There is no blank page for Britain today
I’m so angry I can’t even speak.
What it looks like right now is that my parents’ generation has found yet another thing to screw over the young with. This class of people has consumed more, taken more, broken more, and polluted more than any generation of people in the history of the planet, while enjoying all the benefits of the most liberal, aspirational and economically kind conditions there have ever been. From that comfortable position they have refused to acknowledge what it might take to keep the world that beautiful beyond their own short, selfish lives: systematically fucking all mechanisms for tolerance, wealth redistribution, labour rights, free movement of people and environmental care once they’ve taken their share.
This happened because a group of people were not only willing to believe a campaign entirely constructed on lies but they also carry a worldview that is so narrow, so incompatible with reality, so incapable of addressing the world we are in now, that it systematically guarantees the exclusion of everybody but themselves from the lovely world they have had access to all their lives. As a result, they are presiding over global misery, and just voted for that to get worse.
Because I’m white and middle class, all other political rants I’ve ever had have been edged with a certain righteous enjoyment that comes from virtue signalling and the knowledge that no matter what happens, it’s not forever.
But not this time, and maybe never again in my lifetime. An entire future has been taken away from us, and the only current reaction is shock.
Maybe this exit will allow something good to happen. I think about the future and in honesty, I can’t picture it. I can’t bear to picture the worst, because that’s just what I pictured in the 2010 general election, but hundreds of times worse, and forever. And picturing the best? I don’t have an image.
But we need one, and fast. The inevitable analysis that will be trotted out: ‘Remain failed to provide a positive alternative’ is not everyday politico commentary any more but is now the most important existential task for every single Briton alive today. Not having an image may be the only productive aspect of this thing, philosophically speaking, that Farage has forced us to face. The idea that we can rebuild Britain (and the world) from some sort of scorched-earth/new dawn accelerationist moment is the absurd fantasy of Leave, but within the actuality of the present profoundly ugly mess, that much harder task still remains. Because it is not coming from our leadership nor our institutions. It’s us. The project is us.
No more hiding in self-affirming social media bubbles. No more forgetting to vote. No more guilty-pleasure enjoyment of post-apocalyptic fantasies that we consume as a distraction from the fact that the vast majority lives in a world far worse than the Hunger Games. No more thinking that laughing at some politician’s hair is effective political action. No more imagining that political reality is some gogglebox sideshow, that it is anything but our very own selves. No more wasted time.
There is no blank page for us today. Everything we do now will be done while picking through the landscape of trash that is this country’s ideological dump.
This project has stared us in the face for decades, while the trash accumulates, and we’ve sat it out this referendum as we always have, thinking the self-evident truths of antifascism and human thinking will win out through cosmopolitan niceness. No. That’s not how the world is shaped. The world has been slowly shaped to allow fascism to thrive, working far beyond the brief mechanisms of participatory democracy. This was one of the most representative votes this country has ever taken. But democracy is not a vote. It is the ability to have necessary discussions on the profoundest level, and current political reality is shaped to prevent us from having that.
I don’t have a picture. I don’t know what to do. But we failed because we were incapable of understanding what drives the oppressed to vote for their own oppression, the ways in which the establishment works through them and their disappointments. We dismissed them. As a country, we were thoroughly incapable of the kind of conversation that goes beyond ideology. Nobody went deep enough. No leaders were capable of that, and neither were we.
This is why we are faced, now, with something far beyond the recovery of whatever liberal status quo we thought we had.