Thoughts on Brexit

The UK has not been my home since childhood. I will probably never go back to live there. Yet my only passport is British, and I might wish to live one day in a European country.  Here's what I think about Brexit.

Any major change in the status of a country should require a referendum with a two-thirds majority. That would take care of situations where the majority is slim, as was the case in this one. Joining the EU should have required such a referendum; leaving it too.

The referendum on leaving the EU should have been built from the outset on the principle of holding a second referendum, once the conditions agreed between Parliament and the EU would be known.

Since joining the EU made every British citizen a citizen of the EU, any automatic abrogation of that citizenship should be illegal. Although the gaining of EU citizenship is dependent upon national citizenship in an EU member country, losing of such citizenship should be conditioned upon the acceptance by the individual. It is not for a country to take away citizenship, even of a dual citizen, without due cause (i.e. individuals themselves have done something that would be a cause of revoking citizenship) - otherwise, this only causes anguish to the individual. The case should be adjudicated by the European Court of Justice.

Whatever I think about Brexit, it seems to me that at this moment, Johnson's deal is the only one on the table. Parliament should decide on that deal and stop quibbling. Labour should support the deal on condition that there will be a second referendum; that's what they said they would do. They might still have illusions of passing their own deal, but that's not going to happen. Even if, as I suspect, a second referendum would come out in support of Brexit, the step is still necessary as a means to national healing.  All this literal demonization of the other side, whichever side, should stop.


Egypt voters approve referendum extending el-Sissi's rule
AP|Published: 04.23.19 , 22:28

CAIRO -- Egypt's election commission says voters have approved constitutional amendments allowing President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to remain in power until 2030.

The referendum was widely seen as another step toward restoring authoritarian rule eight years after a pro-democracy uprising that toppled autocratic president Hosni Mubarak.

Lasheen Ibrahim, the head of the commission, said Tuesday the amendments were approved with 88.83% voting in favor. The turnout was 44.33% of eligible voters. The nationwide referendum took place over three days, from Saturday through Monday to maximize turnout.

Pro-government media, business people and lawmakers had pushed for a "Yes" vote and a high turnout, offering incentives while authorities threatened to fine anyone boycotting the three-day voting.

Left or right might not really matter anymore

blue cheeseLately, from inside my little sandbox view of the universe, I've been thinking that left or right might not matter so much in the Israeli context. The Zionist left had its chances to make peace and failed, miserably. They didn't even manage to to make Palestinian Israelis feel at home. The anti-Zionist left only managed to scare people. But the Israeli right are doing a wonderful job of winning more and more votes while competing with one another over who can be more nationalistic. Their greedy vision of one big Emmental Jewish nation with smaller and smaller air holes for anyone else to breathe will surely win. But when we peel away the covering, the cheese inside will turn out to be one solid, pungent blue-veined Gorgonzola, rather than the mild tasting product they were hoping for.

There will be a lot of thwarted expectations and pain, but in the end, Jews and Palestinians will get the nation they didn't know they wanted, and learn to live in it together. Whether right-wing or left-wing politicians offer the shortest route to that inevitable point, it's becoming harder and harder to decide.

The Arab Revolution of 2011

I don't think anyone really understands at this stage what this Revolution means for the world. There were earlier periods in the region that shaped the future and geo-politics, and I'm not enough of a historian to know whether there were smart people who understood the meaning of these at the time. I think that many of us feel torn. We've a youthful hope that the Revolution will bring about real democracy and freedom to the masses who have been for so long ruled by cruel dictators who were proxy to western powers. And we've a cynical old understanding that the situation presents a fertile ground for opportunists and those same western powers to wangle new kinds of influence. I hope, in the interim period, that all discussions with governments and multinationals will be closely monitored for quick publication in the next Wikileaks release.

One middle-aged Libyan said today on Twitter that the situation today reminds him of the ideals of his father's generation in shaking off the colonial rulers. But history is more of a spiral than a cycle. The curves resemble previous ones, but take us to a new place. The world and our position in it have since changed. Consciousness, knowledge, technology and many other factors have evolved in the meantime. The ripples of these events will continue to have effects in unexpected places. It was reported on Twitter today that demonstrators in Cairo had ordered pizza for demonstrators in Wisconsin.

We create and change the world out of our consciousness. The main feeling I am getting from the media and social networking sites is one of inevitability, resembling manifest destiny. Just as yesterday people felt that it was inevitable that they should be ruled by despots, now they share an equally powerful belief that these despots must fall - and quickly.  It isn't so much "people power", but the consciousness that moves them, that is the important factor. I'm not being spooky about consciousness here. It's just the power of decision. But the leaders, like Gaddafi today, are definitely so spooked by what's happening that they are seeking the usual suspects to explain it. Surely it's imperialist agents, Zionist schemers, "bearded men" pulling the ropes.  It isn't any of these. It's just the force of decision.

A mass current of consciousness cannot be maintained for very long.  Quickly it will warp into disagreement or be shaped into new conventions.  But at the moment that this wave crests it is invincible - the force of history.

Another experience I had, while watching Gaddafi in his rambling speech was compassion, for this violent man. I felt a similar sympathy for Mubarak. From their point of view, they had brought change and honor to their countries. They had molded the lives of millions of citizens, created conditions of relative peace and stability. They had modernized their country and provided much for them to be proud of.  And now these citizens, whom they had surely feared for decades, had turned upon them, ungrateful and disloyal. And Gaddafi today pulled out the law books. Like judge and executioner he showed us what should happen to anyone involved in sedition.

At what point is it acceptable for citizens to rise up and overthrow their government? In a democratic country, we would say, this is unnecessary. There are free elections - we can vote for anyone we please. Gaddafi used similar arguments today. He said that in Libya the way to make reform is through the people's committees. He went out screaming Revolution. How ironic were his words.

Gaddafi's Jamahiriya system, according to the commentators, is a cruel lie, a mask for an unforgiving authoritarian regime.  And a few days ago the New York Times carried an op-ed which pointed out the ways in which democracy in America has similarly become a lie ("When Democracy Weakens").  Should Americans too rise up to overthrow their government?  Gaddafi today had many crazy examples of what America and other nations do when the authority of their regimes is threatened.

There are no absolute answers to these questions. We all know that whatever comes of the Arab Revolution of 2011, the peoples of these countries won't be totally free. Their societies will not suddenly become paradises in which there is equitable distribution of wealth, employment for all, protection of minorities, children and women, equal access to political power, etc. But at what point do the conditions on the ground grow so far apart from a nation's potential that the normal mechanisms of preserving authority deserve to be torn asunder - through violence or non-violence? There is a point and a time at which we all become revolutionaries. Legitimacy for a revolution is not determined by some eternal principle. It is rather the sense that an invisible line has been crossed, or that the time has now come. Enough Gaddafi. The people demand the fall of the regime.