Britain – don’t bother

The factual value of what you read now in the British press is radically indeterminate. The future is certainly so. The conclusion of whether or not you choose to risk to come here, invest or study here, is another matter. Just don’t come as an expert

I started this as a letter to my Mauritian heritage, really. I wanted to write to Mauritius because I am a British citizen by birth and a Mauritian citizen, proudly, by ancestry. I began it post-Brexit, to try to make some sense of what had happened to the UK, and to try to illustrate to readers what they might find in the UK if they visited, or studied, or wanted to come here on a more permanent basis. That has changed a lot since the election of Donald Trump, and I’ve rewritten it drastically. I want to put my conclusion first here, which is: Britain – don’t bother.

I initially wrote with a title in mind, “Nothing is true – and everything is possible”, which is still appropriate. The title is that of a book by a British-Russian journalist, Peter Pomeranstev, who chronicles his years as a television producer in modern-day Russia. The main thrust for these purposes is that the truth is malleable and entirely manipulable.

The British people voted to leave the European Union in June 2016 based on a campaign of untruth. Facts were presented untruthfully by both sides, the Remain campaign being based on fear. The Leave campaign was based on a succession of emotive arguments about immigration, and sovereignty, and where money could be spent better, such as on health and on business. The Remain campaign of “fear” concentrated on economic factors, several of which are coming true. Neither campaign linked the two main demons of the economy and immigration correctly, or gave the facts in a way which enabled the population to make an informed decision. Herein lies the failure of Remain, and the cunning misinformation of Brexit.

The UK, being a major player in the global economy, relies on the free movement of people – labour – as well as capital. The huge risks of the flight of labour were not properly presented by Remain, just as they are not being presented now. But also there was a huge risk in the rhetoric of Brexit which was not properly tackled by Remain, or now, by the Conservative government of Theresa May.

“Auslanderfeindlichkeit” is a uniquely German compound word, and a uniquely useful word in these circumstances. Loosely it means hostility to foreigners, and is a better word than xenophobia, which seems to convey a lower sense of what is happening in 2016 Britain. Pre- and post-Brexit Britain saw attacks on Black and British Asians. Many of those incidents involved attacks on British Muslims.

Post-Brexit we have seen a huge increase in attacks on EU citizens too, notably on owners of eastern European shops and businesses, and sometimes attacks happen for the mere fact of speaking Polish or Slovak, even German. These incidents hark back to the 1970s, when in the UK, Irish and Asian immigrant communities united against violence. They usher in the strange times when those with white skin were also racialized, and deemed with every other (oppressed) brown or black person as having to prove the worthiness of their place in society. The attacks on Muslims echo an even darker time – 1939.

These times seemed to be gone. But they come back even stronger when we see Donald Trump get elected as US President. And that is why I say that Brexit began the new era of uncertainty, and certainly the era of post-truth. Facebook is currently appointing a team to try to combat fake news. There’s a US site called Breitbart which propagates fake news, and supported Brexit and its misinformer-generals such as Nigel Farage.

The Brexit vote was won with people who said that they no longer trusted experts, as was the Trump vote. No one trusts facts any more, and this is one of the modus operandi of fascism. I’ve written to the Mauritian press because you still publish fact and genuine opinion, and you may be the last bastion of the free press. Help us get this stuff out there.

Nothing is true, and everything is possible. Pomerantsev’s book pointedly assumes the position of Vladimir Putin’s man Surkov, who has made a theatre of politics by supporting first, and opposing again what he supports. The Russian “reality” is all of ours now. The Europe of ’39 could seem like child’s play.

In that spirit, the factual value of what you read now in the British press is radically indeterminate. The future is certainly so. The conclusion of whether or not you choose to risk to come here, invest or study here, is another matter. Just don’t come as an expert.

Neil Seepujak
Sheffield, UK

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