“To guarantee peace, there is a remedy which would in a few years make all Europe free and happy. It is to re-create the European family, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe.” — Winston Churchill, 1946
Many questions have been brought to the forefront after witnessing the unprecedented event of the UK voting to separate from the EU. Why do humans destroy what strengthens us, to kill what we love and obliterate everything that we have built? Why would a country like the UK make a decision that could lead to their own destruction? Why is this xenophobic enthusiasm embraced by the masses instead of looking for solutions? Through culture we can solve the basic problems of coexistence, one of which is the individual’s relationship with the community, or in this case, a Nation with fellow Nations.
We know that our identity depends on the sense of belonging to a people, to a religion, to a culture. But what if that culture becomes corrupt? What if that society becomes oblivious? How do you escape the social pressure without falling into ethical autism? Must we evaluate cultures, subject societies to a “test of intelligence”?
We are a species that likes to create conflict because we let our decision-making be made by the least rational side of our brain. We like to live in a world of hopes and dreams. We believe that reality, when it doesn’t suit our wishes, should be dynamited, although that explosion could cost us the loss of limbs. And when reality does suit our wishes, it is also worthy of being dynamited, because we are bored, we want more, “something else”, always on the path of self-destruction. The engine is the thirst for power, vanity and selfishness of a few, and the need to take advantage of the rest of the people. Unfortunately, most of the time we end up taking collective decisions that are not rational. In the case of the UK vote, the withdrawal was set in motion even though we had built institutions and tools to protect us from our foolishness. Destruction is inevitable because we can not bear to be our own vigilantes, we are converted into oppressors, reaching the point where our instinct of “agents of change” overwhelm us. The most powerful motivation to lead societies to self-destruction is hate speech, and is always a hidden revenge.
Today, millions of Britons – mostly young – are disappointed and regret the result of seeing that they were able to burn down their own house. They were unsuited to understand that significant changes are the product of reason, strategy, intelligence, planning and cooperation; not the cave man tendency to believe that everything works out with brutality, anger and the use of force. We must accept that we are not the most advanced or the most intelligent beings on Earth. What other species destroys everything in its path, including all the cultural heritage built through centuries and millennia? What other species periodically engage in terrible wars, destroying, rebuilding and destroying on a vicious cycle?
Ruben. D Arvizu is Director for Latin America of NAPF, Director General for Latin America of Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society and Ambassador Global Cities Covenant on Climate.