I cannot move into another week without recording my thoughts concerning the one which has just passed. Something astounding happened.
A man was democratically elected to the most powerful job on the planet who defied all the norms of what is considered to be acceptable behaviour. This man made no concessions whatsoever to the sensibilities of the electorate he was appealing to and came right out to lay before it his brazen take on the world. In view of the outrage caused in so many quarters, how did such a man persuade that electorate to set aside the shock of his message and, most of all, the way it was delivered? He has now not only been handed the keys to all our futures, but he will be given the nuclear codes as well.
The story goes back a long way, perhaps half a century. At that time a world existed of nation states and of families within those states. Most had functioned for a long time – Germany was the exception – and people had grown surprisingly fond of them. They saw them as an extension of their own, close family and it gave them a strong sense of belonging. Almost without exception they were immensely proud of them. When troubled times came, it turned out they were prepared to die for them, much as a mother would die for her child.
Then came those two terrible world wars which, with the help of perverted science, made war deadly to the point of being suicidal. Humanity recoiled in horror and said never again. Agencies were put in place, starting with the United Nations and followed up by a multitude of other such as the World Bank, IMF, WTO, various NGOs, NATO and many, many more, all designed to govern the conduct of man and his disputes in a peaceable manner.
The bogeyman identified as being behind past conflicts was the selfish, jingoistic nation state. That, along with its borders, had to be downgraded and erased, over time, into irrelevance. Europe began the charge with what morphed, with the utmost stealth, into the European Union.
Also a new, more humane way had to be found to deal with individual misfortune and the Welfare State was born. The old were to receive decent pensions and they, along with everybody else, were to be medically cared for. The four great plagues of want, idleness, poverty and disease identified in the Beveridge Report were to be tackled wholesale for the first time.
But this was not enough. The architects decided that they must complete the work with what became known as political correctness. They must criminalise beastliness towards minorities – all minorities – however obscure. Eventually this extended to the very utterances which people made. A revolution was in the making and, like all revolutions, it needed its cadre of zealots to force it through. Step forward to carry out this work the intellectuals, the academics, the lawyers, the industrialists, the politicos, the entertainment luvvies and eventually the bulk of the media itself. Oh, and don’t let’s ever forget, perhaps the most culpable of the lot, the bankers.
The EU proved the perfect vehicle for making this revolution possible. It also made it respectable even though, indeed, most of it was anyway. While noble in its concept, the EU began the process of subsuming its patchwork of nation states into a homogenised whole. Globalisation and multiculturalism became the new buzzwords and the developed world was urged to indulge in an orgy of consumerism. This had the effect of ratcheting up debt to unsustainable levels and soon the bubble burst with the financial crisis of 2008 – the worst in living memory. Luckily lessons had been learned from the last catastrophic crisis, the 1929 Wall Street crash, and a much more joined up world was able to climb out of it with a fraction of the misery of before.
But, like all things, it came at a price and that price is the one which propelled Trump to power and is propelling us out of the EU. The little man who had listened to his “betters” for fifty years had had enough. He had developed a deep and bitter antipathy for those whose greed had brought the misfortune upon him yet walked off smelling of roses and richer than ever. He had watched, with silent rage, the power brokers ship his jobs to sweatshops abroad and saw his warm and loving communities decimated and turned into wastelands. All the while the men who had done it grew richer by the billion while the poor bloody infantry saw their wages frozen and their living standards plummet. Adding salt to the wound, as the little man saw it, was the multiculturalism which the know-alls had forced on him.
What unites the two seismic events of Trump and Brexit is a deep disdain, felt by many ordinary people in the Western world, for a ruling class which, without consultation, sought to change forever the very nature of their societies. But it has not gone unnoticed that this privileged elite have never been an active or even visible part of the societies they are busily changing. Theirs is a cloistered world of high gates and security guards where the hoi polloi are well and truly kept at arm’s length.
Their insular world now trembles before the forces currently ranged against it. But watch this space: Trump and Brexit are only the beginning. Fresh earthquakes can be expected right across Europe in the months ahead.
The Europe which we put our signature to almost two generations ago is not the Europe we are being asked to vote on in a few weeks’ time. Then it was all about trade, except that is wasn’t.
The European Common Market began its life as something of a confidence trick. The political classes knew from the very beginning that it was a political project designed to relegate the nation states of Europe to a subservient role. They had concluded that they were nothing but trouble and were the biggest single cause of its terrible wars.
Just the same they knew that the peoples of Europe were, almost without exception, lovers of the lands which bore them and felt a deep attachment to the cultures which had developed within their borders. Talk at that stage of a European Union might have frightened the horses and run the risk of it being still-born. So they had to tread carefully. A mighty trading bloc though? Well, who could object to that? We all want to improve our standard of living.
Thus was born the Common Market. Europe had always been strong on markets and the use of that word was perfectly designed to allay suspicions. They were content to play the long game. Stage one was to lock the lot in lucrative trade arrangements, recognising that nations doing the bulk of their business with each other could not, thereafter, easily break free.
Actually, the whole business had begun even before the Treaty of Rome with the creation of the Iron and Steel Community of France, Germany and the Benelux countries. The idea there was that you couldn’t go charging off with a secret re-armament programme, as Hitlerite Germany had done, if all your iron and steel came from a common source.
Europe had had enough of war and a system, so they reasoned, had to be created whereby future outbreaks would be next to impossible. Although there was nothing wrong about that, hadn’t the setting up of NATO nine years earlier achieved that? As Europe grew richer – helped in no small part by the generosity of Uncle Sam with his Marshall Aid programme – it became safe to move on to stage two of the project and chuck overboard that boring old, and grudgingly conceded title, Common Market. Now it became the European Community.
Still no feathers were ruffled, but the more discerning of us could see where the project was headed. Not long afterwards came the great European Union and all was plain to see. With that came the burgundy coloured passports that let us all know – in case naively, a few of us nursed any continuing illusions of national independence – that we were now part of a burgeoning superstate. The Euro was meant to be the final brick in the wall.
The reason all the member states, with the exception of Britain, had been so accepting of the project was that they believed that the nation state, through its inability to protect them from the ravages of war, had been discredited. Only Britain’s island status had saved it from occupation. It therefore had no reason to lose faith in the nation. It stood proud of its institutions and the fact that its Industrial Revolution had changed the face of humanity. Also its exalted former position as the world’s greatest empire made it harder for it to become just another brick in the wall.
But now we must decide: do we cut loose and regain that independence which has been lost, or do we stick with it and with the confidence of a major player work within the system to bring it to the democratic accountability which we Anglo Saxons insist on? We are far from being alone in wishing this.
The world is increasingly moving in favour of what may be called the Anglosphere with our language and business models reigning supreme. I do not doubt that Britain PLC could cut a swathe in the world, but do we want a mighty power on our doorstep which we are unable to influence?
Nevertheless, worries abound concerning immigration, which apart from putting all our public services under strain, has the power to change the character of our country forever. Much of the fury and distrust of the political class which drives the Trump presidential campaign in America is at work here in Britain. They never asked us, say the doubters, about immigration and they never asked us if we were willing to cede sovereignty. They seem only interested in looking after themselves. And as to what Europe was really all about that, well that too, was founded on a lie.
Although the EU was a work of the utmost deceit, we are where we are and we should not necessarily quit because of that. Perhaps the best reason to stay is a geopolitical one. Out of the EU, however brilliantly we handle our affairs, with a population of 64 million ours might end up being a forlorn voice crying in the wilderness.
It is not an easy choice to make. But then who ever said life was easy?