My 350 on BREXIT: An indictment of nationalism

"If Brexit has one lesson for us, it’s that the status quo isn’t quite as unshakeable as we may think it is."

Rosemary Koper
5 July 2016

Since that fateful day in late June, we’ve witnessed the latent racism and xenophobia which was always bubbling away beneath the surface finally erupt in a sickening mess, with 300 hate crimes reported in the week following the referendum (up from an average of 63 a week). The Huffington Post has a depressingly lengthy list of post-referendum racism – slurs, graffiti, endless exhortations to ‘go back home’. As far as I’m concerned, what it all amounts to is an indictment of a notion that we all seem to take for granted as completely natural and mostly harmless – nationalism.

Remember the good ol’ days before the Romanians and the Poles and the Muslims descended and started leeching off our sceptred isle, back before all the Woolworths were pulled down to make way for madrasas and Polski skleps? A simple solution which would rid us of all these immigrant scum instantaneously would be to abandon the notion of the nation state. With no nations and no nationalities there’d be no immigrants. No Syrians, no Chinese, no Pakistanis. There wouldn’t be any British people either of course, but that’s no bad thing. We would just be a multitude of people who all happen to reside on the same land mass, unconcerned by the arbitrary divisions of national identity.

We may think of patriotism and its traditions as fairly benign – surely Morris dancing and lovespoon carving never did anyone any harm? I’d argue that it’s all insidious, and the sooner we stop clinging on to some imagined past of cohesion, unity and homogeneity and accept that we’re citizens of the world, the better.

If this all sounds rather facetious or outlandish, then it’s because the idea of the nation state is such an entrenched one – we simply can’t conceive of existing outside of it. It may seem hopelessly idealistic or futile to advocate the overhaul of the very concept of the nation, but if Brexit has one lesson for us, it’s that the status quo isn’t quite as unshakeable as we may think it is.


In the aftermath of the historic British vote to leave the EU, openDemocracy is asking for our readers' thoughts on Brexit and what needs to happen next in 350 words. We've had an extraordinary response and you can read them all here.

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