My natural reaction, when trying to formulate a counterargument to the blatant racism, xenophobia, and blind populist nationalism peddled in Britain in favor of the (successful) Brexit, is to reach for something equally totalizing and outrageous.
I’m not going to crawl into the muck with Boris Johnson (or, on this side of the Atlantic, Donald Trump) and justify his arguments based on some fantastic imagining of the “British People” or some other similar fever dream of historic, national and/or cultural purity.
This is the same government that last year wouldn’t allow the Scots to leave the UK, despite their concerns and desires to remain a part of the EU regardless of whether the Brits made the choice to exit the economic union or not. “There is no history of Scotland acting independently of the rest of Britain” people responded then.
So I have no qualms about reaching into history and saying that the British have no philosophical leg to stand on in their fears about open borders when they made it their policy to forcibly pry open the borders of nations and cultures around the globe in the name of their “British Empire”.
But it comes down to not wanting to crawl through the filth on my belly, like a worm, because to try and argue with the xenophobic, racist, nationalist rhetoric is to justify its existence, is to make some game out of acknowledging its validity. It is not valid, it is not reasonable, and more than all of that, it is not something that can be met or answered with rationality, logic, or consideration. It is fear mongering, and it is lies.
So I’m sorry if history seems irrelevant, if the past is not dictum for the future, if people have no interest or consideration for how the choices made before them might weigh on the choices they face now. I’m not going to address your concerns about people who have no interest in assimilating, in becoming British or European or Western coming and working in your restaurants, and your homes, and your country, until I’m met with equal consideration of the plight of economic migrants and economic refugees and solutions to keep children in the Global South from starving. Making an exception only for refugees of war is to fail to address the cause of which mass migration and the open borders of globalization are merely a symptom.
We will all come to regret where we are finding ourselves. The populists will take us for all we’re worth, and the rich will pluck what little we have left from our unhappy, clenched fists.