Britain is polarised following a referendum where the people were asked to choose between two unpleasant options. The vanilla-flavoured turd is the status quo where the nation state continues its affiliation to the European Union, a big cog in the machine of globalised neoliberalism — a situation that would likely continue to centralise power in Brussels (as it has since the 1975 referendum) with the British public having no way of knowing if there would be another chance to vote on the matter. Alternatively, there was the strawberry-flavoured turd — leap into an unknown and bewildering array of changes (described in apocalyptic terms by a Prime Minister who can now provide no reassurance without backtracking) — and a possible lurch of government even further to the right. As the Alien vs Predator tagline had it, ‘Whoever wins, we lose’ — but as emotions run high, few people identify themselves with the British people as a whole but increasingly just the half that voted the same, sensible way as them.
Two thirds of the working class C2DE demographic voted ‘Leave’, particularly outside the cities, for a gamut of reasons including democracy, immigration concerns, a perceived cultural threat, job security and to generally stick it to the establishment. With limited money, power and respect flowing their way from their bosses and rulers, some have been seduced by the elite-owned tabloids and the opportunistic far-right into diverting their anger away from big business and big government and towards immigrants — their language, race and culture a prevalent symbol of a world they can’t control. A small minority express this anger in abuse and violence (though it is not yet clear if there was a significant increase in this before the media constructed a narrative around it).
Meanwhile, ‘Remain’ voters complain of a stolen future, understandably afraid of losing free movement and employment rights (pro tip: join a union). These freedoms are already curtailed and leaving the EU risks compromising them even more. Dreams for children are in jeopardy. The fear of deportation hangs over loved ones. In anxiety and anger, grieving voices spite, shame and silence the ‘Leave’ majority, shutting down dialogue and disenfranchising them further with the knowledge that the majority of the liberal left dismisses them as much as the ruling class does. Desperate to avoid the pain of Brexit, some protestors have even escalated their balanced considerations to full-on proclamations of love for the EU, frequently conflating the continent of Europe with an overgrown customs union. They elevate Brussels to some Care-a-Lot which emanates brotherhood, tolerance and compassion, casting out of their mind the billions of euros the EU has offered African dictatorships to stem their migration flows (risking stranding refugees in dangerous situations), the trade protectionism that starves the citizens of indebted ‘developing nations’ and the ships that pull black people out of their dinghies and lock them neatly away.
2,300 years ago in what is now austerity-ravaged Greece, the phrase ‘divide and conquer’ was coined – but we still haven’t got wise to the tactic. The bankers, board members, politicians and arms dealers who brought us to this point look on as the 99% shout each other down, with migrants taking flak from those seduced by the populist Right and half the country disregarded as idiots by the Guardian-sharing echo chamber who believe they know better. We can exit this mess by uniting ourselves and redefining our enemy — breaking out of our divisive and dismissive social media circle-jerks and finding ways to talk to each other. It doesn’t take an impossible feat of imagination to understand the motives behind anyone’s vote — we must listen and empathise, not angrily cling to a cross that should have been left in the ballot box. Either option on that slip of paper causes and continues harm to the workers of Britain and the people of the world. The state has split us up with a choice in which neither option will do anyone any great favours. As we say in the south-east of England, they’re mugging us off.