Theater of Cruelty

Brexit: The shame of democracy

Brexit mania
Regissør: Timothy George Kelly

In this documentary we meet both people who voted for and against the UK to stay in the EU, as well as experts like Noam Chomsky.


Relationship loss or racism? It has been said that the referendum on whether the UK should leave the EU or not turned into an election that was not necessarily about continued EU membership but about immigration. When I took minority psychology at university, I wrote a paper on what it was that made people so afraid of immigration. Among the theories that could explain these feelings I found Samuel Stouffers relative deprivation – or relationship loss as Gudmund Hernes and Knud Knudsen call it – one of the most fascinating. The theory certainly seems to be supported by this documentary. In practice, this means that one feels that other groups are actually entitled to it, and this poses a risk to one's further rights as resources decrease. In Norway and the UK, we have welfare schemes that are available when needed and funded by the community. Many in Brexit mania expresses that immigrants supply their goods and that there is less left for them.

Many in Brexit mania believe that immigrants provide for their goods and that there is less left for them.

Does labor immigration have to blame? As a citizen of a country with welfare schemes, you also work to contribute to the community fund – so that welfare schemes are there if you need it. Several of those who comment in the documentary express great concern about the loss of jobs and housing, and of being dead poor because there is not enough left to care for the country's citizens after refugees and immigrants have recovered from the welfare schemes. A young man talks about the friends who lose their jobs to people from eastern Bloc. And here are implications of EU membership; labor immigration from other EU countries will often in practice mean that cheap labor comes to the UK and takes the jobs of those who demand normal wages.

EU membership has meant that cheap labor comes to the UK from other EU countries and outperforms those who demand normal wages.

One of the guys in the documentary says that you are not British if you do not have this skin color ("white") and point to your arm. Then you have taken it from horror to racism, and here it is actually a distinction in my opinion. Attaching the rights to skin color is extremely bad rhetoric in a very important discussion about the consequences of Brexit. If we are to follow this gentleman's reasoning, then all who come to the United Kingdom with a different complexion should not be regarded as British, and should therefore not be entitled to the goods of the community. But what about those who come as economic refugees or immigrants who are "white"? Is it okay that they supply the Treasury?

When the sofa selectors decide. I knew I was quite annoyed at some of the commentators in the documentary, and at the same time worried about where we are heading here in Norway. Unfortunately, I think we are heading for a similar vote, precisely to prevent the labor immigration resulting from our EEA membership. Many people are afraid in Norway too, and unfortunately they tend to pull towards the extreme right politically. Some take it to the extreme, become increasingly loud and have a rhetoric that is directly harmful. Unfortunately, such rhetoric seems to mobilize like-minded people.

In the UK, more people mobilized to stay in the EU than for. Is this simply the result of the sofa voters actually taking the trip to the ballot box for fear of losing their accumulated benefits? There are many Britons who think so, according to the documentary. What will happen if we in Norway find ourselves in a similar situation – that all the sofa voters who usually sit at home and criticize «the Norwegian kindness», actually go and vote?

We are all human beings. The beauty of the documentary is that no names are used on the people we meet – neither the "British" nor the experts in the second part of the documentary. It highlights an important point, namely that we are all human beings – regardless of name, title, geographical, political or religious affiliation – with needs that must be met every single day, one way or the other.

It is scary to lose one's life base, such as work or housing, and then experience difficulty in entering the job market again because many jobs are "taken" by labor immigrants who accept lower wages. It is scary to see that the country at the top of it all sends money to help refugees where they are. Then it is easy to say that it is the foreigners who take all the jobs and get all the money that the state and its citizens work in.

It is easy to understand that you become scared when you have limited resources and opportunities to gain knowledge about the state of things. But fear and ignorance are never good enough reasons to be racist and choose a hate-based rhetoric.

The movie is shown on BIFF in Bergen September 26 to October 4

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