Oh yes, that's why I left

St George Cross (Wikipedia)England is a weird, sad, angry little country, where there is now unequivocal evidence that over half the population – mainly the older ones – believe that experts know nothing, and that foreigners (as well as milllions of people born there with darker than average skins) are evil. England is a place filled with drunkenness and random violence, where it’s not safe to pass a crowd of teenagers – let alone a crowd of football supporters – on a street corner, where you cannot hang Xmas decorations outside for fear of losing them, where your class still defines you forever, where whinging is a way of life, where kindness is viewed with suspicion, where barbed wire fences protect schools from outsiders (or vice versa – hard to fathom), where fuckin‘ is a punctuation mark to underline what follows, not an independent word. It’s a nation filled with fierce and inhospitable people, as Horace once said, and it always has been. For all the people and places that I love and miss there, for all its very many good people and slowly vanishing places that are not at all like that, for all its dark and delicious humour, its eccentricity, its diversity, its cheeky irreverance, its feistiness, its relentless creativity, its excellent beer, its pork pies and its pickled onions, all of which I miss, that’s why I was glad to leave it.

It saddens and maddens me to see the country of my birth killing or, at least, seriously maiming itself in such a spectacularly and wilfully ignorant way, taking the United Kingdom, and possibly even the EU itself with it, as well as causing injury to much of the world, including Canada. England is a country-sized suicide bomber. Hopefully this mob insanity will eventually be a catalyst for positive change, if not in England or Wales then at least elsewhere. Until today I opposed Scottish independence, because nationalism is almost uniformly awful and the last thing we need in the world is more separatism, but it is far better to be part of something big and expansive like the EU than an unwilling partner in something small in soul and mind like the UK. Maybe Ireland will unify and come together in Europe. Perhaps Gibraltar too. Maybe Europe, largely freed of the burden of supporting and catering for the small-minded needs of my cantankerous homeland, will rise to new heights. I hope so, but it’s a crying shame that England won’t be a part of that. 

I am proud, though, of my home city, Brighton, the place where English people who don’t want to live in England live. About 70% of Brightonians voted to stay in the EU. Today I am proudly Brightonian, proudly European, but ashamed to be English. 



I am a professional learner, employed as a Full Professor and Associate Dean, Learning & Assessment, at Athabasca University, where I research lots of things broadly in the area of learning and technology, and I teach mainly in the School of Computing & Information Systems. I am a proud Canadian, though I was born in the UK. I am married, with two grown-up children, and three growing-up grandchildren. We all live in beautiful Vancouver.

3 Comments on Oh yes, that's why I left

  1. Hugh Williamson says:

    Hi Jon,

    Greetings from someone who also used to live in Brighton but who has moved less far — to St Albans. This must be the biggest crisis in Britain since the War and we (the British) are now horribly divided within Britain by class, within Britain by nation, between Britain and Europe and within the two main political parties as well. Horrible but interesting times. I voted for Remain of course, but I don’t think it’s quite as simple as you say about xenophobia and racism: it is a genuine concern for people to feel their jobs are being undercut in wages by Eastern Europeans (who have the same colour of skin as they come from the same latitudes). In the eyes of many in the rest of the world Britain has just committed suicide, but the problems caused by globalisation are global — look at Trump, Le Pen etc. The two main ironies are first that this referendum need not have been called at all and second that the biggest losers will be the poor people who voted to Leave if the economy crashes.



    1. Jon Dron says:

      Thanks Dave, Hugh

      It must be difficult being in the midst of it. Indeed, it’s not simply xenophobia, although that does seem a dominant theme and, indeed, the referendum should never have been called at all, and should certainly not have been won on a statistically and pragmatically flawed simple majority. From afar, the (narrow and contested) result seems to be a bit of a backlash against a status quo that is seen as, more than anything else, disempowering: this is frighteningly similar to what drives the Trump campaign. There’s obviously a lot of pent-up and poorly expressed anger going on.
      Canada is tangibly different. While we should never extrapolate from the average to the particular (there are great and awful people everywhere), the average attitude here is so much friendlier, kinder, and more tolerant (in fact celebratory) of difference. It’s deep in the culture. I suspect it is partly down to its great diversity and the fact that a lot of the country is hard to live in without the support of others. You have to help one another when it’s 40 below (not here in Vancouver, of course – we inherit the goodness without all the snow). Being Not America also makes a difference, as does having a population founded on a disproportionately large number of people fleeing from religious and political persecution elsewhere (notably in Europe and the US but also many other areas). Canada has some very well-acknowledged problems, especially in its treatment of indigenous peoples, with all the inequality, guilt and pain that continues to cause, not to mention some very bad things that happened to freedom and the environment in the Harper years (thankfully now in sharp reverse), and inequalities are all too visible here in parts of Vancouver, but the average attitude is not unlike that of a rose-tinted Britain of post-war years, only without the resentment. I highly recommend it!

  2. Ah the great british scumbag 🙂 Is Canada that different I wonder? We had the Wars of the Roses, Catholics vs. Protestants, Cavaliers vs. Roundheads and now the half-wits vs. the brainiacs or is it the mad vs. the insane? I just spoke to a bloke in Scotland who voted Leave. He works for a german company that was taken over by TDK at the beginning of this year. He was after a cheapo Asus 15 year old board that was used in a german semiconductor production machine. I sold him the last one 3 years ago for a song. The few that are left go for 280 quid. Anyway hope to see you one of these days, take care.

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