Before iPhones, NYC taxi drivers were reliably fun conversationalists.
They still are in London.
London cabbies are some of the most uniquely intelligent people in the world. They have unparalleled geographic knowledge set to navigate the mind-boggling maze of tiny London streets.
And due to my lack of a cell phone, the cabbies were immediately engaging and friendly.
After hearing our accents, three cabbies started our ride off by asking, “So, what do ya think of your new president, there?”
Please…get me started.
And those conversations immediately led to talk of Brexit. Every single one of our drivers voted “Britain Out”. And they were quick to talk about it.
And boy do I feel schooled.
It seemed to me the Brexit vote meant 52% of Brits were short-sighted and wanted closed borders; that, indeed, they were being xenophobic not wanting low-wage workers from Romania or Estonia, let alone refugees. And it seemed they were tired of having another “boss” in Brussels, the EU capital.
I just thought – “What are you? Texas?”
But the earful I received from London cab drivers illustrated more sides of the debate.
First off, one of the guys said, “We are a country of human rights. We welcome millions of people. We’re a diverse culture of opportunity with people from all over the world. But Brussels was accusing us of being ‘racist’ because we wanted to deport some real criminals…people who’d killed, repeatedly robbed, and lived without contributing to British society.
In short…“bad hombres”.
And Brussels told the Brits they were violating human rights by wanting to deport criminals.
<<As I write this, I’m panicking that I’m endorsing Trump-speak.>>
I’ve always been pro-European Union. I studied its history, organization, and economy during a semester in Paris. It’s necessary because democratic countries with intertwined economies don’t go to war with each other. Further, in a globalized world of interconnection, there needs to be international organization to create an even playing field.
Despite the growing pains of integrating millions of people from formerly Eastern bloc countries, there is more universal prosperity…thanks to Brussels.
But I’ve always had a nagging feeling that “too big to fail” is bad. As with corporations that get too big, government entities could, as well. It’s a law of economics, physics and biology. (I don’t know what law. Don’t quote me.) But corporations naturally grow until they’re too big and unmanageable: Pan Am, Sears, Office Depot.) The same goes for countries: USSR, the British Empire, Rome.
And I wonder how close the USA is to being “too unmanageably big”.
If we can look past the underprivileged who’d be left behind were the Southern United States to separate from the North, you have to admit…local control can more directly serve its public than ungainly bureaucracies from far away. (I’m simplifying greatly, I know.) But I wonder when/if the US should just break up?
And the same goes for Britain and the EU. No one could possibly accuse the Brits of being violators of human rights, terrible polluters or dishonest purveyors of chemical-laden-broccoli-masquerading-as-organic-produce.
So if the Brits want to be able to control who comes in and out of their country, is that so wrong? They’re already committed to absorb 20,000 Syrian refugees. They’re not exactly closing their borders.
But they’re tired of a mass-European government seeking a “one-size-fits-all” set of laws dictating a common lifestyle for the Portuguese, Poles, Romanians, Irish and British.
Every one of the cabbies said, “The EU was originally an economic agreement. But the free movement of goods shouldn’t necessarily mean the free movement of people or social laws because we aren’t Estonia and we aren’t Cyprus. What works there doesn’t necessarily work here.”
I ain’t sayin’ I’m pro-Brexit.
But I’m also not anti-Calexit. (Or New Yorxit. Or Arkexit.)
So…are these things really so different? Wanting more local control in an age of globalization and ungainly international bureaucracies?
This is ALL a result of money and capitalism, capitalism and money.
If we “just” want the economic benefits of int’l organizations, there need to be some standards, otherwise it’s just multinational companies making agreements to benefit themselves and their CEO’s. They won’t abide by labor rights or environmental rights. (Evidenced by NAFTA and TPP.)
But Brexit is different. I’m confident the Brits aren’t violating rights.
So I’m finding the Brexit process just interesting. The UK always had a foot in and a foot out of the EU. Maybe it’ll be fine.
That said, I think the EU is absolutely necessary to regulate rampant capitalism. It’s a necessary institution that certainly needs some reforms.
That’s what governments are in 2017.
We all want to have more freedoms and fewer rules. But it’s also juvenile to just throw up your arms, take your toys and stomp home because you don’t like the rules.
It’s about electing leaders who are able to think in the long-term instead of with instant gratification.
That, in itself, requires leadership with long-term vision.
And ain’t that the thing society’s complained about for millennia?
This conundrum isn’t new and it isn’t different. Ultimately, we’re all in this together.
Except for the UK.
Good luck, blokes.
Next up: France. Don’t screw this one up, amis. Frexit is totally different and totally terrifying.
I dunno…what do you think?