I know how I react to upsets – especially political or social ones. I normally get angry, sound off then calm down and begin to see both sides. But not this time, not with this referendum vote.
This time I’m still wandering around the house in a daze singing ‘All you fascists are bound to lose’, furious at the way our country has been allowed to be destroyed by a weak and inept prime minister unable to stand firm against his own right wing compatriots.However, it is not just the future of our own country that has been put in jeopardy but that of Europe and, concomitant with that, the stability of the entire world.
This vote to leave the European Union is a total and unmitigated disaster that should never have been allowed to happen. What has been done in our name is just plain evil. Evil, a word I don’t bandy around lightly. In this case it is justified as part of a wholesale destruction of the values a great number of us grew up with and hold extremely dear, values which have shaped our lives and are part of our cultural and societal DNA. Values of tolerance, inclusiveness, openness, generosity. Values which care about not just ourselves, our families, our homes, our neighbourhoods our regions and out nations but are extended outwards to encompass all people everywhere and also to all the species we share this planet with.
Today we have seen Britain fracture along many different fault lines, some of which were already extant but all of which have been exasperated by this whole referendum debacle, this car crash debate, this national suicide. The country is deeply divided now – young versus old, poor versus monied, Scotland and Northern Ireland versus England with the political elites making capital out of the misfortune that will be inflicted on most of the rest of us. There are those who are arguing that now is the time for us to bury our differences and work together. I disagree. Now is the time to let the country rot, fall apart, join its place with the third world economies. For what it has just done this England does not deserve to be part of Great Britain, does not deserve to be part of the main stage of world powers, does not deserve to be looked up to by any other country or people. Because we have rejected the needs of the rest of the world, rejected the wisdom of virtually every world leader and voted for an insular ‘me first, second and last’ mentality that does not warrant any special attention from any other nation in the world. Since the Second World War we have been an obviously broken and needy land, revelling in past glories with no thought for what an inclusive, globalised future might mean. And so we have let our industry, out innovation, our virtue be leached away by other nations who have seen and seized the opportunities to grow in wealth, health and ability. We are far too weedy and needy to survive on our own. We needed the European Union to give us a collective strength and bargaining power and it gave us much more than that. And none of this needed to have happened.
The fault for this pretty pass lies in many hands. It lies with the Lib Dems for propping up a weak prime minister. It lies with David Cameron for not being able to cope with UKIP and the country’s lurch to the right. It lies with Boris Johnson for playing with our lives and livelihoods as well as the peace and prosperity of Europe for his own political gain. It lies with the Government for pressing ahead with a referendum on an issue far too complex and important to be decided in such a simplistic way. It lies with every hectoring politician for scaring us with visions of the unknown. It lies with every one of us who believed that the UK should remain in Europe but weren’t able to show that tolerance, inclusiveness and a global future were more important than selfishness and greed. It lies with an education system too hard pressed and damaged to teach people to see beyond the rhetoric of self-interest. It lies with every single person who, despite all the evidence to the contrary given by the brightest and best in the world, felt that leave was actually a genuine option. And possibly, just possibly it lies with the EU for not being flexible enough and open enough about its activities and its future plans.
All this leaves us without a true democracy trapped between the blind primal rage of the rabble and the machinations of an increasingly rarefied political elite whose wealth and tight social circles inure them against the needs and problems of most of the rest of us. It leaves us with an economy in free fall, with no real infrastructure of manufacturing or industry from which we can grow again, with minimal ownership of our own utilities and not even able to feed ourselves without vast quantities of imports. We are dependent on the rest of the world for just about everything we feel is important in life and we have just thrown away our chief bargaining power. We have a weak opposition and a government that is steadily dismantling every aspect of our common life together, including the NHS. Without the ameliorating presence of the EU we have a government with minimal accountability who can now reverse all the hard won employment rights and environmental safeguards that have made such a positive difference to our standard of living over the past forty years.
Then, after all that, we are still left with the two biggest issues of all which are the greatest threats to not just the future of humanity but to the entire ecosystem of this planet – a the overarching system of capitalism that is predicated on constantly growing supply and demand and an ever-increasing population. Both are quickly becoming unsustainable. Neither is being seriously tackled by world governments and we have just stepped away from being part of an organisation large enough to have made a difference. Immigration is part of the bigger population issue. There are just too many people. They have to live somewhere but nowhere is big enough to deal with them. And of course if we back wars which destroy their lands and livelihoods people are bound to want to leave and we have an obligation to be part of the solution, to be open and welcoming.
What this leave vote has done is expose our own weaknesses and self-deceptions. We have shown Britain up as a hectoring bully. But whereas before it was a bully with gunboats, industry and territory now it is a toothless and weedy playground pugilist who will use any possible tactic to spoil life for everyone else. We have shown ourselves to be perpetually living in an impossibly rosy past that never actually existed. We have proved that we know nothing about neighbourliness and living as part of a community. We have proved ourselves to be utterly insular and devoid of any greater vision for humanity. We have decided that we don’t want to be equal with the rest of Europe, we want to be much lesser, with little influence and little to offer. We have decided to jeopardise the peace of Europe for our own intangible gain. We have decided that we don’t need Scotland, that what our children wish for the nation doesn’t matter and that it is more important that we can pretend that we have ‘got our sovereignty back’ while ignoring the immense power big businesses still have over nearly every aspect of our lives.
In short, we have lost everything and gained nothing. We are once more the sick man of Europe but this time we have closed the door on any chance of help from our neighbours.