End of an ideal

Brexit militates against the spirit of human oneness.

Written by Karan Singh | Published:July 11, 2016 12:02 am
Brexit, United Kingdom, European Union, David Camaron, Europe, Britain leaving EU, Britain leaving European Union, post war Britain, Britain joining EU, European union and Britain, British identity, migration in Britain, British immigration policy, immigration in Britain, British empire, British membership to EU, Nigel Farage, Europesceptics, Europe and Britain, Robin Cook, British multiculturalism Two activists with the EU flag and Union Jack painted on their faces kiss each other in front of Brandenburg Gate to protest against the British exit from the European Union. (File photo: Reuters)

BREXIT has multiple repercussions — political, economic and social — that will continue to reverberate for many years around the world. As a student of political science and one who has followed world affairs since the end of the World War II, I have felt a personal sense of disappointment at this event. For my generation, brought up on the history of multiple wars in Europe for several centuries, resulting in havoc and millions of deaths, the emergence of the European Union (EU) was virtually a miracle. Countries such as France, Germany and Great Britain that had been at each other’s throats for many generations had finally decided that the time had come to sink their differences and move towards an economic, and then a quasi-political union.

Miraculously, in front of our very eyes, the deutsche mark disappeared, the franc disappeared, the Italian lira disappeared and were replaced by the euro. Instead of having to change currency and produce visas whenever one crossed national borders, it became possible to travel smoothly throughout Europe on a Schengen visa. This movement towards regional groupings seemed to be a logical progression from the nation state towards the rapidly emerging global society unified by astounding technological breakthroughs, especially instant communications. We held up the EU as a template towards which SAARC should attempt to move. The idea was that in due course these regional groupings would come together in a more effective structure than the present UN, thus paving the way for what the poet Alfred Tennyson called “The Parliament of Man, the Federation of the World”.

Into this idealistic notion Brexit has come like a black swan. Whether or not this marks the beginning of the unraveling of the EU remains to be seen, but it is certainly a setback to what we thought was a logical development towards a harmonious global society. The persistent turmoil in West Asia and the subsequent massive emigration of millions has, of course, been a significant factor in this development, and this is echoing across many European countries as well as the US. The ISIS has declared its delight that Brexit has taken place, which itself has ominous overtones.

Sri Aurobindo in a message on August 15, 1947 (also his 75th birthday) outlined five dreams for the future of India and the world. His third dream for a “world-union” is so relevant that it merits being reproduced in full.

“The third dream was a world-union forming the outer basis of a fairer, brighter and nobler life for all mankind. That unification of the human world is under way; there is an imperfect initiation organised but struggling against tremendous difficulties. But the momentum is there and it must inevitably increase and conquer. Here too India has begun to play a prominent part and, if she can develop that larger statesmanship which is not limited by the present facts and immediate possibilities but looks into the future and brings it nearer, her presence may make all the difference between a slow and timid and a bold and swift development. A catastrophe may intervene and interrupt or destroy what is being done, but even then the final result is sure. For unification is a necessity of Nature, an inevitable movement. Its necessity for the nations is also clear, for without it the freedom of the small nations may be at any moment in peril and the life even of the large and powerful nations insecure. The unification is therefore to the interests of all, and only human imbecility and stupid selfishness can prevent it; but these cannot stand for ever against the necessity of Nature and the Divine Will.”

“But an outward basis is not enough; there must grow up an international spirit and outlook, international forms and institutions must appear, perhaps such developments as dual or multilateral citizenship, willed interchange or voluntary fusion of cultures. Nationalism will have fulfilled itself and lost its militancy and would no longer find these things incompatible with self-preservation and the integrality of its outlook. A new spirit of oneness will take hold of the human race.”

To say that Brexit reflected “human imbecility and stupid selfishness” would perhaps be too strong a condemnation, but its negative implications are certainly a matter of grave concern and we can only hope that the “catastrophe” he mentions does not involve a nuclear conflagration. That Sri Aurobindo, once the fiery prophet of Indian nationalism, had come to hope that nationalism would finally give way to a “new spirit of oneness” is striking, but on the ground things seem to be moving in the opposite direction. To close on a lighter note, here is a limerick: “God’s plan made a hopeful beginning/ But Man spoiledhis chances by sinning/ We hope that the story/ Will end in God’s glory/ But at present the other side’s winning.”

The writer is a member of the Rajya Sabha, an author and educationist.

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  1. T
    Tino
    Sep 30, 2016 at 6:31 am
    English have a history of sowing division and conflict it is in their nature, Sudan, Palestine, Kashmir, etc etc now brexit. Let them do what they want. Foolish people tried to execute sri aurobindo too. How many innocent did they execute!!! Small island, small mentality. Scottish independence!!!
    Reply
  2. T
    Tino
    Sep 30, 2016 at 6:34 am
    Let's have Scottish and northern Irish independence and leave them as small land
    Reply
  3. G
    george
    Jul 11, 2016 at 6:45 am
    I forgot the article even before I completed reading. The very purpose EU was to create a single trading block to increase the inter-dependency of people and hence avoid military conflict. Not to create a quasi-political union. The unelected members of EU over-rulings national justice system is unacceptable for Britain. Your comparison of SAARC and EU are laughable. Think about a quasi-political union of these countries.
    Reply
  4. S
    Sumit Bose
    Jul 10, 2016 at 11:14 pm
    @Singh, enough of the "manufactured grief". the people of UK have spoken very loud: no more cutbullas !!!! The next set of howls is a chorus from the new entrants to the EU, they too are at the tipping point for taking just the same steps as UK has taken. Watch the space. A noble life requires a potion with "noble visions, noble aspirations, noble deeds". The cutbullas are abundantly lacking in such refined virtues. They are collectively welfare sponges and can only vitiate the space they occupy.End of story.
    Reply
  5. V
    v b
    Jul 12, 2016 at 9:38 pm
    BREXIT denotes a retrograde step as it is contrary to the direction of diverse elements working jointly for the welfare of all.
    Reply
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