Silver Lining?

Silver Lining?

Is it in bad taste to say some good can come from the loss of life?

When those deaths are in excess of 450,000 plus One is there any reason or outcome that offers justification?

When the plus One was the murder of a black man by law enforcement, should the suggestion come from a white person who may accidentally litter each paragraph with his privilege?

It all sounds a bit of a stretch. Decency and common sense say it’s best to stop typing now. But that decency has come from a background that prevents my neck being pinned down by a cop for eight minutes, forty-six seconds. The white idea of decency is turning the other cheek. Remaining silent now would be the most indecent act of all.

Before we get to the plus One, the number of deaths that will soon reach half a million needs to be considered. Everything requires context. It’s always cause and effect. The largest protests seen in thirty years didn’t come about just because of the plus One. People were primed, had been brimming.

It was coronavirus that saw the daily death rate rocket to nearly half a million. In response, the world went into lockdown. Daily life changed and may never return to a replica of before. Economies tanked by twenty percent. Families sat at home, wondering if their incomes would still exist after furlough schemes. Students couldn’t take exams. Doctors and nurses were used as frontline fodder.

It wasn’t a spring of renewed hope; it became a period of deathly stasis.

With the servitude to the rat race suspended, people became more opinionated, passionate about all causes and views. With each of those coronavirus deaths, people took a step closer to creating unified voices. Examining the government’s response to a never seen before situation was never going to satiate this newfound appetite.

Everyone in the room became restless.

Different sides had already formed—across all political lines—the pandemic just primed them for action. All participants were expecting something akin to the Brexit or Trump debate. The expected arguments would be how the half-million could have been reduced to something much less if only…

Each “If Only” could be argued and countered enough times to last an infinite number of lockdowns. Then those eight minutes and forty-six seconds happened. If there was no lockdown, there would have been widespread condemnation from families around the world. They’d have settled down after a long day at work, shook their heads at the television screens and made comments about how nothing has changed in America.

That America still has a race issue.

No senators would have taken the knee for a photo opportunity. Any protests would have been localised and quickly quashed. Marches in the UK would have been counted in double figures—if there had been marches at all. The world would have been too busy to stop for the murder of one more black person by a police officer. Everyone’s senses would have been dulled by the pressures of the day-to-day.

Lockdown was oppressive and liberating in equal measure, in immeasurable ways.

With each passing week, increased frustrations were harder to suppress, impossible to keep bottled. Eight minutes and forty-six seconds was the length of time it took the fuse to burn.

The murder of George Floyd was a bomb beneath the existing structures of systemic racism.

Thousands flocked to demand change. To chant in the clearest voice: Black Lives Matter.

It took nearly half a million deaths to make the world take stock. To put movie stars and heavyweight boxing champions front and centre, speaking from the heart at protests instead of condemning the situation in sanitised interviews during promotions for their product.

No one is born racist. It is usually taught. But people are born ignorant and that can grow. Worse still, it can be manipulated by those with agendas.

People using the counter chant All Lives Matter, haven’t understood the core issues. It’s a big part of their privilege, believing a universal view is the fix for isolated problems they’ll never face.

They need guidance. They’ve never spent a day in the shoes of a person who is pre-judged, looked at suspiciously, treated as a second class citizen, just because of their skin tone. They don’t see a problem because they’ve never personally witnessed one.
They don’t know what they don’t know, because they don’t know it.

Counter claims that America is the land of opportunity, that they’ve had a black president, underlines the ignorance. Just because you can make it, doesn’t mean you won’t face unequal hardships on the way. Doesn’t mean you won’t still be perceived as second class once you’re there.

The protests then became a magnet for the opposing view.

They didn’t need a fuse to be lit. The far-right are more like a jack-in-a-box, outdated and always ready to spring into action. The problem is, both extremes—right and left—further the other’s cause.

The left breeds hypocrites, the right produces honest liars.

Everyone needs education.

But with each confrontation, ears are closing.

Openness faces a new lockdown. The half a million will have died for no reason if reasonable people become obstinate in their opinions.

Should removing historical monuments occur when they have links to slavery?

The world has been taught to see in black and white, when it operates in a permanent state of grey.

To erase history means we can never learn from it; appearing to champion wrongdoings halts progress.

There is no easy answer. Here in the UK, there have been calls to remove Sir Robert Peel’s statues in Glasgow, Tamworth, Manchester, Bury and his monument on Holcombe Hill. He has fifteen statues around the world. A former Prime Minister and creator of the modern day police force. He had a patchy record on the slave trade. It appears he profited from it but did eventually vote for its abolition.

Peel is one case that needs examination. It’s not clear cut. People are of their time.

A future generation’s harsher standards will judge the presumed principled people of today. There is something uncomfortable about watching a young person fervently protest, and attempt to deface war memorials, based on the cultural oppression that led to a man’s murder while wearing branded trainers. The Nike tick and Adidas stripes are the modern day motif for slavery. But no one is pulling their stores down and placing them in rivers.

Women are trafficked and forced into sex slavery. But no one calls on the government to track each gang and give these women freedom.

Black Lives Matter, and that movement shouldn’t be hijacked or diluted by another. But the emergent voices for change can carry multiple causes going forward. Those ignorant to Black Lives Matter will always take a myopic view. This has been made more difficult with overreactions which further underline the lack of understanding.

When the middle of the road white man sees a classic comedy axed—one which its creator John Cleese defends—it incites a new type of division. A debate he had no facts for to start with, has just been changed into a talk about something else. He’s no longer thinking about those eight minutes and forty-six seconds. He’s blaming political correctness.

He may even begin to harbour feelings for a return to “better times.” Those times are just a construct: a part of the white collective’s imagination. They were never better times. It was a time Black Lives Matter could only be a whisper, not a chant.

Not the loud cry for help which now resonates around the globe.

Can over 450,000 deaths plus One ever be considered a silver lining?

The cloud that accompanies the lining is large. It blocks the sunshine of progress at every given opportunity.

Heading toward half a million is a big number but that single plus One stops a bigger count. It has paved the way for lasting change. The uncountable loss and damage racism produces every day. Utilitarianism states the most ethical choice is the one which is best for the largest number of people.

The plus One represents all people.

A chance for lasting change.

Everyone left behind has a debt to pay to those who have been taken. A vow to turn their passing into a positive action.

If you carry on as before, you’ll take your turn pressing a knee into a neck for eight minutes, forty-six seconds.

The Brexit General Election: A Blueprint for Dystopia

The Brexit General Election: A Blueprint for Dystopia

A lifelong Labour voter, a left-wing liberalist and a hardline Remainer all go to a Polling Station. They each take a ballot paper and place a cross next to the Conservative candidate. As they leave, they all pull faces of distaste at the right-wing nationalist entering the booth. The latter votes for the Brexit Party. They all knew their choices would lead to a Tory government.

It sounds like a bad joke. It is a bad joke. It is also the reality of Britain’s 2019 winter General Election. Boris Johnson kept it simple with “Get Brexit Done”. In these divisive times, it became a unifying message. People couldn’t face another period of an ineffective government. Those who voted Leave and Remain started to wonder why they voted in the first place and lost the passion for either argument. Not all the people, but we’ll get to them in a moment.

Another hung parliament would have been a disaster so some decided to take the lesser of two evils. It shouldn’t be surprising that the same MPs who spoke down to the public, were condescending and ignored their wishes for three years, would suddenly be able to reconnect during campaigning. They had made their beds, the British public were prepared to sleep uneasy by making a painful choice.

For many, like those that propped up The Red Wall, the acceptance of a Tory government was something painful to stomach. Actively seeking it would, under normal circumstances, seem impossible. Labour has placed the entire blame on Brexit. Corbyn detractors blame his extreme socialist manifesto. There is some merit to this idea. No one quite believed the sums behind the promises. The Diane Abbott factor didn’t help.

As grim as some try and paint this Tory victory (others, of course, have rejoiced) how does it link to the blueprint for dystopia this article’s title suggests?

Literature and film is full of not-too-distant futures where recognisable countries have fallen to facist regimes. The most obvious, due to its London setting and strong political undertones, is V for Vendetta. Like all such set-ups, the viewer accepts the basic premise. They get fed a bit of backstory setting up the proposition and the rest of the film sees the heroes try and fight for freedom and justice.

Every time I’ve seen V for Vendetta, there’s always a moment where the suspension of disbelief is removed and the chances of it occurring are analysed. (If that doesn’t make me sound like the most exciting cinema date, nothing ever will.) Could Britain ever really fall foul to a facist regime, especially with its inherent pride of defeating the Nazis in World War Two?

It always seemed highly improbable. Then Brexit happened. Then the post-Brexit divide created the sort of environment to nurture extremism. It’s clear now that for a country to turn bad at the top, it doesn’t need a majority of its citizens to make ignorant, evil, or poor choices. You don’t even need to mislead them too much. The bad eggs will always exist but their numbers will never grow to the size required to swing a General Election.

Nor will the do-gooders ever multiply in vast quantities to fend off a facist uprising. The battle is won and lost in the centre ground. To be more precise, those that sit to the left and right of it. Ask Tony Blair. His 1997 landslide was all about making that massive part of the population believe in him. The far-left in his own party didn’t, they just accepted it was preferable to further Tory rule.

Now Boris has secured the vote of the same people. But there’s a difference: they don’t believe in Boris like they did Blair, they voted with fatigue and fear. Fear of more uncertainty. Fear that the opposition was inept. Fear that they were out of time and choices.

In dystopia, the keys of power are always legitimately handed over. Once in power, the rights and freedoms slowly retract. The Emperor in Star Wars didn’t take the galaxy by force (no pun intended). A council voted in his explicit rule during a time of uncertainty.

An evil chancer getting the hot seat isn’t enough in itself for dystopia to take hold. The centre left and right need to be subdued further but that can only come once they see no other choice. Enter the disenfranchised left-wingers. They are the unwitting secret weapon of the far-right. During the election campaign, and the anti-Brexit movement that preceded it, they recruited more people for the Conservatives than any Tory MP or the Prime Minister, any fraudulent advert or piece of misleading information.

It was the self-righteous left-wing movement that insisted they knew better than the people. This made the people defy their message. Even after election day, papers like The Guardian and The Independent ran articles that continued the notion people didn’t understand what they had chosen. So yeah, after telling them for three years they weren’t educated enough to understand their Leave vote, they decided to patronise them over the General Election too.

The ignorance wasn’t from the people, it was the self-proclaimed “Good Guys”.

During the campaign, it’s clear the “Good Guys” believe the ends now justify the means. Morality can be shelved until later because for now, it’s more important to stop the “Bad Guys”. The “Bad Guys” in their eyes being the Tories, who should have been easy to make the villains no-one from a Northern working-class background could vote for. 

But people are willing to risk further austerity, policies like Universal Credit and the mistrust of Boris over the floundering, patronising tones of the absent opposition.

In a time where we invite devices into our home that are always listening (Alexa, ask Siri if the government care what I’m making for tea), how we all become guilty of Orwellian doublethink and accept that Diane Abbott really does make 2+2=5 when she’s penning budgets, the malevolent threat of the Tories became safer than the mutually assured destruction born from further indecision. 

And the protests continue. There’ll be no People’s Vote so instead a minority takes to the streets attacking the notion of Boris as PM. They will now fight hard for Proportional Representation even though such a system virtually guarantees endless cycles of hung parliaments, something the British public will never want again.

Their continued and slowly more aggressive attacks will see sympathy from the voters in the centre dwindle further. The police are required to man more marches, using appropriate force. V for Vendetta’s police state then appears on the horizon. Scotland get their independence or get back under Westminster’s unquestionable rule, either way, unchallenged isolation takes hold.

And the remaining “Good Guys” keep recruiting for the regime they oppose through nothing more than their own ignorance. Dystopia creeps in just like this, V for Vendetta goes from fiction to fact, Boris from buffoon to Emperor Palpatine.

Of course, it doesn’t have to go this way.

The Conservative Party may well reinvent itself as something not too dissimilar to New Labour. Boris said he would try and earn the votes he knows are being “lent”. The left may re-emerge with more progressive ideals, a clearer message, and an apology for the air of superiority it has expressed during a time it fell lower down the political standing.

For the time being, Britain doesn’t get the government it deserves but the one it needs right now.

We Need to Talk About Brexit

We Need to Talk About Brexit

It’s been hard to avoid the B word in Britain over the last few years. The sound of “Brexit” has taught me where the exits are in many a room frequented during this period. It’s not that Brexit isn’t important – it is – it’s because both sides are so entrenched in their beliefs there is no “Brexit Debate” nowadays. It’s either a well-rehearsed rhetoric on the virtues of either Leave or Remain.

For this reason, it’s a subject I’ve avoided on social media and never thought would grace these pages. Then a Twitter friend asked for my take. He wanted a genuine insight, not a rehash.

What followed was a measured debate on both sides. Something that hasn’t occurred during polite conversation in this country since the referendum result. For that, we can thank the politicians and news reporters. The take on Brexit has been skewed from the start and has continued ever since. Dazzler on Twitter had found the key to the problem: All I hear is negativity, and I am concerned.

The term Project Fear exists for a reason. This isn’t a cheap trick to throw scorn on Remain from the start. Fear politics is en vogue at the moment. It’s the one fashion accessory every budding politician wants to be seen with. Leave loved Fear in its campaign during the referendum and Remain ensured it didn’t go a day without work since.

All Fear does is give politicians a big out card. There’s no need to solve problems when you can let Fear into the room. There’s no need to present strong, undeniable evidence when Fear’s around. Hell, you can sell feelings and predictions as economic certainties once everyone’s familiar with good ol’ Fear.

But it wasn’t fear that got the Brexit ball rolling with momentum. It wasn’t even Nigel Farage (though his diary probably disagrees). It was the disenchanted and the disenfranchised. For too long, people could see the 1% were swallowing the world’s riches while the majority struggled on. From financial crash to years of austerity, with no end in sight to clear a national debt that meant nothing to them.

Perhaps the EU became a symbol of this structure. Sat pulling the strings of governments to keep its own agenda ticking over. This, of course, doesn’t paint an entirely fair picture but when people feel they’re losing control they turn against those with power. Staying in the EU kept everything the same, with the coffers of the 1% swelling each year.

The status quo needed to be broken. It isn’t working wherever you sit on the socio-economic spectrum. The rise of far right, and now far left extremists are a product of a broken model.

The status quo has become a breeding ground for hatred.

This ignorance has been perpetuated on both sides. Remainers assume those that voted Leave must be racist, Leave think Remainers have rose-tinted glasses and can’t see a country in decline. And every excuse or assumption in between. The truth is: the majority of Leave aren’t xenophobic and Remainers can see failings at home and in the EU but still believe it’s the best model we have to fix things.

The problem is, it’s been a model in play long enough to tackle many of the issues facing the world today and instead has become part of the problem. Leaving the EU removes the government of the day’s first go-to excuse: we have to because of Brussels. It gives the public a greater degree of transparency over decision making, implementation of laws, the management of change. By turning Brexit into a doomsday device, it gives the next three or four governments a new excuse: we’re suffering the consequences of Brexit. This one can run and run, “We’d love to do what you suggest, but we can’t . . . because of Brexit.”

At this point, it’s no longer about the pros and cons of the EU. That was the debate before the referendum. Talk of a second undermines democracy and the viewpoint of those who felt alienated in the first place. If Remainers are hellbent on discussing the virtues of the EU, they should read And the Weak Suffer What They Must? first. When you see why the EU was formed, how it needs to maintain key surplus to deficit nation strategies, the requirement to recycle debt for its single currency, and the propensity to break its own rules for preferred nations, you’ll begin to wonder if leaving isn’t such a bad idea after all.

Remain claim Leave voters didn’t understand what they were voting for. They did: change. It’s Remain that seems to miss their own point. They are voting to stay in a system that supports a single currency the majority of them would vote against joining. It’s like taking out a gym membership but flatly refusing to use the equipment then becoming incensed with changes at the club.

While we’re doing analogies, there’s another doing the rounds about a man ordering fish in a restaurant. I won’t bore you with the entire play, the brief version is after several arguments involving different chefs and a long delay, the man would like to be asked if he still wants the fish. That’s a fine analogy for a service. But the British public didn’t buy anything; they took part in a democratic vote.

To agree with the analogy, you’re saying to those in power around the globe it’s okay to ignore mandates if you argue long enough and make more noise than the initial majority.

Any argument stating that people have changed their mind as more information comes to light is flawed. The argument against Brexit has been a relentless multi-year campaign. The Leave side became largely inactive following the referendum result. The questions Remainers have been asking now, should have formed their narrative before the vote. Much of the evidence that’s followed is subjective – much like the Leave campaign was.

It’s proven that if you tell a human something enough times, it begins to believe it. The Remain campaign has banged the same tune for over two years, people have listened and logged the Fear. Doubt has crept in and pushed democracy aside, for nothing more than feelings.

There is no hard evidence for what follows Brexit. Economists are making predictions. The same type of voices that failed to predict the 2008 financial crisis. The same people that have idly sat by while personal debts are now higher than 2008. The same experts that bandaged up a fatal axe wound to the global monetary system with a plaster and pushed it out of the door for one last go around.

The UK’s imminent departure from the EU upsets this apple cart. They were prepared for the party to end at some point – and God only knows what they have concocted next – but they wanted to milk the current system a little longer. When the cards come crashing down a second time, they want it to be a controlled explosion.

The truth is, there’ll be no catastrophic event when the UK leaves the Union, any recession – home or abroad – will be down to laziness from those in power. Germany has enough deficit nations it can leach from; Britain isn’t short of countries with free trade deals to explore. Yes, some industries will struggle and others will collapse. This isn’t the sign a bad Brexit scenario, it is a sign of the times that’s always been a factor. Workers have to reskill or look for employment in new areas.

When coal mines shut down in Wales, no one can expect Silicon Valley to relocate. Just as the country needs to envisage fresh scenarios, the individual has to recalibrate their position in the changing landscape.

Brexit isn’t bad, it’s something that requires change. How the country’s ruling party and the people within it adapt will determine whether it’s good. The responsibility is with humans, not abstract terms. The time for mudslinging and Fear has long since passed, there’s only room for positive contributions now to a situation you may personally dislike or favour.

Brexit needs to happen to restore faith in democracy. To force politicians to work for a result and sack Agent Fear. Brexit needs to happen so we can abandon excuses and look for reasons to make it work. And if it doesn’t, learn from the experience and explore the reasons why. Brexit needs to happen so we can prove we’re not xenophobic and wish to invite the entire world to our shores, not just the select members of the EU.

Brexit needs to happen so we can move forward from a messy breakup and learn to think positive again.