votes in 2012 gives him the right to discard his promises, betray his supporters, disregard his own people’s opinions, force laws through the parliament without debate and without even consulting his own rebelling party, and drag everyone who dares fight in the dirt, when not hitting them directly.

This Leave vote is first and foremost a shout to the aloof, down-looking, self-righteous and dismissing elite so it is time people are listened to – which does not mean we have to agree with them. But we need to take time to know them, to educate and stop rushing through for our own greatness (every country wants its EU presidency to remembered) and in the name of “superseding considerations people would not understand”. We will understand, just explain. Yes, it takes time but it will eventually prevent such vote that brings down 40 years of hard work.

 

The UK

Right now, there is healing to be done in the UK. They will never amount to anything if they can’t manage to find a way to be one again. I don’t hold on too many hopes, though.

Firstly because I am convinced Scotland and Northern Ireland are going to break away. When the Tories were elected in 2015, I said it would open a fascinating time as a historian for Scotland and NI would not put up with London’s overbearing unique voice anymore, not with Brussels acting as a shield. Putting up with Tory governments and ministers they have no elected is one thing, being forced out of the EU they want to keep because it made them the proud nations they are today is another and one they will never accept.

Now there is England and Wales plagued by infighting, anger, denial and hatred. Remainers want a new referendum. How can they be so sure people would vote like they want? Why would the second one be more biding than the first one which was an electoral promise kept and planned months in advance by the democratically elected Prime Minister? What if the result is indeed different? What would stop the Brexiters from launching another petition signed by millions for a third one? When will it stop ?

There is talk of forcing the Stay through the Parliament but Cameron was clear on that : the people has spoken. What best way is there to push people towards the extremes by, yet again, having Westminster ignoring the voice of the masses and doing whatever it likes because the outcomes is displeasing them?

Cameron has jumped the boat he stirred into the rocks, the Tories are already tearing each other to piece to get a new leader by October. The Lib Dems are dead silent. The Labour is in disarray as it is its voters in its heartlands that helped the Eurosceptic get what they always wanted. This vote was also a punishment on Tony Blair and his New Labour for it has embraced overbearing London and chummed up with the financial elite to the detriment of the working class. How can they reconnect now?

The Remain campaign said the country would sink if they left. Today, England and Wales need to prove all the forecasts wrong by being strong and united to get make the most of a bad situation. Instead, they are as weak and divided as ever, creating the perfect conditions for the planned Armageddon to happen.

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The French Atopia

I am always striking against England but at the end of the day, I did leave France to live in England and, yes, I am back in France but I can’t wait to leave so why?

Now that I am back in France from abroad where I have learnt to stand aside and observe a society to assimilate, the feelings I had a decade ago about my country, these feelings that made me leave it have found words to be expressed. It took me years to understand why as a highly skilled young I never felt like I could make it here in the long run.

People have a lot of theories as to why France is not making out of the crisis and there are many reasons that could be listed. One of them I am addressing here is France’s psyche in the face of change. It doesn’t mean other places are doing it right or that their struggles can be explained the same way.

At first, in France, we hate everyone and everything is shit so it will always be difficult to appear like we are thriving: our job is shit, our life is shit, the weather is shit, our car is shit, our shit is shit. We do have qualities, like the refusal to level down or play into the don’t-worry-they’re-all-dumb speech from the economists about the sacrifice everyone should make…except the rich… but frankly we are a nation of self-deprecating, yet arrogant and self-centred pessimists who can never see the positive sides of anything. That would be fine if we could at least see ourselves for who we are and go beyond the first line of criticism we put on every aspect of life.

I am like this. I am extremely French and have learnt to be proud of my inner Frenchiness and that’s thanks to England! You never realise how French you are until you go and live abroad. “Everything is crap. Even what I do, although everyone should do what I do cause I still do it the best. That’s to say how shit everybody else is” is pretty much my way of life when facing alternatives but I do know who I am and I always force myself to go beyond my first instinct of rejection. It’s called growth but on a daily basis, I encounter too many people in France who we are too happy to dismiss everything as worthless or to see a potential for failure in everything and everyone before even considering them. There seems to be the idea that looking down on everything will make yourself bigger and your condition more worthy. The finding of confidence in the demise of others.

Facing with all that crap in our everyday life, you would think that someone would be ready to do something about it but no. There is a gobsmacking general refusal to evolve hidden in a funny “Yeah, it’s just that we like complain”.

In England, it’s different, it’s apathy towards problems hidden in “It could be worst, you know” with hint of self-deprecation so to commiserate. People will not care because they have been taught that protesting was against the inherent interests of capitalism. So they will mention politics sometimes but not give a damn about it unless it interferes with their freedom to get a brand new car at 18. Then we will see them in the streets because that move would be anti-capitalist in itself, to stop people from buying new cars when they have not even voted for the first time.

In France, people talk about politics all the time. That’s a normal topic of conversation in everyday life, we are political and interested and, yes! there is a will to move, we strike, we fight as long as it’s to show our disagreement, as long as it is to protect the status quo, to make sure things remain the same and are left unchanged. Change is the enemy in France. It is true that change is often attempts to copy what the US are doing for the sake of it and regardless of cultural differences and outcomes. But it’s not a reason to dismiss other alternatives. In France, there is fear of change, of novelty because when you are told that settling is security, anything that unsettles the routine you build for yourself is a threat.

Throughout French history you will look at a schizophrenic country that praises and rises thinkers, philosophes, politicians and critical playwrights but I have the increasing feeling that it’s not because of their message to change, rather more because they were basically saying that “everything was crap!” Such good French they were!

The French are taught to settle down. After 25, that’s it, you made your choices, now you have the right to more or less enjoy it until you die. Changes are bad, they will disrupt your opinions, they will disrespect your decision, they will force you to adapt when you just spent 25 years learning how to be and do that way! How can one expect to survive if things are changing all the time?

When I say “taught”, we are not taught this as such of course, because frankly that would sound whiny and immature so how else do we ensure people feel that way and pass it on? You have to call to the French’s self-righteousness and inherent pleasure to be able to look down on people as if we understood something they have not. So we are not taught, rather made to understand that:

“Children have dreams whereas adults have responsibilities.”

Once we understand it, we understand the meaning of life “French-style” then we can then look down on people who have not yet and so on. The pleasure of feeling superior.

But what does it mean? It means: come with a dream in France, with a will to change things or even just yourself, with hope, desire and ambition to evolve and to make it happen… You will be on your own from start to finish, having to swim against with sharks in endless tides of sneers from everyone: “Here we go, another one with a dream…Little one, it’s time to grow up.” Our behaviour towards hope of a different life is mean-girlish at best. We criticise the “jungle”-view of English capitalism but we are happy to give innovators and risk-takers the same medicine.

This statement will sum up France in every aspect of life and when we talk economic behaviour, it is lethal for the young generations today and it explains why between 30,000 and 100,000 French are moving to Québec every year or that millions of us are longing and looking to leave.

Let’s talk work, for instance, and why it’s impossible for younger people with ideas, concepts and innovation to make it here because it takes time to mature these ideas and it’s quickly “too late”.

In England, when someone told us they wanted to be a teacher, we did not care how old they were or anything. We always helped them:  whoever they were, whence-ever they were coming, whatever time of the year. We did not have to do so but we always let them come in the classrooms, observe, help the kids and we had a genuine, frank conversation about the training, and the goods and the bads of being a teacher. We do it because that’s the way things are (mostly) working in English-speaking countries: you have an ambition to do the same job and you go forward yourself, you came all the way here, opening doors for yourself, so we will help as much as we can. It was not from us to judge whether they would be good teachers or not, they are later performance and hard-work would determine that, not us.

In France, no one will help. First, they will look at you like someone who’s coming to steal their own jobs but mostly it’s because in France, between 20 and 25, you will have made a decision regarding your professional life and what you do at 25 is what you will stop doing at 65. Your life is set in stone at 25. France’s life expectancy is 84 for women. That’s 60 years of unchanged continuity, oh the joy!

If you want it differently, they are no doors so you have to break the walls while everyone shouts negativity at you and drops nails in front of your wheels. If you are a teacher, you will stay a teacher, you have to remain a teacher and if you want to move on, we make you understand that “no one just decides to change career at 30”. Very definite rule of life, isn’t it?

I am not saying other countries are fully open-minded. The ruling classes only see benefits in making sure lower classes don’t realise they are actually free to do whatever they want, but there are different ways to do it, different degrees with which each country is doing it and who is targeted. In France, even when a highly-educated person seeks change and has everything they need to do so, they are still publically called reckless, irresponsible and ridiculed. If you insist, well then, you’re on your own, do not expect anyone to be positive about it, to tell you anything good and encouraging, to help you, not least to accept you.

Then they find it weird that brains are going abroad. “The brain drainage”, they call it as highly skilled people are leaving. Of course, we suffocate here! Incentives are ignored, ideas shrugged aside and entrepreneurial spirit looked at like the plague. There is something wrong with “the changers”, they are up to something.

There are many ways to not “teach you” rather make you understand that you are being childish with all your dreams. The one above when they just tell you straight away that you should grow up and get a job, that’s final. “Aren’t you ashamed of being maintained by your wife?” a friend of mine was said by his in-laws as he tried to change career, or “If you don’t like it, you’re unpatriotic so just leave!”, well that’s constructive! You do feel like a 15-year-old who had just dared throw a tantrum, just to get slapped in the face.

There Is also the soft, wolf in sheep clothing way: A friend of mine told me I was living in a utopia where people could just make decision whenever they want with their lives. Well yeah, we’re not prisoners as far as I know… But she uses “Utopia”, the U word, the ultimate, patronising insult to make her hit-and-run point: crazy people (or children) believe in Utopia whereas sensible people (or adults) are realistic. I’d say “cynical” but it’s a matter of opinion.

Or there is the parental worry: We worry for your future. Recently, I was talking to my uncle who looked at me with that same look most French have given me since I came back and mentioned changing careers. Then he started to lecture me on the need for everyone to have stability in their lives and although he “supported and understood” my decision, he thinks it was “best for me to have stayed in England in my stable job because a job is not everything…”

It’s true that we are hedonists and when it comes to work and making a living, we still like to think gold and silver are for little kids who like shinny things and that the true meaning of life is somewhere else.  But he’s very wrong and somehow I understand why he said that with his two marriages, kids in France and the US, his moving back and forth to France, UK and the two US coasts in the past 20 years. The only stability is his life is his job and that must be terrible to realise that when you’re 57. He was a taught the “school, wed, job, kids and retire”. He is part of the generation that turn your job into your identity but he hates looking at it like.

Today, in modern society, and in France, where private matters shall not define who you are, your identity consists in your name and your job: the who you are and the what you are. You are given your name, no question asked, but you would think that you can have some kind of control on what you are throughout your life.

However to change name in France, you have to have a “good reason” (whatever that means), pay a lot of money, go to court, have your file discussed at length and a panel of judges will decide whether you should be allowed to become Elizabeth instead of Elisabeth. And that will cost you even more afterwards. Well, changing jobs is as difficult.

In France, you have a name and you have a job, you don’t change one or the other. You can lose your job but you have to look for the same one with a different company or/and in a different town. You want change? Look for change in continuity and get a promotion in your own business. “Mind your own business!” is what you will hear when you asked someone else’s about their job if they feel you’re fishing for information about it.

Today, no matter how many times I have to explain that I want to be something else than a teacher, I am still reckless and the relevant people I interact with to make it happen will make sure I see the light of day again: they make it impossible to get a proper training after you’re 16, the job offers will be solely related to your previous job because the websites don’t allow you to apply for jobs that do not fit your CV, and most people will not talk to you and give you advice on their profession because they think you are here to get their job, take their life away and the promise of a life-time of settling down unchallenged.

Thou shall not go after someone else’s wife and thou shall not go after someone else’s job. You made your decision; you chose your own, deal with it!

I am wondering then…How can the French society move on and prosper when it is so rigidly and negatively stubborn in keeping every aspect a status quo? How can a society adapt to a world where technologies and mind-sets change every six month and plan for the future when it is so hateful and distrustful of changes (even positive) and belief in Utopia? How can France possibly move forward where everybody is content with being so little out-going and willing to accept or even just, mildly consider alternatives? How can a country appeal to visionaries when it tells its population that children have dreams whereas adults have responsibilities?

I learn to accept that France is a deeply conservative country built a stone-like society that only rocks when the system becomes too clocked up and explodes. I am not asking France to become as insanely reckless, frivolous and short-sighted as the English-speaking countries. I do like the feeling of long-term decisions and stability because it does give some time to process things.

Nevertheless, I do see France on the other side of the spectrum from the English-speaking world and there are many alternatives to a society that brings up its citizens to expect absolute, blind continuity: what you are and do at 25, you are and do at 65. But what the world is and does in 2014, the world will not be and will not do in 2054.