Brexit day has come and gone but the betrayal for Europeans in UK will forever remain a ‘thorn in our flesh’

A thorn in our flesh

So the UK has finally left the European Union; Brexit day has come and gone and as my sister whatsapped me the other day: ‘The world has not come to an end, has it?’. Easy for her to say, though! She has not spent the last 28 years of her life giving her all to a country that’s not hers, a people with whom she does not share a culture, a history, a ‘DNA’. I am that person who has given the second half of her life to another nation. I don’t do things in halves, so when I say ‘given’ I mean that. I came over to the UK from Spain in the early 90s as an Erasmus student, married a Brit, had two children who now have double nationality; I have studied, served in the community, worked and paid taxes, and continue to do so after almost 30 years. Many don’t seem to get the outrage of so many Europeans like myself who have lived in the UK for more than half a life, and have suddenly become the family member who has overstayed their welcome at the party or rather, discovered they were never considered part of the family in the first place and must now be granted permission for such privilege.

So for those who still don’t get our shock and outrage, let me make it a bit more relatable for you. Just imagine being in a romantic relationship to which you have committed fully and sacrificed everything for, and after 30 years, finding out that in order to be allowed to remain in that relationship, you need to be granted a permit or else you are out, just like that! It is not what you have done. It is not the punishment to a crime you have committed or your partner seeking justice for an offence you’ve caused him/her. It is not because of what you have done, but rather because of who you are. A bit like someone saying to you after 30 years: ‘Thank you for all the years and everything you have given me, but I no longer love or want you, so if you want to remain in our relationship you need to beg me to let you stay. If you do, you can stay but only if you continue providing for me, sacrificing for me and always understanding that our relationship was never based on mutual love and appreciation, but self-gain on my part. It was your foolish mistake to believe otherwise!’.

All that love, all that sacrifice, the commitment, the loyalty, the investment, the faith, all thrown back at you as meaningless, worthless, non-existent. If you have ever been at the receiving end of betrayal or unfaithfulness, you will know the pain, gut-wrenching agony, anxiety and damage that being treated like that causes. It is a wound that never heals. Life as you have always known it, robbed from right under your feet. Your only mistake: to have put your unconditional love and trust, your whole being into a person/country that did not deserve it in the first place.

Let me tell you. I fully respect the reasons behind the majority of people who voted for Brexit. I truly do. I get it. What I don’t get is why all Europeans who have been living and working here for so many years have not been automatically granted settled status without having to go through the undignified process of being treated like an ‘alien’, a persona non grata, a leech; in essence, overnight we have been turned into targets of hate and abuse. Yes, Brexit day has come and gone, but the effects of what this process has done and will do to individuals like myself is only just beginning.

I am worried for the UK. I truly am! When I first came to this country, it was love at first sight. The openness, the cosmopolitan feel of the place, the tolerance, the freedom, the eagerness to learn and benefit from other cultures, the contagious positive forward-looking energy, the hunger for equality, progress, unity amongst akin nations to collaborate and face global problems as a unit rather than alone. In my eyes and in my heart, there was no other country on earth as beautiful inside and out and well put together as the UK. Despite the heartache of leaving all my family behind, my homeland, my culture, everything I knew to that point, I could fathom no other place I would rather live in than the UK.

That has all changed now! If you are a Brit and you are sitting there in judgement of my attitude, please put yourself in my shoes and imagine being at the receiving end of such betrayal. My love has turned sour. Unrequited love has never been an attractive prospect for anyone. I can understand that not everyone you love can or has to love you back, but what I will not put up with is the ‘we will love you and look after you so long as you continue to put money in the pot, to be profitable for us’. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to ‘love’ relationships, I like the ‘not having to pay for it’ kind of love. In essence, for me, being allowed to stay in the UK should have flown naturally and seamlessly after Brexit, after half a life of sacrifice and devotion. When mutual love has a price, it ceases to be love and becomes a business transaction. Thanks but no thanks!

Unity trumps love and selfishness and greed trump hate

Prophets of doom or Visionaries?

The world is suffering from a hopeless case of unaccountability. For such an ancient world, there is today more than ever a distinct reluctance to grow up, both on an individual and collective basis, it seems.

I started noticing this years ago, when I first joined social media and expressed my views on various subjects. The onslaught that often followed every time I expressed a personal view on a given subject, was sinister to say the least, utterly unjustified, and frankly terrifying. Not being able to express an opinion on a controversial subject is regrettable, but to not be able to say what you honestly think in a democratic country which by definition prides itself in freedom of expression amongst other rights, is clearly the symptom of grave maladies sending our world into a spiral of self destruction: egotism, greed, deception, manipulation, to name but a few.

Our obsession with self drives us blindly to focus all our negativity, self loathing and feelings of failure towards another, based on a difference of opinion. We are willing to vilify a human being and put their character and integrity into question, even though we have never met that person ever; even though we know nothing about that person other than what we glean from their digital print. It’s hardly consistent evidence to base a person’s epitaph on or even dictate their death sentence, digitally speaking.

I have asked myself this same question over and over. What is so very dark in a human heart that when another person’s argument touches a raw nerve, they’d rather destroy that person’s credibility without giving their argument a moment’s thought, than actually have the courage to engage in self-introspection and get to the bottom of why their argument has unnerved them. It seems obvious to me on a personal as well as global level that nearly always, those viciously attacking another as a result of an opinion expressed, are cowardly ‘shooting’ the messenger rather than having the maturity to heed the message, or at least consider it. They are terrified of looking in the mirror to acknowledge flaws; they love themselves too much or as it turns out not enough to face head on their demons, to question their deeply rooted convictions. To do so would mean rocking the boat of their own credibility, self-assuredness; in essence questioning the very essence of who they are and how they live. Life is tough enough as it is, right, so why rock the boat? Much quicker, easier and less effort to trample on anyone who wants to make me accountable for my choices, even when those choices have dire consequences on others who were never given a choice.

Personal growth has reached a new stalemate in this ‘modern’ era of tribalism. ‘Think as I do or be destroyed’ is the new motto for so many today. Character assassination on social media is the new ‘terrorism’. ‘Say as I say or disappear’ is the new standard of righteousness. The defining lines of ethics and morality are at an all time high of blurriness.

Now, take this increasingly common behavioral pattern on social media and scale it up worldwide and to other areas of society such as religion, politics, the natural world. What do you have? An existential crisis of biblical proportions; the end of our world as we know it.

Take for example Greta Thunberg. Thousands of people around the world, mostly scientists, meteorologists, environmentalists, experts in all the relevant subjects have agreed for a long time now that global warming exists and that we are on a path of self-destruction. Even though there is no agreement as to when this may happen, there is consensus in the fact that to continue living as we do is not sustainable in the long-term. What do we do? Anyone and everyone who feels challenged by the argument put forward by Greta and the fact that finally, she has got us all talking and thinking about global warming and the risks involved, feels entitled to embark personally on her character assassination, on discrediting her, shaming her, insulting her. Some are prepared to do anything and I mean anything, in order to divert the focus away from a vital message and focus instead solely on the credibility of the messenger.

We shouldn’t care how old she is. We shouldn’t care whether her parents or anyone else is manipulating her or not, and most certainly, we should be ashamed of ourselves for putting into question her worth as a human being or her potential as a catalyst for urgently needed change, based on the fact that she has Asperger’s. I have read some horrendous attacks directed at her because of her disorder. I have a son with Asperger’s and I can tell you that what he lacks in certain aspects, he more than makes up for in others. He is an exceptional human being and his outlook on things often blows my mind. Like any other human being, he is deficient in certain areas but excels in others. Asperger’s individuals are no worse than anyone else. They are simply different, and being different has to be celebrated and not vilified. Otherwise, our world will stagnate and eventually everything in it will perish. We step on very shaky ground when we dismiss another human being and what they have to say because of their health, creed, sexual orientation, political affiliation or race. But more alarmingly, we lose ourselves and our humanity when we make it our life’s goal to destroy another human being because they think different than we do. The real tragedy here is that in denying the validity of a message by shooting its messenger, we are denying ourselves room for growth, personal fulfillment and we are shooting ourselves in the head also by obsessing with always being right, instead of humbling ourselves and accepting that this world’s only chance of survival is changing our motto from ‘them and us’ to ‘together we can’.