I must confess I often feel a bit uncomfortable with people invoking ‘the future of our children’ as a rhetorical device to express concern for the present. I somehow never fully believe it. But, perhaps because I’m a parent myself now, after Brexit and Trump’s electoral victory I find myself genuinely worried for the future of Robin and Matilda and their little friends who are too young to understand what this horrible year has brought on us. I tried, but it is hard to explain to two under six what a referendum is, what the EU is, what it means to be the president of a most powerful country in the world. I used superheroes, baddies and goodies, fairy tale characters, but not sure I made much progress. I think it is unfair on them and everyone under 18 that such huge decisions were taken mostly (in demographic terms) by people retired or close to retirement who won’t have to experience the consequences of their actions. People who experience the present through the prism of nostalgia: for their forever lost youth, the wealth and hope of postwar baby boom years, the grandeur of old colonial Empires (they don’t care about the pains of the colonial subjects) and, in Europe, anti-Soviet generous welfare systems.
After the EU referendum I, as many EU citizens, began to plan possible or imaginary escape routes: relocating to Italy, Sweden, Norway, Canada, Australia, a commune in the countryside, a Mediterranean island or an a hut on a Thai beach. Despite the deep pain and sense of loss, there was still a place to fantasise about where things would be different and better, a bubble untouched by the rampant nationalism, xenophobia and racism (I know a place like this didn’t fully exist even before Brexit and Trump). But after the US election, the world seems suddenly not big enough. The reverberation of a Trump presidency that sticks to the promises made during the electoral campaign will be global. No escape route or safe haven.
We are trapped, this is how I feel this morning, with no desert island to run away to, even if only in my imagination.
Perhaps this is a sign that it is time to fight back, to build again from scratch wherever we are, time to stop talking only to the converted and to think that our twitter followers and facebook friends are the whole world. It is also time to question what went wrong and how we got here. Is there something different that we can do? It is an uncomfortable conversation that needs to happen sooner rather than later. More of the same, even if it is done with the best intentions, is not enough. The world is changing as we speak.