28 June 2016

making faces :: inspired by "sirènes"

one of the benefits of having frequent bouts of insomnia is the fact that i eventually get frustrated and start hopping around the internet like tigger through the hundred acre wood. i say that's a benefit because, aside from listlessly glancing through sites i frequent during waking hours, or trawling social media for interesting things to read, i spend time perusing youtube, where i can let the algorithms guide me in my search for something to ward off a boredom-induced anxiety attack. [and yes, i know that i shouldn't be looking at the internet when i can't sleep, because i'm just making it worse, but there's only so long i can lie there with my eyes closed, pretending that i'm just about to fall asleep any second now.]

recently, youtube thoughtfully recommended a seven minute short film by obscure belgian filmmaker emile degelin called sirènes. degelin worked mostly on documentaries, but he did make the occasional foray into narrative film, mostly in french, with the occasional foray into flemish [belgian dutch]. his 1960 drama si le vent te fait peur ["if the wind frightens you"] was nominated for the palme d'or and sirènes won the silver bear at the berlin festival the following year.

although not widely known, sirènes was one of the first examples of the meshing of experimental film with experimental electronic music [and you know i'm down for both of those things], which makes me surprised that it's not better known. i'd never heard of it before a few days ago, but more importantly, neither had dom, who rattles of the names of directors, actors, editors, cinematographers, producers, special effects artists and gaffers with the effort most people put into remembering their phone number. he's my barometer of the unknown when it comes to film.

while short, the film is visually and sonically striking, with a predictably nautical theme and three empty-eyed ladies of the title waiting on the rocks. the music both approximates the sirens' call and jolts the viewer away from it, a precursor of things to come in both experimental electronics and jazz.

being one who loves to combine things in life, i thought i would take a stab at recreating the look of titular ladies. whereas most makeup that's associated with mermaids, the sirens' mythological great-grandchild, is filled with cool blues and greens, from icy to bold, degelin's sirens are seen only in black and white. their eyes are surrounded with smudged and softly smoky eyeshadow, set off from the lashes by subtly flicked black liner and crowned with strong brows. their lips appear natural- bold colours would show up as dark on film. their hair has a fluffy, unkempt look. these are all things i find much more appropriate to the idea of the siren, because, if she lived by the sea, with all that misty, salty air, it's likely that her eye makeup would smudge, while the rest of it faded completely and that her hair would look wild. [all this is assuming that sirens or mermaids existed and that they bothered to do a full face of makeup while they were waiting to kill off random passersby.]

so this might not be a typical siren/ mermaid look, but i guess that makes it an experimental mermaid, in keeping with the film that inspired it.

the base ::
tarte rainforest of the sea foundation :: fair neutral
nars radiant creamy concealer :: vanilla
lise watier ombre velours cream shadow :: vanille velours [used as an eyeshadow base]
guerlain météorites illuminating powder :: 2 clair/ light

the eyes ::
nars e/s :: lhasa
rouge bunny rouge e/s :: eclipse eagle
mac extra dimension e/s :: fathoms deep
rouge bunny rouge e/s :: snowy egret
mac e/s :: dazzlelight

the cheeks ::
charlotte tilbury filmstar bronze and glow :: light/ medium [highlight only]
mac blush :: darkly, my dear*
mac beauty powder :: her own devices*

the lips ::
mac l/s :: blankety

*suggested alternates :: darkly, my dear = mac blushbaby; her own devices = mac tenderling

although you can only see it properly in one of the photos, i stayed on theme with a sand dollar necklace. and while my hair has really had any problems looking puffed up with humidity, i did get a little help looking windswept from the fan we have going in the office. i will admit that i went a little easy on the lower lash line smudging, because i had to go out in public, and laying on too thick is unkind on my face, because i sadly have no ocean air or sailor's blood to keep my complexion perfect and ageless.

and just for good measure, here's a shot of my take on the look in black and white:

and finally, now that i've talked about it so much, why not take a few minutes and enjoy sirènes for yourself?

inspiration for anything and everything can come from anywhere and everywhere. 

27 June 2016

mental health mondays :: the long hot summer

my mental health summer home
it is that time of year, when the piercing screech of teens at the high school across the street no longer fills my ears as i sit here typing. and not for the first time, this sweet oasis of silence [although, i must admit that there is a truck either filling or drilling a hole in the road directly below me]... this sweet theoretical oasis of silence leads me to think about how much time i have and where i want to direct it on the blog. and, as has happened before, i've decided to give mhm a little vacation.

it will return, as it has before, in early september, unless there's something over the summer that i just have to write about immediately.

i figure that, with a couple more weeks of euro [and man candy], the u.k. imploding, the u.s. election drawing ever closer, and everything else that goes through my mind on a regular basis, i'm going to have plenty to keep me occupied. [oh, and there's also a writing project that needs some attention, related to this post.]

in the meantime, you can always read the mental health mondays archive. there are dozens of posts on various subjects to do with mental health in there. however, if that sounds like a lot of stuff to go through, perhaps you'd like to start with some of my personal favourite posts on the subject:

a list of things you absolutely should say to someone with a mental disorder [which was really a follow-up to my earlier list of things you should never say]

why you [probably] don't have ocd

a rumination about mass murder and pickles

the best place to live if you're crazy

a guide to discontinuing psychiatric medications [if you must]

all about omega-3s

that's probably more than enough to keep you busy for the summer, especially if you plan on coming back to read the other things i'll no doubt be posting.

as always, if you have something you'd like to see covered here, please feel free to comment or drop an email to info[at]fsquaredmedia[dot]net. we live to serve.

p.s. :: go out in the sun! vitamin d is awesome for depression! but wear sunscreen, because skin cancer is terrible for depression.

p.p.s. :: i know i have readers in the southern hemisphere. i'm sorry that i never seem to take you into consideration when i'm writing these posts. i love you all.

24 June 2016

english brexit

once you see it...
as the flood of emotion rolls forward in the wake of england's vote to leave the european union, it's clear that it is going to take a long time for wounds to heal. it's also clear that things remain [maybe not the best word to use, under the circumstances] very unclear. no one knows exactly how long it will take britain to back out of the e.u. up until last night, representatives of the "leave" campaign were quick to point out that the prime minister could either begin the official process of negotiating with the e..u. the terms of withdrawal [and saying that he should do so immediately], or that he could really speed things up by simply repealing the parliamentary act that joined britain to the e.u. in the first place. this morning, when britain has no prime minister and the pound sterling on fire, everyone is quick to emphasize that it will, of course, take years before the final split will take place.

those who awoke feeling good better about the future of their country are relishing their victory over the elites: the arrogant, monied, university-educated snobs who have for years betrayed the working man in the name of big finance and globalism. and thinking about it that way, it sounds like the sort of thing i should be happy about.

but then i wondered: at what point did education become a bad thing? when did we stop wanting our leaders to be an elite?

to paraphrase jon stewart reacting to criticism of barack obama, i want my leaders to be better than me in every way. i want them to be smarter, i want them to be harder-working, i want them to be more knowledgeable, i want them to be more compassionate, more responsible, more rational and more honest. and if not all of them can be all of those things, i want a team that collectively embodies everything that makes up for my failings. i want my leadership- in every situation, not just national government- to be elite as fuck.

so why do i feel so isolated in that belief?

it's comforting for people like me to just shake our heads and think that people are stupid and ignorant, but the truth is that the anti-elitists have a point: supposedly left-leaning parties like the american democrats or britain's labour party have sold out their poor and working-class base to big money interests and those people are legitimately suffering because of their decisions. so when leaders from the major parties descend to the level of the common man to wag their fingers and tell people to fall in line, it shouldn't be surprising when the reaction is to tell those people to go to hell.

and from the chaos, there is always someone- nigel farage, donald trump, stephen harper- who rushes in to stoke our ugliest instincts, peddling simple answers that sound revolutionary to jaded ears. it's no accident that one of donald trump's supporters was filmed saying that he didn't mind his candidate's refusal [or inability] to explain any of his policies, because the problem with politics was that there were "too many words". after all, words are the purview of the well-educated, wealthy people who've made such disastrous decisions for their countrymen. they speak without saying anything and six weeks later, thousands of jobs have been "off-shored" and you're spending billions to bail out a corrupt banking industry.

like farage and trump, these people inevitably come from the same elite background as the ones who caused all the damage in the first place, and they generally support the fiscal policies that caused the greatest pain. but they're smart enough to know that providing a scapegoat [one whose differences are easy to notice], and encouraging the public to isolate themselves from "others" makes things easier for the people in charge. smaller groups are easier to control, and pitting different factions against each other distracts from anything else that might be happening.

[oh, and to those who complain that the biggest problem with immigrants is their unwillingness to assimilate: history teaches us that immigrants fare best when they slaughter and subjugate the inhabitants of their new country without mercy. trying to maintain your cultural identity while living peacefully alongside others? ask the jews and the romani how well that's worked out for them.]

it's an effective strategy, not because we're stupid, but because it appeals to the deepest, most ancient part of our brains, the remnant of a world where things outside the immediate tribe of the common and known were often extremely dangerous. for all the polish we've put on ourselves, we are still creatures living in our caves, afraid of strange noises. and those who make exploit that are able to make us act against our own best interests.

those fighting on the side of the "remain" campaign were hamstrung because they couldn't be honest about the problems of the e.u. and globalisation, being the same people who'd brought on the problems to begin with. and that fear of admitting past mistakes made it impossible to respond to the dissembling of ukip and their ilk in a way that would have been respectful to the rightly frustrated working class. a proper response would have been to say that britain needs immigrants to save its economy as the population ages and shrinks, and that concerns about workers from poorer countries driving down wages was best alleviated by a higher minimum wage and protections for working people. even better, they could have added that the promise of freeing britons from the horror of european rules imposed from without was actually a promise to strip their rights away. but that's not a case that david cameron [or a neoliberal like tony blair] could make, since he supports neither raising the minimum wage nor strengthening protections for workers. likewise, the people who have slashed funding for research programs cannot make a compelling case that maintaining e.u. funding for science, humanities and the arts is important.

instead, the "remain" side fell back on the politics of fear, threatening people with the prospect of an economic meltdown, without appreciating that people who are already struggling to pay their bills, or who are unemployed, aren't worrying about their stock portfolios or retirement funds. if anything, the prospect of economic upheaval presents an opportunity to level the playing field, knocking those arrogant bastards who are so convinced they know better down a few pegs.

even more persuasive was the promise that withdrawing from the e.u. would put control back in the hands of britons. the focus of the argument was largely on immigration, but for people who've watched helplessly as european leaders imposed austerity [which many now admit was a mistake, although they've no plans to fix it], the idea of having any power to fix their situation is pretty tempting. the problem is that politicians like farage and his tory allies believe in the same kinds of big business/ big capital solutions as angela merkel and christine lagarde. even this morning, he was scurrying away from his promise that the money saved by exiting the e.u. would be reinvested in the national health system.

in the grand clash of transnational corporate capitalism versus reactionary ethno-nationalism, i have no horse in the race. i think that power is best vested in those who have to live with the consequences of the decisions they make, which generally means keeping it close to home. on the other hand, i don't have any sympathy with those who would breed hysteria over immigrants putting too much strain on social services while cutting those services to the bone in the name of austerity. pulling power back from a distant body is a fine idea, but what's really important is whom you hand it to afterward.

in the aftermath, leaders of the scottish national party have unsurprisingly announced that a second referendum on independence is on the table. one of the main reasons that people voted against the referendum last time was nervousness about whether or not they would be able to continue in the e.u. as a separate state. last night, every riding, including those that voted "no" to independence, voted to remain with the e.u. and in northern ireland, which likewise voted to remain, leaders are calling for a vote on reunification with the republic. spain has floated the idea of co-managing the territory of gibraltar, which voted more than 95% to remain. huge swathes of the rural areas and smaller towns voted to leave, but london, manchester, liverpool, birmingham, cardiff, leicester, bristol and leeds [alongside the cities in scotland and northern ireland] all voted to remain. the most resounding victories for the "leave side" came in the working class areas of the northwest, traditionally a labour stronghold, although every labour mp supported the "remain" side. even cornwall, which voted solidly [and above the national average] to leave has nervously asked for reassurances that they won't actually lose the money that the e.u. has poured into their region. there is already a petition to demand another referendum, given the close result, and it looks embarrassingly like many people voted without knowing a lot about what they were doing.

never has the united kingdom looked less united. 

23 June 2016

how to write a '10 best' article

i recently re-posted one of those "top ___ essential albums" for the noise genre on my facebook page. i don't normally do that, but in this case, some of the choices were legitimately interesting, if questionable. as i'd hoped, it generated debate about its obvious oversights and its surprising inclusions, rather than the usual reaction such lists get. usually, the response is fifty shades of "this person is a fucking idiot" and, while a lot of the time i agree with those sentiments [at least as far as their article/ post is concerned], there seems to be little point in sharing something just so that people get angry about it. my friends have enough to be angry about without me making it worse.

my post did, however, spawn a couple of discussions about how exactly one should go about making such a list, given that music [or film, or books, or virtually any sort of cultural artefact] is something on which people hold both very strong and very subjective opinions. were there criteria that could make one list better than the others? was it even possible to come close to objectivity? is there even a point to coming up with one of these lists? so, rather than make my own list [which i do in my head all the time anyway], i thought i'd put years of music fandom and article-writing to use and write the more like space guide to creating 'all time best' lists.

my first piece of advice is simple: don't.

seriously, unless you're some sort of masochist who gets thrills from seeing your carefully composed work shredded by dozens of people or more, just avoid coming up with all-time bests. yes, it's tempting, because we always reflect on the things that influenced us, or enlightened us, or whose importance we feel should be recognised. but no one in the world is going to have our same list and anyone who knows enough about the subject to appreciate what you've done is going to be even more pissed off that your list doesn't match theirs. you can't win at this game. no one can win. so your best option is not to play.

but if you're determined, here's what i'd recommend, based on what i've seen both in terms of articles and the reactions to them.

1. know what you're talking about. the single greatest criticism that gets leveled at these lists is that the author doesn't know enough about the subject to credibly write about it. yes, everyone's knowledge has limits, but if you're writing about a genre of music that you've fallen in love with in the last year, unless you've dedicated some serious time to becoming an expert, chances are that you're going to have a lot of holes in your list. now, that's not to say that you can't work around that, but we'll talk more about that later.

2. talk about the 'why', not the 'what'. i think one of the reasons why these lists get trashed so quickly is that a lot of people who write them are content to offer just a quick description of what an item on the list is, not why it's being included. if you're going to talk about 'bests' or 'essentials', you should have a reason why something appears on your list. psycho appears on lists of greatest horror films not because everyone loves it so much [although most of them do], but because of things like its hyper-dramatic score, its gritty realism, its incredible editing [a whole scene in a shower, that shows all the horror, but none of the nudity] and its shock tactic of having the central character killed off quite early. people can watch or listen to excerpts of virtually anything online, so they don't need someone rattling off what its elements are. they need to know why it deserves to be considered 'the best', or some other superlative.

3. focus. you rarely hear griping about year-end best-ofs, not because people agree with them anymore, but because their bounded by a strict time limit. maybe your list would be different, but the list is more of a snapshot than something that claims to be a summation of years of everyone's work. this is especially true if points #1 and #2 seem like more work than you want to put in on a list few people will ever read. let yourself off easy and come up with a list that's about a very specific category of things. doing a best-of list of punk albums from the early 80s, or american power electronics acts is going to be less demanding than trying to come up with a comprehensive list of all the best releases in either category. on the other hand, if you really want to do a big, comprehensive list, refer to point #1.

4. it's ok to be subjective. if point #1 is a problem, but you still want to create a list of essentials, there is absolutely nothing wrong with making up a list of things that were influential on you and the development of your tastes, as long as you're not pretending that it's anything else. talk about the effect that an album had on you, how it changed your taste or your perspective. even if people don't agree with your choices, chances are they've experienced the sentiment and all of a sudden, what they're reading is more welcoming and inclusive. don't make enemies where you can make friends.

5. be the list you want to see in the world. this one's pretty straightforward, but create something that you'd be interested in reading. chances are that the things that annoy you about these sorts of articles are the same ones that annoy everyone else who reads them. but the reason that we keep reading them is because we are legitimately curious about what others who share our freakish tastes think.

so there it is, my debate-proof, eternal list of things that make a good list. if you disagree, it is because you are wrong.

the picture above is a page of the domesday book, specifically dealing with warwickshire. not the most entertaining book of lists, but definitely one that belongs on a list of important lists.

21 June 2016

if you leave

this post should properly be tagged "world wide wednesdays", because it's not a mental health mondays post at all [unless you consider international politics to be a form of madness, in which case you might be onto something]. i haven't done a www post in a while, simply because i haven't had the blocks of time free to put into researching and writing them, but there is one issue that i wanted to address and i didn't want to wait until wednesday the 22nd to do it. so here is the non-comprehensive but well-intended more like space guide to the brexit.

when i first heard about this story, i thought that the newscaster said "breakfast", which seemed bizarre. i know that the british take their breakfasts pretty seriously [as seriously as the heart attacks they cause], but it seemed excessive that they were having some kind of national referendum about a meal. then, of course, i figured out that they meant brexit, which is the successor to grexit, which never happened, but was the name given to the possibility that greece could leave [or be forced out of] the european union. the united kingdom, however, has gone farther than greece ever did and will be holding a referendum on whether or not to dissociate themselves from the e.u. on the 23rd of june.

the polls show that the race is exceedingly tight, although it should be pointed out that those same polls also said that the 2015 uk election was just as tight, up until the moment when david cameron's conservative party rolled to a comfortable majority. in recent days, emotions around the debate have risen after labour mp [and a strong supporter of the "remain" campaign] jo cox was violently murdered by a man named thomas mair, but who prefers to be known as "death to traitors, freedom for britain". that name, along with the allegation that he shouted "britain first" as he repeatedly shot and stabbed cox, has fed fears that the "leave" campaign is, at its heart, a racist scare campaign tweaked with politically correct language.  

leaders of the "leave" campaign have been quick to denounce cox's murder and to reassure people that this is clearly the act of one mentally ill man. it's tough to argue with that, given that even the magistrate in his preliminary hearing said that it was obvious he was in need of a psychiatric evaluation. however, it seems that voters aren't so convinced by the argument. within the day that cox was murdered, one poll [see earlier link] found that support for the "leave" side dropped 7%. in a race as tight as this one appears to be, that kind of shift is massive.

the referendum had already been deeply divisive, and these most recent events have pushed things still further, however, the fact remains that on thursday, voters in the united kingdom are going to the polls.

as i mentioned, the referendum fulfills a promise made by british prime minister david cameron. however, cameron is urging voters to opt to remain. huh?

you see, cameron made the promise chiefly to placate some of those in his party who very much do want to leave and also because he felt promising such a vote would help draw votes away from the farther-right u.k. independence party, who had fared well in the elections to the european parliament [although they haven't fared so well in the parliament itself]. whether or not that was a good idea is something cameron is likely to ask himself as he's awaiting results and chewing off his own fingernails on thursday evening.

one of cameron's chief arguments in favour of staying is that he negotiated a compromise with the e.u. that would accomplish the goals he had for leaving without having to go through the actual process. his agreement allows britain to

  • cap child support payments sent from migrants working in britain at a level commensurate with the government's estimate of the cost of living in the country to which the money is being sent [i.e., support money will not be sent based on the cost of living in the u.k., where it is far more expensive]. 
  • limit the benefits given to low-wage workers from other e.u. countries for the first four years that they live in the u.k.
  • continue using the pound [which has not been an issue per se, but protects the u.k. from having to bail out the euro, since they won't be using it]
  • extend special protections to london-based financial institutions, to exempt them from e.u. regulations
  • limit future involvement in the e.u., including the creation of a veto system that would allow national governments to overturn decisions by the european commission [which is not the parliament, but a group appointed by the elected members of parliament and the ones who have ultimate say over e.u. business] 
you can read a much more detailed assessment of the cameron deal here

the "leave" campaign [which includes almost half of cameron's caucus] is quick to point out that cameron's agreement is exactly that, an agreement, not a legally binding contract, which means that the e.u. could renege on their promises at any time. and they're equally quick to point out that none of those points address the two concerns that that form the heart of their argument:

  • that the u.k. is paying billions of dollars into the e.u. every year, money that could be better spent at home
  • that the union's "open border" policy forces the u.k. to take in more immigrants and refugees than it can handle, putting downward pressure on wages and straining public services. 
the financial argument is that britain pays nearly £20 billion pounds a year to the european union- more than its budget for schools and enough to build a fully staffed nhs hospital every week. the total budget of the united kingdom for 2016 is £772 billion. compared to that figure £20 billion doesn't seem like a massive investment [it's about 2.5% of the total, but we'll break that down a little shortly]. however, revenues are projected to be only £716 billion, leaving the government with a deficit of £56 billion. that's still a lot more than £20 billion, but if the u.k. were to cut its losses, it seems that it could also cut about 35% of its deficit. 

i'm being a bit facetious there, because it's not like the u.k. would just cease to be part of the european union on the 24th. yes, it's something that could be voted on immediately, but it would more than likely take a couple of years to work out all the details. [even that's just a guess, because only one country, greenland, has ever left the e.u. and you can't really use greenland as a comparison to the u.k., beyond saying they're both islands. but that doesn't mean that people haven't tried.]

but if i'm being facetious, it's nothing compared to the people who are dangling that £20 billion figure. because that's the gross contribution the u.k. makes to the european union budget. in point of fact, the u.k. gets a rebate on that amount before it ever leaves the country and then a considerable amount comes back in the form of public and private sector investments made by the e.u., leaving the net contribution at closer to £8.5 billion. the still means that britain is a net contributor to the e.u. [i.e., they pay in more money than they get out], but leaving the e.u. won't save anything close to £20 billion. 

nonetheless, the "leave" campaign has pointed out that when the u.k. joined the union, it was only nine countries. now it's twenty-eight and it looks like they're willing to let just about anybody in these days. the concern is that, as more countries, especially those from eastern europe, are admitted, wealthier countries like the u.k. will have to contribute more to prop up their fragile economies. in 2005, they were forced to reduce the rebate that they got in order to get more money into the european budget, which in turn offset the costs involved in admitting newer, poorer members. 

however, that's a little misleading, because, while there was a somewhat significant increase in 2013, britain's payments to the e.u. have increased only slightly in the last fifteen years. the gross payment has increased, but the rebates paid have increased as well, meaning that the net increase has been fairly little. and contributions look set to  decrease even further over the next five years. [side note :: there are occasional spikes in budgetary contributions due to the seven year cycle of e.u. budgets. towards the end of a cycle, projects that have been in the planning stages start to require larger sums of money as they come to fruition.] 

the "remain" campaign has warned that billions of dollars will be yanked out of the u.k. economy and cost thousands of jobs, which sounds pretty scary, but it assumes that there would be no benefits to e.u. countries maintaining its current level of trade with the u.k. that's just silly. the u.k. imports more goods from europe than it exports to them [and the gap grows every year], and no business owners in their right mind are going to want to give that up. more likely- really, the only possible solution- is that part of the "brexit" package will include terms for settling a new trade agreement that allows the u.k. to continue trading with the european common market. 

norway and switzerland are both non-union members who have trade agreements with the e.u. in order to access the single market, they pay money into the e.u. budget, which is what the u.k. would expect to do if they leave. so how much would that cost? the "leavers" say "a lot less than what we pay now" and "remainders" say that it would be about the same, but without all the benefits of membership. in fact, kind of depends on which example you take. as of 2011, the u.k. was paying roughly £128 per capita for membership in the e.u. at the same time, switzerland was paying about £53 per capita to participate in the single market. however norway was paying £106 per capita. neither of those countries are the u.k., but it raises an interesting, deeply confusing point: the cost would likely be less, but how much less is hard to calculate. [read more]

also worth considering is what the money that goes into the european budget actually does. one of the great complains against it is that the e.u. does little with the money except create more bureaucracy and there is certainly a lot of money put into regulatory bodies. the pro-brexit site open europe estimates the costs that those european-driven regulations is in the tens of billions for businesses in the u.k. most interesting, however, is the list they give of the five costliest regulatory bodies. 

four of the five initiatives identified are ones that protect the rights of workers and protect the environment. that's not terribly surprising, since europe are to the left of the u.k. on a lot of issues that involve employment and the environment, and there's nothing to stop the u.k. government from enacting its own rules with the same effects. but it raises the question of what exactly the "leavers" are trying to get rid of. as it stands, it seems like the chief enemies are workers with rights, the environment [including things like protected species and conservation areas] and possibly human rights in general, since the government has committed to repealing the law that forces britain to accept decisions of the european court of human rights as precedent. [side note :: the court of human rights is not part of the e.u., so the referendum will not affect the u.k.'s participation in that body. but i do think that the fact that so many of the people who want to opt out of the e.u. also want to opt out of following the court is worth mentioning.]

wow. all of that and not one mention of the only thing that seems to be on the minds of most voters: immigrants. well, there is a reason why i've left this to the end, which is that i was hoping that you'd go through all the dry number-y stuff before getting to the thing that most likely to set off powder kegs of emotion. when mr. deathtotraitorsfreedomforbritain shot and stabbed jo cox to death, he was not doing so because of a disagreement over gross versus net contributions to the european budget. 

when people were calling attention to the fact that the uk independence party had made a poster in favour of leaving [the party is not a participant in the official "leave" campaign, but is running its own parallel campaign] that resembled a piece of actual nazi propaganda, it was not a poster about the detrimental effects of european regulations on the u.k. 

this is a very touchy area and the reason that politicians are using it is precisely because it drives up the emotional temperature. fast, cheap travel and enormous differences in earning potential have brought cultures into closer and closer contact and this has frequently raised tensions. the idea that a referendum on whether or not the united kingdom should remain part of the european union will somehow resolve tensions about immigration, cultural change, reasonable accommodation and the legacy of colonialism, is facile. 

nonetheless, there are clearly implications for immigration whether the u.k. votes to stay or leave and they should be addressed. 

the case put forward by vote leave, take control is that the influx of immigrants into the u.k. is untenable and will eventually bankrupt programs like the nhs [national health service]. their estimate of the net number of immigrants into the u.k. per year is 250,000. others put the number at closer to 300,000, but suffice it to say that it's in that ballpark. [net immigration is the difference between the number of people who arrive versus the number of people who leave. the actual number of immigrants into the u.k. is, of course, higher, but is partly offset by departures.]

so, in a country with a population of 64 million, how big a deal is another 300,000 per year? canada, with a population about half that size, receives about 250,000 immigrants per year, the vast majority of them in or around just three cities- vancouver, toronto and montreal. now, canada and the u.k. are clearly different, but the idea that a country simply cannot handle that number of immigrants relative to its existing population is clearly wrong. in both countries, immigrants on the whole pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits and the strain on social programs like health services is made much worse by government cutbacks than by increased demand. 

between 2011 and 2015, the population of the u.k. increased by around 1 million, which means that the only reason why the country continues to grow is because of the 250-300,000 immigrants it allows in per year. countries with aging and declining populations are at risk of losing social services, because they no longer have the tax base to support them. so far from causing problems, immigration may be the only thing that is saving britain's social safety net. 

that said, the conservatives came to power promising to reduce the number of immigrants it admitted to 100,000 per year, so it's clear that they're not coming closing to meeting that target. and since they did receive a majority, it's not unreasonable to assume that's a target most citizens want them to hit.

but it's not just the number of immigrants that is an issue, but who those immigrants might be. in the age of perpetual terrorism, taking measures to protect your citizens is just common sense. and with attacks in france and belgium still fresh in all of our minds, one could understand why the e.u.'s free-flowing open border policy makes some people uncomfortable. and while it's true that border crossing have been strengthened in the wake of those attacks, the best way to guard against terrorists, or other criminals, since terrorism isn't the only, or even the biggest crime problem europe faces, is not to let the bad people in to begin with. 

now, we're going to leave aside commentary on how a lot of terrorists are homegrown in europe, or about how restricting certain people because of their religion or ethnicity is racism, no matter what authorities call it. that's not because those aren't important issues, but because they're secondary to issues of immigration into the united kingdom from europe. 

about half of the immigrants that enter the u.k. every year come from the e.u., so any discussion about these immigration rules only refers to the 150-180,000 from european countries. 

in order to allow people to move freely and easily within the cramped space that is europe, the e.u. created something known as the schengen area, a region where citizens of any of the participating countries could travel without having to show passports or go through other border controls. for the purposes of travel, the schengen area functions as one country. this makes things a lot easier for people who do business in multiple countries [which includes people who work and live in different countries], but it does create potential security risks. it's easier for criminals to move around and do business undetected, for instance, as long as they hold a european passport. and it rests on the assumption that all countries will be equally vigilant and incorruptible when it comes to letting people in. 

now, the europeans aren't completely unaware of the risks. countries who join the e.u. are obliged to join the schengen area, but they also have to prove that they're capable of maintaining certain standards. bulgaria and romania, who joined the e.u. in 2007, have had their admittance to the schengen area blocked, because of concerns about corruption, the presence of organised crime and their preparedness to handle the expected number of immigration requests. cyprus has held off on joining schengen until its own, sometimes violent, territorial dispute is settled. so it's not like there aren't safeguards, it's just that those concerned with the effect of immigration in the u.k. don't necessarily trust bulgaria to check who should be moving to britain. 

but here's the thing: none of that matters, because the u.k. isn't part of the schengen area.

although it's required now for e.u. members to join, when the area was established, the u.k. and the republic of ireland were allowed to opt out. people coming to either country from europe have to go through the same border checks as i do [and they don't get to stand in the much shorter "commonwealth citizens" line at heathrow]. as of 2004, the u.k. signed on to the police and security provisions of the agreement, to benefit from information sharing, but that's it. 

congratulations. you made it. this was a really long post, but here you are and it's almost over. 

the economist has referred to the entire referendum campaign- including both sides- as "parochial and vacuous". i haven't seen enough of the coverage to say one way or the other, but it does seem that there are a lot of statements being tossed around that are either half-explained, misleading or inflammatory and none of that is helpful in a situation that calls for serious thought. i have found some extremely good materials online, many of them through the bbc, who have a cache of all sorts of information, including a convenient summary of major issues and the positions of both sides of the debate.

i imagine that if you're eligible to vote, you've already decided how, but if not, please take a moment to look around [the linked articles in this post explain things better than i ever could] and take a moment to think about what would be lost and gained by leaving the e.u., because it is an important decision with ramifications far beyond the u.k. and even europe. 

choose wisely and well and good luck on the 23rd.
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