Brexit and Cultural Identity
I am what I am
And what I am
Needs no EU, Sis?
Bozzer J or Bojo – as the flamboyant famed Brexiteer and recently appointed UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, is affectionately named – has asserted that exiting the EU by no means implies that Britain is leaving Europe. The implication is that Britain will always be “European” – if not fiscally, at least geographically – and maybe culturally.
After all, there is a difference between physical position and fiscal position and in turn between immigration status and cultural identity) Or is there? And how much does one influence the other?
We could take the Naturalist view a la Emile Zola that identity is “in” us based on family heritage – or we could take the Sartrian existential view and consider our identity as what we become. And we are always becoming – until we exist no more. What we become implies that we are the sum total of all our experiences (individual not necessarily collective).
Bojo’s argument is that the British people will continue to appreciate European culture, cuisine and – dare I say it – languages? They will simply not be subject to the same rules and tariffs any more (once Article 50 is triggered and the negotiations are complete, that is).
It seems like a logical argument.
Going back to the idea of individual experience…I know someone very well, who was born in the US, whose parents – now US citizens – were raised in Germany and Czechoslovakia/France. He appreciates Czech beer, German cookies and the odd French swearword. He speaks neither German, Czech nor French (barring the odd aforementioned swearword) as he has never had the need to do so in his daily life.
I was born, raised and educated in the UK, lived in France and South America, worked in Asia, love to travel …and now live in the US. Although I spent my formative years in Britain; these days, I say garbage more often than I say rubbish (although I do of course like to drop a few British slang words into my conversation for effect). I have almost perfected the art of not saying “sorry” when someone else bumps into me. And I no longer appreciate older houses and the work they entail quite so much, although that may be the result of experiences from childhood that would be better left to another conversation – in the comfortable environment of a therapist’s couch maybe (only joking, Mam and Dad).
And so, I think about the British young people today, surrounded by German, Spanish, French, Italian, family, friends and acquaintances, whose immigration status may or may not come into question.
One might say that an appreciation for continental European cuisine as well as continental European brands will not be impacted. That said, who knows if non-EU tariffs – not to mention the state of the sterling exchange rate – will influence the ability to procure such goods?
And then of course, there’s the question of language and education. While languages might be a passion of mine, I’ll openly admit that it’s not generally a British “thing”. However, in recent years, many a European studies or European law degree has sprouted in the garden of further education and I’m assuming linguistic proficiency or at least an appreciation of it followed – mais, quien sabe?
So imagine this:
- Taxes and tariffs on goods originating from European countries are raised and exposure to the same becomes diminished – juste un petit peu.
- Peter’s friends – Boris, Jean-Claude, Ana Maria and Kasia ultimately move elsewhere along with their children.
- European law and languages are no longer quite as useful in the commercial world leading to our youth opting for other paths of study. Alternatively, our youth are further cut off from the commercial world because the EU language becomes one other than English.
Would Britain then still have the same depth of European identity?
And does it then follow that fiscal policy affects cultural identity in a significant way?
From this perspective Bojo’s hypothesis of Britain remaining “European” would be proved incorrect or at least inconclusive. The real impact remains to be seen.
In the meantime, I will continue to consider myself a cultural (continually evolving)” mutt” and openly assert…..along with many others in our multifaceted, globalized universe… that I am the metamorphosis of a conspiracy between nature and nurture, the national and the international, nexistentialism and nexit.