Strange Times: A Personal Reflection

These are surely strange revulsive times.

If there ever were before, there are no safe assumptions to make now. Because the assumed solid ground of shared meaning has become a squelching phenomenological quicksand.

The change manifests in scenes otherwise fundamental to family life: I cannot sit easily in a room with some erstwhile loved ones – without knowing that there has been a shift that dislocates. For either there is contrived avoidance of any mention of the European Union or of the refugee crisis or of the tanking of the pound or of a certain court case, or there is fighting and screaming and a visceral incomprehension and hating.

They are patently, obviously, and with self-proclaimed certainty, the same as they have ever been. It’s just that their xenophobia and racism and fear of the other and innate wall-building nationalism have been given a visibility, a vehicle and a mainstream voice.  And I am really seeing them now.

We have not had this conversation before. I say to myself that’s because the need had never arisen.

But I know – and I am willing myself to be honest here, though it doesn’t reflect well on me – that it’s because I didn’t want to examine the racism of family or friends. Or the reactionary and parochial insularity. I didn’t want to be repelled by my own kin. These kind folk. People who would sacrifice their lives for their family. But who are filled with an ugly unthinking suspicion; who blithely buy into the Brexit myths and are filled with a race-fear big as a murderous and bloody stain. Where is the congruence there? Can I love the man yet hate the sin?

So, yes, I feel as though I am living in a revulsive time.

A time, apparently, for the smashing of shibboleths.

A tearing of the veil. And with it, the revelation that the veil was made by the Emperor’s new weavers anyway.

I thought I’d understood the rules. I’ve worked hard to comprehend this worldview I’ve inhabited for so long. But it turns out I’ve been viewing the world through a kaleidoscope – and it has just been twisted.

I suppose, if you consider the past 30 years, there’s a certain inevitability about where we are now as a country.

It is closely aligned to the curse of being an island nation (and however disunited we may be, we share this much: that we inhabit an island) that our default outlook is that of the most superior of islander nations. It’s the island mentality that jet-propelled the overwhelming sense of superior nationhood that created the Empire. We islanders feel no real sense of connection to mainlanders and therefore no real sense of obligation to get along. But we do feel different – different better. We are not team-players. Though we will always be happy to lead. 

So we see WWs I and II as our victories. Victories against those folk over there. We’ve been fed a jingoistic tabloid diet of comprehensive British superiority. Superiority to cheese-eating surrender monkeys and the fascist hun and to petty regulations and rules made by unelected civil servants. Our writers (though only those solely English writers) are vastly superior to the legions of those who (otherwise lauded) write in languages that are not English. Our constitution (entirely unwritten and a shambolic mess) is held up as a global beacon of democratic light. Our Monarchy is preferred to those dodgy foreign alternatives of Republic and Presidency. Our utterly risible voting system praised for its delivery of ‘strong government’. Our power and might – as evidenced by our superior military is paraded abroad on foreign soil and in arms sales. And witness our extraordinary (all the more so because it is innate) sense of decency that means we don’t need a Bill of Rights – in fact, any human rights at all. We still refer to Nelson and Trafalgar, for fuck sake!

The devolution-design that was delivered following pressure from member nations prepared the ground for increasing tension within ‘the Kingdom’. There was the short-sighted arrogance that rejected a Federal structure and preferred devolved ‘administrations’ (dismissed derogatively as Toon Cooncils) – with Westminister perceived by the English as their Parliament but with UK-wide bolt-ons. This ensured there would be grumblings when Northern Irish or Welsh or Scottish MPs voted on matters that were (at least in direct effect if not in financial impact) English matters. And when the centre doled out the cash.

Cameron and Osborne’s ideological pursuit of economic austerity – designed to undermine the welfare state and to prepare the ground for privatisation of those public services so far held to be sacrosanct (NHS) – heightened social tensions and increased the sense of (largely white and predominantly working class) indigenous grievance. This grievance was fanned by the anti-EU authoritarian right-wingers from UKIP (UK Independence Party) – who followed the usual authoritarian right wing model of ‘blame it on the immigrant’ whilst at the same time capitalising on the power vacuum created by the meltdown of the centre (Liberal Democrats) and left (Labour).

As UKIP began to pose an increasingly credible (but primarily very English) electoral threat – directly threatening the Conservatives in their Southern English heartlands – the formerly maverick and formerly sidelined fringe nutters amongst the Tories seized their opportunity and began to foment trouble.

Anomalous and incongruent (in the context of ‘strong government’ and first past the post UK) Coalition government had stretched the thin skin of British democracy to its limits. Believing they could not hold their party together or win a General Election without pacifying their rabid right wing, Cameron et al decided they would put party over country by pledging to hold a Referendum on EU membership.

Cue the massed reactionary forces of the far right British press. Cue the populist calls to ‘take your country back’. The mawkish ‘queen and country’ sentimentality. The backward-looking invocation of Empire and Greatness.

And then cue the attacks. Attacks on immigrants and those perceived to be immigrants. Attacks on folk heard speaking another language. Attacks that resulted in deaths. Cue the islamophobia and the linking of EU-exit to an increased ability to protect ourselves against islamist terrorists – terrorists who were seen on every street. Cue the denigration of anyone daring to question or challenge the received right wing orthodoxy that the EU was the evil empire or that foreigners were the problem. Denouncements range from cries of ‘Traitor’ to ‘Enemies of the People’ and are then followed up by threats of violence and then of real death (think Jo Cox MP; think Arkadiusz Jóźwik).

Yesterday we reached a fresh new nadir with the death threats against those who had dared to take their cause to Court and against those judges who had found in the plaintiffs’ favour. And yet the heinous attacks on the legitimate judgement of our independent Judiciary have found tacit support in both formal governmental silence – and off the record succour and support.

There is nothing good will come of where we are. Some principled folk still exist – but begin to deselect themselves and soon their voices will be lost. I may not agree with the position he took during the EU Referendum but Steven Phillips – a Brexiter by virtue of his belief that the EU undermined ‘Parliamentary sovereignty’ – resigned yesterday because he no longer wanted to be associated with what ‘Tory’ was rapidly coming to signify. The rest are just too power hungry and status driven to rock that boat – and they will keep their mouths shut while their formerly extremist (and in the cases of some, formerly discredited and allegedly corrupt) sidelined colleagues become the new mainstream political norm.

Labour, having disintegrated as a credible and effective political force in the aftermath of internal disruption and external media propaganda and the LibDems having borne the blame for perceived Coalition failures both remain completely neutered as a political force. If they don’t completely split, it’ll be a decade at least before Labour become electable again – and the LibDems are an irrelevance.

No comfort can be derived from the current Labour Party and their embrace of Brexit. I suspect their MPs will ultimately (regardless of latest flip-flopping from Corbyn regarding voting down Art 50) be whipped into voting with the government – for fear of pissing off even further the folk they previously took for granted as their core vote. Anyone who was working class could have told them that there was a rich and fertile seam of xenophobia that could be mined amongst their own class – but there’s so many layers of failure on Labour’s side, not least that they have made too many assumptions and latterly wouldn’t know a working class voter supposing they’d to identify themselves.

And then there’s the global patterns to be discerned.

Hungary; Turkey; Poland; the US… dominoes falling to the hard authoritarian right.

Erdogan is a dictator. Brutally suppressing dissent. Then we have Victor ‘migrants are poison’ Orban fomenting EU divisions with his far right anti-abortionist hardline conservative Polish pal Kaczynski and the Czech Republic’s Sobotka (egged on by the hassle his former ‘socialist’ (aye right) President pal Zeman has caused him domestically.

And then we have Trump – the ‘weaselheaded fucknugget’; ‘witless fucking cocksplatt’; ‘touped fucktrumpet’; ‘tiny-fingered, cheeto-faced, ferret-wearing shitgibbon’; ‘bloviating fleshbag’ …(ah jeez we Scots have a glorious way with words).

Trump.

What to say.

Maybe only this: that he is reprehensible but that the people managing his campaign and providing support and endorsing this monster – they are even worse. And that I think the man will win.

I am frightened.

I am afraid that no good can come of any of this. That whilst power for power’s sake is the sole motivation for the sickening lot of politicians who strut the national and global stage then the shift will be ever more to the political right. And that whilst our media here in the UK is a conduit for hardline English nationalism and for racism and xenophobia and hate speech, then we are being propelled fast towards the breakdown in democracy itself.

So whilst May and her current bloviating Brexiter Ministers and her tabloid paymasters fan the flames of xenophobia and hate they create a monster that is likely to overwhelm and destroy even them.

We cannot turn the other cheek. We cannot simply hide behind our own front doors. To do nothing is a choice. It is not a good choice. To do nothing is to collude – it is to be guilty ‘art and part’.

And part of that fight back must be the naming of the enemy – identification and then analysis of what must be repelled.

Part of that fightback is the calm challenge of the dearest of family and friends – the refusal to accept ugly, lazy thinking and repetition of tabloid propaganda – the facing up of the ‘enemy’ in the eyes of the people you love.

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14 thoughts on “Strange Times: A Personal Reflection

  1. Well that’s one helluva start to my Sunday. It made the fact that my central heating had stopped working on this gale and squall ridden Sunday morning seem a complete triviality. Why? Because almost every comfort that we have in what we consider to be our safe, secure first-world bubble is a triviality compared with underlying destruction of a social fabric that could occur (perhaps is already occurring) by the rifts in our society. Of course we have always had rifts but it seems to me that in the last couple of centuries it has been relatively simple: in very broad terms socialism versus capitalism. ‘We’ had an Empire (and all four countries within the UK played a very large part in establishing and maintaining that Empire) that brought us all wealth (in varying degrees admittedly) and ‘greatness’.

    All that is now changing. Empire has gone as all empires go. We have become a nation where all but the very very poorest have more than the vast majority of the world’s population. The vast majority have so much more. A young journalist who was born 100 yards from where I’m sitting and who is married to an American and lives in that country wrote a couple of days ago “Hailing from a country where national health care, paid maternity leave, and legally mandated time off from work is the norm, my political views in a country with none of these safeguards are already considered extreme – hence why I tend to shy away from political conversations!”. That echoed similar comments from an American friend staying with me recently.

    The relevance of this? We are afraid. We have good cause to be afraid. But we are afraid for the wrong reasons. Nationalism and xenophobia are not a way out of a potentially spiralling economic decline. For a country in our situation they are a way of ensuring that it happens. We cannot conquer for our economic power any more so we must cooperate.

    Without that economic power our precious NHS and welfare systems will once more become dreams. Without those who will do the jobs we shun or who are young and economically active, those of us who are unable to work, those of us who are old, those of us who are ill will perish. It will not matter whether we are Scots, English, Welsh, Irish, black, white or any other nationality, colour, or creed.

    I have spent the last few days defending the independence of the judiciary and trying to explain the situation to intelligent people of all political persuasions but no one is listening. The voices of reason are being swept away by the tide of extremism. The irony is that most people I speak to think that the only extremists are those with opposing views.

    PS I’ve had the devil’s own job trying to get WordPress to recognise me and post this comment. What is it with WordPress?

    • Easiest to address your ps first: I regretted moving to wordpress almost as soon as I’d done it – maybe I need to upsticks again…
      As for the main body of your comment = Ah jeez GB – everything you say I agree with. And your last paragraph parallels my own experience. Voices of reason are being swept away. People seem to prefer lies – because they say what they want to hear – as opposed to engaging calmly and constructively with the facts of a situation – witness the latest ‘assassination’ attempt on Trump – by a registered Republican who was carrying no other ‘weapon’ but a bit of cardboard on a small stick. 😦

      • I popped back this evening to see if there were any more comments because there was no box this morning to ask to be notified. Oddly there is now. And I received a notification a little while ago saying the FBI confirm nothing criminal in Clinton emails. People are praying on TV thanking God for saying Trump so he gets a plus out of that and the damage has already been done to Clinton.

  2. Ach woman “When you hear of wars and rumours of wars look up for your salvation is near…” though the word near is unclear!
    Thanks to reading this last night I failed to sleep! However I am back on track now. These things are not as bad as they look, they are worse! Worry not, there is more danger on the roads.
    As the Hicks toddle towards the voting booths we always know they will pick the stupidest, Regan, Dubya and now probably Trump, a downward spiral with Putin controlling this one! Oh Joy!
    I live among the UKIP lot, they almost knocked out the Tory last time, fear of immigrants being the greatest fear because we don’t have any and the Daily Mail is full of them!
    May taking her party to the centre ground (centre of what?) is a laugh but that’s what Tories do.
    fear not, one day it will all come right, and you and I will hopefully miss the worst.
    Family squabbles, no change there, that’s normal and so are you sweet thing.
    Worry not.

  3. The times they are a’strangin.

    My family is full of unabashed fascistone. I’ve grown up loving the sinner and hating the sin, and the only way to do that is, as you say, calm challenge. It has given me a rather intimate relationship with fascism, and its roots, and its potting soil, and you know, I’m not as worried about how we wiggle out from under all this 2016 bullshit as maybe I should be. I’m still scared. But things are still better than they used to be, socially and politically speaking, and they will keep getting better. Take Labour’s complete meltdown: it’s symptomatic of a Tony Blair now being impossible. That’s an improvement. If Labour can pull itself together in the next year or so with someone who can actually *talk* at the helm, the world is a willing oyster . . .

    Anyways I’m gonna drop the Pollyannaish shtick if Trump is president tomorrow, but I don’t think he will be. Not only hope not, but don’t think. I hope I’m right.

      • I watched it all unfold last night. I couldn’t shake the bad feeling but I didn’t want to be right. Don’t know about fucking you – think we are all pretty much fucked. Bye bye Nato/the Iran Nuclear Deal and hello Putin’s new lebensraum and a big leg up for every nasty right wing authoritarian leader from Duterte to Erdogan to the Le Pens. Oh jeez. Fucking fuckety fuck fuck.
        I suppose the choice for us is: political activism or nihilistic hedonism.
        I’m currently preferring nihilistic hedonism.
        Btw I am pretty sure that Putin and Russia engineered this. I think there’s Trump Campaign financing scandals that’ll rattle out at some point in the future (when it suits someone or other).

  4. Since I reckon the only good thing about what just happened is that people are going to get a forcible education in who their real enemies are now that they’ve given them the keys to the Ferrari, I choose activism.

    (Don’t know what I’d do with hedonism anyways. I have all the cock I want at home and few dreams of creature comfort outside of smoking weed and watching Game of Thrones, which only takes up about 10 hours a year)

    • Hahahaha. Trust you to think cock – you made me pee myself there (have five kids and ignore your kegels and you’ll know why 😀 ). My first thought (after my real first thought that I’d just be better calling it a day) was: drink, drugs and just rip the arse out of it.
      I’ll be back on the activism tomorrow.
      I’ll shake the demoralisation and harness the rage. Because I am so so fucking raging and I’ll need to do something constructive with it, else I’ll likely kill a family member (I’ve one in mind after today).
      Anyway that tiny-fingered-cheeto-faced-ferret-wearing-shitgibbon fucking wasted my graduation today. Cannot believe I picked up the certificate and ponced about in an academic procession on the day that the waste of cocksplatt ascended the throne. Made it all feel what it was: fiddling whilst the world burns.

  5. Ach dinna fash yersel ower Trump.
    It’s the prices in the supermarkets that you need to watch, and when crossing the road.
    Worry about Motherwell’s relegation, that’s near…

    • Relegation??? Never!

      Have to say I’m not shocked that Trump won. Disgusted that so many would find themselves able to elect him. But I think Brexit hardened me to the type of incredulity so many have expressed.

      The irony? That he’s (allegedly) an economic conservative who will use the government to stimulate the economy -so not so far away from my own position. In some of that he sounds like a socialist… but of course it’s also the very strategy Hitler used to stimulate (successfully) Germany’s economy…

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