I used to not care. I wish I still could but somehow world politics have sucked me in to their vortex of shit and I have now landed on a new planet were everything seems to look worse… I also get the annoying feeling that I have to do something about it.
As I sit here, my mother is frantically searching for her expired carte de séjour, her french residency permit that dates back to the nineties. It has – of course – disappeared. Nonetheless, she is adament that it must be here somewhere and it probably is. But that doesn’t make the search any less of a stressful bother. I hate searching for lost things, if a thing decides to get lost I automatically pretend it never existed. Unfortunately, a twenty year old expired carte de séjour has suddenly become more important than we ever thought it could, and pretending things don’t exist is a luxury that you can leave back in 2010, girlfriend. Welcome to the 2017 post-Brexit battle of the unfortunate expats.
On Friday, the 24th of June 2016, at exactly 7:25 in the morning I found out Britain was leaving the EU. I was sitting in a train station café in the Burgundian town of Dijon, having a croissant and trying to wake myself up after a sleepless night by consuming multiple expressos. I had already forgotten that the results were in and was much more interested in trying not to fall asleep on my chair. It was only when I heard a french women say to her husband: « Ah non, mais c’est fou quand même »* that I understood. With dread I turned my head to see written in big letters on the TV screen: « Britain is out », then turned calmly back to the window, looked out towards the grey concrete outline of the station, smiled and whispered: « Well, that’s me finished ». To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really care, I just like pretending to overreact to things because it makes life a little more interesting. I had, in the recesses of my mind, the firm conviction that everything was going to be OK, that things are never as bad as they seem.
Let’s just say that I was half wrong. Yes, I have now reached the understanding that everything will in fact be OK because I was lucky enough to be born in a society and under a state where my security and my well-being will be defended at any cost, way before the security and well-being of any other born less fortunate. Is this fair? Not at all, but it is true. Yet, I was wrong to assume that everything isn’t as bad as it seems. Things are bad: Britain has decided to take a step into the unknown and has voted to leave thanks to a lovely referendum for which I couldn’t vote. This, under any perspective seems counter-productive both socially and economically and will have long term negative effects on younger generations. The United States have elected Trump. The man who recently had a hissy fit about how many people actually attended his inauguration and, let’s not forget, that extremism is getting ever more popular thanks to the threat posed by terrorism. So, without sounding melodramatic, I can safely say we are entering murky waters folks, waters which have only recently started reaching out to our little western society feeties but have been flowing as far back as 2011 from the Arab Springs.
One of the unfortunate aspects that emerges from all of this is that we participate and interest ourselves only when things don’t go our way, if we don’t feel any direct consequence then we might as well consider it never happened. It’s normal. Don’t shame and blame yourself for it. Instead, try to understand why this happens and, most crucially, own up to it. I was a perfect example. I was any activist’s worst nightmare, preferring sitting back with a nice glass of gin and tonic to having any serious discussion.
Today, I am writing the first article of a blog that, at most, will be seen by more than five people, and I’m cool with that. Of course, I am worried about what the future holds. I don’t want women’s rights to go down the drain because of trumpisms, I don’t like thinking about how people could be murdered, blown up and torn from their homes any second from now and I would prefer not having to present myself to an angry french administration begging for double nationality. But, as dear Jean-Claude Van Damme would say, I am definitely more aware. Which is not a bad thing; it could even be the only good thing. So, I am going on a little adventure. I mean to speak out to a cynical youth that poses as being decadent and uninterested but who, deep down – and I know it -, is much more caring (and clever) that it lets on to be.
*Oh my god, it’s unbelievable
Photograph by Bert Hardy