As a writer, I put a lot of effort into trying to understand people and relationships. Relationships are the root of all meaningful conflict, so the source of all good stories. And as such, it’s the interaction between people that interests me most about the upcoming UK referendum. Principally that I find it incredible that it’s essentially an argument about whether or not people want to work together.
The Leave Campaign plays on the idea of “the European” as a selfish “other” who wants to improve their world at the expense of ours. This creates an attitude that we have an enemy and we’d be better off alone. Personally, I believe the people of Europe, like everyone else, have a less vindictive goal – to improve their world with one another’s support. Conflict comes from the person that would try to convince you we can’t work together – success comes from the belief that we can.
How one person’s ambition is another’s gain
My wife is Polish. When Poland joined the EU it gave her the opportunity to come to the UK to make a better life for herself. She worked hard to self-fund her world class education and now runs her own business. She did all this for herself, yet was not (as certain mind-sets might have you believe) a drain on our country – quite the opposite.
She’s now an Advanced Clinical Massage Therapist with a client-list of over 400 people, most of whom would tell you her skills have changed their lives. Because she treats conditions that the NHS is not equipped to deal with.
Right now, she’s opening a clinic. She’s investing the money she’s earnt here into renovating a high street property that’s sat derelict for 17 years. Regenerating a neglected part of our country. And on top of all that, she pays more tax than I do.
She did all this for herself and the country benefited. Improving her own standard of living has improved the standard of those around her, even improved the urban environment. Because that’s how it works – one person’s success can be felt by others.
What it means to be a part of a community
By coming to the UK my wife was exposed to ideas and opportunities she would not have found in Poland, and that allowed her to make a meaningful impact. She came here with nothing. She was accepted here and as such given a chance to shine. By encountering previously unavailable opportunities, a travelling Brit might find similar success in another country. When we are open to giving people a chance, and to working together, we can combine our separate skills to achieve ever greater goals.
This isn’t even a point about the EU as such, it’s a principle of nature. Sharing resources and offering support to others can bring about success that will pay itself back.
The same is true on a macro level. Working as part of a global community gives us the chance to benefit from the ambitions of other nations. It allows for sharing the rewards of our successes, as well as for collective problem solving and mutual support in times of need.
The flipside of this is that working alone not only makes success less likely, it creates less impact. It is true of individuals and it is true of countries. Collaboration fosters interaction, understanding and opportunity. Isolation restricts opportunity, creates division and breeds ignorance.
A lack of interaction with others leads to a lack of understanding. A lack of understanding gives people the opportunity to build conflict. That’s where radicalism prospers – claiming superiority for one group and accusing another. It’s the same recipe for fear and hate which has given strength to restrictions and violence countless times throughout history. It opens the door to fascist rule.
We create conflict when we are divided. Division leads to fixating on problems and fears, such as a foreigner wishing to take our money, instead of solutions and optimism, such as the long-term impact of a foreigner stimulating our economy. Division leads to blame, such as claiming our problems have an external source, instead of accountability, such as questioning what we can do to make things better for everyone. The very prospect that there are people out there insisting that we choose to be divided, to me, is not just counter-intuitive – it’s dangerous.
We achieve most working together, and being open to working with others – and the more we can do to build a united global community the better.