Monday 20 June 2016

Some notes of the EU referendum: Why education matters

The EU referendum campaign has been dominated by fear on both sides: on the right, fear of immigration, fear for jobs, the economy, pensions, house prices, etc; on the left, fear of political disempowerment, unfettered globalisation, corporate domination and TTIP. Both constituencies have their personal reasons to be fearful - reasons which have an underlying root in austerity and cruel managerialism which dominates our lives. The EU is an institution associated with both austerity and managerialism - most notably in the shameful treatment of Greece. The left also worry about war, as do the remain camp. War is certainly something to be feared, and the world is clearly in a very bad way at the moment.

I fear that the EU in its current constitution will lead us to war in the medium term. I fear that Brexit will accelerate the process, with the casualties being not in the UK (immediately), but in some far-flung corner of Europe where lunatics take a British exit as permission to kill each other, much in the way that the man who killed Jo Cox assumed "permission" for his action by the tone of the debate.

So, if we want to avoid catastrophe, no change in the EU is not an option. It has left ordinary working people behind. It has implemented a kind of "educational apartheid": those who cannot articulate their feelings within the frame of EU bureaucracy our left powerless. They will fight eventually - unless we give them a proper voice. Much of today's terrorism is, I suspect, a kind of class war: it will get worse. But to change the EU will not be easy. It will require direct action, disruption, marches on Brussels and so on.

At the heart of the Brexit position - both on the right and the left - is anger and a desire to disrupt. Alongside fear, there is hate.

The only way forwards is a more open-hearted Europe. That is a Europe of forgiveness and love. Fundamentally, that means an end to the barriers that are created by austerity. It means an end to inequality between nations outside the EU and within it.  It means an end to gross inequality within the EU. It means an end to the persecution of unions, and the redressing of their power to protect working people. We must fight with love - and that is the hardest thing.

We need a new form of peaceful resistance and civil disobedience. We are close to war because peoples' hearts are closed. We must find ways of opening them again. There is only one thing that can do this. It is education.

The only thing that produces educational apartheid is education itself. Our opportunities to learn from each other are abundant, not scarce. If we can embrace our situation as an opportunity to learn, we may have a chance. If we allow education to erect yet more expensive barriers, more discrimination between those who have certificates and complex vocabularies and those who don't, we will be in trouble.

In the end, Jeremy Corbyn's lukewarm support for remain struck the right tone, I think. A lukewarm 'yes' will be the best result. It's not an endorsement. And frankly, the Tories are completely screwed - but they shouldn't have done this in the first place. The EU technocrats will be very foolish and irresponsible not to listen to the other side. They must end austerity and curb corporate power. 

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