I’ve rarely, if ever, ventured into politics on this blog. Not because Art & Politics don’t have an interesting and turbulent relationship down the ages nor that I don’t have opinions (ha ha say my chums who know just how ‘opinionated’ I am!). But simply that I’ve tried to keep it pretty solidly in the ‘core’ area of painting. However today has turned out to be so momentous it’s hard to ignore what’s happening in the UK – although it doesn’t seem quite as seismic here on a terrace in Northern Tuscany where we had an actual earth tremor just yesterday afternoon!
What’s to say – well two initial responses first. It hurts whenever you’re on the wrong side of a result about anything and it’s easy to lash out at anything and anybody to vent ones frustrations and anger…often completely missing the intended target. More of that later. Secondly in this situation there’s a feeling of shame on our side of the argument where it impacts on our personal friendships…for me I want to say sorry and I still love you to Anibal, to Johannes, to Miltos, to Torbjorn, and their families and all my other chums inside the EU and my pals elsewhere who share similar sentiments (Stephen, Robert etc,) who, I feel, my country (of which I’m still, despite all, immensely proud) has let them down by voting to leave the EU.
Having got that out the way I want to try and frame my thoughts in a temperate way without resorting to the media’s binary black & white frenzy that I’m pretty sure, for the most part – bearing in mind my own strictures – hasn’t helped present the arguments to best advantage.
It has already become clear how much of a miscalculation and reckless gamble the Prime Minister took in committing a majority Tory government to a referendum. As my pal Simon has said repeatedly one can only assume he simply didn’t expect that outcome from the last General Election. Well he’s fallen on his sword (how could he do anything less?) but in such haste that it makes a far right takeover of the Tory party all the more likely.
The outcome shows how easily electorates in democracies can be manipulated. As I’ve said before not a single person I canvassed in my neck of the woods in the last General Election mentioned the EU once. And yet our area voted solidly to leave. Something was obviously stirred and in my view that something is the fear of the ‘other’…and if that is the case then all the rational arguments (on both sides) go out the window for an awful lot of people. It comes down to a simple ‘gut’ instinct and they rarely make for moderate and considered reflection! It is part of the reason why so much venom has been vent and why, anyone seeking a sensible, rational debate weighing up the pros and cons as dispassionately as possible has been sidelined. As an aside the sneering antipathy of the BBC towards Jeremy Corbyn for suggesting (quite reasonably and consistent with his long term beliefs) that he was only 70/30 in support for staying seems to sum up contemporary media requirements for simple binary statements of right and wrong, good and evil (that as we saw with the migrant crisis) can turn through 180 degrees inside a day.
Already, of course, we are inevitably seeing rowing back on positions taken as the recalculations of the smarter, dare one say possibly more oleaginous (oops my slip is showing already!) politicos on both sides are forming. Another thing (like history, economics and security etc.) that some 33% of ‘us’ have learnt nothing from it seems.
This figure I’ve just quoted is likely to be a tad inaccurate…I have simply taken my rough estimate of the U.K. Population and divided it in my head by 17 million…but hopefully my point is reasonably well made. When anyone says “the country has decided” this is linguistic sophistry…my four grandchildren, all under 5, had no say at all whilst many of my fellow pensioners, a goodly number of whom will have (sadly) shuffled off this mortal coil before any of those kids reach the age of majority, have possibly cooked their goose in ways we cannot imagine.
Or not of course as despite all that’s been said on both sides we none of us have the faintest idea what will happen next. Indeed I suspect that’s shared right across the globe pretty much as the magnitude of this decision sinks in across the world. Although our history of engagement with the rest of the planet is chequered (to say the least) generally we have been perceived in the past hundred years as energetically and enthusiastically ‘open for business’ (to borrow a very ‘tory’ phrase). That, if the reaction here in Italy is anything to go by today, is a reputation that is very much a busted flush.
So where it goes next goodness knows. What I do know is that recriminations amongst those of us on the ‘wrong’ side of the outcome is to be avoided at all costs…though I’ve an uneasy feeling that it will happen. For example, I’m a male, white, pensioner living in the East Midlands…exactly the demographic that a lot of other Remainers are loathing on social media…and seeing me walking down the street I imagine that a lot of them would be seething at me as much as I am at the Leavers. Don’t judge anyone without being damn sure that you are lashing out at the right target…better still don’t lash out at all.
My final thoughts echo what I’ve just said really. I’m staring at the Apuane Alps right now (it helps my karma)…they care nothing for Brexit, the EU or any of the workings of the human race…and I suspect we’ll work through this despite all the negative (and to be fair, some positive) ramifications of what has happened. As the great Kurt Vonnegut was oft wont to say “so it goes”. Hey ho!