I thought I’d give you my two cents on the Brexit referendum that was held two days ago. All of the offered explanations for the Brexit have considerable merit, but disregard its root cause. I have seen some commentaries that casually mention it, but glance over it precisely because it is a root cause, and therefore ostensibly too big to solve. Whether it is the Brexit; the rise of Trump and other nationalist; or Islamic terrorism, globalization is the root cause: It’s globalization stupid!
Globalization and fear
In the Brexit campaign the issue of immigration loomed large, as were some other fact-free claims by the Leave-camp. To counter, the Remain-side predicted the doom of the British economy and influence in the world, and left it at that. Both sides used fear mongering. And that is symptomatic of all issues that find their roots in the effects, the implications of globalization. Present-day globalization is not just about spreading an economic system and prosperity by slashing trade barriers and connecting everyone through digital innovations. It is about the effects, or the lack thereof. Globalization fuels the fear of loss of identity; it fuels the prospect of economic insecurity; and globalization grows the perception that you cannot control your own destiny. Such fears are often fueled by the sense that the elites – political or otherwise – are deaf to the concerns of the population. So any counter argument by the elite is bound to raise the anger and the fear even further.
Globalization and those that get left behind
Although global prosperity has risen by and large, a majority of individuals that may be connected to the outside world through all kinds of different means have been unable to profit economically. It is a fact of life that a rising tide does not lift all boats, and one doesn’t have to read the work of Thomas Pikety realize that. However, in the West, the segment of society that gets left behind economically speaking overlaps with the white population that faces additional pressures from immigration (real or perceived). That segments feels its cultural anchor slowly coming loose, its identity being watered down by immigrants with other skin tones, different habits and religions.
In other regions of the world, unstable, authoritarian and/or ineffective regimes are often the cause unrest among the populations, because they block full participation in globalization. Hence the necessity of migrating to more prosperous and more peaceful parts of the world. Especially by the young, because often these countries and regions are disproportionately full with young, unemployed and restless kids; a demography that is reverse from what we experience in the West. For these youngsters, it is either get out or start a revolution, both of which are inherently dangerous and violent.
Globalization and the loss of control
All of the groups I spoke of above feel that they are not in control of their own destiny. They blame the elites and revolt against such elites in a number of different ways. In the UK, but also in other European countries and the United States, angry voters use democratic means to protest; the one thing they can control. The Brexit vote was as much a general desperate anti-elite vote, as it was an anti-European Union vote. I dare say that radical Islam and Islamic terrorism are a ’vote’ against this undermining of culture, economic stagnation and the lack of hope. In such times, an individual’s value system is determined by religion more so than in times of prosperity, like in Medieval Europe. When you’re poor and desperate and your world is changing rapidly, you will hold on to religion. In the extreme, terrorism may be the ultimate protest against globalization and the values that come with it. Yes, I do not believe that Islam as a religion is inherently more violent than Christianity ever was. You can call me naive, or whatever (just not an apologist).
Globalization is not about states or just about rising GDP. It is also about people. It has pitted young versus the old, white v. other colors, high v. low educated, haves v. have nots; secular v. religious. Islamic extremism, nationalist tendencies in Europe – including the Brexit, migration crises, and civil wars in the Middle East constitute a perfect storm created by globalization. Solutions? That’s for another day (spoiler alert: more globalization!). And that’s it for my musings on Brexit and globalization.