The moment I woke up on June 24, 2016 and, despite a terrible dry throat, first desperately looked for my phone instead of a glass of water. I will not forget it any time soon. They say that everyone knows where they were on 9/11, but honestly I don’t remember. I thought, as a 4-year old, that it was merely a very low-budget film on TV. I can’t say I felt very involved with the events. But, I do know where I was on ‘6/24’, and my peers will all know it for themselves.
Brexit. The pound plummeting. An unprecedented generation and region gap. Nigel Farage with a grim smile on his all too hideous face. I’m disgusted, but no emotion can be read off my face. I dearly hoped that glass of water was a glass of vodka instead, this news should get some digestive aid.
The facts now belong to history. It seems to me that a second referendum, for which a petition has been gathered over 2 million signatures already, won’t be able to solve anything. The country is incomprehensibly divided and the only solution sounds equally gruesome as it makes total sense. To wait. To wait until the babyboomer generation dies from the millions of ailments that they currently suffer from. Whether it’s Alzheimer’s or the Donald Trump syndrome.
What a terrible way to look at it, actually. It sounds ungrateful, insensitive and naive. What can a 19-year-old Flemish lass possibly know about European politics? She -poor thing- never experienced war, was never financially in debt or never had to fight for a piece of bread. She is spoiled and callow.
Correct. And that’s the exact thing that makes my generation so strong.
We are the first that are not plagued by trauma. The first people who have no existential resentment against another. We grew up in an environment where everything was possible, borders did not exist and neither did insurmountable language barriers. We learnt to count in euros and not in Frank, Lira or Gulden. And when one day you went to Switzerland and had to queue at the border, you were very grateful that this wasn’t the case for every country you entered.
A summer camp in Spain? Why not. A school trip trip to Italy? No problem. A semester on exchange with Erasmus? It’s almost a requirement on your resume.
But let us not settle for the illusion that a “holiday without worries” is the only reason why we want the European Union to succeed. It goes much, much further than that.
Trade: To take a realistic position against the giant economies of the Wild West or the Far East. Culture: To uncover our rich history and ensuring the survival of its remnants. Health Care: The high standards for food import, regulations for antibiotics and a lot of research into new medicine. Economy: The European Central Bank that ensures that we have financial stability and our savings can not disappear any given second. Environment and climate: The strict legislation and ambitious targets to reduce our CO2 emissions and make the continent more livable for everyone. Space travel: The groundbreaking technologies that take us a step closer to each other and the rest of the universe with every new satellite. Agriculture: The large number of subsidies that local farmers receive for preservation of regional products, organic agriculture and its modernisation.
And yes, it requires heaps of money
And yes, I am more than willing to pay for all of this.
Look at everything we get back for it.
But the United Kingdom of 50+ does not seem to care.
“all the benefits, none of the consequences”
If there is one thing that differentiates my generation from any previous one, it is education. We all receive a comprehensive and solid basic knowledge of the world, languages, culture and science. Never before has the number of people with a diploma of secondary education been so great. Never before have there been so many people who started university. Never was the percentile of bi-, tri- or even tetralinguals so high. Today, more than ever, it is clear what an impact that generation gap has on voting behaviour.
The EU is not infallible. On the contrary, there are quite some things to blame them for: Poor communication about spending, not involving ‘the ordinary citizen’ – whatever that term really means- in their decisions, internal dispute which triggers unrest, …
But goddammit, look a bit further and realize what we would be without the EU. Look at the Europe of the 30’s: A miserable pile of squabbling, deluded nationalists. Do we really want to go back there? Do we really want to create an environment in which people like Hitler, Mussolini, Wilders and Le Pen can thrive?
The Brexit might seem to be the first step in that direction, but the incredible backlash from the younger generation reassures me. This is not the beginning of the end, this is the beginning of a return to a sense of unity. A realisation that although there are things that will have to change, we all need each other in the end.
In verscheidenheid zijn we verenigd
Unie dans la diversité
Förenade i mångfalden
In vielfalt geeint
Ní ceart go cur le chéile
Unida na diversidade
Zjednoczona w różnorodności
Ενωμένοι στην πολυμορφία
Unita nella diversità
Обединен в многообразието
Egység a sokféleségben
Ujedinjeni u različitosti
Uniţi în diversitate
Združena v raznolikosti
Zjednotení v rozmanitosti
Jednotná v rozmanitosti
United in Diversity