Monday, July 26, 2004

the UK Jingoism Party
I recently read a funny report in The Guardian, about a British Member of the European Parliament's (MEP's) first day at work.

This MEP tried to join a committee devoted to women's rights. Obviously wanting to impress his potential fellow committee members, he apparently made various charming remarks, including mentioning that he believed women should spend more time 'cleaning behind the refrigerator'.

I haven't looked behind my fridge for a while. Who knows, perhaps we do need to clean back there more often. Before we debate whether he is right or wrong though, here's some info on the party that sent him to have some fun at the heart of Europe.

The UK Independence Party (UKIP) is a party that want the UK to leave the European Union. They state in their manifesto:

The UKIP is the only political party.. that will never abolish the pound for the euro. We are the only party left [in the UK] that genuinely believes in freedom - freedom for the individual, freedom for businesses and local communities, freedom from patronising 'political-correctness' and from intolerance or injustice.. The EU has shown itself to be one of the largest confidence tricks in human history. It claims to 'give us rights' while removing basic freedoms.
It's hard for me to know what to say about this. I am tempted to go off on one, but I want to avoid writing the very same hateful remarks that colour the debate about Europe in the UK. If you need to understand the depth of my repulsion to this though, it's enough to let you know that it is one of the reasons why I left the UK.

In the UK, national discussion of Europe is fundamentally mired in lies, distortions and images of the imagined manipulations of our so called continental 'enemies'. It isn't really correct to say that there is a debate about Europe because unfortunately there's just a lot of noisy people venting prejudices and stereotypes, sowing unnecessary hatred.

A significant example of the irrationality surrounding this issue is in the idea that if we have the euro, we will loose or undermine British 'culture'. I don't see how replacing the queen's head on a piece of paper will change the things we choose to do and buy, which is a much more fundamental aspect of culture.

If we have the euro instead of the pound, is Mr Average then going to walk into a shop and say, Well normally Mr Shopkeeper, my wife and I love to buy a loaf of fresh white sliced, but ever since we got these new-fangled euros we seem to be driven against our wills by a strange Brussels-shaped compulsion... I'll just take one of those stinking French baguettes please... Oh, and do you know anywhere that sells Bockwurst?

In contrast to all that madness, I sit here happily getting on with all my French and Spanish and German colleagues, passing around amusing emails about each other's national characters. And I can do this because under EU law I have the basic right to live and work anywhere in Europe I choose to.

Spain is a thoroughly beautiful and entertaining country filled for the most part with warm spirited passionate, tactile human beings. At the weekend I jumped into my friend Tanya's car and we popped freely across the Franco-Spanish border to see a few of them.

As EU citizens, my friends and I have been granted the freedom to travel wherever we like within 25 different countries, so when we crossed the border there were no customs officers glaring at us suspiciously, checking our passports. There wasn't anybody waiting to serve us at a money exchange kiosk either. It's a bit pointless changing euros into euros, so it shut down a long time ago.

What with all the time I saved not having my passport checked and not waiting in queues for currency exchange, I was able to get to a nice Spanish bar about 1/2 hour sooner. And with the money I saved by not paying outrageous commission fees on the currency exchange I managed to buy another couple of those 1 euro beers. Fantastic!

So to the people of the UKIP I say this.

I would rather keep the institutions which have given me freedoms of travel and rights of abode and employment. I would rather support the bureaucracy that saves me time and money whilst going about my business of enjoying life. And I would rather learn about my neighbours in intimate contact than follow your drum of intolerant hatred.

Please don't forget that it was the bloody result of the beat of jingoistic nationalism that caused us Europeans to create this cooperative path in the first place.

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