If the Mo(u)rning-After-The-Referendum was Britain’s Woe-Is-Us-Tis-The-End-of-Days-Verily-I-Must-Beat-My-Breast, then Wednesday Nov 9, 2016 was clearly America’s.
Predictably, (my) social media timelines weighed-in with the usual relentless bleating-and-railing, busily finding fresh self-validating ways of shouting ‘We’re Fucked!’. Yes, if Brexit was the warm-up then the US-Day After-The-Night-Before was, without question, the Very Worst Day of Our Lives upper-case Headliner.
Yet I imagine Trump is just as (if not more) astonished than we are that he is the POTUS. And if the Leader of the Free World Elect survives a sniper between now and January, he will almost certainly be spending the next two months on some sort of How-To-Look-A-Lot-Like-If-Not-Actually-Be-The-President crash-course given by actual proper Republicans and actual proper politicians. Come the inauguration (having already speedily co-opted Hillary’s ‘better together’ campaign narrative in his first post-poll speech), the US will expect him to sound 100 per cent like The Voice of F*****g Reason. Of course he isn’t—but rest assured that (peculiarly humbled by his own ascent; recognising that he’s already punched well above his weight while gold-plating his CV beyond his wildest dreams) Trump will assume a public mantle of faux-Statesmanship and, behind the scenes, pretty much do as he’s told from now on. So I figure there will be four years of House of Cards spoilers and then the US will have the opportunity to get rid (or not; their call).
Meantime, I see opportunity.
I was, for my sins, a Lexiteer (for more on this, scroll down the page). When I stuck my head above the parapet on facebook, prior to the Referendum, I was (naively) completely astounded by the vitriol it attracted. I genuinely had no idea that anybody (other than perhaps those closest to me) gave a monkey’s about how I might choose to cast my vote/s. I was also pretty surprised by the fact that nearly everybody I was ‘friends’ with (there were, literally, only a couple of exceptions) was a left-winger voting Remain. Statistically, if not actually, some of them were probably lying. In fact, some later, privately, admitted as much (it’s OK, your secret’s safe with me…).
Anyway, it was eye-opening to be accused of (among other things) racism, sheer all-round wanton ignorance and stupidity and (single-handedly, by all accounts) destroying my own children’s future; lots of exciting new stuff to add to an already cluttered emotional CV. Fortunately, at 52, I have a reasonably well-developed sense of who I really am, so, y’know, whatever.
And (perhaps naively) I also trust that nobody reading this will lazily conflate my Lexit position with being pro-Trump; he is a ghastly human being and his victory filled me with gloom, blah-blah, etc etc… however, I didn’t join the Oh-Woe-Is masses flagging up their righteousness on social media because a) actually nobody really gives a shit about what I think of Trump, and, b) I am bored by social media/old media’s echo-chamber. In fact I firmly believe that it was partly this deafness and complacency — the culture of ‘I say what you like and you ‘like’ what I say’ — that did for Hillary, not the actions of all those mysterious 'Others' and/or an angry-white-working-class Rust Belt uprising. The post-poll stats already reveal that white middle-class middle-American SUV-driving ‘soccer moms’ voted in their droves for Trump. So, what’s that all about?
So. Whenever difficult changes have been forced upon me I have tended to either miserably succumb, broken and browbeaten — or have cried-and-kicked and railed-and-ranted, trying to make those in opposition not only see my point of view but also endorse it.
Happily, however, I have finally recognised that neither of these is a good recipe for a life well-lived. These days, instead of fight-or-flight, I try hard to stay still, look around, listen closely and… draw my own conclusions, not yours. (And then, invariably, I write them down.... Old habits, etc).
I find that by slowly inching further away from media, social or otherwise, the conclusions I draw are generally pretty straightforward and easily acquired: that everything is historically cyclical and usually reactive; that the sins of the parents are inevitably visited on their sons and daughters; that anger is (to coin J. Rotten Esq) an energy —albeit one I’d rather step away from right now if I can (anyone who knows me well also knows that I’m often angry, so this is very much a work in progress). Finally (and most importantly), I know that the process of change — whether it is an evolution warmly embraced or one forced upon us reluctantly — brings about powerful insights, long-term growth and great emotional gains. In the case of the US election, however, the emphasis is necessarily on 'long-term'; out of the dark, into the light… eventually.
So it’s not happening for a while — and almost certainly not without a great deal of pain, en-route. However it is my unshakeably firm belief that this climate [of] change is essential. The current political system is clearly broken and the paradigm is shifting in ways we cannot yet fully understand and from which, therefore (and in true homo-sapiens style, entirely understandably), we shy away, in fear. If, however, you believe that fear begat this election result then surely fighting that fear with more fearful angry fire is, at best, a waste of energy — at worst, well… you’re smart, you can work it out.
So, why do I feel this way? Well, here's some context (and indulging in stuff which would be cut by an editor is one of the pleasures of blogging!): in the very early 1990s, I was chronically ill and bedridden with M.E, thoroughly miserable and despairing of ever getting my life back. At which point I was fortunate enough to stumble across Susan Sontag’s ‘AIDS and Its Metaphors’. I didn’t have AIDS, of course, but nonetheless reading this book changed my life. For the uninitiated, here’s the description I’ve lifted from the book’s Wiki:
Sontag defines metaphors as "giving the thing a name that belongs to something else", and notes that they have been used throughout history to discuss the body, illness, and health. When it was discovered that illnesses were caused by pathogens, the associated metaphors took on a military flair, and military metaphors have since come to dominate the way we talk about medical situations. There are "immunological defenses" and "aggressive" medicine, and the "efforts to reduce mortality from a given disease are called a fight... a war".Sontag claims that these military terms are a factor in the stigmatizing of certain illnesses and those who are suffering from them. She explains that "the metaphors and the myths, I was convinced, kill".
It was at this point that I started to ‘own’ my baffling and difficult (if not, thank-your-metaphorical-god terminal) illness by refusing to claim ‘victim’ status or accept that it had been randomly visited upon unlucky-little-old-me. And then I actually started to recover — and not by ‘fighting’ the ‘invader’.
So I got better, eventually, reclaimed my life (walking straight into the editorship of a glossy magazine) and have quietly embraced this philosophy for dealing with unwelcome life-changes ever since. Sometimes, admittedly, I’ve been self-sabotagingly slow out-of-the-blocks. I was, for example, looking in entirely the wrong direction for guidance at the time of the breakdown of my brief marriage in the late 1990s so it took far longer for me to see the positive lessons and potential for growth in that situation.
Anyway, by extrapolating this idea of unwelcome 'invasion' by an alien ‘other’, I figure that railing against Trump as though he were a sickness that has somehow cruelly and unneccesarily been visited upon The Good People, body and soul, uninvited, is to entirely miss the opportunity his apparently-random transmogrification as President now represents. If he really is just a bad dream-cum-Ghost of Christmas Past who you gonna call? Trumpbusters?
Instead, in order to cope with the shit-storm (and I suspect it’s still early days, shit-storm-wise) maybe we can collectively avoid staring too deeply into social media’s black mirror; maybe we can plug our ears to the echo-chamber of public self-righteousness? Maybe we should save all our instabooks for kittens and kids, sunsets and soups...
And, maybe, while those around us shout ever-louder that 'The End Is Nigh' we can acknowledge that their fear is infectious but need not be terminal, so let’s walk on by, holding hands with the ones we love and who love us, keeping our heads down and our hearts in the right place and remembering — today of all days — that ‘there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in...’.
PS here's a timely and very subtle reminder of why 'proper journalism' still matters — read the article to the end for the context — and, of course, why social media's echo-chamber can never be a trusted source when it comes to disseminating *truth*... http://time.com/4566547/white-house-obama-staffers-donald-trump/
I went to bed at about 3am, believing that when London was called, Remain would just edge to victory — but that meanwhile it looked pretty positive for Leave.
My partner (not a man who stays up watching elections, but one who had voted Remain) was long since asleep, and I’d given up on Twitter because there were apparently only two people I knew on my entire timeline who were Brexit (Toby Young and Allison Pearson, for the record). Meanwhile, everybody else — LITERALLY EVERYBODY — (including Lindsay Lohan —‘WTF?!’ cried the Nation, united briefly as One— who appeared to have hacked her own account) was in the midst of some hysterical breast-beating and garment-rending. Amid the collective cries from Remainers of ‘WE’RE BASICALLY FUCKED & LIVING IN A COUNTRY OF FUCKTARDS. FUCK THE LOT OF THEM!’ I couldn’t find any voices among the people I know (many of whom I actually love) that I remotely recognised. Aside from that tricky fortnight in the Priory in 1998, I can’t recall feeling this lonely, ever.
Anyway, millions of people (among, thrillingly, the 72 per cent of the electorate who had turned out to vote; a cause for celebration in itself, surely?) had, like me, clearly voted Leave. Nonetheless:
a) I didn’t appear to know many of them (actually, if I included those who’d bravely ‘come out’ on facebook I knew precisely six — and none within wine-sharing distance).
b) It was statistically impossible that every single Leave was a swivel-eyed fascist loon dribbling a pint of ale down their Union Flag wife-beater while raising their other arm in a Nazi salute.
c) And that was just the women.
d) Now, I’m not great at maths but I went over the voting turnout figures, and… no, that definitely wasn’t possible, if only because me and my six mates weren’t swivel-eyed fascist loons dribbling pints of ale down the front of our Union Flag wife-beaters while raising our other arm in a Nazi salute. Etc.
e) So, anyway, having done the maths and found it very much wanting, I could only assume there had been some sort of mad Group Think-Zombie Apocalypse; that all the hitherto perfectly sane, left-wing-ish, middle class-ish people I knew — PEOPLE LIKE ME! — had been bitten by something very bad and were now bonkersly frothing and bilious while democracy took its course.
I failed to understand this and didn’t know who talk to.
At 1.30am-ish, I tried tweeting/texting a few mates, stating my position, and was completely ignored. Presumably they were stunned to learn that I hadn’t got the memo: That IN was for WINNERS like US and OUT was only for the SWIVEL-EYED FUCKTARDS.
The self-righteousness was astounding, the relentless ‘ME-ME-ME-OVER HERE LOOK I'M WEARING MY STARS ON MY SLEEVE AND I’M A GOOD PERSON!’ shout-outs not only became increasingly and wearingly predictable but were entirely disrespectful of the (whisper it… oh, OK, don’t whisper it…) MAJORITY of voters, who clearly did not agree.
I was astounded that even very intelligent people appeared to Carry On Conflating the idea of DISLIKING THE E.U. (see my previous post below for more on this) with, basically, BEING A MEMBER OF UKIP.
FFS, really? As if that were even statistically possible?
It was clear (if only to me) that many Labour voters were expressing their dissatisfaction with their Party and its leader and that as a result the LEAVE soup had evolved into a recipe no-one expected to be served. This hunch had been backed up earlier in the week when someone very close to the Boss Class of the Labour Party confessed to me, ‘I know a LOT of Lexiteers who are keeping very quiet.’
So, in fact, it wasn’t that (virtually) EVERY SINGLE PERSON I KNEW was Remain (tho’ most of those close to me were/are: My stepson actually turned 18 yesterday and was proud that his first vote was Remain; My partner voted Remain; My 13 year old son — whose father was Remain — asked me ‘but why wouldn’t you vote Remain?!’ And on, and on...), it was the fact that the people I knew who were Leave were clearly keeping very schtum for fear of being branded #RacistFucktards, presumably.
Happily, I am comfortable in the utter certainty that I am not, never have been and indeed never will be a #RacistFucktard and therefore I had no qualms about coming over all Brexity. Was that complacent of me? I don’t think so.
I went to bed, then, and was woken a few hours later by my partner bearing coffee and saying ‘well, we’re Out. Bloody racists! I hope you’re happy!’
Still, the coffee was nice.
And when I turned on the telly and logged onto social media apparently it was Armageddon meets-28 Days Later: The world was broken and we, the SWIVEL-EYED LEAVE-VOTING FUCKTARDS, had completely broken it, selfishly destroying the future of our own children as we did so, blah blah.
I was invited to unfriend my friends (‘If you voted Leave just GO NOW!’). I saw one of my few Brexity mates being roundly abused by one of her friends on her own facebook timeline: ‘I am defriending you forthwith. Today is an appalling event in our country's history and you helped it happen. Despise is not strong enough a word.’
What an unbelievable load of self-righteous horseshit! And all because 52 per cent of the electorate think it’s probably best to unchain Britain from an outmoded, unwieldy, unaccountable bureaucracy? Are you all demented, you REMAINING HALFWITS? (Yeah, see what bullying does to you? Yes — it turns you into a BULLY!) Do you entirely lack the imagination and foresight to see that we will, after a bump or two while you get your heads round it, be fundamentally fine? No-one’s banning croissants, ffs. Or stopping you watching the next series of ‘Disparue’ (please let them make another one).
OK, I grant you, there’s plenty of space inside that 52 per cent for the SWIVEL-OF-EYE. And it’s not wholly marvellous to be tarred by the brush-of-Farage. I wrestled with it (see below) but then found a way through because I know that we’re better off out of the mess, and our kids will be better off out of it too, and the whole glorious process has booted Cameron — whose place in history is as the placeholder around whom change was thrillingly wrought — out of No10. And hopefully Jezza will soon be on his bike, too, and then we can have a proper Opposition, and people will start to re-engage with the politics from which they felt utterly disenfranchised for so long. And the kids voted! And the pound will eventually be steadied because it must — and we creative freelancers will still be paid shit for our skills and sins, and life will go gloriously on…
I haven’t lived in #LondonWorld for eleven years — and my god, surveying the (mostly) Londoners last night and today — all bristle and snark, bite and bark — don’t I know it!
Instead I live in a Brexit town with a (Remain) Tory MP who hitched her wagon to the Cameron-Osborne Pony Express (with the emphasis on pony) and so on a local level it will be interesting seeing how that plays itself out.
June 24, 2016
Note: This article has since been edited, while my 'Remainer' local MP, Amber Rudd, went on to become Home Secretary under Theresa May.
I am not, by nature, a joiner-of-things. I was an only child and I ploughed my own furrow, doggedly, throughout childhood and beyond, so that must have something to do with it. Anyway, whatever: ‘Hello, my name is Kathryn Flett and I am a left-wing Brexiteer’.
With a few thrilling exceptions, virtually all of my friends appear to be righteously vocal Remainers. I have no idea why; numerous exceedingly smart people, for reasons that I can’t quite fathom, are conflating being European with being in the EU. And therefore, presumably, not being In the EU with I dunno — what, precisely? A total fucking Far(r)ag(e)o?
Well, I am clearly no more politically aligned with Farage than I am with Cameron—and there’s the rub; in any EITHER/OR campaign you’re stuffed if you don’t sign up to an IN or OUT line, whatever your party. However I am not swayed by the sloganeering — not even when it is bathed in the arc light of Jo Cox, whose death was surely a single tragic incident rather than an accurate State-of-the-European-Union temperature gauge.
Though a sad waste of a fine life, I had never even heard of Jo Cox prior to last Thursday, when, as the story broke, I was busy being sad at the funeral of somebody I had actually known. So, I cannot recommend too highly stepping away from the emotional tyranny of the #feel-my-pain-now social meedjas, averting your gaze from the ugly UKIP posters and the overwrought garment-rending Commentariat (for everybody is now a Home Alone-with-Facebook leader writer manqué). And, indeed, simply not engaging with the rolling news coverage, the relentlessly panic-stricken Fear Factoids.
And now I’m staring at an email in my inbox from Change.org which says:
‘Earlier this week I wrote to you about my dear friend Jo Cox. I am among a group of her friends working to support her husband Brendan and her family to
make sure her memory has a real and lasting impact. I wanted to tell you about something you can do to help. Later on today, at events from London to Auckland, from Nairobi to New York and from
Beirut to Batley and Spen, thousands of people will pledge to carry forward the legacy of Jo Cox and #LoveLikeJo loved. This afternoon in Trafalgar Square we will ask everyone around the world
celebrating Jo’s life to join hands, raise them to the skies and share your pledges to #LoveLikeJo. And at 4.25pm, we will be observing a minute’s silence.
If you can’t join us in person today will you share this graphic on Facebook and share how you will #LoveLikeJo?'
But I didn’t do any of that because this was intended primarily to make the news bulletins this evening. And just as I’m a bit of a rebel and not much of a joiner, so I don’t want Jo Cox's terrible death to become the Referendum. Today was the birthday of a dead woman — how dare she be turned into a bandwagon.
The thing is, while Cox was clearly an extraordinary person who championed ‘diversity’ and ‘spoke out against hatred and extremism in all its forms’, neither a #hashtag nor a facebook post is going to #SavetheWorld — or (come to that) feed it. And nor is the unwieldy, pro-globalisation, big business-arse-licking legislatively-slap-happy EU. So, y’know, poor Jo.
But back to the future. My clever Remainer friends are passionate about many things. About, perhaps (for eg), eating sustainably and preferring to curate the contents of their fridges from within a fifty mile radius of their homes. They are anti-globalisation and pro-localisation, they are proudly anti-bullying; extremely anti-being-bossed-around, generally speaking, yet also set on nailing their colours to the mast of that great big, creaking, wobbly ship (and when I think of the EU I always think of ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’) — the HMS Completely And Utterly Undemocratic (albeit hold the ‘HMS’).
There is (at least to my mind) absolutely no logic to left-wingers endorsing the anti-democratic bureaucracy that bullied the (left-wing, I seem to recall) Greek government into remaining in the EU, kow-towing and ‘pretty-please’-ing for handouts.
Poor Greece. (So much for the Democracy you invented, eh?).
And as I type, I see I've just received a round-robin email from my local MP, the Tory Amber Rudd, explaining why (despite her coastal and therefore probably pretty Brexit-y, constituency) she’s a Remainer, conceding that…
‘Europe is not without its faults. I am proud to represent a constituency with historic fishing fleets and I know that past Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has been poorly made and damaging for our fishermen. But recent UK-led reforms mean current policy is now the first which is truly fit for purpose – where decision-making has been decentralised to member states. This shows that inside the EU we can make changes in our interests. And, with the development of a Coastal Producer Organisation, local fishermen will be able to control their own quota. There is certainly more progress to be made, including on relative stability. As a leading member of the EU we are best placed to push for this from our seat at the table, not from outside the room with our ear pressed to the door. I would not want to see recent successes and the chance for further reforms jeopardised by a vote to leave…’
And if I were a member of the last beach-launched fishing fleet on the south coast (here in Hastings) and regularly forced to chuck back most of its catch in order to comply with EU quotas, I would probably say ‘sorry, Amber — I’m out of here’. (Though possibly replacing the word ‘sorry’). Amber’s long-term agenda is, it is probably fair to say, entirely aligned with maintaining the status quo and, ironically, if that means rocking actual boats en-route then so be it. If Rudd has her way, the struggling fishermen in the town where I live must count themselves lucky signing up to yet more bureaucracy (and I thought the ‘Coastal Producer Organisation’ was the BBC…), instead of disentangling themselves smartish from the stuff that already exists.
Back in February, the Times columnist, Janice Turner
echoed my sentiments precisely when she asked:
‘What is this sudden passion for the EU? It is like football fans crying, “I love Fifa”. Such affection for a gargantuan, unaccountable, self-serving bureaucracy, synonymous with progressive, internationalist, bigger-together unity, yet as capable of taxing Google or stopping Russia annexing Ukraine as Nick Clegg in a Benetton sweater’*.
Earlier today, on my facebook timeline, Janice conceded that the UKIP poster of last week had taken its toll: 'I have lost hope that any of the things I want to change will happen because of Brexit..’
However, the (Brexiteer) Daily Mail columnist Bel Mooney responded: ‘you HAVE to separate the views of people like me from that stupid, awful poster. Remember Tony Benn's warnings about the EU? Long before Farage & Co. I voted against the Common Market in 1975 and feel even more sure today (with history on my side) that one-size-fits-all politics is against the human spirit. On ‘Today’ this morning the great Katya Adler said she had never before felt such anti-EU feeling across Europe.’
‘I haven’t changed my VIEWS at all' replied Janice. 'I still think that unrestricted freedom of movement will in due course bring down the entire European project.’
I agree with both Bel and Janice. And with my old school friend, Diana, too — whose proud 'I'm a European' on my timeline appeared to justify her Remainer position.
'So am I', I replied.
For me, tomorrow will either be a case of Britain opting to stick with the #EUProject until such time as it becomes untenable, as it inevitably will — or it'll be a case of deciding we’d rather not wait, thanks.
My personal position on immigration (lest I be accused of wimping out) is that I believe we should control our own borders (and I'm not too crazy about half of London being owned by rich people from Abroad — 'high-end immigration', whether from in or out of the EU — looking for a fast buck at the expense of the people who need to live there). I also think that one of the things that makes Europe so great is the differences between the countries; each nation's cultural autonomy.
And control of borders does not/will not automatically a nation of xenophobic racists make. We're Britain, ffs — we're good at assimilating pretty much anybody. On a practical level, Australia's points system arguably works well for a mostly immigrant island nation and we could do a lot worse. In fact, we already do.
Either way, on Friday (when I'm pretty sure Remain will have prevailed), it’s important to remember that we are very much NOT the same old in-thrall-to-the-War Europe of forty years ago — from which wounded place, of course, the EU sprung — and nor should we be. Step away from Cameron and Osborne, I say; Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway.
(* FYI, the rest of that excellent column by Janice Turner, ‘Confessions of a Lonely Left-Wing Brexiteer’, is on the other side of the Times' paywall, right here: : http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/article4700649.ece)