Press "Enter" to skip to content

Bird’s Eye View (Jun 29, 2016)

Greetings one and all. Are you are sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin.

My good friend, Englishman Steve Sparks, is in the UK at this time and has filed this report on last week’s hugely impactful referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. I just thought you might like to read it.

“So, with a victory for the ‘Leave’ campaign by 52% to 48% over the “Remain,” the UK has voted to take itself out of the European Union, a deeply entwined political/economic group of 28 countries, now 27. The UK, that little archipelago of islands on the outer edges of the European landmass, has long thought of itself as rather special, and that was even before it was the centre of an empire that changed the world in the 18th and 19th centuries. As so often, Shakespeare put it best in ‘Richard II’ with John of Gaunt’s speech, ‘This precious stone set in the silver sea / Which serves it in the office of a wall / Or as a moat defensive to a house, / Against the envy of less happier lands, / This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.’

“It is that silver sea that has long defined the Britain’s relationship with the rest of Europe. These isles have very rarely been in isolation from it and have always kept an eye on other powers across that small yet vital strip of water known as the English Channel. In fact the UK has been often concerned with stopping other European powers dominating the continent, playing one off against another. However, from that physical separation flows a psychological distance too, one that affects every aspect of society. When referring to the area across ‘the pond’ I rarely fail to say “the UK and Europe.” making a subconscious statement, I suppose, that there is a significant difference between the two. Nevertheless, I do not think leaving the Union is the way forward.

“Now, in the days following the vote, the UK is a country deeply, bitterly divided, and it is hard, so soon after this seismic result, to see how it can easily be unified. The two main political parties are in disarray. Prime Minister David Cameron, just a year after a decisive General Election victory, has resigned and there will now be a fractious leadership campaign for his Conservative Party to endure. The opposition Labor party leader Jeremy Corbyn is dealing with the resignations of a dozen members of his shadow cabinet, all of them questioning his ability to lead the party.

“Half the population is giddy, half despairing. And, in their post-referendum gloom, the ‘Remain-voting’ Londoners are suggesting they do ‘remain’ while the rest of the country can ‘leave.’ This is not just a divorce between Britain and the EU, it feels just as much like a divorce between one Britain and another. The mood on both sides is angrier, more divided, and positions are more entrenched. Did the referendum campaign create this, or just enable it? I would say the latter. The antipathy towards Europe has long had an undercurrent of support in the UK.

“As BBC correspondent Katy Kay writes, ‘For nearly all the other countries, the Union was a refuge. It was a home they were constructing as a bulwark against history, against horror. Germany was fleeing its role in spreading death and destruction to every corner of the continents, fleeing its own political ambitions. France was running away from defeat and occupation, from humiliation and powerlessness. So were many other countries. Greece, Portugal and Spain found refuge, in an imagined future, from the real past of right-wing dictatorships. The countries of the East were replacing communist tyranny with a new attempt to create peace and democracy. The thought that war could once again ravage a continent is not that far fetched to the Europeans on the other side of the English Channel. For many Britons, World War Two was their finest hour, standing alone, and putting those Europeans to shame, withstanding Hitler and beating him. Some realized the Russians and the Americans helped a little bit too. Now we want to be outside the whole shebang. Don't be surprised if the instinct of those 27 countries who remain is to make sure that we feel some discomfort on our way out.’ Ms Kay will probably be proven correct in her prediction and the already discombobulated country will be thrown into further disarray.

“From here in the heart of England, just a few days after the vote, I can observe a country that is somewhat reeling, basically leaderless, and brimming with angst and not a small amount of anger. There is only one topic of conversation. All of my friends, and my 86-year old Mum, voted to Remain. This was primarily due to the anti-immigration rhetoric that the ‘Leave’ campaign consistently used as a less than subtle part of their overall message. Here in England’s second largest city, Birmingham, as in all of the big cities except London (where ‘Remain’ was always going to win), the vote was very close. ‘Leave’ ultimately won here by just 4,000 out a total of half-a-million who voted. This very narrow margin is inevitably causing that undercurrent of anger.

“There were elements of a Trump-like campaign that were adopted by the ‘Leave’ leaders. Yet they actually ran a very smart race with a three pronged attack featuring a Trump-like character (albeit it a far less abrasive and obnoxious one); the intelligent, informed, dignified politician; and the ‘workhorse’ who drummed up support across the country, and who is now the early favorite to be the next Prime Minister (Boris Johnson, former mayor of London). Having said that, their victory, while not a shock, was still something of a surprise, certainly after the polls and oddsmakers suggested a late surge for ‘Remain’ in the days immediately before the vote was taken. This did not happen.

“The continuing and inflammatory immigration issue arguably carried the day. During the Depression, as recorded by John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath, many people living in California resented the poor from Oklahoma moving here to work, even though they were all Americans. Over its storied history, AV itself has been less than welcoming to ‘outsiders’ such as the Okies/Arkies in the post-war years, the back-to-the landers and hippies in the 60s and 70s, the Hispanic community in the 80s, and then the Brightlighters in later years (although that is more understandable of course).

“In Europe today, the majority of UK voters have adopted a similar stance to the Californians and Valley-dwellers of those times. The UK’s immigration debate is so heated because this is a very broad-minded, multi-cultural, and forward-thinking society, and yet many people don't feel the same connection to other EU citizens as those in the rest of Europe do; a majority of Brits do not have that same (often limited) desire to help people from other European nations. Many ‘Little Englanders’ see themselves as separate, for good or ill; they do not see themselves as Europeans in any social and cultural way. Those sentiments have carried the day in this referendum, even though, as shown by the closeness of the decision, many Brits, including myself, do not think that way, Certainly nowhere near enough to vote to bring about such a momentous decision as to actually leave the EU. Nevertheless, they/we have been shown to be in the minority, albeit a significant (48%) and now very despondent one.

“This British referendum on the EU was, if you like, the test case for this new era of populist protest that can be witnessed in many countries. As this trend continues to rise up, the Remain/Leave referendum has been the first big national vote we've had anywhere in the western world. The next will be here in the U.S. in November. Writing of which, last Friday, Donald Trump, in Scotland to open his new golf course (and event inevitably shrouded in controversy), congratulated the Brits on taking back their country. ‘That’s a great thing,’ he said in his usual smug and self-satisfied manner. He drew the parallels with his own campaign and made the point that people are angry, in a lot of places. How angry are you? Enough to irretrievably change the face of this country, as the majority of British voters have decided to do to theirs? Perhaps we should all be careful of what we wish for.”

Thank you, Steve.

Public Service Announcements. Calendars and pens at the ready. #544. The Vets from the Mendocino Animal Hospital have no more visits this month but they will be at the AV Farm Supply on Highway 128, north of Philo, on the first and third Thursdays — July 7 and 21. #545. The Boonville Farmers Market continues every Saturday in the parking lot of the Boonville Hotel, 9.30am-Noon. For more information, call Cindy at 895-2949. #546. The AV Lending Library run by The Unity Club is open on Tuesdays and Saturdays at The Fairgrounds. Tuesday 1.30-4.30pm and Saturday 2-4pm. #547. The County Dump is open from 9am-4pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. Remember, no dead animals!

Here is the menu for the Community lunches over the next week in the Senior Center at the Veterans Building in Boonville. The Center asks for a $6 donation from seniors and charges $7 for Non-seniors. Tomorrow, Thursday, June 30, the lunch, served by Marti Titus and her crew at Noon, will be Italian Chicken with Coconut Cream Dessert. Then, next Tuesday, July 5, lunch will feature Meat Loaf and Mashed potatoes, with Birthday Cupcakes for dessert. All meals include vegetables, salad bar, and fruit, plus milk, coffee, tea, and lemonade. Maybe the best value for money you’ll get all week! Tai Chi is available every Tuesday at 11am; on Thursdays at 11am it is Easy-stretch Yoga, part of the Active Life Club from 10am-2pm with games, crafts, and music. Hopefully you will be able to attend some of these events.

Of course, The Three-Dot Lounge is closed.

I’m outtahere. I’ve got help get this country back on its feet and then go and see a man about a sheep. So “please take me drunk, I’m home.” Be careful out there; if you break a leg don’t come running to me; stay out of the ditches; be wary of strangers with more dogs than teeth; show love to your pets, and remember to keep your windows cracked if you leave them in your vehicle; think good thoughts; Keep the Faith; and may your god go with you. A final request, “Let us prey.” Sometimes poking, often stroking, but almost always humbly yours, Turkey Vulture. (Contact me through the Letters Page or at

PS. Hi, George, hope you and Sheila are well. Is that “lafter” I hear, Carroll? Bobwhite Quail, keep up the knitting!

One Comment

  1. Bruce McEwen July 3, 2016

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *