The shock of the referendum
I used to hear a joke which I liked about the UK, ‘when it’s the end of the world, I want to be in the UK because nothing ever happens there’ I also remember a friend of mine feeling frustrated by the lack of passion her schoolfriends gave to literature and her mother saying, ‘all over the world, revolution, wars, in England nothing happens and in time you will appreciate the English phlegm.’ Unfortunately we are not in that place now. We have had a referendum on the EU and now are having to deal with the consequences of making an earth shattering decision. This is a shock to us all and seems to have affected everyone in one way or another. Yacov here describes his own reaction to what has happened in the UK over the last 2 weeks, it’s a well described distress that many will echo.
I am sure that soon the British phlegm will reassert itself and that many people will play a part in making sure that everyone in the UK lives happily with their neighbour from all parts of the world. TGIUK intends to play a part in that, through the simple telling stories of what its like to live here.
Tolerance is an innate human endeavour
I have spent the past 17 years in the UK, having left my homeland, which was rather torn up with intolerant and destructive behaviours, rampant racism and absolute disrespect for human life. So, in my time here in the UK, I have learnt many things, done many things and contributed many things to my new homeland.
Amongst the values I have discovered here, was the fundamental belief by British people that everyone deserves and has a right to equality, fairness and not to be discriminated against in any form whatsoever. Of course as time went on, I did perceive and indeed experienced these things, but I felt overwhelmingly that it was but a small element and that most people were just, accepting and tolerant of their neighbour, be they be indigenous or of a migratory disposition. Being from the commonwealth also instilled in me a sense of difference and very soon I felt that I have mastered Britishness and embraced all the values that drew me here in the first instance. I became British without realising it at first. It was when an event took place where particular emotions were expressed about being British that I first noticed it strength. Sporting proudness or despair, the Olympics, great British inventions and our man Tim in space to name but a few.
I felt happy and content knowing that I shared and build on a values system which had become my own and that of my family. Through thick and thin we stood by her and Britain looked after us. In return, we work hard and contribute and participate in the economic, social and cultural endeavours of the country and the people we now call our neighbours and our friends. I supported TGIUK in order to share my wealth of experience and stories of the richness and wealth of humanity of British contemporary tolerance and care.
All that has changed for me over the last month or so. I have seen a side of Britain and British people that have provoked in me a deep rooted angst regarding my little world here in Britain! For the first time in 17 years I started looking at myself as an immigrant, something I have never done before and I have lived in other parts of Europe as well. I then also started drawing parallels with the reasons I left my homeland and it jolted me profoundly into a state of disquiet contemplation. What am I? Where am I? Who do I turn to regarding my discontent? Some of those very lovely neighbours whom I have been breaking bread have expressed bigoted views that can almost sound racist. In the UK, we are quite challenging to our politicians and our newspapers are probably the least deferential anywhere but I see that the angry rhetoric of the campaign has leaked into family life. I must say, I feel lost and deeply disturbed by current events.
Remaining in the EU was a logical option and no matter how dissatisfying, at least there was the instruments at our disposal to challenge and try and address the status quo. Being on the outside of that instrument, although I don’t profess to the catastrophic predictions, I do think our lives will be very difficult over the next few years. However, and this is the crux of the matter for me, how do you heal the cracks that has appeared in the fabric of the British man, woman, young adults and children? What models are we setting for our children with this outpouring of vitriolic recrimination and outright racism in some cases. Have we just moved a few steps back to early 20th century dialogue? For those that we choose to open our doors to, migrating to Britain cannot be the same anymore. What must they think about how they will be welcomed and assisted in integrating into this society.
I just don’t have the answer at this moment and I am very sad about it all!
Yacov Ben Avraham British by naturalisation and a European citizen
28th June 2016