I haven’t written for a while, but it’s been hard to. Don’t you find that when the world is collapsing into insane self-harming hatred around you, it’s hard to write anything that makes any sense to yourself, let alone anyone else? I do. God, I don’t know where to begin. Begin anywhere. So, I will.
June 24th is a date that I’ve spoken about with a few people. I met a friend of mine over Christmas and he talked about how in our home town (which I left in 2002) the day after Brexit was an eerie, disturbing place to be, with union jack flags being flown with just a little bit too much. Something unpleasant had been awoken, or re-awakened from its slumber. Not in a good way, like the end of that poem about Peterloo. We are few, it turns out, and they – whoever they are – are many. Oh god, we’ve lost. We suddenly realised. We’d lost and they’d won.
It was the same here, in Bristol, even though “we” – who is we anymore? – voted to Remain. (sorry Remoan. Yeah, we’ll come to that in a minute.) There was a bin that I walked past on the way to school, and someone had burst it open and chucked all the rubbish inside around on the pavement and in the street, not for any reason other than they could. And so they did. Break a window to hear what it sounds like. Leave the EU because of straight bananas. Or too many foreign types. Or whatever it is this week. On June 23 I’m sure it was a high-minded technocratic Brexit designed to make the country better.
Whatever. It was fucking wrong, wasn’t it.
It was wrong, wrong, wrong, and things are going to go wrong, and get worse. The white paper I saw this week said I, and 64,999,999 other people, were hoping it would all be OK, which is kind of true – I hope it’s okay and not terrible, I’m not an idiot – but I kind of know it won’t be okay. It’s going to be a mess. A mess that a lot of us predicted. There’s no pleasure in being right; but it is going to be horrible. I’ve kept waiting for someone to try and save us, but it’s like the end of the Wicker Man – you think someone’s going to come and stop him from being roasted alive while the hicktown inbreds stand around chanting, thinking it’ll make their apples come back, but no-one does come, and that’s that. No-one did come to try and save us. The meek, feeble wet-paper-bag resistance of the flimsy, dying Labour Party, a handful of Lib Dems, and Cuddly Ken Clarke. And there: it’s gone. And gone forever.
We’re all meant to pull together, which is something the British are supposedly good at – Blitz spirit, up and at ’em, Vera Lynn, white cliffs of Dover, all that bullshit you get fed in history at school that deflects you from the bland, tedious reality of life in these islands, surrounded by unpleasant, selfish, spiteful racists everywhere who’d rather wreck the future for themselves and their children and grandchildren than have to endure the sound of a couple of Polish people chatting away in Greggs.
For fuck’s sake, how did we get here? It’s tempting to draw a line from Gordon Brown not being allowed to call a bigot – a stupid fucking bigot – a bigot, but we could go back further. Nick Griffin on Question Time. Endless racist vox pops on the news. Vile, foul-smelling individuals like Guido Fawkes and his horrible friends being absorbed into the mainstream. Nigel Farage. Christ! That cunt. A beaming smashed-bag-of-crabs face breaking through above a car coat, pint and cigarette. A little man, a dim intellect, a minor, miserable, sad little nobody, and yet there he is, in the golden lift – oh god, that lift, and him, the other one, the other awful man, but I don’t even have time for him yet – holding the hand of the most powerful man in the world, right at the heart of everything.
How did we get here? There’s been endless handwringing of course. Perhaps we didn’t listen to the Very Real, Legitimate Concerns of racists being really racist and saying and doing racist things, and maybe if we’d implemented all of their hopes and dreams for them, they might not have been so racist. Oh no, you mustn’t call them racist, it really upsets them and their Very Real Concerns, and if only we engaged with them and did everything they wanted, then everything would have been all right in the end. If only we’d given them more of a platform, and done everything they wanted, and been really racist, then we could have had our liberal non-racist utopia.
Oh, what balls. I’d counter that we listened too much. We nodded along too much. How many times have you heard a racist idiot say something really racist and think to yourself, I hope he doesn’t push his pint glass into my throat, I just want to get home and not die, or, I just don’t want to make a scene, or, I hate you and everything you stand for but I’d rather not discuss this now. That’s just as bad. We didn’t say enough. We didn’t do enough. We tried to listen. We tried to see things from their point of view. Idiots that we are. Do you think they, once, tried to see things from our side? Ever?
They, of course, the sorest winners in the history of anything, are entitled to call us “Remoaners”. These people who did nothing but moan about everything – everything! – for the past 40 years are now even angrier. You’d think they’d be somehow less angry, since, you know, they actually won, but no. They’re angry that people aren’t rolling over and dying, or that some people still refuse to accept that a glorious future of selling jam to China, privatising everything, destroying all worker rights forever and impoverishing everyone except the very rich. They’re angry that anyone else should be angry. They’re angry they won. They didn’t want to win. They wanted to sit on the sidelines and snipe away, forever, muttering under their breath. But enough stupid fucking mutterers managed to get together, and they only went and won. And now they just want to run away, probably to some villa in Spain, and hide.
And we’re left with this shit. It doesn’t get any easier, does it. I think it’s making me sick every day that I sit around and think about it. It seems to deepen the further you walk in, like you’re stepping into the sea… and then, all of a sudden, there might be a shelf of sand, and we’ll slip below the waters, and be forgotten forever. Good God, what did we do? It doesn’t matter about the why anymore because there’s nothing we can do to change what’s just happened. We aren’t going back in. We’re stuck on a polystyrene island, floating off into an inky black sea, and we’ve turned off the lights and we don’t want anyone to save us. Except. Except him.
Oh no, him. But that’s for another time.