Keep Calm and Carry on!

These days I understood for the first time that the English do really live by the motto ‘Keep calm and carry on’. If the horrific Westminster attack had happened in some other country, not only would the media talk about it for ages, but, it would be the talk of the day, actually days, amongst everyone.

Here, the day after, in the office full of the English, nobody mentioned the attack. Everyone just carried on as if nothing had happened. I suppose this is the same side of the mentality that made the Brits carry on decades ago, when Luftwaffe attacked them in the summer of 1940. We, Europeans, should be grateful for it. If they hadn’t kept on fighting after the collapse of France,  “The Man in the High Castle” could be a real thing.

However back then the Brits didn’t carry on alone. I am just reading a fantastic book “The Second World War” by Sir Antony Beevor and this weekend on the train to London I learnt that 8000 Poles, experienced airforce personnel, came to the UK in the summer of 1940 to fight the Nazi under RAF. At the time, it was about the defence of the Great Britain and these Polish immigrants were very welcome here.
I stopped reading to get out of the tube at Trafalgar Square, where a river of protesters walked me passed waving with the EU and British flags. An hour later, when I came back to the same spot, the protesters were still heading south. In front of them in the distance, Big Ben basked in the sun.
The rally made me think about the Brexit campaign. Unemployment in the UK has been on the historical lows (less than 5%), so low that some economists consider the UK to be in the full employment and according to the others, it’s very close to it. After the financial crash of 2008, the median salary restarted growing again in 2015. Nevertheless, the Brexit rhetorics of US and THEM managed to make ground. In 2016, the Poles and all the other EU citizens, who have been paying taxes, filling up the UK budget, donating blood and contributing to the everyday life, were not anymore welcome for the louder side in the Brexit debate. As Stephen Schwartz cleverly put it in the musical “Wicked”, ‘One sure way to bring people together is to give them a really good enemy‘. It seems to work well, way too often, even though there is so much more that connects us than divides us.

If my travels made me fully grasp something, it definitely was that humanity, goodness, love and friendship neither come in a certain colour nor nationality nor religion and this realisation will never make me love my own roots any less. Why then is the world going mad with the contempt and hater towards those somehow different others?

I know that in my case, the seeds of accepting diversities were planted at home long ago. I remember vividly the discussions about such topics with someone who truly loved Croatia from the bottom of his heart, but also enjoyed traveling the world and was exposed to diversities from his early age: my Nono (nono = grandpa in Croatian).

It’s 1991, the very beginning of the Croatian war and I chat with Nono in his library. There on the wall a plaque of Stjepan Radić (Croatian politician advocating independent Croatia at the beginning of the XX century) has been hanging ever since I could remember and long before. As a proper teenager, I express very black and white thoughts about the Croats – Serbs topic. He as a clever 84 year old pauses to think and says with calm voice, ‘You can’t judge the individuals born in a certain country based on that country’s politics. There are good and bad people everywhere and never forget that some of my best friends were Serbs,’ (dead by then, hence the past tense).
Of course that the teenager didn’t change her mind immediately, but I’ve been carrying all such chats with me through life and only now do I know how much they impacted me. The family is the place where the roots of our attitudes are being formed, but today, however, the all-accessable media has as much impact on forming opinions as our inner circles do. Therefore, they and the politicians should be made accountable for the statements that they shout out, shouldn’t they? Unfortunately, I don’t see anything changing to the better with that in respect anytime soon, but let’s keep calm and carry on.

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