by Kit Knightly
There is a wonderful episode of South Park from 2008, based around the first election of Barack Obama. As the results are announced the democrats and republicans break out into hysteria and collapse into depression respectively. The Democrats eventually turn the event into an all-night, no-holds-barred street party, certain the world will be fixed by morning and nothing will ever be the same. The republicans crouch in fear all night, deep in their basements or holed-up in bomb-shelters and out-buildings, positive that society will start to crumble and they’ll be living in a Mad Max style free-for-all before the sun rises.
Both parties awaken to a world unchanged.
We know now – 9 years, 2 terms, a few wars, thousands of bombs and one market crash later – that this biting satire was entirely correct and, indeed, prescient. The “radical” President Obama enacted little-to-no lasting changes to the country he inherited, and made only cosmetic efforts to do so. The slow slide downhill toward crypto-fascism, started with Reagan, had no arrests put on its momentum. The Obama administration continued, exaggerated and perfected all the worst policies of his Bush and Clinton predecessors. America is, as Dead Ringers once described Tony Blair’s Britain, “exactly like it was…but ever so slightly different”.
Today, Theresa May triggered Article 50, meaning – as of now – Britain is going to leave the EU. “Brexiteers” are warming up for the street party, whilst “Remainers” are buying tinned food and bottled water. It is all over the press, with funereal editorials written by neo-liberals who’ve been wearing mourning dress for nine months. It even crossed over to the American media. Twitter was likewise awash with overreaction from celebrities, journalists and political figures. None more brilliantly overstated than this:
One of the saddest days in the last 200 years of British political history; one of the greatest acts of self-harm. Heartbreaking. pic.twitter.com/GxUk1qnvUm
— Alain de Botton (@alaindebotton) 28 March 2017
Are any of these reactions justified?
I doubt anyone was more surprised than I was when the result of the referendum was announced last June. It felt, at the time, that the impossible had happened. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thinking that, if all the shaming and abusive tactics failed, the vote would be fixed. The over-turning of that expectation resulted in a brief euphoria, but have those early smiles been rewarded? Will Brexit live up to the promises?
There’s no denying that, broadly speaking, it was a win for the idea of self-determination. The EU, for all the talk of “democratic values”, is a profoundly undemocratic focus of bureaucracy and corruption. A neo-liberal extension of Western-European colonialism, bilking the poorer countries of Europe for the benefit of France and (mostly) Germany. From now the road to European federalization will be tougher, and talk of a European Army will probably die-down.
The Scottish have already requested a second referendum on independence, one that could well flip the narrow (and possibly fixed) result of the previous vote. Should that happen, Britain’s nuclear weapons will be forced to move closer to the home counties, something that may make the Outraged From Tunbridge Wells types reconsider their use, and their expense.
Likewise, Britain’s departure removes a distinctly American voice from the EU table, improving the odds that rest of the (slightly) less American-driven EU members might seek a new understanding with Russia. Such a move would make a global conflagration less likely, and we can all agree that’s basically a good thing.
The Brexit vote itself was, and still is, a stall in the ever-churning machinery that pushes us all toward total globalisation, and any halt in that process can only be positive.
What will actually change with regard to everyday people and their basic standard of living? Probably very little. The vote itself was an expression of a certain amount of societal rage, it was a blow for democracy, and one the establishment did not expect…but that was nine months ago now. And whilst we voted to change the rules, the referee stayed the same…and he takes sides. There’s been plenty of time to work out a deal.
Ironically, though the Brexit vote was based on the idea of self-determination, it has landed us a PM that nobody ever voted for – not even her own party. That she should stand up and make speeches about our “democratic values” is delightfully absurd. Nevertheless, as we’ve already seen in the last few months, the very idea of referenda will come under attack – this past vote will cited as an example of a “tyranny of the majority”, and some time in the near future an MP will bring up the notion of banning referenda altogether. People like Polly Toynbee will write articles about how we must “spare future generations their own Brexit”.
The promised increase in jobs, and concomitant decrease in European workers undercutting the minimum wage, will probably be held up in the international courts for years, as each EU country takes Britain to court to prevent their nationals getting deported. The result could very well be that all (or most) of the EU nationals already in Britain will be “grandfathered”, meaning virtually no change there. People who object will be pilloried as racists.
The NHS, steadily underfunded and deliberately undermined by privatisation around the fringes of its services, will still very much be under threat. The decline in service will now be blamed on EU passported workers having to leave (even though, as stated above, it likely won’t happen).
Cuts to social securities, like unemployment and disability benefits, will continue to happen – maybe even be increased. The minimum pension age may also continue to rise. The blame will be placed on the economic downturn (notionally) caused by Brexit, turning the poor against each other. Rich people will continue to be rich, getting richer off the back of the derivatives market that “predicted” the (entirely controlled and deliberately punitive) economic crash.
The military budget, already a bloated parasite on the public purse, will “need” to be increased because our “alliances in Europe are less stable”. Whether this money is ever turned into an actual increase in combat ability is unimportant, the money will make its way to the pocket of defense contractors, private security firms and their ilk.
In the general, then, Brexit is at least a symbolic victory for the concept of sovereignty and anti-globalist sentiment – A movement given energy by the internet based media and alternative news. A sign that newly interconnected humanity is capable of seeing beyond propaganda and acting in their own interests…in the ways that our limited power allows.
In the specific, in the short-term, Brexit will be manipulated to push the agenda of the oligarchs that run the country, and used as an excuse to undermine, defund and break-up our public services. The public money will be used to make rich people even richer. The resulting UK-EU trade agreements will probably end up almost entirely preserving the free-market status quo a under new, unspoken name. A neo-liberal order made stronger by a forced clandestine nature.
The mainstream media, long-disconnected from any kind of reality, will not report anything that matters. Instead choosing to stoke fear whilst discussing faux-problems and non-issues at length, cluttering the air-waves with white-noise to distract people from all the very problems of food banks, debt slavery and dwindling quality of life. Any resemblance to reality in their coverage will be entirely coincidental. Just like every other issue or event for the past decade at least.
In short, there is no sense in a having street party, and perhaps no call for stocking the bomb-shelters. The sun will rise on an over-powered, heavily surveilled semi-police state, governed by lobbyists for de-regulated mega corporations. Creeping government powers of detention and invasion of privacy will be legalised in the name of canonised terror-victims. Wars of conquest will be marketed to us as patriotic, necessary and humane, whether we’re in Europe or not.
We will wake up in a world largely unchanged.
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it is noticeable that most of the comments on Brexit and its consequences have been preoccupied with economic questions. Will the UK be better off in or our … and so forth. What seems to be missing is the geopolitical dimension of the EU which to my mind are of equal if not greater importance. EU membership has become a stalking horse for NATO membership and Article 5 of the Lisbon Agreement aligns EU security with NATO security, that is to say, confrontation with Russia. I include below an article which deals exhaustively with this question below. I hope readers will bear with me, but this is of rather more importance than free trade for tomatoes.
September 23, 2016
Where is Europe’s Duterte?
by Aidan O’Brien
Europe doesn’t have a leg to stand on. It doesn’t even have a brain. It has reached the stage where it is more hopeless than the Third World. Indeed, for lessons in survival it must look towards the Third World.
The irony is that in a globalised environment: Europe is provincialism personified. Or in other words, as the rest of the world becomes more independent and integrated: Europe becomes more dependent and decrepit.
Last week in Brussels (September 14) European Commission President, Jean Claude Juncker, delivered the 2016 State of the Union Address to the European Parliament. It was a fairytale of lies and omissions. So much so that we can only conclude that if the EU can’t grasp reality or intentionally hides reality then reality will dispense with the EU.
Juncker started by accepting the EU’s “existential” crisis. Then he proceeded to exemplify it in an intellectual display that would have embarrassed a ten year old. Not only was historical fact beyond Juncker’s understanding but so too was current affairs.
Juncker’s big lie was what he called the “the European way of life”. Apparently this is in great danger and he wants to protect, defend and preserve it. Europe according to the EU’s top dog is surrounded by enemies, terrorists and toxic refugees. The EU therefore has to be strong and united and ready to “shape international affairs”. It needs to be a “force” in the world.
And what exactly is this “European way of life” that needs so much care? According to Juncker it is summed up in the words “freedom, democracy and the rule of law. Values fought for…over the centuries.” As he sees it: “Being European means being open and trading with our neighbours, instead of going to war with them”. In Juncker’s words: “above all, Europe means peace”.
If Europe, for Juncker, is so peaceful it follows that “solidarity” is a key European strength. And the proof of this progressive and solid European bond? The European Commission President pointed to three examples of European togetherness worth celebrating. Firstly there are the EU sanctions against Russia. Secondly there is the common EU response to the refugees. And thirdly there is the common currency – the Euro.
In this junk view of Europe “unity” therefore means: war, racism and savage austerity. And as for “Europe” being another word for peace – only a lobotomised mind could agree. To borrow an idea from Gore Vidal – Jean Claude Juncker represents not Europe but the European Union of Amnesia. In the mind of the EU – West European imperialism (old and new) is invisible. And the thought that Russia, for example, might be legitimately responding to West European imperialism doesn’t occur. To paraphrase Harold Pinter: in Brussels West European history (old and new) never happened.
And why is the EU dodging the truth about itself? The answer is the USA. This was Juncker’s great omission. The EU’s greatest taboo subject is its dependency on the USA. And while Juncker alluded to it in the context of NATO – he avoided digging deeper. NATO implies that there is an alliance between the EU and the USA. In truth however there is no alliance but a command structure. The commander being the USA.
The fact is that in the EU the deep state is EUCOM – the United States European Command. The US military is not just an ally of the EU but is deeply embedded in the EU. So much so that no European sees it. While everyone knows about NATO – no one knows about EUCOM. And the grip it has on the EU (via the military and intelligence networks) is so firm that the EU really is just a US puppet.
Being a puppet the EU therefore has no mind in which to entertain history. It just echoes America’s geopolitical concerns and its accompanying ideology. And America’s main concern today is the Euro-Asian landmass and its desire to control it. Hence the EU’s suicidal pro-American policies in the East. The EU says it wants to protect and preserve Europe but it’s pro-American (anti-Russian and anti-Arab) policies are doing exactly the opposite. As a result, Europe’s only enemies today are the EU and it’s handler: EUCOM.
Is there possibly a way out for Europe? While Jean Claude Juncker was misinforming Europe – on the other side of the planet, deep in the Third World, Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, was informing his nation – and at the same time was “liberating” it.
On September 13 in Manila Duterte said: “for as long as we stay with America, we will never have peace in that land [Mindanao]. We might as well give it up. So, those [American] special forces, they have to go. They have to go. In Mindanao, there are so many American [troops] there. They have to go. We will reorient our foreign policy.” Substitute Europe for Mindanao and there is a way out for Europe.
This Filipino lesson in independent thought was reiterated a few days later (September 15) when, in Washington D.C., the Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs – Perfecto Yasay – declared that the Filipinos: “cannot forever be the little brown brothers of America”.
It may be hard to believe but such forthright words cannot be imagined in contemporary Europe. Because implicit in Europe’s institutions and in particular in it’s foreign policy is the fact that America’s new “little brown brothers” are European. We can only aspire to be Filipinos
@Frank: No offence my friend, but when was the US withdrawal from Mindanao? They seem to be fully invested in staying put.
The simple synopsis is that politicians lie for public consumption. I think the likes of Juncker, Tusk, Mogherini, Stoltenburg, etc. know exactly what they are about – expansionism, globalism, Imperialism and corporate profit. Sugar coating is not their strong point, the real agenda is more and more transparent, and the justification for the lies less and less cohesive. Personally, I don’t think they are to be underestimated, even if they appear hapless in delivering the barefaced lie to the public.
Either more right wing rhetoric. Or deluded nonsense. I am sick of hearing how brexit is revolutionary. Look at the scum that are involved. The disabled in the UK, are now fucked. The tory regime will remove their rights.
Real attack on the establishment. Ha. They wanted this. The poster is deluded or a knuckle dragging moron.
Ad hominem drivel. Or hadn’t you noticed that the disabled you claim to care so much about have been having their rights removed since long before the referendum, (and a lot of good our being part of the EU did them)?
Disability benefits in the UK are already almost non-existent. The new “universal credit” replaces all existing benefits with a single payment system. No more Income Support. No more Tax Credit. No more Disability Benefit. Just Universal Credit. Whatever the feck that means. And all this happened when we were still in Europe. The idea that the EU protects the rights of ordinary people was always exaggerated and is now largely a myth. The EU protects the rights of the rich. Just like every other power structure in the world. In or out the UK will be serving the same masters.
”…it was a win for the idea of self-determination.”
Self-determination for who? Self-serving crony politicians and the corporatist capitalist ownership class they serve? An unelected unmandated Government is going to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act, taking the entire body of European Law (the Acquis Communautaire) as our own, then “amend, repeal and improve” the laws as they see fit – very possibly using unaccountable “statutory instruments” – without the full involvement of Parliament? Even if the Red Tories and Jeremy Corbyn do scrutinise the process? Roughly translated that equates to us being shat on from a very great height. Out of the frying pan….
”…and talk of a European Army will probably die-down.”
There has been no meaningful talk of an ‘EU Army’ – or EU Military Unification to give its correct title – in the UK. That said, based on the analysis that the UK Column have been doing over the past few years, I believe it is a fait accomplis. So, for all I know, our nukes could be on their way to Ile Longue in Brittany – far enough away for “outraged from Tunbridge Wells” – that is, if they are not completely outraged that we ceded our armed forces and our nuclear deterrent into the hands of a supranational organisation we voted to leave – without a public debate.
”…Britain’s departure removes a distinctly American voice from the EU table”
Did Treason May deliver a veiled threat to the ‘special relationship’ (“signs of protectionist instincts on the rise”)? Did she hint we would be turning toward China and the other emerging economies post Brexit (“align with the fastest growing markets”)? The City of London has set itself up as a global hub for the RMB, was a founder member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and has been instrumental in the internationalization of the currency over the last few years. We even issue Sovereign Debt in RMB since 2014. Do the City’s analysts – who, let’s face it, have always run this country – see the writing on the wall for the US economy and see our new ‘special relationship’ and future in the Global South? I don’t know, but that is the direction Cameron/Osborne (i.e. the Bankers) set for us and where we still appear to be heading. I can’t see Washington putting up with this forever, seeing as it is fighting wars globally to maintain the “exorbitant privilege” of the dollar as the worlds reserve currency. Interesting times indeed.
Brexit is one thing, and one thing only. The tory regime’s enabling act.
Thanks for the article. I, perhaps, come at the whole business of Brexit from a different angle to many of your commentators, maybe because I spent the last 25 years of my working life as a semi- skilled worker in a factory here in the West Midlands. With the exception of a few Mail readers, everyone at work read The Sun during breaks (myself excluded!). On Wednesday we have coffee in our local Sainsbury’s and we’ve noticed that a large majority around us have a copy of The Sun.
The Sun, The Mail, The Express, The Telegraph, who were all passionately pro Brexit, specialise in evoking one thing in their readers; hatred: in this case hatred of immigrants. It is really easy to hate people; it requires no intelligent thought, no comparative examination or analysis, it only requires an emotional reaction at which point all rational thought stops.
Hatred is deeply self-satisfying and blocks out many other emotions such as sympathy or empathy but, hey, it don’t half feel good.
The cry pre Brexit was that, “We Must Take Back Control,” but how many Sun, Mail, Express etc. readers have ever had control over anything political? I suggest none. Most of us cannot influence any part of foreign or domestic policy in either a pre or post Brexit world and therefore the “We,” who are supposed to “Take Back Control,” does not include the vast majority in the UK.
But, hey the illusion feels good!
No one in Liverpool reads The Sun and their five constituencies regularly return Labour MPs with 72% of the vote. With The Mail, but without The Sun, they voted 58% to remain.
My point is that far from being an act of defiance against the powers that be, as it is often portrayed, it was in fact an act of mass obedience, or do you consider The Sun, The Mail etc. as anti-establishment publications?
The majority of voters had their emotional strings pulled and they obeyed.
Very occasionally the worm turns. That was Brexit. But those who always want to be on the side that’s winning always reassert themselves and as they say, the show goes on. Meanwhile, in the long term we all end up dead so we’d best at least try and enjoy the shenanigans.
Astoundingly succinct! Makes a real change to have a news article that actually addresses the issue with intelligence and respect for the reader whatever their persuasion. Thank you. I tired of all the rhetoric, wailing and wringing of hands after the first week. I managed to alienate myself from a close friend, my daughter and one or two lesser important acquaintances at the time, all of which left me wondering whether I wasn’t in an alternative version of Copeland’s ‘Girlfriend in a coma! ‘ It’s reassuring to know that I’m not alone.
Condolences to everyone. I was hoping this will never occur … during my life.
Nothing will change for the hubristic ruling class or the smug upper middle class, after all, they write the rules.
For everyone else, as the old Chinese ‘curse’ warns: ‘May you live in interesting times’
Unfortunately, I fear that you may well be correct (I’ll cancel the sandwiches for the street party)
And I’ll double the beer.