So what happens next? It now appears that Australia has stronger ties with Europe than the United Kingdom. I mean Australia came Second, yes 2nd, in the Eurovision Song Contest, while Grande Bretagne was awarded the customary ‘nul pointes’. And last week, after months of gutter politics, inept leadership and wildly dangerous rumour-mongering, the English voted for Brexit. Not Bremain. Not Brussels either.
I spent all weekend under a very dark cloud, poring over the online debate, devouring radio and media, shedding my disbelief on social media. It’s not just the outcome of the narrow-minded, short-term-ism protest-vote that hurts, it’s the stark realization of the searing divisions that cut deeply into the small country that is now ‘Inger-land’. Divisions are now palpable – the huge sociological disconnect between London and the rest of the UK, the very different mind-sets of the under 30s and the over 50s, the rural economies who have benefitted from billions of Euros on infrastructure, but who now realise that hand-outs don’t necessarily lead to gratitude. Those who voted for Brexit did not vote for a better future, it was a grotesque act of self-harm which (as Will Davies tellingly wrote) taps into a broader malaise which has driven the rise of Donald Trump.
There are wise heads around us. One of my RMIT colleagues wrote of ‘…the parlous lack of leadership exercised by David Cameron et al., the depraved bigotry of Farage and the naked self interest of Boris Johnston…’, ending rather gloomily with ‘I fear for civil society and democracy in all of this’. Crikey, and I thought the darkest day was last week’s Solstice.
On to brighter days… Authors love to meet readers, or so I’m told. It doesn’t happen to me that often, but last week, two people (Yes. Two. Different. People) hailed me from across a busy road and beckoned me over. Worried that I might have owed them money, I was relieved that they merely wanted to comment on my last blog. One wanted to check out my Hanoi Haircut – we agreed that the level of meticulousness I received for 85 cents was more than equal to what I might get in Melbourne for a hefty $70. The other beckoning reader wished to regale me with yet more witty names for Tribute Bands. I thought I’d done this to death but was delighted to hear of a British tribute band called, wait for it, ‘Proxy Music’. Inspirational!
Before Brexit broke my brain up, I’d had a wonderfully international week, truly global in the way that only RMIT can be. I spent an evening with Rafael Cilau Valadez, a visiting Huichol yarn painter from Mexico, who is working in the School of Art, on a month-long residency funded by DFAT. Cilau is a fifth generation Master Yarn artist who has exhibited all over the world. Each piece of work can take over 120 hours. Cilau is also in the process of becoming recognised as a traditional Wixarika medicine man and was terrific company. Next evening we hosted a visit by the honorary German Consul at the launch of a project called SkypeLab. The German dignitary was not as colourfully dressed as our Mexican visitor, but he spoke equally as fervently about creativity, education and RMIT’s outstanding reputation on an international level. He was very tactful and we didn’t discuss the UK EU vote, nor the likelihood of losing … and lo and behold a soccer defeat against Iceland was still 10 days away.
The pictures show me and the Honorary German Consul (top), me and the Mexican artists (LHS), and me with Professor Bruce Wilson standing firm in the RMIT EU Centre (RHS).