Archive for July, 2016

Fighting for principles.

Posted: 24th July 2016 in Uncategorised

I’d like to start this post by taking a look at a quote that I think has particular relevance for the current political climate.

“Then there was this freedom the little guys were always getting killed for. Was it freedom from another country? Freedom your mother in law? Please mister give us a bill of sale on this freedom before we go out and get killed. Give us a bill of sale drawn up plainly so we know in advance what we’re getting killed for and give us also a mortgage on something as security so we can be sure after we’ve won your war that we’ve got the same kind of freedom we bargained for”

This excerpt is taken  from the anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun which was written in 1938 and set during the first world war. The book explores how Joe Bonham experiences several moments of realization regarding his position in his family, his relationship to his government and his duty to humanity. This quote is in my opinion a powerful example of a citizen questioning the coherence of the political system that he belongs to.

Johnny_Got_His_Gun_poster

What happened on the 23rd or July and the months preceding this date was a ferocious war for your mind. The referendum was an opportunity like no other for the little guy to voice their discontent and anger at a system that they believed no longer served them. The sad truth is that they have been shouting from the rooftops for decades and no one has listened to them. Whether you approved of the EU or not; it is idealistic, visionary and entrenched in a noble traditions that no longer seem accessible by an electorate that wants something tangible. The EU claims to represent the value of international toleration, but what does this mean for the little guy who merely seem concerned about whether he is able to feed his family for the next week or two. The EU is meant to be guarantor of cultural integration, but is this sort ideology accessible to a young couple who’s priority is to simply own their own house. Furthermore, I think there was subconscious mindset of scepticism towards these particular values, “Which nations should we tolerate? What is Turkey going to do for us?” “I don’t want to adopt customs and traditions that are against British culture!”. I also believed that is coincided with the ‘we are tired of experts’ rhetoric; many citizens distrusted the institutional advisory bodies because they spoke a language was either incomprehensible or inappropriate for an electorate that wanted a straightforward answer to a a straightforward question. ‘How can we take back control?’ . Unfortunately for Brexitieers that answer is far from simplistic and is actually embedded with nostalgic sentiments that are far more idealistic than the EU itself. I’m not trying to smack a ‘uneducated’ label over those who voted to leave the EU, but it was clear that they wanted their hard fought ‘tax payer’ money to belong to something that was a lot more palpable than the  protectionist policy that the EU represented. I believed that this was the epicentre for many leave voters, it was feeling that many could sympathise with but when feelings are not controlled or monitored they begin to fester into passions that can take a turn for this worst.

The disturbing irony behind the leave campaign is that they were able to mobilise support towards their cause by supporting the same vague principles that Joe was discussing in Johnny got his Gun. Joe once said “how much liberty and whose kind of liberty? Were they fighting for the liberty of eating free ice cream cones all their lives or for the liberty of robbing anybody they pleased whenever they wanted to or what?“; how can we claim to fight and argue for these principles when the boundaries of these principles are not even properly defined? Indeed Boris Johnson has said that “it can be our independence day” if Britain was to leave the EU. The absurdity of this statement is a perfect example of how the leave campaign was able to engineer a revolutionary fervour amongst the electorate but it is also demonstrates how leaders were able to exploit the broad scope that political symbols can offer.  Boris was clearly making a historical reference to America’s successful attempt at independence; but it was an inaccurate and inappropriate one to say the least. During the eighteenth century Americans were trying shake off the shackles from a state that they saw as oppressive and tyrannical, but this current referendum was actually more about leaving a supranational government that we have previously volunteered to join. The 1975 public referendum saw over 66% of the electorate deciding to join the European Community (which formed the basis for the EU) this was essentially a public demonstration to take part in a grand European project. The American nation however, was engineered by several European states to create a ‘new world’ with the forced coercion of indentured servants and slaves. So not only has Boris failed to acknowledge the British revolutions and the counter revolutions of the seventeenth century (1688 Glorious Revolution and the Civil wars of the 1640/50s) but he has painted a distorted picture of how the European Union was created. This is indicative of how political figures managed to abuse the mindset of uncertain voters. By exploiting the romanticism in regards to the decade long bloody struggle for American ‘liberty’; Boris was able to use the referendum as a political battleground in which the British people were told lies about how they could obtain prosperity. Furthermore, it is important to understand that the working classes (the ones who allegedly made up most of the leave vote) have been in dire financial straits for decades starting with Margaret Thatcher’s attempts to polarize the working and middle classes during the 1980s. By utilising the rhetoric of historical protest; Boris was able to use the EU as a scapegoat to masquerade  damaging neo-liberal policies on the poor whilst at the same claiming that Britain needs to rise up against the EU in the same way the Americans fought against the British.

But at the heart of this comparison lies in the fact that we have representation in the European Union whereas the Americans had no representation in how they were governed by the British state. For Boris to ignore this important fact alludes to a much larger problem, which is that the retelling of historical inaccuracies leads to the falsehood of current radicalism. Many powerful leave campaigners including Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage have abused the practice history in order to promote their agenda towards Brexit. As I have mentioned previously, ‘political radicalism’ has been controlled and manipulated by the establishment to provide a false sense of hope that change is possible. These political leaders may use certain populist language like ‘taking back control’ and ‘our Independence day’ to give the impression that they advocate extreme change but the historical facts and the present statistics prove that their words are genuine. However, a large majority of the leave voters did not realize this, mainly because they were so concerned with their anti-establishment vision(honourable as it may have been) that they failed to see the woods for the trees. For example; UKIP have repeatedly claimed that Britain can access the single market whilst still retaining the ability to tightly control immigration and trade. This is just simply not true. The EU have claimed that any nation that wishes to access the single market must comply with the freedom of goods, services, capital and people. Even though we have left the European Union, access to this market diminishes any possibility of the UK having the ‘liberty’ to control these key economic and domestic matters. Now I don’t disagree that fundamental change is needed to make our relationship with Europe more prosperous. But we as a people need to find realistic avenues and methods (reforming the EU from within and modifying our own economic policies) to enable this change to actually happen, playing on the hearts and feelings of those who are disgruntled with the system only serves to benefit the establishment. Because we are leaving the  European Union, the establishment (or a faction of it) are able to convince the population that they have removed the bondage preventing the UK from being free, but the behind the scenes they are supporting the frameworks which will ensure that Britain does not encounter fundamental change.

_90052894_boris_independenceday2

When Dalton Trumbo created Joe Bonham for Johnny got his Gun; it was a very radical measure. Mainly because he was creating a character who criticized the principles that were the ‘backbone’ for western society. Yet it seems that those same principles are given unconditional support regardless of the way in which they are used and the types of people who are using; the process for questioning conventional ideas seems to have been abandoned and a ‘sheep’ mentality is now in full force where people are only bothered to look at half of the issue. The reason why this is possible, is because there appears to be an anti-intellectual movement where a large section of voters decided not to trust the research and statistics of professional institutional bodies and instead chose to follow political figures whose priorities were closer towards political ambition than to provide accurate information to the public. Whether this was because people believed a global conspiracy was at the heart of the IMF, ECB,IFS or because they believed that a more jovial type of politics was more trustworthy is difficult to say. But it signals worrying times in our ability to make an informed and rational vote. When Joe Bonham talked about the ‘little guy’; he was expressing a desire for people to draw their own conclusions and to not be pressured in believing in the politics of the establishment. At the end of the day, how can we as a people be truly liberated and independent if we are subservient in our need to be told what to fight for? If we want to make a true difference, we need to accept more political responsibility for the outcomes that are produced. Now that would be a radical step forward.