As we approach the end game, or maybe just the first of many endgames, of Brexit; the biggest political disaster in my lifetime (though the sale of council houses and Utilities came close) the question comes to mind – who is to blame? It is easy to point to the political naievety of Cameron, the duplicity of Farage and the mad Brexiteers in the Tory party, the cheating of Aaron Banks, the opportunism of Boris. All too easy. And yes, they all contributed – but alas, I have come to the conclusion that it is the Great British Public who are to blame. The British, and by that I really mean the English, have a strange sense of entitlement, of their superiority, combined with an amazing degree of ignorance and greed. Maybe it is a hangover from the days of Empire, when Britain was the workshop of the World, when we were taught at school that half the globe used to be painted pink, that we civilised the natives…etc..etc..etc.
Most of it was lies of course, but this sense of Britain being THE world power, or rather the bewailing of the fact that we are no longer even A world power, still remains in the nation’s consciousness. The trouble is that we cannot forget. And we cannot forget either that we fought two World Wars against the Germans. And beat the Hun twice….and yet….and yet…just look over the channel, just see how well they are doing. Why one has to ask, who won the bloody war anyway? England has always been suspicious of Europe, that thin strip of water is more potent a symbol than any treaty.
And beneath it all, coiled like the venomous snake that it is, lies racism. I came from Suffolk to London in 1968, and can still remember the signs in windows…”Room to let, no Blacks, no Irish.” I can recall vividly the era of skinheads and Paki and Queer bashing, the violence of the football terraces, the racist chanting, the mob mentality. There is something very ugly lurking just below the respectable surface. Years of education haven’t erased it, and the gentle words ‘Concerns about Immigration’ mask and permit far nastier, maybe secret thoughts, to become mainstream. Social media is now awash with vile anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish crap, and the rise of far right groups is a reality I never thought I would live to see.
Coupled with all of this is an ignorance of bewildering proportions, a selfishness, a lack of understanding, a disrespect for Politicians (who in most cases simply wanted to make the country a better place), intolerance, and no comprehension of what Democracy really means. It is not winner takes all and sod the loser, but a sense of participating and listening to all opinions and trying to find some consensus. Which just about sums up the failure of Brexit so far and the current mess we find ourselves in.
So, we only have ourselves to blame…or rather those less well educated, mostly older, mostly living in rural areas, often in the North, but not exclusively, there was plenty of ignorance in London and the South-East too. So, do not look anymore for scapegoats but look instead into the mirror, see what our society has become.
Solzhenitsyn said of the failure of the Russian Revolution, (and he was once a believer) that each generation has to learn for itself about injustice, that each generation has to fight against the complacency of those who are now comfortable but have forgotten the struggle to achieve that.
Maybe Brexit will end up being a lesson, maybe a realisation will dawn that we must not rush to judgement, that we must think things through a bit more….ah, but who am I kidding. It will be the EU that will be blamed for our own failure, it will be Politicians who didn’t do Brexit right who will carry the can, it will be everyone else but ourselves of course.