Tuesday, September 6, 2016

On Your Own

“Why should a tiny island across the sea regulate the price of tea?”  Sings Alexander Hamilton in the musical, Hamilton.  And I think to myself, hmm the tables have turned.

So it’s the Fourth of July, and while everyone is grillin’ & chillin’ I’m at work with the rest of my department getting stuff done.  Working a holiday grants, us lunch on the firm’s tab, so some of the office guys are running a campaign to find a place on Seamless that is open and will deliver some good barbeque that we should all partake, otherwise it may be the Nathan’s food truck for hotdogs and a Coke.  Happy Independence Day. 

Full disclosure: the head office of my employer is based in London.  I work for a British company, so I guess I should take working on the Fourth of July as a given, no?  Fifteen years ago I basically had an internship visa to work in the United Kingdom from 2000-2001 and spent July 4th, 2001 at work, getting teased by my British colleagues for hailing from a country founded by religious zealots.  This meme floating around the internet kind of summed up how that day had gone down:

Their jokes didn’t bother me much, this was a nation who fancied prawn-flavored potato chips and considers tuna and corn pizza toppings.  Their judgement was clearly unsound.

This 4th of July, I wasn’t getting taunted by the Brits in the office.  Firstly, they were grossly outnumbered here in our Midtown location.  Also, our vending machines’ choice of potato chips was much more palatable, but mostly, the United Kingdom was still reeling from their own declaration of independence with their June 23rd Brexit vote to leave the European Union just less than a fortnight ago.  The sentiment of that decision metastasized into a black cloud which had swiftly jetted across the Atlantic, and was clearly palpable in the office on June 24th.  Arriving at the office in the few days after the vote felt like walking into a funeral home.  Honestly, I was hoping the ‘Remain’ campaign would eke out a victory, but to no avail, Great Britain basically told the EU and Brussels to piss off

Though I (an outsider with no vote) was in favor of the UK staying and stabilizing the EU, 52% of voters chose to leave the EU.  But I get it.  I do, I get it.

Well over 50 nations have separated from the United Kingdom, either by force or by negotiation or a bit of both, and the U.K. just wanted to have a slice of that feeling, to know what it’s like to be the one doing the breaking up, and not being the one left at the altar.  After the Colonial 13 were the first subjects of the Crown to break the seal and head for the door, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, India, Iraq, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Belize, Barbados, The Bahamas, Jamaica, Cyprus and (the Republic of) Ireland among others followed suit.  Many of which only obtained their independence in the last 100 years or so.  After a century of bleeding out territories, colonies and ‘subsidiaries’, the United Kingdom wanted its turn to say “Thanks, but no thanks”.  Feeling used and abused by the European Union, among other fears, rationales and factors, Britain decided to say “Adieu” and got their shot at being the dumper instead of the dumpee.  The geographical mapping of the votes to stay and leave looked something like this:

With the blue area wanting to leave the EU and the yellow area wanting to remain.

But I get it, I do.  I live in the United States of America.  Do you think all 50 states like each other?  Do we always get along?  No.  Doesn’t Texas think it’s its own entity from time to time?  Even Staten Island propositioned a secession vote from New York City.  Just two years ago Scotland held a vote to stay or leave the United Kingdom.  Scotland got itself off the brink and decided to stick it out with QE2 only to get sideswiped by the ‘blue states’ in the above picture. 

Within the next few days after the Brexit vote, the head office issued emails and memos to staff to the effect of “Dear Employees, Don’t Panic, um, that’s all we have for now”.  The Brexiters didn’t really have much of a plan put together in the event that they would actually win.  What is known, is that the UK may be in need of a new Prime Minister shortly and that there is roughly a two-year time period to actually withdraw from the EU.  And that the value of the UK’s currency, the Pound, has effectively taken a nose dive, and that affects me directly working in financial reporting for a US Dollar-denominated branch whose parent will be converting all our figures in to Pounds at a now-volatile exchange rate.  And so goes the question:
What comes next?
You’ve been freed
Do you know how hard it is to lead?
You’re on your own
Awesome.  Wow.
Do you have a clue what happens now?
Oceans rise
Empires fall
It’s much harder when it’s all your call
All alone, across the sea

-          “What Comes Next” from Hamilton

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