“The only thing that can redeem humanity is cooperation.” (Bertrand Russell)

Change is the only constant, and we’ve all been exposed to rapid, constant change for a while now, and have had to make the best of it, like it or not.

Extrapolating the quote from Bertrand Russell above, then, by definition, Brexit is the opposite of humanity.

My life has suffered the perfect storm of three external factors beyond my control that have conspired to unite and destroy my career and force me to spend enormous amounts of time, energy and money just to try recuperate what was effectively stolen from me by a small majority of people I’ve never met. Catalan nationalism and the failed secessionist movement, Brexit and Covid formed a cursed union to remove my options and reduce my future. I did nothing wrong, I made no mistakes, yet these events happened to conspire to overwhelm me and my life, and force me backwards in ways I would never have imaged, or been able to predict.

My vote was not permitted in the UK referendum despite having had a British passport since I was 18 years old. I had never registered to vote there during my ten years of residency and study (I’ve lived and worked all over the world, I am what is sneeringly referred to as a ‘citizen of nowhere’), I didn’t have a UK address at the time of the referendum, and had lived out of the country for more than fifteen years, so I was effectively and unjustly disqualified from voting on the most important external decision at a national level that would have a direct impact on my present and future.

Due to Covid and the Catalan secessionist movement, I’ve had to say goodbye to a Study Abroad University in Barcelona where I worked for over 15 years due to the circumstances surrounding Covid (our students were from the USA and went home immediately and have only just started returning) and their judgement call regarding furloughs, or lack thereof. I left because I stand up for my personal principles which is never an easy call to judge. Other Study Abroad Universities had I worked at for even longer in Barcelona are now closed due to Covid circumstances beyond everybody’s imagination only a few months ago.

The Catalan secessionist movement has effectively turned the Catalan education sector into a pro independence stronghold, where foreigners like me (and many locals), who oppose Nationalism have no chance of gaining employment in a narrowing world view that excludes contrary positions, despite all claims to the contrary. After Covid, and the UK’s Brexit failure to agree on mutual recognition of University degrees with the EU (the EU offered this, but it was rejected by the UK) I lost my lecturing work Study Abroad and had my chances of finding local lecturing work to replace it eliminated by a combination of Brexit’s consequences and local Catalan nationalism.

Indeed, the simultaneous exposure to the English nationalism at the heart of Brexit, and the Catalan nationalism at the heart of their secessionist drive would be difficult enough to surmount individually, let alone in tandem. Add Covid to the mix, and my life was hit by a perfect storm in 2019/2020 from which I’m still struggling to recover.

At times my life has felt like it was spirally out of control due to these overwhelming headwinds. I’ve had my professional qualifications rendered worthless by strangers who should have known better and been forced into weird life decisions I never thought I’d have to make in order to survive, like many of you.

From having been able to actively participate in the academic life of 28 countries, due to Brexit I am now in year two of a three year period to revalidate my UK degrees in Spain so that I can be legally up to date and start looking for work in the Spanish University system, and only the Spanish University system, as there is no pan EU recognition of third country qualifications once validated in one EU country. Of course finding a job will take some time to come to fruition as well, assuming it does, as the nearly four years of my professional life lost to Brexit’s failures will have an impact on my career options and given my age.

We may all be in the midst of another wave of Covid dread and our fears may be resurfacing after so much trauma; and I’ve leveraged myself out of Catalunya to a region of Spain that is welcoming, where the people don’t have hangups and there are some opportunities for me after many years of stress and the difficult, long journey of escape from Catalunya, and Brexit is still an ongoing disaster in which the worst aspects still could be avoided with a little humanity and common sense, but I keep telling myself that I’ll emerge stronger, or just different- like I have (touch wood), having learned who I am and what I can become when things look bleak and those we trust and respect stand by us and help us through.

Our cooperation, mutual instinct to help each other in the face of adversity and general ‘never day die’ spirit will conquer all. If I haven’t learnt this by now, then I haven’t learnt anything.

It’s still a big, wonderful world out there, even if circumstances seem to have gotten a hold on our lives, and we’ll emerge from this with invention, and renewed courage, and new ties and friendships that will enrich our lives like I have found here in Asturias.

All our lives have been changed, but change is ours to make too, and we still have choices, we can still work together and move on and create new and wonderful things.

John Frederick Anderson, 57, Lecturer and Photographer, Asturias, Spain

First published January 2022

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