Most Europeans I chatted with before the Brexit referendum were far more worried about Donald Trump than the Brexit vote. Now that “reality” has set in, most everyone is second-guessing themselves and wondering how such a silly election ploy by Cameron could have backfired so tragically.
My own view of the impact of the Brexit referendum is far more pedestrian than most.
Even though the UK will be cheaper for tourists, I dread eating pub fare, even though young Europeans commonly refer to them as “gastropubs.”
Blame It on Angry Old Men
While there are no doubt many reasons why UK voters decided to say au revoir to the European Union, I am struck by the attack on “angry old men,” who Jochen Bittner blames for the game-changing vote:
“The British vote feels momentous, but we will most likely look back at it as merely the first in a series of fights for the soul of Europe. The outpouring of anger and anti-establishment aggression in Europe has only begun. The next countries where the political bulldozers see their chances to act out their long-kept lust for demolition are the Netherlands and France.
“We can no longer think of reconciliation between the opposing views of destruction and progress. The angry old men will not be mollified, their xenophobia cannot be controlled or channeled into constructive cooperation. We, the young, the future of Europe, must push back. Too much time has been lost already.”
Other political pundits cite the views of old people as cause for the unsettling vote, but frankly many of my aging British friends were bitterly opposed to a break from their continental neighbors.
I have no way of knowing whether there are more “angry old men” than “angry young men” in Europe, but taking the good with the bad seems to me to be simply a part of the democratic process. With gender, ethnic and religious intolerance plaguing almost every phase of rigorous intellectual debate, I would hate to see “age” raised as yet another barrier why people of good will simply can’t get along.
George Washington’s Advice to Alexander Hamilton
George Washington said to Alexander Hamilton (at least according to Lin-Manuel Miranda) that “Winning is easy young man, governing is harder.” We need to see what the citizens of Britain and other countries in the European Union do going forward. Nevertheless, blaming “angry old men” for the plight of the young is far too simple an explanation.