But what is the UK to be, now?

The identity of the UK is in a crisis of much longer-standing than the disgusting populism that currently discerns it by such criteria as your socio-economic influence, what colour your skin is, whether you lean Left or Right, what religion you might practise or where your parents were born. Politically, that is as much about how certain people so badly need to mark or choose our personal identities for us as it is about how we might or might not identify ourselves – because finger-pointing and division serve their social comfort and agenda.

Also apparent, particularly since the first Scottish independence referendum, is the severity of the identity crisis of the UK, itself, which, post the Brexit result, is now a direct, overt and rather urgent matter. We should all care, whether petty tribalist or sincere patriot; scapegoated or scapegoater.

Unionists, Nationalists, Independents and Federalists; centralisation, devolution, globalism and localism; Brexit-Remain; Left-centrist-Right: somewheres and anywheres: we’re all being stitched up, in whichever part of the UK we live, howsoever we identify or have been categorised.

Conflict within and between our individual and collective identities are not recent phenomena. Anyone who reads history and/or literature, has lived long enough or just pays general attention to human nature knows there has always been friction and tension between the micro and macro. At this point in our timeline, though, when malice, mischievous tinkering and authoritarianism are determining the future at a confluence of circumstances, it behoves us to think more deeply, sensibly and bravely.

What and who and how is the UK to be, now?

One big country with one central government (beneficial democratic reforms notwithstanding)? Four separate countries joined in equal union? I said equal. Four co-dependent states under a mishmash of overlapping powers and inconsistent arbitration, secretly content in their mutual aggravation?

Or are we four ideologically disparate nations, who merely happen to share a lot of history, mostly by quirk of geographical proximity but who should just call time and separate? Or is it too easy and too terrible to think that? I hope so.

Whichever we are, we need to decide. And fast. If we can’t even negotiate and co-operate with each other – with ourselves – with mutual respect and for mutual benefit, then what of our prognosis, with the rest of the world?

The thing about MPs respecting “the will of the people”

The general will of a people is considered by some and desired by others to be that which is conducive to the common good; the national interest. Inasmuch as it can be measured, it reflects, at best, an assumption that everyone agrees on a point or points of principle. Principle, not detail.

In the current context of Brexit, it certainly cannot be discerned by a near fifty-fifty referendum vote. This is neither “the will of the people” nor the entirety of ‘public opinion’. Not even where and when politicians cite their constituencies as expedient justification for the fact that they are very likely sacrificing the long-term common good to a short-term effort at self-preservation, on the back of a pre- and post-referendum campaign of wilful ignorance and manipulation. The result of that referendum wasn’t representative of ‘the People’ but a collection of leanings based on a spectrum of individual understandings and expectations versus another collection of leanings based on a spectrum of individual understandings and expectations. But one side’s will and opinion is not to be countenanced, apparently. It is as if Remain were not of the People but an irritant for which the solution is to try to ignore it.

The thing about MPs respecting “the will of the people” and being led by public opinion is 1) that it does not follow that said will or opinion is correct or directed towards the common good; 2) that it is simplistic and cynical to assume that a majority or even just the loudest voice automatically represents either collective will or opinion; 3) that MPs, themselves, collectively, are usually behind the curve, not with it and rarely in front of it; 4) that the public is no better generally or singularly informed than the medium of the message and each individual’s capacity for critical thinking and the time and opportunity in which to use it. And 5): As the Brexit debates show, though MPs are best-placed for access to facts and well-informed opinion, they often start with no more understanding than the rest of us because they are no more expert, intelligent or open-minded, than the rest of us, either. Because they are not a special species of Human. They are just us. But, that they are elevated, voluntarily, to a high office of public service means they have a civic and moral duty to the national interest and our common good. Our, not a narrow selection of their. Parliamentarians are part of that rising tide that is supposed to lift all boats. They are also the planners, architects, builders and providers of boats.

Besides, all too often, the loudest voice of influence on the governing class is not the electorate in general but the most arbitrarily muscular newspapers and best-scheduled television and radio broadcasters. They can lead, reflect and project opinion far more effectively than any other demographic. One might reasonably question, then, which will and what opinion it is that MPs are really respecting. At the moment, “the will of the people” is merely a disingenuous and dangerous demand for narrow political patriotism. One might wonder if there is any such thing as the former and why on earth there is such a demand for the latter. If only there were ways by which to know…

Inaugurating Trump. Sad!

There once was a bully called Trump
Who had views on perpetual pump
He was easily triggered
And bigly on twitter
Persisted in taking his dumps

He used the best words that he had
To rant like a babyman nursing his Jack the Lad
Character thin
As his orangey skin
Punctuating his nap time… Sad!

No body is safe from his whims
He is scary when challenged and worse when he wins
From his sore, swollen glands
To his teeny wee hands
Sex and money and war are just Business to him

The cartoon for this POTUS in place
Has the world beady-eyed on the space
Will The Real Donald last?
Is this narcissist’s farce
Gonna blow up the planet or piss on its face?

Do you remember?

Do you remember when you were young:
When they sold us a future in which everyone
Would have more time for leisure and
Life’s simple pleasures?

I do.

I remember how ‘progress’ was sold as the shift
Toward treasured Modernity’s time-saving gifts.
I remember when ‘free time’ were not dirty words,
But the envy of those who knew it was absurd
To work hard for The Man, at the cost of your Soul;
To neglect your own senses to fit in a mould;
To conform to consensus and stick to the path
Laid out in perpetuity – however daft…

And yet,

Where does the time go and how is it spent,
But by serving The Man just to pay him more rent?
And while faster goes quicker and more becomes less
Of a joy than a measure of burden and stress,
We regress to Draconia’s cold, hostile age
As a new class of servants with masters who wage
On us their aspirations for their perfect nation.

Obnoxious concoctions and new imitations
Of outdated thinking, consigned long ago
To the scrapyard of ignorant, privileged foes.
Resurrected prescribers and makers of woe
Who would keep us distracted and chained by the nose
To a grindstone which cripples and overly loads
On our bodies and minds and the whole of our time
Is spent rushing and pushing and fleeing and fighting
To be the first one to the end of the line.

 

[First posted: March 2013]