Sunday, June 19, 2016

The referendum, Jo Cox and Eckhart Tolle

It does not matter so much whether we vote in or out of the EU, as what we do afterwards. Do we behave like an isolationist country defending our borders vehemently or do we we act humanely and in a spirit of international peace and co-operation?

The death of Jo Cox, shattering for her friends, family and country, has made the voice of humane action more audible on the stage of fear-mongering which has so demoralised and underserved this country in the run up to this referendum. Although most of us had never heard of her before her death, it turns out that she was a champion of human rights and compassion. Her support for the anti-racist, anti-fascist organisation Hope Not Hate and for the Syrian refugees was diametrically opposed to the rhetoric of Farage and Johnson and their posters of migrants queuing to get into Britain.

Not everyone in the Leave camp is on board with the xenophobia, but it essentially derives its energy from the fears of mostly white people who see themselves as British rather than European or World citizens. Some of these people have genuine grievances which are easily (if not accurately) portrayed as relating to immigration - the housing crisis perhaps, the lowering of wages, the demand for school places. Some of them are comfortably off but nonetheless feel insecure - they want to section off a familiar world for themselves where they know the rules and don't have to listen to languages they don't understand being spoken around them (saying who knows what?) .

This is not to blame or ridicule either group. Those in power have long exploited the divisions and the fears in society for their own gain. It is called 'divide and rule'. Scarcity, much of it due to enormous inequality of wealth, could fuel greater social co-operation (think war rationing), but is instead the basis for fear and competition. 

Eckhart Tolle refers to the 'collective ego' which 'strengthens itself through emphasizing the "otherness" of others' . He says ' the ego needs an "enemy" for its continued survival.' Seeing oneself as particularly British (or English) is about collective self-identity, which is essentially the same as collective ego. At the bottom of all this divisiveness is the fear of losing self-identity, of not being able to differentiate oneself from others and therefore not being able to demonstrate one's superiority and greater entitlement.

We desperately need to change this mindset. It can only lead to greater inequality, hostility and misery. Let us hope that the death of Jo Cox can inspire us to move in another direction. Our leaders have a responsibility to call for social co-operation and to reassure everyone that they will all have a share, that there can be enough for everyone.

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