Friday, April 21, 2017

Local is Lekker

I believe in the Four Freedoms of the European Single Market - goods, capital, services and people. I also recognise that all these freedoms create strains that require buffers. Buffers protect what is important to us, while giving us breathing space to learn. 

Globalisation has created strain. It sucks that as a Soutie, living in the United Kingdom, with much of my family in South Africa, my community is so stretched. It also means I hop from very different sets of issues when I am in each place. Earning, and re-earning the right to call myself 'local'.

The consuming issue in the UK is Brexit. 'Great' Britain of the past was the colonial overlord of the world. Britain and France each have one of five permanent seats on the UN security council, and GDPs that put them in 5/6 place globally. Don't blink... that is going to change. 

After giving each other a snotklap in the World Wars, the European Powers had to learn to work together rather than being heads of Global Empires.

As part of the European Union, one of the great frustrations of many who wanted to leave was the 'lack of democracy'. The EU has 28 member states and an estimated population of 510 million. The European Council comprises the heads of states, and defines overall political direction. The European Commission acts as the cabinet - proposing legislation and implementing decisions. There is one member per state, but they represent the general interests of the EU rather than their member state. The European Parliament is directly elected, and seats are allocated according to population, but larger states have more citizens represented per MEP. Seats are allocated by proportional representation.

It is clear that the UK is going to have far less control over Europe than it would going alone. Luxembourg has population of 576,000 and the same seat on the Council. It is also going to have far less control than it had when it was an empire.

Those in the UK who voted for Brexit would have wanted more decision making power. 'Taking Back Control'. Ironically, the other big issue in the UK is Scottish Independence. Many in Scotland also want more decision making power... mainly from London, and are more content with Brussels.

The big challenge going forward will be letting go of the idea of government as a centre of power, and democracy as an instrument of majority (whether by population, GDP or fire power) rules. Somehow we need to create agreed common frameworks in which people and communities can feel empowered, rather than ruled.

A big issue in my other local place is decolonisation. South Africa was from 1910-1961 a dominion of the British Empire. It would be useful perspective for those talking of taking back control to read a little of the history of what that control meant to the controlled.

Perhaps I have lost the right to press too hard in either area with my views. My two cents from how my different bubbles bump is that we need to be very aware of unintended consequences, and push conversations more toward accommodating each other than overpowering. 
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