We Are All Living In The Same Village
Since the Brexit referendum in 2016, an increase in national pride and hostility towards immigrants can be observed across the United Kingdom. The public are arguably increasingly disgruntled with the change in societal norms (evident from the increasing popularity of controversial tabloids) – there is a cast iron perception among various groups that people no longer look nor sound like they’re ‘supposed to’. Britain has changed, and will likely continue to. Globalisation has taken the blame. So how has Britain changed over the years?
Indeed, Brexit follows years of pandering to fears over immigration, cast as legitimate concerns, with polling consistently placing the issue at the top of the public’s list of concerns. As in the United States and much of mainland Europe, Britain — or more accurately, England — is going through a period of resurgent nativism. The tell-tale signs are imprinted on the national conversation, with its undue preoccupation with cultural differences. A sharp division is drawn between the left-behind and cosmopolitan elite, a too-fast influx of young, flexible workers versus rooted, traditional families trying to get by. Of course, that is only part of the story. Historically, as now, the national response to migration has always been a mix of kindness and suspicion, hospitality and resentment. But the claim works as a rebuttal of exclusionary, nativist definitions of British identity. It only takes a stroll down Princelet Street to learn that this is not who Britons are. Nor who they ever have been.
The United Kingdom has been shaped by migration. Whether it was tribal migration, colonialism, imperialism, or immigration, the culture exchange occurring on an endemic level is a crucial trait of the UK. When cultures interact with each other even if one is more powerful than the other, they exchange some qualities that reverberate for generations. After all, to this day, the most popular food in the UK is Chicken Tikka Masala, which originates from the Indian subcontinent. And the 8th most popular baby name is Muhammad.
Apart from the sentiment to the national traditions and symbols, and the need to preserve them, another aspect of focus for isolationists, is how globalisation affects the domestic economy, and people working in it. When you look around at the goods in your room, you will find that the vast majority of them are imported. Statistically, the chair you are sitting on was probably designed in Sweden and produced in China, the computer you read this is from South-Eastern Asia, the car you are driving was likely made in Germany, France, or Japan, the shop you buy groceries from is most likely French, and so on. Every year $609 billion worth of goods are imported into the United Kingdom. Products that you probably cannot live without and ones that would be drastically more expensive if they were produced in the UK (i.e. If iPhone X was wholly manufactured in the USA it would cost around $2000). Additionally, research has shown that, the production of agricultural goods in climates where they do not grow naturally (for example, requiring greenhouses) tends to be more destructive for the environment than transporting it from the other side of the world.
Because of globalisation, we benefit from a concept called comparative advantage, which is strictly associated with trade. In simple terms, it means that the country which produces the product more efficiently (combination of quality, cost, and use of resources), should focus on delivering this good, and the country which is worse at producing it should import it. That is caused by two things: first of all, countries can access this good cheaper through trade, than it would if it was produced domestically. Secondly, resources which would be used to produce this good, in X country that now imports them, can be allocated in the production of goods which X country has the comparative advantage in. This also means that people who would otherwise produce products they are worse at producing, now deliver goods they are better at. Even though trade may cause growth of unemployment at first, in the long run; when new entrepreneurs start companies producing products more efficiently, the level of employment will be higher than before, and profit will increase. This also proves trade to be more environmentally friendly, as resources are used more efficiently.
On the other hand, there are relatively common concerns connected with poor working and living conditions in developing countries. It is usually said that large Transnational Companies tend to exploit the governments and citizens of these countries. It cannot be denied that these conditions are a constant struggle which requires improvement. However, as we can see on the example of the 2013 Savar building (which collapsed), there is something we as consumers can do to change that. The customer outcry caused by the catastrophe pressured the companies to change the way they produce clothes so much that some of them threatened the Bangladeshi government that they will move their production from Bangladesh to other countries. This pressure (and a reaction from some politicians from various countries) prompted the government to introduce regulations limiting the chance of such event happening in the future, and to punish the ones responsible for the catastrophe.
Additionally, when we look at statistical measures concerning the quality of life in the developing countries, there has been a vast improvement over the past decades. All over the world, life expectancy has grown substantially, in some cases by a few hundred percent. The same with many other measures concerning poverty (world population living in absolute poverty fell from 44% in 1981 to below 10% in 2015), education (91% of young people globally have basic literacy skills, compared with 78% of adults aged 65 years and older), etc. Moreover, initiatives like Millennium Development Goals prove that global effort improves the lives of people all over the world.
When considering aid and international cooperation, the opposition tends to oppose such help for instance because the distance between the giver and the receiver is too big for the giver to be concerned. Many prioritise the domestic producers and workers over international ones. However, due to the process of globalisation and technological advances that come with it the meaning of “distance” has changed drastically. It takes roughly the same time to get by train from London to Paris, than from one side of London to another. The news travel so fast that we know what happened 10 000 miles away from our home faster than we do about some news from across the street. You buying a pencil for 30 pence at your local Tesco are a part of a global mechanism, enabling hundreds of people across the world to afford to put food on their plate. From the miner who dug up the graphite, through person driving the truck it was shipped on, to the cashier you bought it from.
We are all parts of a huge system, and all of us are vital. We no longer only co-depend on our family and the man who owns our land. We are all living in the same village, and we need to work together for a better world. We cannot barricade ourselves in our homes hoping everyone will mind their business. We need to open up to the world and let it inside. We need to participate in making decisions affecting the world we live in. What our world needs is global patriotism. Let’s use our wallets to back the cause we support and oppose things we find wrong. Let’s be proud of being different and let’s be different together. Everyone is welcome in our village.