Colonialism, as we’ve understood it, was the domination of the ‘weaker’ by the ‘superior’. The aggressor panned out and descended on the aggrieved — a forceful takeover, one that was predominantly geographical.
In today’s Brexit referendum, the world witnessed a new avatar of the colonial urge — one that doesn’t reach out to swallow to own the souls of other peoples, but which gulps within itself instead, nervously walling a society within its own definition(s) of self.
In the first case, one dominates to suppress and in the second, one suppresses by exclusion.
And yes, many have said that the 52% who voted for the UK’s break from the European Union cited economic reasons than xenophobic ones. But are the two really apart? Cultural chauvinism is a tribute to economics, politics and the anxieties they create. It is born of the fear of the ‘outsider’. Here, the outsider is the migrant. The outsider is marked as the scapegoat because he is seen robbing the native of jobs. In a strange irony, the cultural variety that adds to a nation’s economic energy is seen as a source of deprivation. Exclusivism as a national rally-call becomes the means to expel the outsider.
In electoral politics, populism always fuels fears and anxieties. Fear is the camphor of the politician to bring the promise of the ‘vote bank’ to flaming life. Ultra Conservative parties like the UKIP (or the Shiva Sena in our case) become the messiahs of the paranoid.
The tragedy of our political age is that electoral democracies thrive on populism, and populism in turn thrives on the language of the paranoid. It is very easy to blow the trumpet of national identity; since it isn’t a scientific argument, one can conveniently twist-in an economic element to it to make this vacuous brouhaha sound solid and real.
The sadness is that those who voted for separation don’t realise that national exclusivism threatens the good people of the UK more in the long-run (and arguably in the short run too).
This is a dangerous precedent that spells of consequences not just in Europe but to the whole world. While politicians can continue to argue this out in the corridors of power, as a people we could look deep into ourselves and understand the source of this whole happening: the fear that plagues human heart.
We may serve ourselves, our generation and those beyond us best by understanding and freeing ourselves of insecurity and the violent deliria it affects on our social consciousness.
I don’t think there is a surer premise to the promise of human peace.