No, "Brexit Britain" isn't perfect—but neither is the Netherlands. Our task is to foster an inclusive dialogue, not turn our backsby Justa M Hopma / October 11, 2017 / Leave a comment
In a recent piece in Prospect, Joris Luyendijk reflects on his personal experiences before and during the unfolding saga that is Brexit. Having spent considerable time in the London, Britain’s cosmopolitan capital, Luyendijk uses his experiences to draw conclusions about English culture and society. He is very to the point in highlighting what he views as some of England’s social ills: he concludes that the English are ignorant of the EU, the English do not understand compromise, England is not a serious country and that middle-class Englanders need to straighten themselves out.
Like Luyendijk, I am a Dutch national and came to Britain considerable time ago. Similar, again. to Luyendijk, I found the events of Brexit—which prompted me to ask some serious questions about the various dimensions of my identity—upsetting. Unlike Luyendijk, however, I do not think that ‘England’ needs to be given alone-time so as to “sort itself out.” Instead, we need a far more nuanced and contextualised understanding of the events that led to Brexit—rather than a smug and self-righteous turning of backs.
Britain’s internal diversity—both socially and economically—is a puzzling factor, especially to those coming from elsewhere. When I came to Britain over twelve years ago I had no idea about the vast cultural differences and diverse economic histories of the United Kingdom’s constituent parts.
Since 2005, however, I have lived in Ceredigion (Wales), Oxfordshire and South Yorkshire and over time I came to understand that vibrant, cosmopolitan London is a world apart from the poorer areas in south Wales, on the outskirts of Edinburgh or in east Sheffield. One of the city of London’s greatest achievements is its diversity and multiculturalism. Difference is an integral part of the way of life in the city. Whether you are Dutch, Danish, Bangladeshi, Lithuanian, Jamaican or of any other background, you are part of London and London can be a part of you.
Read Joris Lyendijk’s piece on how he learned to loathe England.
Importantly, as Luyendijk points out, many of Britain’s poorer areas arguably voted against their own interests when voting Leave. When it comes to voting, however, such contradictory actions are nothing new and Britain is certainly not the only country facing this issue. For example, parallels with the United States and the Trump campaign can be drawn quite easily.
Nonetheless, Luyendijk’s admission that he feels…