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5 lessons we can learn from Brexit

It’s not a great week to be English. Yesterday our football team crashed out of EURO 2016 in a match they had been tipped to win by every last bookie, but that was nothing compared to watching the UK crash out of the European Union on Thursday, after a referendum that the ‘Remain’ camp had been tipped to win by every last political pollster.

Yes, the humiliation of a shock 2-1 defeat to Iceland in front of 35,000 people at the Stade de Nice pales into insignificance during a week where we Brits have had to watch first the pound sterling dropping thirteen points against the dollar, then the coalition and the opposition wings of government falling apart, and finally Nigel Farage gleefully celebrating what he termed the UK’s ‘Independence Day’ – a well earned independence from common sense and political prudence, one can only assume.

I am broken. Many of my friends are suffering through similar feelings of disbelief, rage and betrayal. For every article written by a ‘Leave’ supporter celebrating the result, there’s an article written by a desperate ‘Remain’ proponent wanting to disregard the vote and continue living in a pre-referendum UK, as if it were somehow possible to pretend that such a seismic political event never happened.

Let me be clear. As much as I would love to turn back the clock and pretend this was all some kind of twisted nightmare pulled from the book of my deepest, darkest fears, we can’t. Reversing the decision on the EU would not change the fact that 52% of the country are vastly unhappy with the current political landscape of our country.

So, what can we do, here at the point of no return?

1. Vote!

Look, someone had to say it. Despite 73% of 18-24 year olds and 62% of 25-34 year olds wanting to remain (source: Lord Ashcroft Polls), the low turnout from my age group meant that our voices went largely unheard against the much louder roar of older generations. It makes me angry to think that so many people my age either didn’t want to vote, or just didn’t care about the outcome, especially since we’re the generation that’s going to be dealing with the fallout for the longest.

It’s not enough to like funny political memes on Facebook, it’s not enough to put the world to rights over a Sunday afternoon pint with Bob from down the road, it’s not enough to rant and rave after the results come out and you realise that your idea of British and their idea of British are two completely different things: we ALL have to go out and vote. Simple as that.

2. Widen the conversation

When we talk about politics, the conversation needs to include our elders and not just our peers. As much as those lefty liberals would love to have you believe that the Leave camp is constituted entirely of casually racist, beige-faced withering old farts from Barnsley, that’s just not the case. The people who voted Leave are, metaphorically speaking, our parents and grandparents. How can there be such a separation in ideology between two generations, and even between two generations of the same family? Well, that’s a damn good question, and one I think very few of us gave the attention it warranted.

When my dad mentioned he was thinking about voting Leave, I laughed it off as a joke; a first-generation immigrant who has worked for the NHS for 25 years, with several Masters degrees and an encyclopaedic grasp on recent economic and political history, whose family has benefited from enhanced academic funding for the sciences and a million other EU directives … my dad voting Leave is the political equivalent of a turkey voting for Christmas, I thought. We never had the conversation, I didn’t ask what his final decision was, and on Friday I woke up to a United Kingdom that I didn’t recognise. Of course it’s always easier not to have the conversation, but in hindsight it’s a much better compromise than the inward-looking ashtray of a country we’ve been left with.

3. Lead by example

This result means that now more than ever we must be the change we want to see in the world. Good ol’ Gandhi once said that ‘if we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change’, and although a fair amount of the Leave camp are probably enraged by the fact that I’m a brown person borrowing wisdom from another brown person, I can’t help but feel that this idea is especially relevant today.

Yes, we lost our EU citizenship on Thursday, but that doesn’t mean they can take away our European outlook. Every time you see a news story or a Facebook video of a racist incident, channel the sadness and disgust you feel into doing something positive. Be a rebel. If you value freedom of movement, move. If you value the single market, buy European. If you value workers’ or parents’ or women’s rights, demand them. Most importantly, speak out – the burden lies with us now.

4. Keep following politics

I’m not an unreasonable person; I’m willing to believe that the ‘Leave’ campaign genuinely thought leaving the EU would involve certain benefits for the UK. I’m not, however, a gullible person, and if those benefits haven’t become crystal clear by the year 2020 then I will be voting a giant fuck you to whichever hollow sock puppet is in the charge of the Tory gentlemen’s club at the time.

Our enthusiasm for politics needs to be this strong, if not stronger, come the general election in 2020. The ability to reward and chastise political players via general elections is our unique power as members of the British electorate. Watch, listen and wait, and if it turns out that the Leave campaign was all just a sack of lies and power plays, then vote the Conservatives out.

5. Look to the future

Finally, we absolutely must widen the conversation to our younger siblings, especially those who are just a few years away from stepping onto a political landscape that has been heated to breaking point. Come the general elections in 2020, my little sister will be 21 years old, and I can either leave her political education to the media wolves or I can open a dialogue that allows her to better understand what happened last Thursday from a voter’s perspective. I can’t make her final decision for her, but I can walk by her side as she steps into the brave new world we find ourselves living in.

There aren’t enough cups of tea in the world to fix the damaged that has been wrought so far, but these five ideas might just be a start. If you have strong feelings about Brexit, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

260º West | Teaching, travelling and volunteering in Ecuador

Aftershocks: Jessica Párraga

On Saturday 16th April, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake ripped through Ecuador causing incalculable devastation. Over the next few days, I will be publishing personal accounts of the event contributed by friends in the Guayaquil community. You can help to alleviate the suffering of the Ecuadorian people by sharing their stories and donating to the rescue efforts.

••••••••••

Jessica Párraga, 31
(Flor de Bastión, Guayaquil)

It makes me so sad to see how the places where my family lived are destroyed. It hurts to see our Ecuadorian brothers and sisters injured, dead, homeless, starving. It’s horrible. I only ask God to help us move forward … And above all, I ask the living to help those who need it.

What I want to say to the world is, firstly, that we need help, please. We’re only a small country, and maybe you didn’t even know we existed, but we need everyone’s help now.

We’re united as a country. We’re all working together as one in order to help our beloved Ecuador move forward. I’m proud to be Ecuadorian and to see how people have been offering their help to the needy. I know that together we’ll pull through.

Ecuador is one heart. Thank you so much to everyone who is helping us.

••••••••••

Jessica’s words above were translated from the original Spanish:

Me da mucha tristeza ver esos lugares en los cuales tengo familia destruido, pena de ver a nuestros hermanos ecuatorianos heridos, muertos, sin un hogar, sin alimentacion. Es terrible. Solo pido a Dios que nos ayude a seguir adelante … y sobre todo, a los que seguimos aqui con vida, ayudar a los que nos necesitan.

Lo que puedo decirle al mundo es primero, necesitamos ayuda, por favor, que somos un pais pequeño, que a lo mejor ni sabian que existimos, pero que necesitamos de todos.

Somos un pais unido. Estamos trabajando juntos en un solo puño para sacar a nuestro querido Ecuador adelante. Estoy orgullosa de ser ecuatoriana y de ver como la gente brinda su ayuda a los que necesitan. Sé que juntos vamos a salir adelante.

Ecuador es un solo corazon. Mil gracias a todos los que nos estan ayundo.

260º West | Teaching, travelling and volunteering in Ecuador

Aftershocks: Jorge Sánchez

On Saturday 16th April, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake ripped through Ecuador causing incalculable devastation. Over the next few days, I will be publishing personal accounts of the event contributed by friends in the Guayaquil community. You can help to alleviate the suffering of the Ecuadorian people by sharing their stories and donating to the rescue efforts.

••••••••••

Jorge Sánchez, aged 33
(La Florida, Guayaquil)

On Saturday night, I was on the second floor of my house watching a film, when I started to feel a small movement. I thought it would go away, that it was a typical seasonal tremor, but it didn’t stop and it kept getting more and more intense.

I got up and ran towards the doorway, warning my sister, as the house began to sway from side to side like a hammock.

All I could do was scream: “God, have mercy on us and forgive my sins!” I repeated it twice out loud because I honestly thought the house was going to collapse. Then after a moment, everything began to settle down. I’d never experienced anything like it in my life and I can only describe it as something terrifying.

My next thought was for my parents, who were in Manabí visiting some aunts. At that point, I had no idea that the epicentre had been in Manabí.

I started to write to my friends to ask if they’d felt it too, and that was when I found out that the epicentre had been in Manabí. I tried to get in touch with my parents, but they didn’t answer. I started to get worried. A few minutes later, the US Meteorological Institute confirmed that the earthquake was 7.8 on the Richter scale.

I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it. I walked to my room to see if anything had fallen over, but I found everything in its right place: not one book was on the floor, and even the computer on the table had only moved a few millimetres.

The next day, I saw the heartbreaking images of the suffering of the people in Manabí, which happens to be my favourite place in Ecuador – because of its people, who are really friendly, open and giving, and also because of its beaches.

I’ve been to so many different parts of Manabí. But when I saw the photos and videos, most of those places I knew so well no longer existed … Instead there was just rubble.

These days, when I’m at work, those images keep flashing through my mind. At least I know that my family and friends in Manabí are OK, and that they haven’t even lost anything – or at least, if they have, they haven’t told me about it.

But I also think about the people still trapped under rubble, about those who have lost everything, about children who are now orphans. The business where I work has opened a bank account to receive donations and I’ve done my bit. I hope to be able to visit my relatives and friends in Manabí soon.

I think we’ll move forward eventually, although it won’t be easy, but I’m so proud to be Ecuadorian. People are falling over themselves to help by sending food, clothes and water. International rescue teams have arrived to lend a hand here, since there were so many people affected and our own rescue teams just aren’t enough.

In the future, I’m planning to help reconstruct houses for the people displaced by the earthquake. At the moment, they need food, clothes, mattresses and somewhere to sleep, but later on they’re going to need help to rebuild their homes and feel like they’re not alone.

••••••••••

Jorge’s words above were translated from the original Spanish:

La noche del sábado estaba en el segundo piso de mi casa viendo una película, cuando empecé a sentir un pequeño movimiento. Pensé que pasaría, que era un temblor típico de esta época por el cambio de estación, pero no se detuvo y la intensidad era cada vez mayor.

Me levanté y corrí hasta el marco de la puerta. Le avisé a mi hermanita, mientras empezaba a sentir como la casa se amaqueaba, como una hamaca, de un lado a otro.

Solo pude exclamar: “Dios, ten misericordia de nosotros y perdona toda mi maldad!” Lo repetí dos veces en voz alta porque realmente pensé que la casa se derrumbaría. Luego después de un momento, todo empezó a calmarse. No había vivido algo así en mi vida y solo puedo describirlo como algo aterrador.

Mi siguiente pensamiento fueron mis padres, que estaban en Manabí visitando a unas tías. En ese momento no tenía idea de que el epicentro había sido en Manabí.

Empecé a escribir a mis amistades para preguntar si sintieron lo mismo, y allí me enteré que el epicentro había sido en Manabí. Intenté contactar a mis padres, pero no respondían. Me preocupé. Minutos después el instituto meteorológico de Estados Unidos confirmó que fue un terremoto de 7.8.

Estuve en shock. No podía creerlo. Caminé a mi habitación para ver si las cosas habían caído. Encontré todo en su lugar: ningún libro estaba en el piso, la computadora estaba en la mesa y ligeramente se había movido unos milímetros solo.

Al día siguiente, vi las imágenes desgarradoras el sufrimiento de las personas en Manabí, que es mi lugar preferido en Ecuador – por su gente, que es muy amable, muy abierta a ayudar a dar, y también por sus playas.

He conocido muchas partes de el lugar. Pero cuando vi las fotos y vídeos, muchos de aquellos lugares ya no existían más, y en su lugar solo quedaban escombros.

Estos días mientras estoy trabajando, las imágenes siguen pasando por mi mente. Al menos sé que mis amigos de Manabí y mi familia están bien, hasta donde se no han perdido nada o quizás no lo dicen.

Pero también pienso en las personas atrapadas, en aquellos que lo han perdido todo, en los huérfanos que quedan. La empresa donde trabajo aperturó una cuenta para receptar donaciones y he contribuido con mi grano de arena. Espero poder visitar a mis familiares pronto y también a mis amigos en Manabí.

Creo que saldremos adelante, que no será fácil, pero me siento orgulloso de ser ecuatoriano. Las personas se han volcado a ayudar enviando alimentos, ropa y agua. También rescatistas de otras naciones han llegado a darnos una mano, ya que son tantas las poblaciones afectadas que nuestros rescatistas no sé abastecen.

Planeo en el futuro involucrarme en un grupo que vaya a ayudar a reconstruir las casas de las personas. Ahora las personas necesitan alimento, ropa, colchones o un lugar donde dormir, pero luego van a requerir ayuda para reconstruir sus casas y sentir que no están solos.

260º West | Teaching, travelling and volunteering in Ecuador

Aftershocks: William Segura

On Saturday 16th April, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake ripped through Ecuador causing incalculable devastation. Over the next few days, I will be publishing personal accounts of the event contributed by friends in the Guayaquil community. You can help to alleviate the suffering of the Ecuadorian people by sharing their stories and donating to the rescue efforts.

••••••••••

William Segura, aged 18
(Isla Trinitaria, Guayaquil)

I was at home. I was just about to go out when suddenly everything started to shake. The truth is, I’ve felt tremors before, but I honestly never thought they’d ever get so intense.

We all hugged each other and my mum knelt in the doorway. In the street everyone was screaming and a few lampposts were on the verge of falling over. Obviously, other provinces were much worse hit, but we didn’t know that at the time because there was no way of finding out with the power out.

I could never have imagined that the earthquake had caused so much suffering in Manabí, the worst hit province. We found out the next day … and honestly I just felt awful. The news programmes reported all the deaths. It’s something that’s never happened before, or if it has, then it’s never been this bad.

I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I’m so sad about what our Ecuadorian brothers are experiencing. On the other hand, I feel so proud of our unity, the unity that typifies us as Ecuadorians, which has led us to act quickly in terms of offering help to the areas affected.

I thought about it for a moment and I’ve come to the conclusion that our country isn’t prepared for this type of thing. I understand that we’re very much united, but we’re not very well organised; we don’t have the kind of preparation that they have in other countries and it’s really important to have that.

We have countless things to learn from this, but the most important thing is to always keep calm – which reminds me of a friend of mine who explained the British phrase “keep calm … [and carry on]” to me.

We’re a small country but we’re really motivated to grow, we’re very hardworking and we have a lot of resolve. We have so much to learn from everyone else in order to become the community we want to be. The only way to overcome this is with a lot of inner strength.

••••••••••

William’s words above were translated from the original Spanish:

Yo estaba en mi casa. Estaba a punto de salir y de repente todo comenzo a temblar. La verdad habia sentido temblores antes pero nunca pense que sera luego tan fuerte.

Nos abrazamos todos y mi mama se arrodillo en la puerta, en la calle todo el mundo gritaba y algunos postes estubieron a punto de caerse. Claro, lo peor habia pasado en otra provincia pero no sabiamos nada por que no teniamos como comunicarnos ya que no habia electricidad.

Nunca me imagine que en Manabí (provincia mas afectada) habia sufrido tanto producto del terremoto. Nos enteramos al día siguiente … y sinceramente me sentia muy mal las noticias hablaban de muchos muertos. Es algo que nunca antes habia pasado y si paso no fue tan catastrófico.

Tengo sentimientos encontrados. Por una parte, muy triste por lo que pasan nuestros hermanos ecuatorianos. Por otro lado, me siento muy orgulloso por la union que nos caracteriza que nos ha llevado a actuar con mucha rapidez en cuanto a la ayuda brindada a los sectores afectados.

Estuve pensando por un momento y llegue a la conclusion de que nuestro pais no esta preparado para para este tipo de eventos. Entiendo que somos muy unidos pero pero somos poco organizados; no tenemos la preparacion que existe en otros paises y que es muy importante.

Son imnumerables las cosas que podemos aprender pero la mas importante es estar llevar siempre la calma – esto me hace recordar a una compañera que me explico sobre el “keep calm” de los británicos.

Somos un pais pequeño pero con unas ganas inmensas de crecer, muy trabajadores y con mucha constancia. Tenemos que aprender mucho de los demas para ser la comunidad que queremos. La unica forma de poder superar esto es con mucha fuerza.

260º West | Teaching, travelling and volunteering in Ecuador

Aftershocks: Mabel Velástegui

On Saturday 16th April, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake ripped through Ecuador causing incalculable devastation. Over the next few days, I will be publishing personal accounts of the event contributed by friends in the Guayaquil community. You can help to alleviate the suffering of the Ecuadorian people by sharing their stories and donating to the rescue efforts.

••••••••••

Mabel Velástegui, aged 31
(La Aurora, Daule)

I was at the hospital with my parents. My father had recently had surgery, so we were visiting him. When we felt the beginnings of the earthquake, the first thing I did was to stop my mum getting into the hospital elevator, which she was just about to get on. I screamed, “Mum, earthquake!”. It would have been awful if the earthquake had got her while she was inside the elevator. My parents and I got under the door frame, and when we we felt the ground start to shake more intensely, we hugged each other.

At the beginning there was hardly any information. WhatsApp was almost the only source we had, so we used it to contact friends and family, to call each other to find out if everyone was OK. The first sign of the seriousness of the earthquake was when Facebook sent me a message saying “We see you’re close to the area affected by the earthquake”. It was only really the next day that we found out what had happened in Manabí and Esmeraldas. It’s incredibly painful to know that the number of lives lost keeps rising, and how difficult it will be for those families to rebuild their homes and gather their belongings – but the saddest thing of all will be living with the loss of their relatives.

I’m so sad. But at the same time, I’m moved by the solidarity of the Ecuadorian people. I’ve never seen Ecuador so united, filling trucks with provisions to send to the areas that were hit the worst. I’ve also appreciated the support from other countries, and the concern from my international friends who have written to me to ask if my family and I are alright.

We have to be prepared for natural disasters like this one. Ecuador is a very quiet country, we never experience the attacks that you hear about in other countries, not even natural disasters like the one that just happened. We all thought that earthquakes happen in Haiti, Chile, or Asian countries, but not in Ecuador. We have to improve our infrastructure and evacuation systems.

I want to tell you that we need your help, there are basically two entire provinces that need to be rebuilt. The news of the earthquake spread all over the world, and maybe many people didn’t even know where Ecuador was. I think these horrible events have raised awareness of the country, and that’s why I’m taking this opportunity to ask the world not to close the door on us.

••••••••••

Mabel’s words above were translated from the original Spanish:

Estaba en el hospital con mis padres. Mi papá había sido operado recientemente, así que lo estábamos visitando. Cuando nos percatamos del sismo, que empezó como un temblor, lo primero que hice fue impedir que mi mamá se suba al ascensor del hospital, ella estaba a punto de ingresar al ascensor. Le grité “temblor mami”, hubiese sido terrible que el terremoto la alcanzara dentro del elevador. Con mis padres nos pusimos en el marco de la puerta de la habitación y nos abrazamos cuando sentimos que se empezaba a mover más fuerte la tierra. Al ver que no paraba pensé que se nos caerían las paredes encima y moriríamos.

Al inicio había muy poca información, prácticamente la única fuente era whatsapp, ahí entre amigos y familiares nos escribimos y llamamos para saber que estábamos bien. La primera señal de la magnitud del sismo fue cuando Facebook me envió un mensaje que decía “vemos que estás cerca del área del terremoto”. Al día siguiente fue cuando realmente se supo lo que había ocurrido en Manabí y Esmeraldas. Es muy doloroso saber que el número de víctimas mortales sigue en aumento y lo difícil que será para estas familias reconstruir sus viviendas y enseres – pero lo más triste será vivir con la pérdida de sus familiares.

Estoy muy apenada. Pero al mismo tiempo conmovida por la solidaridad de los ecuatorianos, nunca antes había visto como al Ecuador unido armando camiones con provisiones para enviar a las poblaciones más afectadas. También he sentido el apoyo de otros países, y la preocupación de amigos extranjeros que me han escrito para saber si mi familia y yo estamos bien.

Debemos estar preparados para catástrofes naturales como esta. Ecuador es un país muy tranquilo, nunca no esperamos atentados grandes como ocurre en otros países, ni catástrofes naturales como la que ocurrió. Solíamos pensar que los terremotos pasaban en Haití, Chile o países asiáticos, pero no en Ecuador. Debemos mejorar nuestras infraestructuras y sistemas de evacuación.

Quiero decirles que necesitamos su apoyo, hay prácticamente dos provincias que reconstruir. La noticia del terremoto dio la vuelta al mundo, tal vez muchos ni siquiera sabían dónde quedaba Ecuador. Creo que este lamentable suceso nos puso en la mira, por eso aprovecharía para decirle al mundo que no nos cierren las puertas.