Monday, June 20, 2016

Open To All

I want the UK to stay part of Europe. I wanted Scotland to stay part of the UK. I want the UK to have more local power. I wanted Scotland to have more local power. In my Utopia, we would be Global Citizens. The truth is that at the moment we have pockets of prosperity all over the world. There are pockets of prejudice. We still want to look after and protect our own. Family first. Friends second. Community, country, and then the world. We see others struggling elsewhere, but are scared of losing our way of life. We don't have mental, emotional or physical energy to focus on more than our own world. I believe in rule of law, and in groups of people building constitutions agreeing on limited basic principles of what is acceptable and what is not. Those groups should be relatively small and full of local flavour. Then there should be a wider, much more limited, larger constitution with far fewer rules. People should then be able to move freely between those groups, provided they are willing to abide by the constitutions of those areas. A path to citizenship open to all. 

There is an obvious conflict here. In order to protect a way of life that has any homogeneity about it, any ‘group characteristics’, there has to be restrictions on other people entering. How small should our ‘allowed discrimination’ be? Churches that only accept members who agree with all their doctrines? Mosques? Women’s Book Clubs? I love going to my Yoga Centre in Putney, London. It is quite conservative. There are rules about covering shoulders and wearing loose fitting clothing. The area is calm. There is no meat, alcohol or various other things that alter the atmosphere. It has a very specific feel. I like that, even though in other settings I do still enjoy drinking or ‘counter-stretching’ in other ways. 

Creating a special feel requires rules

The challenge is how we create permitted discrimination. That is what is required to keep anything in our lives sacred. The stories we create are theatre. Which tools you use to eat. What you wear. How you speak. All these things only matter in a particular context. Good stories are made believable because of an underlying consistency. Created context. They all bend the rules of reality. Star Wars bends those rules differently to Game of Thrones. Art, Music, Drama and Dance all have underlying rules that create their beauty. Classical music has different rules to jazz. That is what culture is. That is what our way of life is. 

It would probably be okay if there was equity. Private Property is okay provided that the rest of society is okay. It becomes very awkward when people try to justify excluding others on criteria of race, culture, gender, religion when there isn’t a baseline level of what is acceptable for other human beings’ living conditions. When we don't see each other. When it isn’t voluntary. When it is oppressive. That is not how we have ever lived. We have had to chip away at our prejudice and expand our empathy. There is nothing inherently wrong with living in a bubble. I do think there is something wrong with living in a bubble if you aren’t comfortable with the idea of you being outside the bubble, if life had just worked out differently. If you had been born somewhere else. Someone else. With different talents. With different privileges. With different randomness. We need to poke our bubbles with perspective. That is what the European Union provides. It pokes bubbles with question marks.

The European Union is a peace project. It is not about creating one big area with the same values. I think its power should be very limited. The bigger the area, the less the power. The UK leaving the European Union, with all its problems and overreach, would be a move in the wrong direction.
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