The media is going to be full of Brexit for a week, so let me have my two cents worth.
First of all, the event reveals the absolute contempt those who either own or co-ordinate the system, have for democracy. In their eyes, those people foolishly voting to leave constitutes a failure of ‘leadership’. Suddenly Jeremy Corbyn is the villain, because many of the leavers were traditional Labour supporters and he failed to persuade them. I always thought democracy was about presenting information, trusting people to make up their minds, before facilitating the result. No way. Leadership is manipulating the opinion of the majority in the interests of the few. Except the few now include what has been described as the co-ordinating class: managers, HR, marketers, bankers, IT, politicians, lawyers, media…the butlers to the one percent, and living in the metropolitan areas. Add the lower servants, coming from the old Eastern Europe (a bit like Kiwis in Aussie) and you have the remain vote. Opposing them were the stick in the mud, stay at homes from the regions who haven’t got their heads around the postmodern and have been getting pissed off.
In the first twenty four hours after the announcement of the result it seems the global economy lost two trillion dollars and the UK’s wealthiest, forty billion. How is it possible that people marking a ballot paper and the results being counted can have that result? The factories haven’t exploded, the stores haven’t burnt down, there’s been no natural disaster, the cows haven’t all died – what does it mean?
It means that the investors in investment got grumpy and changed their investments in stocks, shares, futures, hedge funds, derivatives, currencies… Since the 1980s, investment in production is a room to the side of the main theatre. The economy is instead based on mirages, feelings, hunches and intuitions. It’s just possible those cretins from the regions are tired of living in a casino.
And then there is the absolute cheek of the Tony Blairs of the political scene. Here is a man who helped George Bush tell lies to justify the invasion of Iraq, which has led to the destabilising of the Middle East and the creating of millions of refugees, a considerable number of whom have made the perilous journey to Europe, threatening instability in that region. Not to mention the death and suffering. Here is a man still daring to preach, still claiming superior knowledge. I suspect the Tony Blairs of the world are also pissing off the cretins from the regions.
So, manipulation, contempt, inequality, unreality and hypocrisy – add a degree of poverty- and you have the ingredients for alienation and anger. What shape does it take politically? That is the issue. Fascism, or something else? If something else, what?
In 1979, the cultural historian, Raymond Williams wrote a prophetic afterword to a new edition of his book, Modern Tragedy. It’s always been a touchstone for me. He noted that the dominant messages from the centre (even back then), were ones of danger and conflict and that managed affluence has slid into an ‘anxiously managed and perhaps unmanageable depression.’ Some political consensus has held but the ‘social consensus underlying it has been visibly breaking down.’
Williams believed that these rhythms are familiar historically and can be traced ‘to a dying social order and a dying class.’ This is expressed in nostalgia for times past but also produces a new authoritarianism and a managed political violence – as the system struggles to survive.
As a social order is dying it grieves for itself and we are all caught up in that grief – even those who opposed the order. As the economic order ‘defaults’ there are considerable costs to be paid, with millions thrown out of the expectation of work. The system tightens the screws and ‘the central disintegration begins, with its new shocks and pain.’
For Williams, those searching for alternatives can only separate themselves from the disintegrating system by ‘rigorous and relentless self-examination and new relationships,’ for the struggle for alternatives will be a long one, with ‘repeated postponements of hope requiring new commitments to effort.’ He sees a great need to make connections between past, present and future struggles and to begin to answer the question, ‘What do we want to become?’ rather than constantly stating, ‘what we do not now want to be.’
It seems to me the Brexit vote was a pebble thrown into this pool of a dying order. The ripples will be worth following closely.