"Calm down it'll all blow over"
"Don't worry you'll still be able to go on holiday"
In a week of infuriating things thrown about in person and in the media, these are my top two currently.
Firstly, to quote my (joke) reply to a friend and the title of this post I'LL CALM DOWN WHEN I'M GOOD AND READY (dear). Secondly I'll calm down when someone gives me a reason to calm down. And with the Prime Minister stepped down, Brexit itself in an uncertain mess with Europe saying 'go on then if you're going' and the government seemingly playing rock paper scissors for who gets to push the button, well there's not a lot to be calm about. Oh and did I mention that I can't even mention what the Labour party is up to because by the time I finish writing this more of them may have resigned/forced a leadership battle/decamped to Australia.
I joke. Well invoke mild sarcasm. But I am truly devastated, confused, angry and yes scared about what the vote to leave means. I say this with no hyperbole. After one Facebook comment hit a nerve to far on Friday I sat in my car and cried. Because for all of us this decision may have very real, very dire consequences. And I only say 'may' because the main fear in all this is that we just don't know.
Let me say one thing before I continue; this isn't a personal attack on anyone who voted leave. As in any vote I 100% support the democracy and free will that we have, indeed I celebrate it. But with that free will and freedom of speech (freedom of, not abuse of or hate speech) I also retain the right to question and express my dislike for the decision made. Be that by political action of my own (writing to my MP) discussion with friends, family, the internet or by writing my thoughts down. It's also worth noting that it's possible to respect a democratic process and disagree with the outcome: I'm still angry that the Tories got in at the last election, and by saying that I'm not impacting anyone's right to a free vote.
So this isn't a personal attack, it's a personal response.
My personal response is based on what I fear for my life, career, for my friends, for the sector/industry I work in, and for the country I was born in.
I'll start on a personal level. It's not news to anyone who knows me that I'm job hunting. I have been for 7 years working in Higher Education. A sector that is being slowly and surely decimated by government cuts and mis-management from within. Things are already pretty dark in Higher Education. The UK's HE research gets approximately £730 million a year in EU research funding. That's just straight up research funding. That isn't other means of income such as tuition fees, or money that contributes via collaboration on European projects which support UK research and Universities. That figure alone though is around 15% of income. Which doesn't sound like a great deal, but if you translate it to cutting (already struggling) staffing by 15%, or wages by 15% it starts to sound a little higher right?
And it's so much more than the black and white figures. It's the fear of the future this creates, and a reticence to start new research for fear it won't get funded. It means recent graduates won't be employed as the research won't be there to continue. It means a lack of progress.
And that's before we get to the students. Before we consider the 1000s of EU students who come here to study (and the same for British students to the EU). It's before we consider, yes their fees, but also what they as people bring to the University. It's all the exchange programmes that give such valuable opportunity to young people, which may now be in danger. It's not about student numbers or just about employees (exchange programmes also give many people jobs, as do looking after interests of international students) It's not just about statistics it's about experience. The expereince that has been possible for students across Europe through our open doors. Not just in Higher Education but the change to up and move abroad has been a welcome option for young people on both short and long term basis. And now something many will never know.
The same with our staff. Those 'immigrants' who are 'stealing' jobs? they are researchers with specialist skills who lift the UK research profile, who make real progress in the world. They are people who are able to contribute in a unique way to research, to collaborate, create and keep progress moving. And they are teaching our students, and bringing with them a cultural insight and a broadening of minds...which, oh wait was always kind of the point of Universities.
And they are people. People. Let's not forget that. I look around my Facebook feed and I see so many friends from Europe who work here, who live here or who previously studied here, and they are fearful. More than that they are hurt, that we as a nation decided they are somehow defective and not wanted. To those friends I say again, you are wanted, you are needed and there are those of us who will fight with you.
And then there's the arts. The EU brings millions to the arts. More importantly it allows artists to collaborate. It allows artists to travel, to share their art. And yes while we will probably all be able to go on holiday to Spain still, freedom to work will never be the same. That's all well and good if your big multinational company wants to send you to Germany to work. If you're a theatre company with 6 employees and an arts council grant of £5, 000 that visa to work and travel will be a barrier to sharing your work.
And then there's Wales. I look at my country, my own piece of the UK and I just ask 'What have you done?'. You only have to take a short drive around some of our most deprived struggling areas to see what the EU has done. Rejuvenated civic spaces, allowing community projects to continue. The South Wales Valleys are full of those little plaques with the EU flag that tell you something there wouldn't exist without the EU. This article gives a really brief insight into that
And I'm scared. And upset and angry. There are many reasons for wanting to vote leave. Some of them rooted in real concerns, real sense of opportunity in something else, but also far too many of them I fear rooted in xenophobia, unfounded fears around immigration and at times outright racism. I can't speak for anyone who did vote leave, but I can speak of the campaign I personally saw run. And in that campiagn I saw much pandering to those elements. It saw people involved who have previously made clear they support those factors. And that is a scary reality.
And racist incidents are already on the increase. There are many articles on that floating around, to keep with my locality here is one that focuses on my area.
So when someone says to "Calm down" or that it'll all be fine because we can still go on holiday, I guess I ask the following questions:
1. Have our Government figured out a plan yet? because I'd really like there to be a plan.
2. Can you help me find a job in a sector that was already stretched to breaking point?
3. Is it fine that our research and University landscape will be changed forever?
4. What about the arts? do we just wave them goodbye?
5. What about Wales? what about all the money that made it a better place to live and work?
6. Can you tell my Czech neighbour, my Dutch friend, my Hungarian colleague that it will be ok? Tell them they won't be deported? Can you stop them getting racially abused as they go about their day?
If someone can answer me all of those things, then maybe I'll calm down. And then maybe I'll book a holiday as well. You know once I get a job.