All aboard the EU funbus. Peep peep!
So I’m on a bus. In many ways it’s a lovely bus, and it was certainly designed many years ago with the best of intentions. The seats are pretty comfy, the air conditioning is good, and everyone on the bus gets a guaranteed supply of sandwiches (and much better than those crappy old British Rail sandwiches).
What’s more, it’s a large bus, so we travel with a much wider group of people than the old days, and get to share their food, music and films. It’s also a democratic bus, and everyone gets to vote on what music we listen to and which film gets played next.
Growing up, my friends and I have been taught to love the bus, and have always defended it from the small bunch of naysayers that grumble about it, moaning on and on about how things were much better before we all had to get on the bus and share our journey with bunch of foreigners and their rubbish music and strange food. Which is bizarre, because most of the grumblers seem to have the comfiest seats and tastiest sandwiches of everyone! They’re are obviously wrong, and it’s right we stand up to them.
Still, as I’ve got older I’ve spent more time looking out the window, and something has been increasingly troubling me. It’s a lovely bus, but we’re slowly but surely driving towards the edge of a cliff…
What’s more, despite all the things we do vote on, we never have a vote on the direction of the bus. In fact, no-one is really sure who is driving the bus anymore. They’ve locked themselves in the driver’s cabin, and haven’t been seen for years. I point this out to my friends and they agree it’s worrying. “Absolutely”, they say, “that’s why it is so important we’re an integral part of the bus, so we can change its direction”. That’s fine I say, but we’ve not managed that in the last 30 years, so how will we manage it now? They shrug their shoulders, and remind me how much nicer the sandwiches are. And the air conditioning, don’t forget the air conditioning.
But that’s another thing… I also can’t help noticing how the sandwiches are getting worse. Or at least for some people they are, some people are getting even better sandwiches than ever, while some are back to the bad old days of mouldy bread and limp pieces of lettuce.
What’s more, occasionally the driver announces over the tannoy that we need to undergo “structural reforms”. This involves everyone getting up and swapping seats. Except when we try and sit back down, there’s less seats than before, and some people have fallen through a hole in floor and are being dragged along the bottom of the bus. And as they’re not actually on the bus, these people aren’t provided with any sandwiches, they just get to feed off any crumbs the rest of us drop.
The driver says this is necessary, otherwise there wouldn’t be enough sandwiches for the rest of us, and besides, the people that fell through the hole obviously weren’t wearing their seatbelts (but we were forced to stand-up?). I ask my friends what they think about this, and they agree it is terrible. I ask them what they think we should do about it, and they suggest the best thing would be for everyone to undergo better seatbelt training, and say they’ll stop the hole getting bigger. Well actually, they won’t, but they’ll promise it will get bigger at half the rate it currently does. Hmmm.
I’m less and less convinced about this bus, and starting to think the best thing would for us all to get off and redesign it.
As it happens, the grumblers have also been getting louder, and they’ve even found a back door to the bus. As long as our group votes to do it, we can all escape. A few years ago that would seem bonkers, but more and more of our group (especially those getting the crappiest sandwiches) are siding with the grumblers.
Great I think, we can get off the bus and change direction! Of course initially we’d be on our own. But actually a lot of the other groups on the bus like our sandwiches and music and films. And thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we could keep sharing them, so we’d still be together in spirit. And if we were heading away from the cliff, and making sure everyone got fed, that would be the best way of persuading the people on the bus to change direction too.
But my friends (incidentally, most of whom are still getting pretty good sandwiches) tell me I’m crazy — they say the only reason the grumblers want to get off the bus is so they can keep even more of the best sandwiches for themselves, and far from changing direction, they want to get in a car and drive even faster towards the cliff.
My friends are right of course. But, I argue, if we’re in the car at least we know who the driver is, and we can persuade the group to change. After all, our group has free elections to select the leadership, so we can vote out the grumblers. My friends say it would be no use, all the stupid people that voted to leave don’t like us, and are too stupid to realise they’ll get even worse sandwiches than before and be travelling even faster to oblivion.
What happened to the belief in democracy I wonder? But my friends tell me to stop being so naïve.
And what about all the poor buggers underneath the bus, I say? My friends look away, and mumble something about seatbelts, and then remind me how good the air conditioning on the bus is, and how there won’t be any in the car.
Hmmm, I’m not winning this battle… and now to make things even worse, one of the grumblers (Crazy Nige) is shouting louder than ever. He says, if we get off the bus, we can shoot everyone in a brown shirt. That way the car will go even faster, and there’ll be more sandwiches for the rest of us. Everyone used to think he was mad (and a massive hypocrite, he ate more and tastier sandwiches than anyone!), but scarily, more and more people (especially those with rubbish sandwiches and blue shirts) seemed to be agreeing with him. This is awful, no one is even talking about the direction of the bus any more, the vote is becoming a straight choice between air conditioning vs shooting the brown shirts and driving even faster in our car.
So what to do? I still believe the bus is fundamentally dysfunctional and will never change of its accord. And that means it is either going to drive itself off the cliff, or some other group is going to get really mad at the sandwich situation and blow the whole thing up. Neither will be pretty. And frankly, people banging on about air conditioning when there’s a whole bunch of fellow travellers being dragged along the bottom of the bus are really starting to piss me off.
But Christ, can I really vote on the same side as people that want to shoot anyone in a brown shirt? Would my vote be seen as condoning that, even though it couldn’t be further than anything believe? Do I really believe I can persuade the people in the car to change direction?
6 hours to decide…*
*As you may have guessed, I wrote this and posted it on facebook at lunchtime on 23rd June. It received a lot of comments from friends. At the time I genuinely didn’t think we’d vote to get off the bus. As for the 6 months since, you can fill in your own tortuous analogies. I’d suggest a clown car, custard pies and the Laurel and Hardy theme music might feature heavily…