Coming full circle, from the Berlin Wall to Brexit.


Al Jourgensen was there at the very inception of the New World Order. It goes to show that we all should listen to more Ministry.

Above all else, Brexit to me is a symbol of my life of the mind, coming full circle. It has been an exhausting few days, and I’m not even British.

Since the early 1980s, I’ve rightly or wrongly accused the drunken stork of depositing me on the wrong continent. Even when stretched thin and utterly distracted by life, I’ve tried to stay abreast all all things European.

On Friday, after the referendum vote was announced, it dawned on me that I was feeling extremes of depression and exhilaration, and the last time these conflicting emotions were so strong was 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down.

Back then, I was not unlike many others. We thought that with the Cold War ending, there’d be the opportunity for progressive solutions to world problems. I struggled with the notion of pulling stakes and trying to be a part of this, on the ground, somewhere on the continent, but after much thought, my choice was to go into business, be an American Europhile in exile, and take a stab at indie capitalism.

Now, 25 years later, I’m finished with that chapter — and Britain says it’s done with Europe. I’ve learned quite a lot, and am no longer interested in binaries, whether Leave or Remain, or Democrat or Republican. During my quarter century of NABC, I was too busy pouring myself into grassroots this-or-that, right here at the local level, to fully grasp the implications of neoliberalism.

It’s all gone sour, folks. The facts changed, and I changed my mind. I regret that it took so long. Incrementalism probably isn’t going to cut it.

Brexit has been immensely emotional for me, but the one sure thing is that cramming these events through the familiar American-centric shape shifter isn’t tremendously useful. There’s more to it than Yanks bitching about their 401Ks, or trying to create memes with strained Trump/Clinton analogies.

In many respects, Timothy Garton Ash guided me through the fall of Communism in Europe and its aftermath. I own several of his books, and I feel his pain. His final sentence in the passage quoted below is especially relevant.

As a lifelong English European, this is the biggest defeat of my political life (The Guardian)

Yet the origins of this debacle are as much European as British. As so often, the seeds of disaster were sown in the moment of triumph; of nemesis in prior hubris. It would be an exaggeration to say that a wall will be going up at Dover because a wall came down in Berlin, but there is a connection nonetheless. In fact, there are three connections. As their price for supporting German unification, France and Italy pinned Germany down to a timetable for an overhasty, ill-designed and overextended European monetary union. As a result of their liberation from Soviet communist control, many poorer countries in eastern Europe were set on a path to EU membership, including its core freedom of movement. And 1989 opened the door to globalisation, with spectacular winners and numerous losers.