As the crisis meanders onwards, a peculiar time dilation becomes evident. At first, everything seemed to be happening all at once. Everything was in the present tense, be it past, future or actual present. It’s tempting to blame my initial drinking for this, but I’ve now been sober for days and it seems like several weeks have passed. They haven’t. It’s been a fortnight.
There is a claim that people are able to see their entire lives flash past them near a moment of sudden death. We don’t, as a country, see the past, but a strangely elongated present. The political parties continue to have their leadership campaigns at the speed of Twitter. Tory candidates have come and gone within the course of an afternoon. The US police have executed several black people. By gun, and in a gruesome new domestic use of battlefield technology, by a bomb-wielding killer robot. The Chilcot Report about Tony Blair’s role in the Iraq War has come out. Everything is happening at once.
Meanwhile, like a person who has just stepped off a cliff, distracted by visions, reality is still lingering at the edges of our perception. The pound continues to fall. Investment firms are leaving. The consequences of Brexit and the memory of the campaign is pushed out of our consciousness, but the mechanics set into motion – the conversion from potential to kinetic energy – has not ceased.
A few days ago, I managed to have my first conversation that did not mention Brexit. More have come since.
Today was a Rally for Europe across from Downing Street. As the shock dies off, so too apparently the crowds. By normal standards, it was a good protest turnout, but I worry this is not enough. To make a change, we really must turn out week after week. The speakers emphasised even this is not enough. ‘Don’t go home and feel proud of yourselves’ he said. We need to build a movement and organise.
The speakers talked about racism and lead us in several chants with uncertain rhythm. No instruction was given as to how one might organise. Perhaps this is something to google now that I’ve gotten home.
From the rally, we marched over to Green Park. Or perhaps we wandered. There was no more chanting or megaphones. There, we joined some sort of Picnic for Europe event. There were a lot of groups of friends sharing lunch. No speakers. Few signs. Some of us had flags. I was uncertain of the purpose of it.
The speaker at the earlier rally said we need to convince people to change their minds about Europe over the next 15 months or so. ‘Maybe’, he nearly whispered, ‘Article 50 won’t get invoked.’ If we can change people’s minds. If 60% of people come to decide the EU is a force for good.
While this neatly elides the question of democracy, I’m at a loss of how this might happen. The Tories will pick the next Prime Minister. The leading candidates right now are someone who wants to scrap Human rights legislation vs someone who is apparently unaware such legislation exists at all. If the next PM will blithely risk the British union- Good Friday Agreement be damned- then what hope for leading us back towards the EU? The slow-seeming financial catastrophe may not turn people left.
Indeed, I turn to the left and I see nothing. The problems with Keynesian economics that became clear in the 80s have never been solved. Neoliberalism so ubiquitous, it largely goes unnamed. We call it ‘reality’ and the left ‘dreamers’. But what are we dreaming of? The glory days of the post war consensus; of making socialism great again, like an inverse Donald Trump? Some are campaigning for a universal basic income, but I’m suspicious of some of the backers. A totalitarian pleasure regime is an improvement, sure; but shouldn’t we can aim for a utopia rather than merely a less hungry dystopia?
It’s possible something is going on and I’m missing it. I don’t know how to organise and I don’t know what to do.
At the rally, when I held my EU flag up over my heads, a European tourist couple attracted my attention. The woman expressed solidarity and gave some words of encouragement. She was glad to see this push back happening. I thanked her. But it’s not enough. I expect to turn out week after week for the next few months. It’s the minimum required, but it won’t be enough.