Breaking of nations

By: Jason A. Baguia June 24,2016 - 09:28 PM

I sit on a wooden chair in a hotel along Sokolovska Street in the city of Prague, Czech Republic where I am on a working trip. The world has just awakened to news that the majority in the United Kingdom (UK) voted to leave the European Union (EU).

The mood is subdued among my classmates who reacted to the referendum via Facebook, whether in Hamburg, Germany, Amsterdam, Netherlands and Swansea and London in the UK. We are, after all, in this EU-established graduate program, Erasmus Mundus master’s in journalism, media and globalization. The program is not only an experiment in international education but also a flesh-and-blood experience of the oneness of the human family.

In our first class in autumn 2015 under the Danish Prof. Hans Henrik Holm and the American Prof. Michael Stohl, we were exposed to various paradigms to use in reporting global change. Some of these rest on the theory that states as business partners are less likely to engage in war and harm one another’s economies. A subsequent class on globalization and world order under Prof. Mette Skak, also a Dane, introduced us to the “English school,” a world view that stresses the concept of an international community.

Inasmuch as the UK’s economic fortunes were wedded to those of the entire EU, the isles were steps ahead on the capitalist peace road. Now it takes steps backward. Renegotiation with the union from which it is divorcing is likely to result in a more competitive, conflicted trade setup. The UK vote signals the nation’s sublimation of conflict to the plane of merchandise in place of cooperation with the continent in a common market. The UK’s impending departure from the EU implies that for the most part, the British hew more to an autonomous if not isolationist than integrated understanding of international communion.

Analysts largely attributed the “Leave” camp’s victory to Britons’ discontent with the flow of immigrants into their prosperous land, apart from anger over EU legislation from Brussels, Belgium and an unconvincing campaign to stay fueled by fear appeals and led by David Cameron, the exiting premier.

Welcoming the stranger is no mean feat. Saint John the Evangelist once wrote of the Light this way: He came to his own, but his own did not accept him. Saint Luke remembered how the Teacher from Galilee told the parable of the Good Samaritan to illustrate that to be a neighbor is to help anyone who is in dire need, never mind his background, and do to no one what you yourself dislike. This summarizes divine law, honored, to paraphrase William Shakespeare, more in the breach than in the observance.

Britain’s exit or “Brexit” parallels biblical history. Israelites resented Moses and his tablets. Brits resent Brussels and its laws. Prophets of doom failed to inspire faithfulness. Heralds of economic consequences fail to persuade most UK voters to stay in the EU. Jacob’s descendants feared the Samaritans. The queen’s subjects fear the immigrants.

As nations fluctuate between splintering and uniting, however, the Word remains, thorough in laying down conditions for effectively living cosmopolitanism, mankind’s oneness, long before it was theorized by scholars like Peter Berglez: Fulfill the law, listen to the prophets, welcome the stranger.

In another part of the planet, 10 heads of state signed in 2007 the Cebu Declaration, the blueprint of a charter to integrate Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). As they pursue a vision of “a concert of… nations, outward looking, living in peace, stability and prosperity, bonded together in partnership in dynamic development and in a community of caring societies,” governments concerned would do well to learn lessons from Brexit. Otherwise, the Asean project would also be vulnerable to what City University of London’s Dr. Anastasia Nesvetailova called “counter-globalization tendencies.”

At sundown on the 23rd of June, the eve of the Solemnity of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist, I suddenly found myself whispering, in the church of the Infant Jesus of Prague, a prayer for the “Stay” camp to triumph. In the morrow, I understood why. In the Church of Our Lady of the Tyn in the city’s Old Town stands an altarpiece that depicts Saint Luke painting a portrait of the Blessed Virgin and the Christ Child. It is a comforting image of relationship. As with the artist saint, real joy for every citizen rests on political decisions that embrace the other. With each choice that creates barriers, we write a discomfiting icon of estrangement.

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TAGS: Czech Republic, European Union, Prague, Sokolovska Street, United Kingdom

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