Friday, March 31, 2017

Brexit and Britain’s - and America's - Delusions of Empire

The parallel's between those in Britain who voted for Breixt and white Americans who voted for Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, are remarkable.  In both instances, the two groups long for a perceived glorious past and a seek to reject modern economic reality and the fact that globalization and emerging economies make the days of "good old days" of yesteryear impossible to a bring back.  For the British, it's a longing of Imperial Britain on the eve of World War I when things may have been good for many whites in Britain proper, but not so wonderful for many of the subject peoples.  For Trump voters, it's the days immediately post World War II when America dominated the world, segregation at home maintained white privilege and minorities "knew their place" and gays, for their part remained largely invisible.  One irony is that America, with its crumbling infrastructure and disproportionate military spending is making the same mistake made by Britain post WWI when it failed to modernize its infrastructure and industries to remain competitive.  With China, India and other economies rising, going back to the late 1940's and 1950's simply isn't going to happen no matter what false promises Trump made to the gullible and .those motivated by bigotry.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at British delusions and indirectly makes the case for a wake up call by Trump supporters in the USA.  Here are excerpts:
[I]t’s Brexit supporters who may be in line for a real shock. Even beyond the coming “traumatic” loss of access to the E.U.’s market — as the Economist put it — the promise of a politically resurgent Britain is likely to fall flat.
Much of the rhetoric of the pro-Brexit crowd centers around the reclamation of British “sovereignty” from technocrats in Brussels. But Brexit proponents have also projected a nostalgic vision of Britain once more asserting itself as a dominant player on the world stage. May trumpeted the dawn of a new “Global Britain” earlier this year: a nation shorn of its continental commitments and capable of finding a new accommodation with other parts of the world — especially those it once colonized.
Brits are hardly alone in harboring delusions of empire — consider, for example, the colonial nostalgia of France’s far-right nationalists or the Ottomania of Turkey’s ruling party. But the fantasy of Britain’s past collides almost farcically against Britain’s present.
Never mind that Britain’s empire was a precursor to the forces of globalization and migration that the Brexiteers so profoundly resent.
Never mind that Brexit will “be a considerable blow to Commonwealth nations that export to Britain,” as the Financial Times reported: “Thirty-two Commonwealth countries, mainly in Africa and the Caribbean, are covered by free-trade agreements with the E.U. These states therefore enjoy duty-free and quota-free access to the E.U. for nearly all their goods. . . . Once the UK is out of the E.U., these countries will end up paying $800m a year in additional duties to access the UK market, according to an analysis by the Commonwealth Secretariat.”
The reality is that many Commonwealth nations simply don’t need Britain. Australian exports to its former colonial ruler amounted to just 1.4 percent of its total outgoing trade. Canada, which shares a huge land border with the United States, will always look south, not east. India, once the jewel in Britain’s imperial crown, has an economy already roughly the same size as Britain’s; Indian moguls now own some of Britain’s most iconic companies.
“In anglophone Africa, the game is already up,” British historian David Olusoga noted in the Guardian. “The motorbikes on the freeways of Accra and Lagos are Chinese, assembled by local mechanics from kits shipped direct from Shandong. 
“Brexit is rooted in imperial nostalgia and myths of British exceptionalism, coming up as they have — especially since 2008 — against the reality that Britain is no longer a major world power,” British academic Tom Whyman wrote in a withering column. “Those most under the spell of imperial nostalgia have now become the sorcerers themselves, having somehow managed to conjure up a mandate to transform Britain in their image.”

The myth of British exceptionalism.  Sound familiar?  America suffers from a similar delusion and myth making.  Clinging to myths and what allows one to avoid thinking  is not the answer to achieving prosperity and a just society. Brexit supporters and Trump supporters are both in for a rude shock and the economic pain will be self-inflicted. 

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