I would warn you, there will be no quotes, statistics or links, these by their very nature are selective and can be turned around by oppositions, often getting side-lined in arguments over the character of the provider of the quotes, statistics or links. This is an essay, or if you like a polemic. This is based on the readings of the Histories of Humanity and all their various accompanying follies and tragedies. This is about something very old, on this occasion making its appearance in Brexit Britain.
Although shadowed by the world-wide pandemic, this lesser event will still have its ramifications even if many of the world’s population can be forgiven for barely noticing it; after all, what will it matter to someone living in a nation a few time zones away and more concerned with their own day to day struggles? Some in the UK so wrapped up in their myths and dreams would have you believe the entire planet will shake as the UK rises from some European induced torpor calling on spirits of Churchill, Thatcher, Drake and Arthur (King) to inspire our current political and economic leadership to gather the people together in a glorious endeavour bringing in the proverbial New Golden Age. And this will be our True Finest Hour. If you examine the headlines in the right-wing tabloid press and the comments of their readerships or have the misfortune to run into them on FaceBook you will see I am somewhat understating the rhetoric.
Each nation or community which would be a nation or movement has its own baggage of legends, myths and massaged history mixed into a heady brew which offers in a far more glorious vision than it deserves. Never look too deeply into your people’s past unless you are of thick skin, detached or objective for you will not be comfy. Many in the UK in 2015 to 2016 feasted too deeply of the Empire, Victors in WWI & WWII mythos rich stew without reading the warnings on the various contents’ packets, and to keep their sacred beliefs firm still partake.
And whenever a collection of folk take the step towards independence or dominance you can be certain there will be the taint of outright or implied discrimination, for the collection of folk will have convinced themselves that all ills, and the end of the none-existent “Good Old Days” are down to interlopers and non-believers. So never mind the economic and legalistic arguments surrounding Brexit, Race and Prejudices played a major part in many a voter’s decisions. One of the two truths folk do not like to mention. The other being on the Left that without Corbyn’s lukewarm unenthusiastic campaign or the section which believed the EU was an adjunct of the multi-nationals the Right might never have won the referendum and subsequent 2019 General Election. Struggles are not just won by one side’s courage or tactical superiority; they require a degree of failure within the opponents’ ranks.
So here in the second decade of the 21st century The UK is positioned. A collection of islands without their own independent mercantile fleets or major ship building trades. Other types of industries which for many years have been owned by overseas groups and now without the mutual protection of the EU. Whereas there are a large number of small ventures making herculean efforts, these are now all vulnerable to the unpredictable and savage storms of international climates of trade and politics along with another layer of avoidable paperwork. Meanwhile the UK places some of its faith in a leisure industry which waits for Covid to be supressed and hopefully the tourists to return. And forgetting the financial hub currently residing in London can in these cyber days be moved with relatively little effort. The balm to soothe these worries is that the UK can make new vibrant and fresh deals with other nations outside of the EU; however the problem is these ‘Other Nations’ looking to make deals are by their natures on the rise or with a very strong base whereas the UK has been in a steady decline of nationally based infrastructure, services and industries since WWII, thus these Isles are negotiating from the lesser position with the give and take going in the other direction. It is hard not to view us as the wilful self-absorbed member of the family who has blustered out of the home to seek life on their own believing their ‘smarts’, determination and cherished fantasy masquerading as a plan will see them through. This is the character who ends up on the streets, a battered minor hustling supplicant desperate that the next day will bring ‘the break’ while looked down upon by the major players.
There is another facet, that is the strength of the nation as displayed in its military prowess. In some this is simply the self-defence capacity; in some it is the ability to operate outside of the borders. Questions are being asked of that capacity, and at a time where there is an undercurrent in the USA of questions as to the future of NATO and Russia’s the inevitable historical draw to surround herself with client states. Examples of the never ending tides of human action and reaction in the political world, a dance as old as communities.
And herein lies the evidence lain bear by Histories. Nations and Empires rise and fall the names, locations and components change but the tectonic that is Human activity continues. Thus worn out by a century’s effort and the shedding of a role too heavy to bear do these Isles suffer their turn in this cycle. The sensible, rational long term approach would have been to hunker down, regroup and reform within the security and stability of a Union. This is not the Human way, we must believe in our legends and our folk myths, we must live them, we must be seen to be independent with all the angry deluded stance of the someone Lear-like living their past glories, denuded now of past abilities observed by predators looking on to take away the last vestiges of independence, dress that someone in their own cloth and have them dance to their own tune, for their profit. Look into Histories and read the runes, observe that Rise and Fall over and over again.
There is a large swath of the population who have seen the message and are not turned by the populist press, the self-important financially secure commentators and their political relatives. Sadly these have divided themselves into fractious groups busy blaming each other for the 2019 General Election debacle which allowed a previously nationally indulged self-serving jester to become Prime Minister, now having to grow up, fast. While they are reduced to self-aggrandisement, anger and bitterness on Social Media. Whether there will be a steady movement by the national groups of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland away from England and into some connection with The EU remains to be seen. It could be that the old Islands’ story of infighting and opportunist accommodations with whoever holds Westminster will be played out again and all will once more bow before The Centre; nothing new there, despite what the Nationalists would have you believe. There again delusion and desperation have their own tectonic and a fragmentation with a nominal centre could arise. A mini-version of the Holy Roman Empire, nodding to someone, a nominal head yet with each region going its own way. And of course the fate others have suffered so often; Client state, something which happens in so many ways often without folk noticing. Or battered and ragged knocking on Brussel’s door the prodigal state returns, only this time there will not be one loving father with a fatted calf; there will be a clutch of judgemental siblings.
The permutations and variables beckon with a skeletal finger as we stumble out into the storm, eyes closed and muttering invocations from a false religion.
One last salutary note. By all mean shake your head sadly at these Isles’ ill-considered venture. However do not walk away feeling secure. At some stage these tectonics will reach you. Be sure you are prepared for the shock and have a plan to prevail. For we have still not evolved beyond those first communities of villages and small towns looking to survive or dominate.