Reflecting on the second order and third order forces behind Brexit. I think Will Hutton’s observations mainly stand, but having travelled to some small pockets of England over the last 2 years I have some personal observations.
Lymington is a relatively wealthy town. Nestled at the edge of the English New Forest, it has traditions of rural life stretcing back centuries. I walked down the high street and it was busy, thriving even - helped by British tourists, there were few spaces to rent, and a mix of independent and chain shops.
For a Londoner, the absences were notable. People of colour were absent. Different languages were absent. Different styles of dress and fashion were mostly absent.
The variety of food was absent. (True, Indian and Chinese were represented as they have been for decades in Britain; the fish and chips were good).
The wealth is based on a marine industry supplemented by tourism and to a lesser extent farming and forestry around the New Forest.
Unlike around Dymchurch (an area on the Kent coast, where I observed support for Brexit but for subtly different reasons) the infrastructure is fairly well maintained - with absent dereliction, better planning (although nothing in my back yard).
But the advantages of international trade are invisible, or seem invisible here. Mostly residents seem unaware of any advantages but seem to believe faceless beaurocrats control rules and regulations of moderate vexation to the marine industry. (I don’t pass judgement on Brexiteers viewing a Brexit as being positive for trade, people are still arguing over this point.)
The arts and culture, the museums and dance, the music and international travellers are absent from New Forest and Lymington life.
The yearly pantomime, the cricket season, the pheasant season, the trees and the tide, these mark time here.
The local coffee shops (two chains on the high street) have local staff, no Europeans.
I imagine no one here views themselves as racist, but there simply are few foreigners or people of colour here and why would Lymington want to embrace any change ? It’s not the creative destruction and churn and vibrancy of an international London.
If anything, I had the impression that the New Forest wants to be left alone.
This is another dimension to what I think will be a defining theme of this century. A localism vs a globalism. Whether globalism will turn into multi-localist or federalist. And how societies end up (if they manage to at all) dealing with systemic externalities and systemic concerns eg climate change, water stress, mass migration, defence.
It is a different dimension to the left/right axis.
Pottering around the New Forest stopping for cows and horses reminded me of travels in rural Japan.
The localism in rural Japan, old traditions (kept firmer in Japan than in Lymington) and skepticism of the big City. Even nervousness over foreigners - do they know how to use our baths? Have they learnt about shoes ? Are they pointing with their chopsticks ? How could they order autumn food in the summer, that’s crazy ?
Whereas I draw parallels with Dymchurch to parts of India I travelled through, another story.
Lymington has an uneasy relationship with its second home owners and holiday cottages, like parts of Cornwall. (I sense thought I may be wrong). The summers months are needed to keep the money flowing to help the local residents through the winter months.
It's a little different to "true travellers", in rural Japan, there's also a tradition of treating travellers with great hospitality. Not only money they bring, and trade, and news but true travellers do pass through. Second home owners, oft feel neither here nor there, perhaps taking more than they give back.
Reflecting back, is it a surprise this area is a Brexit town? And, apart from the mess politicians are making in trying to come to terms with what Brexit really means, I'm unsure it would sway opinion in this corner of the world. I sense it would be happy left alone.
Horses have run semi-wild here for hundreds of years. I expect most believe horses will run for hundreds of years more.
There are muddy, shingle beaches; good sailing, peaceful forest walks - it makes for a good holiday.
The current Arts blog, cross-over, the current Investing blog. Cross fertilise, some thoughts on autism. Discover what the last arts/business mingle was all about (sign up for invites to the next event in the list below).
My Op-Ed in the Financial Times (My Financial Times opinion article) about asking long-term questions surrounding sustainability and ESG.
A long read on Will Hutton looking at Brexit causes and solutions.
How to live a life, well lived. Thoughts from a dying man. On play and playing games.
A provoking read on how to raise a feminist child.
Some popular posts: the commencement address; by NassimTaleb (Black Swan author, risk management philosopher), Neil Gaiman on making wonderful, fabulous, brilliant mistakes; JK Rowling on the benefits of failure. Charlie Munger on always inverting; Sheryl Sandberg on grief, resilience and gratitude.
Buy my play, Yellow Gentlemen, (amazon link) - all profits to charity