So You Did . . . ?

(Part 1 of the Wake Up series)

The wake-up call was massive. The need was huge.

Quite clearly it would not now ‘be all over by Christmas’– that comforting complacency had long since been blown away. And yes, the chaps in charge were often clueless.

Desperate times. Desperate measures. If all else fails, play the guilt card. How will you answer to your children?

This World War 1 recruitment poster recognized the existential threat –the potential consequences of failure and the shame of not stepping up to help. But that was then — over 100 years ago — and was invoked again, just 21 years later. At least some of those at the top recognized the impending disaster— eventually.

But right now in 2018 “them what got us into this right mess” are in denial. ‘Crisis? What crisis?’ Those who wished to ‘take back control’ now have no idea where to turn, or what can be done. The truly appalling, catastrophic, consequences become ever more apparent — testing to breaking point conventional law-abiding protocols.

In any excessively-centralised, trending-towards-totalitarian, State, a typical knee-jerk reaction would be to deflect the question, to redirect it at your supposed leaders. Surely, sorely-tested citizens might think, it is they, not you, who must answer for misdirection, incompetence, arrogance and deceit.

No wonder this old recruitment poster now has a new lease of life, albeit with a different message.

Protest marches, petitions, twitter tantrums, letters to MPs or The Editor — none of those can penetrate case-hardened ideologically thick skins, particularly when the hard right brigade collide head-on with the hard left on the dark side of manifesto mountains — fantasies constructed solely to satisfy party political infighting. How very all-consumed they can be with irrelevant internal displacement activity.

But with just five minutes thought the knee-jerk rage can be stilled — even in a supposedly highly-polarised society. Seeing a national disaster unfold before your eyes dissolves passive acceptance. Let the futile rage evaporate and accept the reality: ‘they/them’ upstairs can/will do nowt.

Any survival must come from within, from your own local network, your community, your family, your real friends — at the edge and far away from the black hole of complacent dependence on Whitehall witchcraft and misrepresentation of the people. Set aside, then, that stoic British reserve. Talk to those closest to you. Yes, talk even to those who voted to Leave the EU. Find the common ground and patiently explain the real consequences — share with them the insights of ‘3Blokes in the pub’, or @Femi, or Judi Sutherland’s stash of Remainers’ evidence for the prosecution.

Survival shelters have, alas, not been built or maintained. Your local community may never have imagined a need to pursue its own foreign or tax policies, its own environmental and infrastructure standards, its defence, health, safety and social networks. Your folks and local employers may now not even remember those days when education system priorities were shaped to meet local needs. These colours and details were long lost from your local economic and social fabrics during decades of top-down austerity and central control imposed, supposedly, in the cause of maximum efficiency, value extraction, tax reduction and minimal regulation.

“City leaders are pragmatic to the core… At a time of increasing polarisation — they put place over party, collaboration over conflict, and evidence over dogma.” — Bruce Katz, author of the Metropolitan Revolution.

Wherever you look the sharpest thinkers have realised that greater devolution of power from Whitehall is essential. Greater Manchester’s Mayor may bang the drum for his patch of England but the same is true across the entire UK.

Steady on. That sounds like a dangerous fragmentation, civil unrest, a throwback to the days of the Hanseatic League of cities choosing who to trust. Precisely. That’s the cost of breaking everything apart and the 50-year haul of stitching us back together.

But make no mistake — in this war folks must cling together. No more ‘peace in our time’ wishful thinking. Abandon the last tattered remnants of discredited central control. Of course we’ll keep paying taxes — but not to wasters in Westminster. Or, alternatively, keep singing the old refrain, ‘You won’t get me I’m part of the Union’. You may need to be singing for some time.

In the words of Archbishop Runcie (speaking last week at the TUC), “a principle need of the next few years is resilience in our society. Resilience in the face of change, resilience in a world where the rule-based order we have become used to and which gives us security, is more and more fragile. . . Resilience comes with solidarity, the common good and the right use of power”

So, friends, pick up the local threads and weave new fabrics. All is not yet lost in the great battle to avoid disaster. Survival is possible if your community can wake up and pull together. Only the caption has changed. ‘What did YOU do in the Great Brexit War?’

Disaster will NOT be blamed on the will of the misled people –only those who chose not to ‘rage against the dying of the light’.

Your children will want to know.

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Part 2 of the Wake Up series, scheduled for September 26th, will reflect on the personal challenge of sounding the alarm bell.