Simon Wren-Lewis on Brexit-Trump Connection

Simon Wren-Lewis - Brexit-TrumpThis study that looked at Trump supporters has got quite a bit of publicity. Some have been surprised that “his supporters are less educated and more likely to work in blue collar occupations, but they earn relative high household incomes, and living in areas more exposed to trade or immigration does not increase Trump support.” They also tend to be a little older. Having looked at who voted for Brexit, I was not surprised.

The two clear explanatory variables for those who voted that the UK should leave the EU were education and age. Much has also been made of the fact that, other things equal, those from areas of the country that suffered from deindustrialization over the last 30 years tended to vote Leave, but there was no correlation with levels or rates of change of income. Nor is there any clear correlation between Brexit support and levels of immigration, again matching this study’s findings for Trump support…

Times of rapid economic and social change can leave large parts of society left behind, particularly if they are not equipped with the skills required to adapt. When incomes then stop growing, these groups long for things to be how they used to be (to “make America great again”). The most obvious manifestation of change is the prospect (not actuality) of living with different people and cultures: hence “taking back control” over immigration in the UK and building a wall in the US. What the Brexit vote showed is that when this fear of the new is combined with a protest over relative economic deprivation it can become a dangerous political force.

—Simon Wren-Lewis
Brexit and Trump Supporters

Work and the Edification of the Soul

Work: Boy Studying - Lewis Hine

A while back, I wrote about finding a play called MP3 that I had no memory of writing, Creation as a Spiritual Act. You can click over there if you want to get some idea of what it is about. But the main thing is that it is a kind of play that I’ve developed that I call “theatrical essays.” They are kitchen sink affairs, largely because I’m a kitchen sink kind of guy. They are vaudeville with a narrative. But most of all, they are the kinds of things that I want to see. They are a joy to work on.

So every night in bed, instead of reading, I’ve been working on the play. There are many problems with it. In particular, the structure is wrong. But as I’ve worked with it, I’ve realized that I would make it into a full-length play. It has been edifying. I feel like the process is making me a better a person. This is in distinct contrast with paying work that is, well, work. Like all workers, I am paid to make money for the company. In my case, it isn’t direct. If it were, the company would soon go out of business! But ultimately, what I’m involved in making is money.

I Like My Job

And I’m quite reasonably paid for my efforts in this regard. But I’ve been working just under 8 hours per day. Now I understand that doesn’t sound like a lot. But this is freelance work. I bill in 5 minute increments. I don’t bill for breaks. And I am constantly busy because there is always more work than I can get to. Finally, I do work that isn’t on the clock. In between those last two sentences, I noticed a writer was having a problem and I fixed it for them. That kind of stuff adds up, I’m sure.

I’m not complaining about work. I enjoy doing it and I’m good at it. It’s nice to be paid for something that you’re good at. And I work with interesting people. And all of that. But today it hit me, “I don’t have to work this much!” I don’t need much money. I have no children — no wife to speak of. What am I working so much for? Is it that I fear I won’t get any work if I cut back to 20 or 30 hours? I don’t think so. It is just habit. And it’s gotten out of hand.

The Bizarre Work I Find Edifying

To many people, I must seem strange. There’s Frankly Curious, a blog that I’m not really interested in monetizing. There are bizarre plays that wouldn’t appeal to traditional theatrical companies. (I do hope, though.) But these are the things that I like to do. I like to write. And I like to do it on my own terms. That’s why something like MP3 is so much more important to me than even Frankly Curious, because the blog format itself constrains me. But I’ve gotten away from it because my need for money evolved into something that really isn’t me.

I imagine myself as an engineer of a train. I go to work each day and I do my job. Trains are important. People need to drive trains. But I wouldn’t wake up in the middle of night and call the train yard to see if there were any trains that needed to be driven. And I wouldn’t work any more than I needed to in order to support my lifestyle. And I think I have to treat my real job like I would treat the train job.

Backing Away

It is a bit more difficult, of course. My great passion is similar to what I do at work. And there are joys at work — no question! I love it when I manage to edit something competent into something good. And the little straight writing I do is fun, because I only assign myself the stuff I think I alone can do. (I never claimed to be humble!) So, I feel the pull. But I think I’ve got to resist it.

There are plays to write and articles to publish and Don Quixote texts to compare and puppets to abuse and on and on. The business world will get on just fine with less of me. And my soul will get on much better with more of me.