Back in the UK for a while watching the Brexit bullshit slowly roll from one stagnant puddle to the next, occasionally spattered by the shrill wailing tweetarrhia from Trump’s cot, it’s sometimes tempting to imagine we are really all lying inert, plugged into machines while hackers play pong on the Matrix. Is there an infectious disease going around causing collective cerebral atrophy? Maybe a race of bodysnatchers seeding the populace with cretins wondering how long it will take us to twig? Or are we just watching the unfolding of H. L. Mencken’s prophecy and the glorious consummation of democracy and technology?
Politics isn’t normally something I bother writing about, but occasionally peering into the quagmire every few months and seeing the same revolving vortex of bullshit is as maddening as trying to thread a needle with no arms. I need to vent.
What Brexit Means
As Danny Dyer so succinctly put it, no one knows what Brexit means. It isn’t quite the riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma as Churchill once referred to the Soviets, even though it’s entirely possible those selfsame Russian national interests are the key. But it isn’t surprising given the fact that the referendum on the subject was more of a gesture than a manoeuvre.
For me, the issue is simple: Brexit is backwards. Look to the future, and what world do we want to see? A world governed by sensible values, humanity living in harmony with itself and its environment, where equality is more or less a reality rather than a buzzword and people are free to live their lives with equal opportunities yadda yadda. Wait for the bile to go down, but that’s an essential hope and dream that we find embodied in any image of the future. I’m no trekkie, but I don’t recall there being a footnote for sovereign island rights under the United Federation of Planets.
Nation states were a nice stepping stone to an organised society, but they must shrivel to the fake sound of progress and become a vestige of the past. Brexit is the childish fear of change embellished by the subcutanean jingoism that riddles the British psyche and is perpetuated by its education system. Splendid isolationist Britain went it alone before, it can do it again. None of that kowtowing to unelected Brussels, we have our own laughably undemocratic philistines to obey. Take back control, give our sovereignty back to someone else!
It’s here that several points of view conflate. Who voted for Brexit? There are obviously a few core groups. By far the largest I would maintain is made up by the Thickies, Brexit’s rank and file. Before you start, yes, there’s a whiff of condescension on your retinas. These are people who lose out during every economic hiccough, and have done significantly badly since the last singularly spectacular singultus. Meanwhile they devour mendacious tabloid headlines and have neither the time, the inclination nor the wherewithal to really inform themselves. For them, the EU bogeyman is responsible for all the woes that could fairly be placed at the British government’s feet.
Were it not for that amorphous mass of malleable mammothrepts, Project Brexit would never have gotten off the ground. But useful idiots can easily be manipulated into nayvoting, rallied by the Reactionaries and roused by the Cynics. The former are the classic Tories of yore, the true believers still sore about the ’45, who genuinely believe that the ‘great’ in Great Britain is synonymous with ‘excellent’ rather than ‘large’. The latter are harder to distinguish, except that they couldn’t care less about the political outcome, as long as their hunger for self-importance is slaked. Economically they’ll do just fine thank you very much; in fact the greater the upheaval, the better the opportunities.
What the People Want
The soup is rather clouded by the cynicism in the recipe. The Brexit referendum was advisory, but is being treated as a binding mandate; the people most directly affected by the decision – EU nationals in Britain, as well as many British nationals in the EU – were excluded from the vote; the result was not statistically significant. The classic argument from the hardliners is that whatever deal is proposed or muted, it’s not ‘what the people want’. Which is just a petulant way of saying it’s not ‘what I want’. Otherwise such paragons of democracy couldn’t give two figs for what ‘the people’ want. Assisted dying? The legalisation of cannabis? A reformed House of Lords? More money for the NHS? Nuclear disarmament? No, no, no, ‘the people’ don’t know their own minds! But backing out on Brexit would be a betrayal.
We’re told Brexit is all about money and sovereignty. £350 million per week which could be spent on the NHS, if it weren’t for foreign intervention. To say nothing of £900 million per week spent at the behest of Brussels… oh wait, that’s NATO’s 2% guideline. Brexiteer politicians remain curiously silent when it comes to fawning to demands from another organisation with its headquarters in the Belgian capital. Hell, Britain’s about one of the only sodding states to pull its weight on that particular demand. Presumably because the table-bashing comes indirectly from Washington and is only routed through Brussels? Gotta keep that special relationship sweet, or sugar daddy might start looking elsewhere.
What the People Will Get
Ever so occasionally I’m lured into believing, however briefly, that May is playing a delicious sleight of political grandmastery, a glorious symphony of subterfuge to bring Project Brexit crashing back to the status quo. Or it may be that May be taking an even longer look at history than Braudel, and hoping to see Britain reapply for membership under normalised terms. Then I remember her professional career and realise I’m daydreaming. And so is she.
Brexit will not be a disaster. It’ll bring plenty of setbacks and hardships, cause difficulties and unnecessary stress for millions of people, flow tears as businesses go belly-up and families are faced with extremely hard decisions. But it won’t be a disaster. Like the linear model of radiation poisoning, the few million microsieverts from the Brexit fallout will seed plenty of cancerous harm throughout the population, but the seismograph will barely waver. When London’s streets are packed with protesters on 20 October, nothing will change except that perhaps another generation will be disillusioned with our sham democracy.
Brexit is liable to end without a deal. Britain will spend some years catching up to where it was, while with any luck the rest of the EU just bloody gets on with it. The aftershocks in Britain may cause some fault lines to crack, with Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar likely candidates for a realignment. Some years ago I’d have burned the big fish in the SNP at the stake for high treason; now I’d be willing to fund their next kickstarter for independence. And then burn them.
What the People Deserve
The Brexit beans are out of the tin now, and tensions are too high to solve it without sparks flying. While many just want it to be over, the shadow is likely to hang over the nation for a while whatever happens. Perhaps the die-hards can all be rounded up and sent somewhere to settle their differences. Naseby perhaps?
Otherwise it’s time to move the democratic experiment up a notch. When more than 60 million people can cast their votes for an unelectable dunce, people are clearly crying out for an end to the
suffering suffrage. Voting rights should be limited to the likes of th’X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. Before that, Britain’s political landscape could use some topiary work. We should find the time machine Jacob Reese’s Moggie fell into and send him back to the early 18th century where he belongs. Boris John’s son should be reverse expatriated and forced to resume his Americanhood. Meanwhile Theresa Mayday should be given a brain and a conscience and sent on a package holiday to a place with lots of cornfields so she can let her hair down.
But enough ranting, it’s a waste of good vitriol. I’ve some naturalisation papers to fill out.
[Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash]