Brexit: what better illustration of how a new word can become the vehicle for so much wishful thinking, so many fantasies and such terrible nightmares, as well as a festering breeding-ground for divisive thinking and extreme ideologies.
First of all, there was a vote. A referendum. Living as I do in Switzerland which regularly holds such votes on all manner of issues, it is well known that many voters do not respond to the question asked, but a question of their own choosing. So you have to wonder what the ‘yes’ or the ‘no’ might refer to, especially in the case of the UK, where only a very narrow majority voted in favour of leaving the EU. With all the rhetoric that has ensued in the UK about respecting people’s choice, it is easy to forget that the referendum was a non-binding questioning of public opinion in an approximate and ambiguous fashion. In addition, enforced binary choices rarely produce nuanced solutions.
What has made the UK referendum and the subsequent attempts to interpret and ‘enact’ that vote all the more complicated has been the many misleading, if not frankly dishonest claims about what is going to happen. A bit like a giant recipient for multiple, contradictory ideas, the word Brexit has been used to defend diverse ideologies and fantasies that are rarely rooted in reality. Brexit casts a stark spotlight on the way politicians and the media contort ‘reality’ to suit their own ends. Just listen to the daily dose of May and her cohorts extolling the brilliant future of the UK leaving no place for the complete lack of bargaining power they have in a dire situation almost entirely of their own making. Ok! The EU is in desperate need of reform, but you can’t do so by slamming the door on your partners. Such behaviour is frankly puerile.
A time inevitably comes when what we have imagined has to be measured up to reality. You can try to put off that day and some even take permanent refuge in their fantasies, a condition un-usefully labelled madness. So, if you haven’t yet realised what is coming next, it is the hard awakening when all those Conservative and the Go-it-alone dreams crash against the reality of the world. That will be when the blame-game kicks in and all those dreamers and liars scream ‘foul’. With all their finger-pointing, little thought will be given to the untenable position those politicians and their rich backers have put us in and their angry, indignant bleating will transform Britain into an isolated island shivering alone in the North Sea. Unless, of course, the Brits rise above such goings-on and enthusiastically embrace the world they are a key part of… Anything is possible. Even miracles.
Photo from The Guardian, Theresa May urges Britain to ‘come back together’ by Heather Stewart and Anne Perkins, photo: Simon Dawson/Reuters.