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A bubbling tide of chest beating jingoistic nationalists

Helmut Sorge | Posted : May 20, 2019

The year 1912. The ocean liner “Titanic” was a technical wonder of the world. At least for the British. The unsinkable pride of the “White Star Fleet”, built in Northern Ireland, made to board 3511 passengers and crew. In the early hours of April 15th, 1912, the glory on the sea hit an iceberg, nature   displayed the fragility of progress and technology.  A tragedy. Realizing his  time had come, too soon but  nevertheless, Wallace Hartley, an onboard band leader, chose the  appropriate  religious hymn for the tragic occasion, “Nearer my God to Thee”, to play one last time on his violin, a splendid gift by his fiancée. Then he was hauled by the icy water into the unimaginable depth of the ocean, never realizing that he was transforming into a figure of history.

Weeks later, the musician’s body was discovered floating near the sinking site, one victim of 1517 .The violin was discovered, miraculously, attached with a string to his skeleton. One hundred and one years later, the instrument was auctioned off, for 1.185 million British pounds. The “Titanic” remains a myth, a symbol of triumph and catastrophe. Just as the fire of the cathedral Notre Dame in Paris touched the human spirit, the world was united in 1912 in sorrow -- the “Titanic” was so splendid, magical, almost like the United Kingdom itself.

Noble history has no priority

The year 2019. The ocean liner is back in the news, its sinking compared by comedians and satirical cartoonist to Brexit, ridiculing politicians, cynically describing the sinking of the United Kingdom and, for now, ignoring its ever present glory--from Shakespeare to the unsinking Queen. So much greatness, tolerance, wit. Agatha Christie, James Bond, the ladies and their phantasmagorical hats at Ascot’s races, awesome Charles Dickens, luminous Charles Darwin, brainy Isaac Newton, Genius of Britain.  Nostalgia forever. Noble history has no priority these weeks and months, because the kingdom is facing self-inflicted revolutionary changes of Titanic proportions. In October, a deadline agreed with the European Union for Britain to leave, the sinking Titanic –feeling will hit the headlines again. The clock is ticking, and no one listens. Britain’s political leaders remain, bizarre, weird enough, and unaware of dimensions and consequences. Debates, yes, but hardly any urgency, the embattled Prime minister Theresa May excluded. She has failed, in one final attempt, to convince the Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn to join her Brexit project, and now her days are numbered.

 Are Britain’s politicians just unscrupulous, incompetent or unperturbed? Washington Post correspondent Ian Dunt discovered a “weird, and, very un-British, quasi-religious undercurrent to all this”, namely “a sense that things would work if you just believed in them hard enough. Also discernable were a hatred of practical judgment and a bubbling tide of chest beating jingoistic nationalism.  A “truly pitiful debate” stated the author of “Brexit:What the Hell Happens Now”, a return to the world of fairy tales and  hallucinations….. British politicians were confronted with reality and given a chance to fix the problems with Brexit, instead of pretending there weren’t any, and they once again fled into mythmaking.” John Simon Bercow, 56, the speaker of the House of Commons,   hasn’t noticed any hatred among his colleagues (he is an MP of the Conservative Party and in favor of leaving the EU), but admits an “intensity of feelings, and “a clash of principles”. He has been managing the 650 MPs and their debates and arguments for a decade now, voted into his powerful job by MPs of all parties, and sworn in by the Queen.”  There is a fundamental incompatibility between one view and another, not in every case, but in many cases. There are irreconcilable differences. And the only way in which these matters can be resolved is by democratic decisions in parliament, in the weeks,   and   months, or even years ahead”. The speaker knows that parliament has been around for almost 700 years. It had already begun debates by the time Christopher Columbus sailed off to the New World.

Close the gates and disappear in splendid isolation?

For the rest of Europe Brexit is, and has been, a foreign policy issue, in London it revolves primarily around a battle for domestic power—who is replacing Theresa May. What is the best time frame to call for new general elections? Gamblers may place bets on whether Brexit will ever be achieved.  And if yes, when? What now? Willing to scrap all treaties and agreements and close the gates, disappear in splendid isolation? On October 31st, 2019, as Brussels has set as the new divorce date?  Theresa May will be history by then, looking for a garden property, and writing her memories hardly anyone wants to read. Too sad, this subject, too uninspiring the woman, who failed history. Trillions lost for an illusion, the return to greatness. To world power status. A folly. A political and social earthquake in the making. Too many lives uprooted, jobs lost, incomes reduced, pensions cut, vacations on Mallorca or near Brighton cancelled. There is always grey, and windy, Blackpool, cynics may say, or Belfast, its citizen hardened in urban warfare, used to building walls in their streets not to be shot by their rebellious, religious neighbors.

“Brexit’s long running theater of the absurd”

Mrs May called an early election she did not need to call. Just like David Cameron, who was delirious about his political charme, that he promised the referendum, one of the most careless decision in post –war Britain. Neither Theresa May’s attempt to correct history in the final minutes by courting Labour, nor any other proposals reaching  the struggling leader in her nightly sleep, resulting in yet another vote in parliament, may end with a positive results, but are turning the parliament’s discussions into “a long running theater of the absurd”( “New York Times”). The respected CNN commentator Zakaria Fareed told the world in one of his broadcasts that “Britain suddenly   has turned into a Banana Republic”. His colleague, opinion writer Thomas Friedman, confirmed on the New York Times: ”It’s official -’Britain has gone mad.”

Friedman doesn’t take the Brexit drama as a joke. ”In truth”, he says, “it is not very funny. It is actually tragic. What we are seeing is a country that’s determined to commit economic suicide but can’t even agree on how to kill itself. It is an epic failure of political leadership…The wisest leaders understand that all the big problems today are global problems”, the writer observed, and “they have only global solutions. I am talking about climate change, trade rules, technology standards and preventing excesses and contagion in financial markets. If your country wants to have a say in how these problems are solved-and your country’ s name is not America, Russia, China or India-you need to be part of a wider coalition like the European Union….”

Monkeys and snakes in parliament

Lithographs exhibited in a Bristol museum, showing how monkeys occupy the seats in Parliament by Banksy, replacing their human masters, are sold out.  The PR and marketing department of the London “Times” newspaper placed a video on” Comedy Central”-online substituting the parliamentarians in the House of Commons with a herd of wild animals, hysterical hyenas, squawking parrots, slippery snakes, an ever changing chameleon. Hundreds of Brexit cartoons have been placed online-- one caricature imagining armed guards, engulfed by fog posted at a Berlin wall on the British side of the channel, ready to repel the caravans of migrants ever determined to invade the island and plunder street vendors selling fish and chips. For comedians and cartoonists the Brexit drama has turned into “the joke of the century” reported the French/German cultural channel “Arte.” About half of Britain’s citizens want to return to yesterday, back to Queen Victoria, and the other half is scrambling to marry their children off to French, German, Polish citizens, you know, just for a passport of the EU.  London is facing decisions of historic proportions, dimensions and consequences not seen since Winston Churchill led the United Kingdom into the historic battle against Adolf Hitler and his people, their human instincts paralyzed, the Germans driven into barbarism by collective insanity.

 “No to no deal, some of them said yes to no deal, but not to Theresa s deal”

The majority does not want to divorce without order. But how to leave without an agreement, that is the question? ”So the way I understand it, ”resumed the Scottish comedian Jay Lafferty,” is that Parliament has said no to Theresa’ s deal. And they have said no to no deal, but some of them said yes to no deal, but no to Theresa’ s deal, but not as many that said no to no deal and no to Theresa’ s deal, but they don’t actually have a deal of their own, which is a big deal because without a deal then no deal is more likely to be the deal that’ s dealt, and the people who want the deal can t be dealing with that.” Simple,isn’ t it?  British logic. Humor. Frustration. Even the “Economist”, not a socialist pamphlet, has given up on the Conservative, often nationalist, Brexit hardliners, who are behaving like ”ravenous crocodiles, who, having consumed an arm, immediately demand a leg for desert.”

As in the United States, where 90 percent of Republican voters are still supporting the scandal tarnished Donald Trump, more than 70 percent of the members of the Conservative Party, the so called Tories, continue to support a radical, no Brexit deal. Three Brexit preparation years have gone by, and apparently, Britain’s political class is paralyzed and depressed-- only the local football teams are creating a European spirit, and joy and pride on the island. Does it matter that the winning teams all have European coaches - German, Italian, and Spanish? “Comedy Central” posted a video online, the dramatic, schmaltzy Hollywood saga reused—the faces of the actors superimposed with the physiognomy of British politicians, for example Jeremy Corbyn. The Labor leader is playing the violin just as the real Wallace Hartley in his final moments on the sinking “Titanic”, accompanied by a choir singing the national anthem rather sad, and a voice announcing:” Brexit means Brexit and we are working to make a Titanic success of it.”


The opinions expressed in this blog post are the views of the author.

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