David McCoy: Brexit, despondency, and hope

david_mccoyFor many who work to promote the universal right to health, Brexit has brought despondency.

While some people voted Leave on the back of democratic and progressive arguments, many who sought a rupture with Europe appeared to do so out of insecurity and mistrust, driven by a combination of austerity, alienation with the political establishment, and xenophobic fear mongering.

This triumph of insularity, intolerance, and indifference over social solidarity and internationalism is not just disheartening, but also dangerous.

Ill winds from many directions pose serious threats to the health and wellbeing of people all over the world: global warming and broader forms of ecological degradation; rising inequalities, unemployment and poverty; the biggest refugee crisis since WW2; growing militarisation and conflict; and increasing racial, religious, and cultural intolerance.

These ill winds, when placed in the context of the dismal quality of debate that preceded the referendum, indicate a need for a new politics that is anchored in the public interest; infused with decency and honesty; driven by compassion; informed by evidence; enabled by public interest experts; and free from undemocratic influence.

We also need a new economics and form of globalisation that is fairer, and which treats the planet with care and respect. There are no quick-fix solutions or economic blueprints for reversing decades of destructive neoliberalism and corporate capitalism, but we need to start from the premise that a safer, fairer and better world is possible.

Medact is a charity for health professionals, workers, and advocates who want to see such a world. It works with data, evidence, and reasoned argument; but it also speaks truth to power, and sets out to treat the social viruses of hate, ignorance, greed, violence, and corruption as a public health duty.

As the effects of Brexit begin to unfold and dangerously unravel many laws, structures, systems, and regulations that we take for granted, it will be vital to ensure that we move forward in a progressive direction, and that the voice of the progressive health community is heard loudly and clearly.

So don’t be despondent about the state of post-Brexit Britain. Be in touch with us.

You might want to join our refugee solidarity group. Or join one our growing number of “health through peace” groups.

You can support our work on climate change and economic justice.

Or find out more about how we try to extend human rights through medicine and healthcare.

David McCoy and the rest of the Medact team.

David McCoy, director of Medact and director and Global Health Taught Programme, Queen Mary University London.