I do not like racism at all, so I wonder whether England is my country anymore.
But I am going to visit, partially to say goodbye. I am also going to visit to assess the risks of civil conflict, even civil war.
Had anyone said such a thing to me before the brexit racists won the referendum, I’ve have told them not to be so sodding daft. Now, though, I get the sense that civil strife is an outside possibility. I really do want to assess that on the ground, to find out whether I’ve just got nutty contacts, or if there really is a change of English society going insane.
What’s got me worried is two things:
- The number of people online who say they cannot talk to those holding opposing opinions. This includes husbands and wives, family members, friends, etc..
- The comparison of this social blockage with the situation in Yugoslavia before those civil wars broke out, made by people who were there then and are in the UK now. They report the same inability to resolve differences. They report no one expected violence then, let alone a civil war: it just began. The apparent similarities are ugly.
So I want to get a grip on these stories of people unable to talk the problems through with each other. Am I just seeing the wrong reports, or is there really a problem? If there is a problem, do people hold such strong opinions that they’re willing to turn violent?
I can understand some things now:
- First of all, I can see why communication might be very difficult. As a remainer, I know full well most of the things told by the brexit campaign were outright lies. Their leaders have admitted it. How could I engage with someone went I know what they spout is total crap? How can they engage with me when I tell them what they say is drivel? That’s not a formula for problem resolution.
- Equally, many brexiters voted for reasons that have nothing to do with the racist bigotry of their leaders. That makes it difficult to engage too. Each side is arguing against something that does not represent the other side.
- The country is full of anger. Reason rarely neutralises anger. Poetry can, but who listens to poets?
But does this mean there really is a risk of civil conflict? I don’t know. But let me put it this way, if the racists start to get organised so their violence threatens the civil structures that hold society together, I could see myself joining in the defence of those structures, in the defence of reason and rationality against their bigotted insanity, even if that meant responding to their violence with my own. I wouldn’t be the first, by a long shot, but I’m no pacifist. So the answer I sense is there is risk. And it’s probably a good thing I’m taking myself out of the conflict zone: I’m not sure peace would be more likely with me there.
That’s why it’s very important to me to assess the sense of anger and hatred, to sense whether it’s strong enough that the English world might go potty. Are the stories of mass bigotry true, or are they bad reporting? As you can tell from this piece, I’m presuming there’s something there until I discover otherwise.
Having said all this, there is one good thing. I may disagree strongly with May’s policies, but if there is a risk of an insane descent, then she is a good person to be in charge to prevent it. What’s needed more than the anything is hard–nosed quality leadership, and I sense she can provide that.
Her government is going to have a difficult enough time as it is to map a route to brexit. This risk of conflict makes that far more difficult. But at least May has one thing going for her, herself. She may be new and inexperienced as a PM, but she has a reputation for pragmatism and toughness. She is someone whom I can believe could prevent things descending into the insanity this blog post fears.