Brexit is just part of the human circle

opinion January 23, 2019 01:00

By Tulsathit Taptim
The Nation

Show me a man or a woman alone and I’ll show you a saint. Give me two and they’ll fall in love. Give me three and they’ll invent the charming thing we call “society”. Give me four and they’ll build a pyramid. Give me five and they’ll make one an outcast.



Give me six and they’ll reinvent prejudice. Give me seven and in seven years they’ll reinvent warfare. Man may have been made in the image of God, but human society was made in the image of His opposite number, and is always trying to get back home.

– Stephen King, “The Stand”.

Show me millions and I’ll show you Brexit or a (planned) border wall. Better still, I’ll show you Brexit, a (planned) border wall, and criticism coming from the Brexit and border wall countries against immigration policies of others.

Yes, the quote above has been used in this column a couple of times before, but that’s only because it’s spot on about human nature when it comes to living together. Most complicated troubles in the world stem from very basic human characteristics: mistrust, bias and refusal to share.

To be blunt and politically incorrect, another contributing factor is the ballooning number of human beings. Dan Brown was on to something when he highlighted the issue of overpopulation in his novel “Inferno”. 

This is his intriguing statement: “Consider this. It took the earth’s population thousand of years – from the early dawn of man all the way to the early 1800s – to reach one billion people. Then astoundingly, it took only about a hundred years to double the population to two billion in the 1920s. After that, it took a mere fifty years for the population to double again to four billion in the 1970s. As you can imagine, we’re well on track to reach eight billion very soon. Just today, the human race added another quarter-billion people to planet Earth. A quarter million. And this happens every day – rain or shine. Currently every year we’re adding the equivalent of the entire country of Germany.”

The European Union was born out of this fear of overcrowding and competition for resources, plus the belief that close trading partners were less likely to go to war against one another. Meanwhile the Brexit controversy was ignited by worries that the “Pyramid” (in this case the EU) is not actually good for everyone.

British PM Theresa May has not messed it up. She is merely caught in the middle of a sticky human issue made even more complicated by politics. This does not mean, though, that she is not part of the problem. After all, she originally backed maintaining EU membership, in which case it’s safe to say that she should not have put herself at the forefront of advocating something she does not actually like.

Is the European single market noble? Far from it. Someone, somewhere is always going to suffer from it, while the idea could also morph into a belligerent trading bloc. Yes, close trading partners are unlikely to go to war against one another, but that may just turn small-scale wars into big ones. It can be said that the single-market idea was born out of mistrust or prejudice of some kind. 

The 2016 referendum that led to today’s Brexit crisis probably underlines one truth: neither the remainers nor the leavers are totally right or totally wrong. The close referendum result, in which voters were split almost 50:50, confirms that sometimes we need to be alone, and sometimes we need to stick together in large numbers.

Donald Trump wants to be alone, for now, hence his border-wall idea. The majority of Britons apparently want to be alone, hence the narrow “Leave” victory. The rest of the EU wants “unity” or convergence. However, none of them is saintly, as each is influenced by prejudices embedded in overcrowded societies.

Looking at the EU more closely, we might wonder whether it is actually a wall rather than a pyramid. If it really is a pyramid, in other words a noble standard-setter, why do many people now want to leave it? Is there something seriously wrong with the EU, 

or were “Leave” voters badly mistaken? 

God’s opposite number is currently taking the upper hand in many international issues. Mind you, some argue that he had a hand in setting up the United Nations as well. As of now, the UN is a bigger “pyramid” than the EU, but if one day it turns into a “wall”, it will be taller as well.