Brexit and friends: reasons to be frightened

Yesterday I had a conversation with someone who actually seems to share my anxieties (or paranoia). Many people think I (and she) are simply alarmist.

What we share is this.

We see the Brexit vote, and feel that this is simply a glorified opinion poll. It saw many people vote against immigration, against marginalisation, against poverty, against a London-centric nation, against politics as normal, against a distant political elite, against the failures of globalisation. It was a protest vote. That protest vote is not a vote for anything, yet it is being used to try to stamp out dissent, by those who are anti-EU zealots. “The people have spoken. We need to accept the democratic vote.” Bollocks. If they have spoken, it’s with a multiply forked tongue.

We look at the Corbynista take-over of the Labour party, in which Militant have been re-branded Momemtum. We see an appeal to a democratic mandate, while anyone who disagrees with the so-called “mandate” seems to feel themselves threatened with de-selection, and women MPs especially feel bullied, harassed, and threatened. Jewish members, in particular, seem to feel particularly vulnerable, despite Shami Chakrabati’s successful application for a peerage. A long-time member of our local Labour party tells me that virtually none of these new members have turned up for either local party meetings, or for canvassing at elections. They are single-ideology members.

We look across the Atlantic at the Trump phenomenon. God knows Hilary Clinton comes across as a particularly bloodless and unappealing candidate. But Trump appeals to the worst in people: anger, anti-almost-everything, clearly racist, and fundamentally unwilling to accept any degree of scrutiny of his tax and business affairs. Yet, despite all this, he taps into a deep root of anger among those who have lost out of present day American success, while hankering for a mythological and lost fifties’ Pleasantville.

We look across Europe and see an out-of-touch political class and populist anger. In France one incompetent president is likely to face off an equally incompetent (and corrupt) predecessor, while Marine Le Pen and the FN turn more and more Islamophobic resentment into votes. In Germany, Frau Merkel is less and less the respected Mutti of a happy and confident nation, and more and more the resented mother of a rebellious teenager. AfD continues its accelerated political rise, unhappily coincidental with the re-legalisation of the publication of Mein Kampf.

We see these things, and we see uncomfortable and undesirable comparisons with the Germany of the 1930s. A popular appeal to fix things, a populist ability to fix the blame on “them”, an ability to disguise a profoundly demagogic manipulation of the voters as a democratic appeal to the people. These things should be really very scary. They are not politics as usual. They are venomously anti-political, and ultimately de-humanising.

We fear greatly that we have failed dismally to learn the lessons of history. We acknowledge a significant degree of both complacency and arrogance in the European political elite. But we fear, in short, that we are seeing the seeds of failure of Western democracy, sown in a field of anger and disillusionment. Those currently in government seem to us to be sleepwalking into a nightmare.

It may be that we are alarmist, even paranoid in these fears. But what if we are not?

11 Replies to “Brexit and friends: reasons to be frightened”

  1. I hear a lot of old ladies complaining that the new ones don’t go on the flower rota. And they don’t starch the altar linens. They just sit around talking about faith and reading the bible.

    I’ve never been to a local party meeting. Probably never will. Too busy trying to prop up other outdated and outmoded ways of working in the 21st century. Like chapter meetings and deanery synod.

    1. Chapter meetings and Deanery Synods are what we collectively make them…… one way or another we have to interact with each other. They can be a waste of time, and they can a real support and encouragement. I’ve been them all over the years.

      1. The point is not about Deanery Synod (where i am usually 20 years younger than everyone else) it is about how the world has changed. Older adults go to meetings.

        1. Yes, and younger ones like me (62) Blog, Messenger and meet on Facebook … but we still meet, whatever our age. That’s my point. Social media is something I’ve used since 1994. (OK it was only email back then… but I did have one of the very first parish web sites in the country..brag… got me in the papers) And what’s wrong with being older, exactly 😉 ?
          Some of us who have studied postmodernity for the past 25 years, find some of the ‘new’ things youngsters come up with hysterically funny. “Talking Jesus” presented to Synod by two late-20-somethings… so embarrassingly self contradictory. I also know youngsters who are ‘old’ and oldies who are young. I know far more about how the world has changed than my 25 year olds. I am responsible for some of the changes (not necessarily the best ones) and lived through the others. But then I listen to them… a lot. And when they stop talking, they listen too. And I love not to going to meetings. So I am selective…. 🙂 And mess about on tinternet. But in the end we also have to press the flesh and eyeball each other too.

          1. Nothing is wrong with being older. What is wrong is saying “we need to do things differently to engage with a different demographic than the small one we have” and then complaining that they don’t then start engaging with the old dynamic. It’s pointless.

            To draw my final comparison with the church before giving it up as a bad job:

            “We want to engage with new people in new ways”.

            Great let’s do it.

            “Let’s create a new space with new ways of engaging.”


            “People have engaged”.

            I’m not sure about this. The new ones didn’t come to the mothers union meeting or the beetle drive.


            “They’re not coming to the local party meetings” is neither here nor there. It’s the most sour grapes whinge I’ve heard through this whole debacle. And the debacle is massive.

            All of that said, the Labour Party is cannibalising itself from within. There’s little to do with the newly engaged people as we’re all watching from the sidelines bewildered contemplating what to do instead. Probably the pub. Probably without engaging for another ten years if there is anything worth engaging with then.

            1. OK, with you now I think… but helping people do things differently is what Ministry is. The trick is not to confuse “change management” which is secular and necessary with Transformation, which is a Godly business and quite different, and that’s the confusion of the current climate in the CofE. Tranformation is a patient business. And there is time. But it’s Kairos not Chronos. Labour party.. well I’m a cyncial 25 year old when it comes politics these days!

  2. And we can go on…. Russia practicing for a real war in Syria in the way the Luftwaffe practiced on the Spanish…
    RAF jets are, for the first time ever, going to Japan to practice withe the Japanese air force as the Chinese and Japanese face each other down over boundaries…
    The wars in Africa are forgotten because comparably they are irrelevant. Though we’re quietly sending troops into Southern Sudan..
    The Baltic states sleep uneasily….

    And the LGBTI community, freer here than in most of the world might (or might not) get to be recognized in a CofE that is moving rapidly towards presbyterianism. But when I say that nobody listens… why?
    Thank God for my rural parishes and thousands like them where the real Church will survive come what may.

    The supposedly successful bit of the CofE (HTB and All Its Works) is a manifestation of the overweening individualism which is bringing Western civilization down.

    But I have cunning plan…….

  3. I might – hopefully will – get a chance to write something substantial on all these themes soon as – as I’m sure you appreciate 🙂 – I disagree with so much. Can I in the meantime recommend Strauss & Howe’s ‘The Fourth Turning’ which is about generational changes in the English speaking world for the last few centuries. Their analysis (made in 1997) has been comprehensively borne out by events. (I’m sure you’ll be able to pick many holes in their historical details though!) It’s one of the things that enables me to be hopeful in our present situation.

      1. “America and destiny” … that’s a warning sentence. America (so clearly waning) has the same destiny as the British empire: Change and decay in all around I see…. Lifetime cycles are far too short to judge – half a millennium is about as short as you can look at and then there are apparent cycles of ups and downs (though be very careful, this needs a hermeneutic of suspicion!!) .. and I agree we’re at a time of dissonance now. But there are no guaranteed outcomes (optimism is the product of Victorian hubris)… just think of Europe’s “dark age” after the Roman empire fell. It took half a millennium to recover. That wonderful future history, “Star Trek” is set AFTER the “Eugenic Wars”, remember. The future is not set for any of us, and certainly there is no guarantee of continued “progress”. I do fear from my granddaughters. My hope is in God, not humanity, in the end. But that’s not to be defeatist. Just realistic. We have to work and make good thing happen.

  4. I’ve been a bit too busy today to reply, though I’ve seen the comments from time to time. A couple of points if I may.

    First, Sam, thanks for the book reference. I’m not quite are how high my reading pile has got, but it feels like it’s currently in danger of overtaking Ben Nevis as the UK’s highest mountain. I am sure your view will indeed by antithetical to mine. I’ve still never recovered from your love in with Sarah Palin! 🙂

    Robb, I think there are some interesting points of comparison between political parties and churches, but I’m not sure of this particular one. It’s possible, but I suspect the more apt analogy would be conservative activists signing up on the electoral roll in order to vote for a PCC which would join GAFCON / AMiE, while never bothering to attend worship in their parish church themselves.

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