Come Brexit, Trump, Edorgan, you name it, our sense of identity and definition of what we belong to, is very much a sentiment of political preaching and an outcome of who can bully the loudest.
I have been having tricky discussions with some individuals which I expected to be supporters of populism, however the trickiest of all, are with 2nd generation West Indian adults, and to be honest I have been gobsmacked by the anti-EU sentiment voiced.
They are children of parents that arrived in the UK on the Windrush, in the 50’s when racism was thrive, and the English hostile. Their parents therefore have no experience of the 2nd world war, neither the UK being the sick cousin in Europe, medicated to wellness by Europe with generous grants, and legislation of common sense. Their only experience was of a Britain growing, thriving, embracing, opening its arms to the world. Their jobs and celebratory arrival is their testament to it.
So how did individuals placing themselves as items of a specific minority, got to their racist outlook today?
Comparing the cultural diversity between the English and the West Indians, you couldn’t get more worlds further apart. Although many WIs have adopted Englishness as a result of the education system and religion, their upbringing and approach could not have been more different.
I often think the scene from Shane Meadows’ This is England when Combo fights Milki and then later admits he was jealous of Milki’s big family
(not for the fainthearted the clip can be watched here https://youtu.be/5_4g0K30ieo )
On one hand you have vibrancy, outward projection of self and on the other, a flatlined expression that supports individuality as long as it doesn’t influence emotions, or creates response, by reaction.
My experience of many English institutions is that saying it as it is, is often seen as a blasphemy.
An inability to distinguish action, from dancing around a subject too long, seen as passive aggressive, however the fruits of that, gracefully taken advantage of.
So how did a small representation of WI individuals get to this anti EU sentiment we find ourselves in?
Firstly Nigel Farage. He is loud, entertaining to watch and accessible. For generations we have seen the same politicians run the country. Educated in the same schools, socialising at the same clubs, even dated each other and often looked alike.
Would it take much for Nigel’s mocking to be all they have been waiting for so long, and therefore accepted as a blessing?
And then I had another interesting discussion with a woman who is married to a British man, who has brought up their children in both Britain and Europe, when I sent her a video from an interview at Notting Hill Carnival.
Levy Roots’ radio show was interviewing revellers and I was talking about how long I have been going to carnival, playing mas and sitting by Grenada corner with the family. To this point, many WI friends with active links to the islands feel I am more west indian than their British second generation friends. Anyways, the interviewer pointed out we are not from the area (notting hill/west london/home of the carnival) and we talked about East London. When showed the video to the woman with children brought up in the UK and EU, she said I lied about my identity. The reality is her perception, of her identity, and on that basis, everyone else became monochrome. However she felt really confident to push my boundary and tell me how to represent myself.
This takes me back to bullies getting their way in our current state affairs.
I see no difference in the behaviour of the lady, Nigel Farage, pro-Brexit West Indians. Their defining complexities are exactly the same threads that bond them, fundamentally their sense of superiority because of their strong rigid sense of identity, judgmental opinions of anything and everything they don’t understand, or have not yet experienced.
Surely this is almost always the beginning of parting, and a lesser, poorer universal truth, which no money can hide.
An amazing man tells us his identity story here:
Dare to refuse the origin myths that claim who you are (Ted Talk by Chetan Bhatt)
We live to learn, and life experiences are the glue that bond us.