I would consider myself to be both a patriot and an internationalist. I love the English countryside and some of our great cities and I cheer for England on the rare occasions that I watch international sport. But I also find other cultures fascinating. I’ve enjoyed travelling in other countries and experiencing different food and customs, especially when I’ve stayed in people’s homes. I’m not sure the borders really matter much. We’re all one race and should learn to live together in peace with justice.
So I’m sad today, the first day after the UK left the European Union, because I believe in co-operation and that we are better together, learning from those who are different and so mutually being enriched. One humanity.
One of the factors behind the vote to leave the EU was to do with people’s sense of who they are. What does it mean to be British? There were many lies told in the campaigns, to be sure, but also many rational economic arguments showing that the UK was likely to be worse off out of the EU, at least to begin with. As with all politics, especially in the present rise of populism, facts and figures don’t persuade people as much as a story that resonates with them and their sense of who they are. Many British voters were willing either to ignore the data or to take a risk with their economic well-being because who they are is more important to them.
Despite all the other news, the Big Problem remains: the environmental crisis. If we don’t find ways of co-operating to tackle this, we’re all stuffed, in or out of the EU. What encourages me today is this thought that people can choose to take an economic hit if it serves their sense of who they are. At the moment, too many people see themselves as individual consumers who are entitled to ever-increasing prosperity, and that leads them to ignore the data about the trouble we’re in. The story is a lie, but it’s very appealing – obviously – and it’s costing the earth. Is there another story about who we are that would bring life instead?
I’m always aware that more fingers point back at me than I point. What story am I believing as I live here in this culture of globalised liberal consumer capitalism? Who am I, really? There is a better story: I am a natural creature of the earth living in a vastly complex web of interdependence with all other creatures. In this story, it’s not just about one humanity but one nature.
We need this story. I need it. This is who we need to be if every living being is to flourish. We need artists, poets, musicians, film-makers, spiritual practitioners – story-tellers – to bring this story to life … for life … for all life.