After the Second World War, Winston Churchill pushed for and co-founded the EU. The result was seven decades of peace and, mostly, prosperity in Europe — a priceless and unthinkably naive dream to anyone alive in the exhausted, battered, food-stamp Britain of the late 1940s.
The ill-informed joined the narrow-minded, and those unwilling to learn from the past or to reach for the future, in voting for regression. A slight majority of the country voted not for independence — which we already had — but for isolation, isolation which exposes us as more divided than ever.
More than any other, a particularly sinister reason concerns me: there is barely a free press in Britain.
Ostensibly national media (from tabloids to Times’s) are owned by often foreign billionaires. Such people’s interests are — by definition — not those of working, middle-class Britons. Britons, by the way, of all colours, faiths and accents. Why would the media publish clear, rational arguments, or the restrained and slow dialogue of democracy, when to do so would be largely to their disadvantage?
Those media lied.
Thursday’s vote did not guarantee ‘sovereignty’, nor funding for the NHS, nor a return of the jobs destroyed decades ago, nor even a solution to the intractable (and self-imposed) problem of ‘the immigrants’. The vote guaranteed nothing except instability and austerity. Cuts and chaos. Who chooses that? Only the inordinately wealthy and powerful, those who can effortlessly weather such storms.
An unelected, and most likely temporary, Prime Minister will push the red button of Article 50, while our unelected House of Lords and unelected monarch join Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Rupert Murdoch, Peter Thiel and Massoud Jazayeri in manic laughter as the remains of Great Britain are ritually carved up by Little Britain.
This is an unelected elite.
Those mentioned above are undeniably members of a minority that feeds off the work, resources and votes of every other layer of society. Drunk with greed, they have now, in the faceless mass media and the simpering body politic, created a beast no one can control.
We allowed it too. Look at Germany, a sober, lumbering democracy that nevertheless makes progress possible and has both wealth and health. Here, concerning ourselves with checks and balances has made way for thinking more of cheques and bank balances.
The north, the shires, the towns: these have all suffered under city-centric thinking. They are understandably angry at London, but blame Brussels and ultimately — this is so sad — harm themselves even more than anyone else.
Already, we are weaker, poorer, meaner. International investment has no good reason not to move to financial centres in Paris or Zurich or Frankfurt. Europeans have no problems communicating — in English, if necessary — and trading, developing, growing, with other nations. Many domestic blue-collar jobs are gone, it’s true, but they were lost to globalisation and capitalism, not to immigrants, and those jobs are not coming back. Ever.
There was a choice. Hope or fear. Democracy or populism. Slow, frustrating, determined progress or instant high followed by crashing, inevitable low. Too many people voted with their eyes shut, fingers in their ears. They chose fear, division; they chose Lord of the Flies.
Now they live with it.
Thank you, Churchill (and many, many others) — I grew up in peace and prosperity. I can only hope that wise minds find a way to make sure younger and future generations inherit the same.