Sitting here in my safe European home
The Clash, Safe European Home
Mankind cannot bear too much reality
T S Eliot, Four Quartets
A propos of a recent jotting, the coming UK referendum on membership of the European Union is already turning into the most extraordinary political theatre. There is scene-shifting, script re-writes, fluffed lines and cross-talk. For the media, it is riveting. Once again, unfortunately, for the people who will be most affected by the wisdom – or lack of wisdom – of the outcome, the truth is being both withheld and presented in the manner of Pepper’s Ghost.
Remembering the scholar who said he wandered into the work of Hegel one day and wandered out 20 years later, I have tried not to become embroiled in the endless mesh of fine print and contingency. The over-arching fact is that the actors who traipse constantly across the bridge behind Plato’s prisoners have never been so busy. The technocratic class likes to complicate, to amaze and confound with a sheer variety of often contradictory detail.
What, then, are the salient features of a referendum which had to be extorted from the British government like sticky sweets hidden behind a schoolboy’s back? The question being asked is not clear. The consequences of a ‘Leave’ vote have not been made clear. Public money appears to being spent funding the ‘Remain’ camp. There may be a second referendum after a renegotiation based on the first referendum. There is no question of the simplicity of an unadorned and concise question; it is more like the nation is being set a newspaper chess puzzle with one of the pieces missing.
Technocrats cannot ask a simple question because they know – and have known for years – that what they want is in direct contradistinction to what the general public would like to happen, to become reality. It is common knowledge in the years since its legal repeal that governments in Britain have never even considered a vote on capital punishment because they know which way it would go. On a related subject, of course, the importation of adherents to what the media like to term ‘the religion of peace’ would almost certainly vote ‘Yes’ in a referendum on the death penalty, being perhaps the only remaining genuine conservatives in the UK…
The United Kingdom has always had a laughable pretence of incorruptibility and likes to put it about that it is only Johnny Foreigner who cuts sleazy deals in fly-blown banana republic offices. This actually is, I feel, a type of racism. Simply because corrupt people attended one of Britain’s finest public schools does not dull the edge of their corruption. And our political class are morally corrupt. They no longer trade in brown envelopes stuffed with non-sequential bank notes, but in ideological favours.
On whichever rump – left or right -you want to brand the new technocratic political class, their task is not to communicate their message to you but to make the individual parts of that message as difficult and contradictory, as hard to follow for real people, as is possible on a budget entirely paid for by the duped themselves. Politicians often complain in the press that people are not politically engaged enough, as though that were something they actually wanted. If people were politically engaged enough, they would even now be dipping their brands into buckets of pitch and setting them aflame…
The economic websites I tend to browse are more or less unanimous that there is such a bad economic collapse coming globally, that a vote on whether or not to stay in the EU is effectively a sink-or-swim vote with the fear that even swimming may not take the West away from the pull of the sinking ship. Perhaps it might be better for us all if the technocrats were to turn their attentions from the fascinating subject of themselves and devote all available brain-power to reality, because as science fiction writer Philip K. Dick reminds us, reality is that which does not go away when you stop believing in it.