Music, Northern Advocate Column

All hail Prince Tui Teka!

d6e64962c45adc32389a8bd7880c3b0c2 June 2018

All hail Prince Tui Teka! I never knew. Listening to the big man sing ‘Heed the Call,’ the title track of the recently released compilation of Aotearoa soul, funk and disco tracks (1973-83) was a musical revelation. It’s a sublime, drum-heavy soul track, that stands up alongside anything by Al Green, Curtis Mayfield or Solomon Burke. 

While it’s the effortless crooning of Prince Tui Teka that lifts the song, the dynamic rhythm section and backing vocals supplied by The Yandall Sisters are equally essential. It was a surprise to find out the song was initially recorded by Kenny Rodgers and his band The First Edition. Written by bandmate Kin Vassy. The Prince Tui Teka version is, I think, superior, but it shows what a strange melting pot music can be.

The original song had the background of the Civil Rights movement in America and is a plea for racial understanding and peace through the secular gospel of music. “Have you been sleeping/The sermon’s in the music,” Tui Teka drawls before The Yandall Sisters come in with: “The man standing next to you/ He must surely be your brother/ So brother, please, heed the call.” You realise listening to the message of this song, that soul, funk and disco were being embraced by Māori performers at the same time as the Land March (1975) and the Bastion Point occupation (1977-78).

And while the 1970s are often portrayed as dark economic and social times, there was close to full-employment, the union movement was strong, and houses were affordable. In politics, music, and every other part of life, Māori were putting their “good foot” forward. There was a confidence that needed a soundtrack. It’s English that’s used, and American musical forms are the vehicle, but it’s to Māori working in South Auckland factories, in government department offices, in freezing works around the country, who Prince Tui Teka is singing to.

But not only to them, because if there was one factor that drove the music scene in New Zealand at the time, it was that pubs were king. Māori or Pākehā, if you were looking for a good and rowdy time after a week of wage-slavery, and music was your thing, then it was to pubs like The Gluepot in Ponsonby that you went. The equivalent venues existed in Whangārei and around the North.

There were no separate disco clubs, like in cities overseas. If you were a musician interested in the latest funk and disco sounds, your only option was to introduce that sound to a general audience. The underground and the mainstream had to co-exist, had to bang up against each other. Literally according to Alan Perrott, one of the men behind the Heed the Call! compilation. “There were fights in the crowd most times [the bands] played,” says Perrott in an interview with Grant Smithies for the Sunday Star Times. “These were hard-arse bars, and let’s not forget this is New Zealand, with a long tradition of men having to get blind pissed before they have the confidence to dance. Let’s just say there was a fair bit of drama…”

But conflict and controversy have always played their part in getting noticed. And so Mark Williams from Dargaville fronted in tight, chest-bearing jumpsuits, make-up and earrings. It’s his photo in full get-up on the cover of the album. You can just imagine the comments from a heavily largered pub crowd

The new sound did win converts, though. Mark Williams had big hits with ‘Disco Queen’ and ‘A House For Sale’. ‘I Need Your Love’ by Golden Harvest reached number one on the New Zealand charts in 1977. ‘Sweet Inspiration’ by The Yandall Sisters was hugely popular. 

Unfortunately, what we have now was only the tip of the iceberg. Perrott, an obsessive record collector, has lamented the fact that not much of the music played in the bars and pubs was ever recorded. There was no money to be made from entering the studio, the live music scene was where the money was. Heed The Call!, then, is a precious time capsule, a few choice nuggets of feel-good funk rhythms and soulful voices to savour. A taste only of a cultural milieu that’s been and gone.

If you want to escape back to that era, to remember it, or visit for the first time, then this album is essential. Don’t let your preconceptions sway you. For too long, certainly, I’ve neglected names like Dalvanius, Mark Williams, Prince Tui Teka, Tina Cross and The Yandall Sisters.

But for all those named stars, it’s the tough, talented and largely forgotten musicians working the pub circuit the length of the country who are the heroes of this album. One of the best songs is ‘You Can Dance’ by Collision, a band which originated from the forestry town of Tokoroa.

I’m so often in awe of the musical talent and great songs that have come out of this small country. Whakarongo ki te waiata.

Northern Advocate Column

Believing in a literal hell fuels hate speech fire


24 April 2018

What does it take to believe in a literal hell, as Israel Folau seems to? The fiery kind where souls are tormented, and presumably there’s a reigning lord of evil, otherwise known as the devil. I mean, for me, it makes as much sense as believing that Santa Claus has a toy factory at the North Pole. 

Nevertheless, it’s the “they will go to hell for their sins” part of Folau’s Instagram post that worried me more than the bigotry against gay people. Falou can make a case for homosexuality being immoral, that it undermines the “sanctity” of the male-female bond. I’d be fine with that. I wouldn’t agree with him, but I’d concede that Folau has the right to live by his chosen morality. Being able to express those ideas is the free speech we defend. Just as those who disagree with him have the right to say so.   

The problem with the concept of hell, as endorsed by Folau, is that it raises the prospect of punishment. And given that hell is presumably not a fun place to be, there’s to be pain inflicted. Does Folau truly believe in a fiery hell where gay people experience pain for eternity? And is this what his church is preaching? Is it what priests – and whatever the hell Brian Tamaki is – are saying from the pulpit in this country? If it is what they’re saying, then it needs to be condemned, not justified, or explained away as being part of the culture of Pasifika people and somehow acceptable in the 21st century. These are backward ideas, dangerous ones, that need to be called out, not excused by cultural relativism. 

We need to distinguish between a different moral perspective on sexuality (okay) from the expression of a will to punish or hurt, physically or psychologically, people whose sexuality is different from our own (not okay). Our society has to maintain its vigilance against ideas which can lead to real-world acts of discrimination, and potentially violence. There’s enough evidence in the 20th century and around the world today of what can occur when vindictive hate is unleashed. 

New Zealand’s laws against hate speech, as contained in the Human Rights Act, targets racist ideologies, but makes no reference to sexual orientation. Inciting hatred of people due to their race, ethnicity or country of origin is illegal, but not their sexuality. Whatever the difficulties in defining hate speech or prosecuting someone in the courts, that’s a major inconsistency in the law. What message does it give to people whose sexuality is outside the heterosexual norm? They would be right to feel aggrieved.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s response on The AM Show, where she refused to call Folau’s comments hate speech, or concede that our human rights laws needed changing, was weak and disappointing. Let’s hope her soft stance on this issue wasn’t motivated by an unwillingness to upset Labour voters who believe in a God that wants to punish people for their sexual difference. That kind of opportunism isn’t going to advance human rights and social justice. 

Northern Advocate Column

I can’t identify with what Beyoncé’s selling, but I’m listening


21 April 2018

I’ve been aware of her, who hasn’t? She’s the world’s biggest pop star, a celebrity icon. Except, I hadn’t paid her much real attention. And so Beyoncé’s reification by fans and her cultural significance had mostly passed me by.

I loved ‘Bootylicious’ by Destiny’s Child, of course, had the single with three remix versions. The rhythm was original, and I liked the defiant statement about the more voluptuous female form. And ‘Single Ladies’ couldn’t be ignored. ‘Crazy in Love’ was infectious. But other songs which briefly came into focus didn’t grab me.

Maybe I hadn’t been trying hard enough. This thought occurred to me when I started reading headlines about Beyoncé’s recent performance at the Coachella music festival out in the Colorado Desert. People were comparing it to Jimi Hendrix playing the Monterey Pop Festival. That Beyoncé at Coachella was a defining cultural moment for African-American women; to be remembered for generations.

OK, perhaps I needed to dig deeper here. So I went to YouTube and found some clips of the performance. It’s great theatre. Beyoncé first appears in an Egyptian-style outfit, looking like the famous bust of Nefertiti, the wife of a long dead and forgotten pharaoh. She then emerged at the top of a pyramid of stacked bleaches (the American term for a temporary stand) wearing a yellow sweatshirt, ripped denim shorts and fluffy white leggings that recalled those worn by Zulu warriors.

In the context of the Coachella festival, attended mostly by well-off middle-class college kids and faux-bohemians, Beyoncé presented the sights and sounds of southern black colleges, especially the marching bands and dancing that accompanies college football games.

The cultural lessons didn’t stop there. Scattered all through the performance were references to African American culture and politics, from the iconic song ‘Strange Fruit’ (about the lynching of black men) to the words of Malcolm X: “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman.”

The whole performance was identity politics ratcheted up to the highest level. Black pride, women’s pride, that was the message. Delivered as extravagant entertainment to the festival audience, but more importantly to the millions around the world who watched the lifestream or who’ll access the performance on YouTube.

It’s only pop music, but the symbolism, the codes, they matter, Beyoncé would undoubtedly argue. As they probably do to unknown women of colour in Atlanta, Illinois and Chicago. The women disrespected by white America, and also often by black men. You only have to have a cursory awareness of the history of hip-hop to know the sexism and misogyny that’s part of the culture. And we know the impetus for Beyoncé’s last album, Lemonade, was a response to husband Jay-Z having an affair, the ultimate act of disrespect, which she turned into a symbol of women being disrespected by men down through the ages.

Beyoncé is consciously walking in the shoes of many African American performers who’ve communicated black pride, touching on arrogance. When Beyoncé sings, “I just might be the black Bill Gates,” she echoes Muhammad Ali yelling “I’m the greatest!” Ali, summed up this attitude, this incision into American and global pop culture, with what he claimed to be the shortest poem ever written, which went, “Me. We.” It’s a sentiment Beyoncé would agree with.

Because I’m a white middle-aged man with a comfortable standard of living, I can’t totally identify with what Beyoncé’s selling. Still, I’m going to find a copy of Lemonade in The Warehouse bargain bins and give it a listen with fresh and more educated ears.

Northern Advocate Column

Obama’s legacy: a missed opportunity


So Barack Obama has dropped by to play some golf and make a little post-presidency money ($550,000) speaking to 1,000 exclusive guests of the NZ-US Council. He’ll be treated with great deference. John Key, with his I’m-so-lucky-to-play-with-the-big-boys smile, will have nothing but praise for the man. Jacinda Ardern will be fawning too, I’m sure.

And don’t get me wrong, next to Trump, who grows more odious by the day, Obama has a likeability rating comparable to Kermit the Frog. He’s charming, intelligent, seemingly honest, and with great empathetic skill. He has opinions on social issues that wouldn’t get him ostracised at a dinner party in most well-to-do suburbs in New Zealand. If, on the other hand, Trump turned up at a dinner party in Saint Helliers, Karori or Fendalton he would probably cop some heat. Not Obama though.

And yet, if we’re to speak honestly of Obama’s legacy, it’s got to be more than him being the first black president, and that he’s a classy and likeable individual.

He was elected on a wave of optimism, having run a grassroots campaign involving hundreds of thousands of young activists hungry for change. In the first two years of his presidency, the Democrats controlled all the levers of power in America. The Republican Party was in disarray and the Wall Street banking class, following the Global Financial Crisis, feared having their powers curbed. This could have been a pivotal moment in history.

Except Obama didn’t act against Wall Street or put a stop to bankers paying themselves obscene bonuses from the bailout money. Instead, he adopted many policies of austerity that saw living standards fall for Americans of all races. He reneged on his promise to pursue a public health system and instead sided with the insurance and drug companies to rehash the same inequitable system dependant on insurance premiums that many still couldn’t afford.

As Democrat supporters became steadily disillusioned and apathetic, the Tea Party movement, and then Trump, were able to successfully play on people’s fears and anger. Many working-class white Americans who had supported Obama and the Democrats now voted for Trump, willing to believe that he did have their interests at heart. They were deceived of course.  

And now America has become an even scarier place. Trump has empowered every petty racist to think they can express their vile views.

Someone like Trump, or indeed any of the odious figures of history, don’t land in power and create all the evil themselves. So often the seeds are sown by the actions of political figures in the past.  For me, Obama is that guy. He was in a position of power with massive popular support and a desire for change. Yet he chose to steer the ship in the direction of the status quo, that is, around in circles without doing very much at all. 

How different the world today might have been.

Northern Advocate Column

The wonder of Auckland City Hospital

7th October 2017


The pyramids at Giza, the Parthenon in Athens, the Colosseum in Rome, and Auckland City Hospital in New Zealand. In thousands of years when future humans look back at us, sifting through whatever cultural detritus has survived, I’m betting public hospitals will be high on the list of early 21st century marvels.

I’d never spent time at Auckland City Hospital until recently when visiting a family member over the course of a week. Hospitals always focus the mind, but what heightened the impact was simply the scale. Immediately striking is the numbers of people. The population of the hospital on a weekday must be larger than many New Zealand towns. And probably more difficult to run.

Surely our modern genius for bureaucracy is no better displayed than by a hospital of this size. All those specialist roles coming together in a complex whole, from toilet cleaners to heart surgeons, anaesthetists to nursing administrators charged with organising the staff roster.

It’s a wonder it works as well as it does. And still, we want it to work better. If only with more specialist knowledge, more technology, more funding, we could conquer death itself. Perhaps not.

The other amazing thing about Auckland’s flagship hospital is the ethnic diversity. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere in the world, let alone New Zealand, where so many different ethnicities, cultures and nationalities were evident. If you’ve got issues with our burgeoning multiculturalism, then you better not require life-saving surgery. Or better, get over it and appreciate what a diverse bunch of people working together can achieve.

Which is not to idealize it too much, there are hierarchies, and no doubt petty frustrations and dysfunction, like any large organisation. And our centralised, high-tech health system isn’t always good at providing holistic patient care, favouring intervention as it does over prevention. But stepping back from it all as an observer, you can’t help but be in awe of the whole vast structure, from the inventory of disposable gloves to the head boss sitting somewhere in a plush office. Amazed as anyone that it’s all working, who’s hoping like hell nothing major goes wrong.

A surprising part of my experience of Auckland City Hospital was the quality of art on the walls. When you first enter there’s a massive painting by Pat Hanly, one of my all-time favourite New Zealand artists, titled Vacation Composition. I’m a sucker for colourful abstraction done well, so to walk in and out of the hospital and view this towering work was a treat. On almost every spare wall there were paintings, prints, and photographs by major New Zealand artists. Some of the work is part of the hospital’s own collection, but an equal amount is on loan from private collections.

Maybe it was the context, but I haven’t been as moved looking at art for a long time. So much so, that with time to fill, I searched down empty corridors, rode the lifts to obscure parts of the hospital, looking for another artwork that might interest me. Public art co-existing with public healthcare, definitely onto something.

For all its marvels and thought-provoking complexity, however, I hope not to experience Auckland City Hospital again anytime soon. It’s still a place I’d rather not be. This visit, thankfully, had a successful outcome.

Art, Northern Advocate Column

For Baby’s Room

25 March 2017

For Baby's Room

I had heard whispers. I had seen pictures on Facebook, but not in its entirety. It was a painting, a very large one. It was controversial, in your face, offensive to many people. It looked great though. I wanted to see it. So I arranged with the artists Richard Darbyshire and Rosie Parsonson for a private viewing.

In the hills over the Otaika Valley there it was, hanging on the back wall of a normal Kiwi garage, partly concealed by a stack of cardboard boxes. Like any painting this size you can’t take it in all at once, it just flows over you at first, overwhelming. But then, as if your eyes are becoming accustomed to the light, you begin to make out the details. And what details they are! Amidst the seductive and tempestuous swirl of colour and line there are swans and skulls, dinosaurs and toy soldiers, bunnies and naked women, fighter bombers and butterflies. My Little Pony smokes a pipe. The Pope clutches a throbbing, bloody heart. Two skeletons copulate. It’s a nightmare of kitsch. It’s an inventory of vices. It’s fun and it’s terrible. It’s the modern world. It’s titled For Baby’s Room.

Which parent would dare put this on the wall next to the cot? None I’m sure, but it’s a wonderful thought. I still have dreams about the safari animals on the curtains of my room when I was a kid. What nightmares might this painting induce? What creativities and ways of knowing might it encourage?

Viewing this work I’m not shocked. How could I be in the Internet Age? There’s nothing here that compares with what we can see every day online if we choose (and even if we don’t). This is cartoon titillation. The war games, the cuddly toys, the bimbos and big guns, the religious icons and uniforms, the glint in the eye of cartoon animals ― aren’t we too easily seduced by idolatry in its various forms?

This might not be the artists’ exact intentions but this painting, for me, is a very moral work. I view it and feel somewhat cleansed. It’s a visual reminder of the superficiality we consume and which consumes us. But you can turn away, you can look within to the person you would at least like to be. It’s your life to live.   

In the top right hand corner of the painting the hand of God appears through the cloud holding a golden staff, which he appears to be using to stir a circular medieval town. In the bottom left hand corner, a figure with a yellow Pac-Man head, mouth agape, sits at a keyboard with joystick in hand. It’s like he’s manipulating the chaos of the entire painting. Between these two manipulators, God and the gamer, we are still free to consider what is good and what is evil, virtue or vice. This painting says to the viewer: “On your conscience be it.”

I have no problem saying that this painting is a local masterpiece. It deserves to be seen by more people, which is why I suggest the Whangarei Art Museum gets on to buying it straight away.

Northern Advocate Column

A new constitution for New Zealand?

8 October 2016

Geoffrey Palmer, briefly New Zealand’s prime minister, along with Andrew Butler, a constitutional lawyer, have together written a draft constitution for this country. A likely response might be: “I didn’t know we needed one.” Well, maybe we do, maybe we don’t. New Zealand is a rarity among nation states in not having a formal constitution, but rather a number of separate Acts of Parliament. The weakness of this, argue Palmer and Butler, is that these constitutional foundations could crumble at the whim of a parliamentary majority. To hell with the Treaty of Waitangi says one government, let’s scrub it. We don’t like the Resource Management Act. Delete.

A constitution is supposed to include ground level values and rights for citizens. A famous example of course is the right of Americans to bear arms. But a constitution could include stuff like all citizens having the right to adequate and affordable housing. If a government was failing to guarantee this right then they could be held accountable by the courts. They could be directed to introduce policy to fix the situation, or even forced to go to the polls to elect a new government.

In their draft, Palmer and Butler, make some solid recommendations for what a New Zealand constitution might look like that ensures basic human rights. Their constitution would be a very centralised system of governance, but the authors also want to see local government given more autonomy. Parliament currently has the power to overrule local government if it sees fit. Like it’s considering doing when it comes to the decision by local councils, including Whangarei’s, to go GE free.

We have a political imbalance which gives far too much power to the cabinet MPs of the ruling political party of the day. That’s also where most of the money is controlled. Only 10% of tax revenue in New Zealand is spent by local government. The average in Western-style democracies around the world is 30%. In Basel-Land, a canton of Switzerland, citizens vote to approve tax rates and budgets, from education to roading. Unsurprisingly people in Basel-Land have more of a feeling that the state is working for them, not against them.

There’s clearly declining interest in local body elections in this country. One reason is surely because people don’t think that voting will change much about their lives. Wouldn’t it be different if suburbs, towns and cities had more power to pass laws, introduce taxes and allocate money to local initiatives? This would allow more grassroots ideas to come to fruition due to dedicated individuals and groups of people pursuing them. It would encourage experimentation and the use of new technologies at a local level. If something worked in Timaru it might be picked up by people in Kamo.

Yes, let’s have a debate about the constitutional foundations of this country, but please don’t let it be one that leads to more centralised bureaucracy, out-of-touch politicians and elite judges. Let there be space for people to exert greater influence over the physical and social environment in which they live, like reasoning and responsible adults perhaps.

To read the draft constitution and some of the reasoning behind it you can go to the website:

Northern Advocate Column

Scientists explain climate change trends

Baring head10 September 2016

On an isolated headland jutting out into Cook Strait there’s a device which has been measuring levels of CO2 in the atmosphere since 1972. This happens to be the longest continuous record in the world.

In 1972 the levels of carbon dioxide were 325 parts per million (ppm). This year they reached 400ppm. The last time they were at this level was 3 million years ago. Global temperatures were then 2-3% warmer and sea levels were 10 metres higher.

This is some of what I learned at a recent lecture held at NorthTec delivered by two climate scientists from Victoria University, Professors Tim Naish and James Renwick. The lecture was one of the last stops on a speaking tour organised by the Royal Society of New Zealand.

That comparison with the world 3 million years ago was certainly meant to make us sit up and take notice. Many of the world’s major cities would be underwater and humans would be clinging to survival in a world of violent weather extremes.

Naish and Renwick carefully explained some of the complex ways that the extra heat generated from carbon emissions is acting on the world’s climate. For instance, 93% of the heat generated since the Industrial Revolution has been absorbed by the ocean. Which is why the increase in atmospheric temperature is thus far limited to 1 degree above the pre-industrial average.

It is the scientist’s belief that significant danger lies somewhere between a 1.5 and 2Cº increase, because that may see the tipping point crossed where the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets begin an unstoppable slide into the ocean, resulting in a 10 metre jump in sea levels.

To put into perspective the urgency of the problem, global temperature averages are expected to be 1.5Cº hotter within 5-10 years. And if the current rate the world is emitting carbon continues we’ll be looking at a 3.5Cº spike in temperatures, at which point human civilization becomes problematic.

The recent Paris Agreement on climate change saw participating countries agree to limit the temperature increase to well below 2Cº. To achieve this we’ll need to stop using fossil fuels by 2050.

The hopeful message from Naish and Renwick was that if the world acts decisively now we may be able to prevent the worst case scenarios. But even so the latest science is still predicting sea levels to rise by as much as 1.8 metres by 2100, which is going to have a huge impact on global infrastructure and will create hundreds of millions of climate refugees.

For all the worrying facts and figures presented to us, perhaps the most depressing part of the presentation was the acknowledgement that our government is currently doing nothing. While some countries are cutting emissions ours are increasing, with no major policies or initiatives in place to stem the flow.

Where is the government injection of money into public transport and rail? Where is the carbon tax on industrial emissions? Where is the nationwide reforesting of marginal land?

How can we as a country continue to sit aside from one of the most urgent global issues of our time?

Art, Northern Advocate Column

Jo Hardy, an original in life and art

jo hardy painting 113 August 2016

An artwork is a gift the artist gives to the world. If not always one that’s gratefully received. Few artists, musicians, writers, create for the money, though they won’t say no if it comes along (the artist has to live like everyone else). Most do it to achieve personal satisfaction at something well done, which they hope will be appreciated by other people. 

Often, however, there’s a time lag between the giving of the gift and the receiving of it. Vincent van Gogh is most emblematic of this delay. He so desired people to see God and glorious, wondrous life in his paintings. He hoped his art would literally save people. In his lifetime his works were appreciated by few, yet today his paintings are hugely popular and profoundly moving, particularly when seen in the flesh. His work is a gift to humanity, one that will keep giving for centuries.

Recently a respected local painter, Jo Hardy, died. She was a serious artist, very intelligent, and she worked hard. Though she could grumble and strongly desired that her work should be recognised with some monetary reward, she was, I think, playing a longer game. It’s very probable that her body of work will continue to grow in stature as time passes.

One of her best works is already part of the Whangarei Art Museum’s permanent collection. It’s the portrait of an old woman in a doctor’s waiting room. The woman stares directly at us over her red rimmed glasses, with a pointed finger lifting one eyebrow over a bloodshot eye. Is she mad? Possessed? There’s certainly something defiant about her. She dominates the picture frame, even pushing another female figure off the side of the canvas. The woman is obviously at the ragged end of life, but there’s something heroic about her still. In her light blue quilted night gown, with a tartan blanket held over her am, she recalls a marble statue of a Roman statesman dressed in a toga.

The painting is an eccentric, life affirming representation of old age. In a contemporary culture saturated with images of youth, this wrinkled character speaks to us of mortality and what it means to savour life, no matter how challenging and despairing it can be. I can’t help but think that this woman is a cypher for the artist herself. Jo Hardy was a strong, opinionated and passionate woman, not afraid to confront injustice and idiocy.

A few years ago I asked her what advice she would give to a young person wanting to be a painter today. Her reply: “Painting is not a recommended career strategy; it’s an isolated lifetime vocation. It’s a totally unfeasible feast and famine lifestyle; not for the faint hearted… The painter must be the first (sometimes the only) person to stand up for their work. It takes nerve, independent originality is required. You’re lucky if it resonates with the zeitgeist.” 

Jo Hardy was an original in life and in her paintings, which will keep giving for years to come.

Northern Advocate Column

Brexit, a blow to the bankers

25 June, 2016

The Guardian website has been coDaily-Sun-29-02-04-07-2016mpulsive reading these last few weeks. I’ve been following the referendum the Brits have had on whether to leave the European Union, the so-called Brexit.

I’ve enjoyed in particular the panicked tone of some contributors when polls showed the “leave vote” surging upwards. They were incredulous so many were going to vote contrary to what both the Conservative and Labour Party leaderships were telling them.

Those wanting to leave, we’ve been told, were the racist working class who didn’t want refugees and immigrants coming to Britain. This narrative is far too simplistic, however. Yes, there was a right wing nationalistic current in the leave vote, hence the split in the ruling Conservative Party, and there are, I’m sure, plenty of haters in Britain. But for many working class people the EU vote was a chance to express their disapproval to the political establishment. It was an opportunity to vote against globalisation.

The kind of globalisation which in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis meant it was bankers who got bailed out at the expense of health, education and other infrastructure needs across Britain. The kind of globalisation that has seen speculation in house prices drive home ownership beyond the reach of most people, while rents likewise skyrocket. The kind of globalisation that sees immigration policy used to increase competition for jobs and hold down wages.

Lisa McKensie, writing one of the more insightful columns for The Guardian, argued that the Brexit vote had sparked intense political discussions in working class pubs across Britain, but it wasn’t all about immigration. “In East London,” she wrote, “it is about housing, schools and low wages. The women worry for their children and their elderly parents – what happens to them if the rent goes up again? The lack of affordable housing is terrifying.”

The concern many Brits have over immigration is a product of fear, a fear of losing status and security in an already precarious economic environment. The blanket labeling of working class Brits as racist, however, is both wrong and insulting, particularly coming from middle class and well-to-do types divorced from the harsher realities of life in Britain’s poor communities.

The reason financial markets have been so nervous about the Brexit vote are its wider implications for Europe, and indeed the rest of the world. And this was where my interest was really peeked. The size of the “leave vote” will have given impetus to those in Greece who also wish to leave. For ordinary Greeks the only path that offers them a chance to rebuild their economy and social services is to default on the billions owed to German and French banks, exit the EU and return to their own currency.

If Greece goes, then the people of Italy and Spain will be asking the same question. A domino effect could be set off that sees the global banking class, for once, come out as losers. That’s something I’d like to see.