Brexit: Blame It on Angry Old Men

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.

UK opts for bangers and mash


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.

Hamilton: The Musical

Sheila and I had the rare privilege of seeing theater at its finest:   Hamilton – The Musical. In a nutshell, it tells the story of Alexander Hamilton through rap, hip-hop and wonderful music and dancing that still remains faithful to Ron Chernow’s 700 page biography of Alexander Hamilton.

Now hip-hop and rap are not my cup of tea, but Lin-Manuel Miranda – music, lyrics and the role of Alexander Hamilton – brilliantly captures the energy of the time in a rousing performance that most of us see only once in a lifetime. Simply brilliant!

If you are looking for tickets, Hamilton is sold out until January, 2017. If you want to see transforming art in the form of a musical do beg, borrow or steal to see this wonderful display of modern theater before Mr. Miranda leaves this summer. I haven’t seen a “musical” anywhere near this good since Les Miserables over 25 years ago. Hint: You can also listen to the music on Spotify and I recommend doing so to get prepared for the hip hop dialogue.

Check out this early White House version of the opening song (with subtitles for the rap-impaired)

Just a few comments on the performers and the performance:

  • Sustained brilliance through 31 songs.  Yes, the Second Act is as good – if not better – than the first;
  • Leslie Odom, Jr. is brilliant as Aaron Burr.  Great voice, acting skills and a wonderful smile.  Plays the role of narrator in much the same way as Che Guevara did in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita.  Love his advice to Hamilton:  “Talk less, smile more;”
  • Christopher Jackson as George Washington.  Great voice and stage presence.  Portrayed as a far more intelligent and complex person than in most historical narratives;
  • Phillipa Soo as Hamilton’s wife, Eliza.  Lovely voice.
  • Johnathan Groff as King George.  A bit of comic relief and well delivered by Mr. Groff
  • David Diggs as Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson.   Well played, but fans of Jefferson will probably not be amused.
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton.  Not as great of a voice as some others in the cast (particularly Leslie Odom), but got to cut the guy some slack since he wrote the music and lyrics.  Hamilton comes across as a prodigious intellect with great energy.  This combination is likely to get you into serious trouble during most periods in history.