In the hours after the Brexit result I was reminded most strongly of The Economist piece I wrote from Haiti in December 2013. Here’s a link to the blog, which The Economist titled “The Discontented”. Britain’s Brexiteers, it seemed to me, are being cast like Haiti’s discontented.
Do you know who I mean? As The Economist blog put it, there were “squalls of street protest” in major cities across Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas. And it described the protests as “amorphous”, with gatherings of differing sizes and intensities called by various entities, ranging from opposition parties to the trade unions. The thread running through them all, I wrote, was “a general discontent”. With the then President Michel Martelly’s 27-month-old administration. With the cost of living. With failing to get ahead. With very life itself.
That’s the way I felt right after the Brexit vote and hearing that 17 million or so Britons felt so turned off by their lives and by the way the world is going. (By the way, to those who say no one in the ‘Remain’ camp knows a ‘Leave’ voter, I know both. Very well. They’re my friends.)
Anyway, back to the ‘Leave’ voters’ profound sense of generalized discontent. For Haitians to feel that way is understandable. Not for people in Britain, the world’s fifth largest economy, a prosperous and advanced democracy.
As a Member of the European Parliament from the mainland said after the result of the referendum was announced: “You can leave the European Union, you can’t leave reality.”