Written by: Riaz Quadir
Photo courtesy: Souroneil Lahiri
When you have been profligate your entire life, no, make that, for many generations; and profligacy has become a part of your genetic makeup, then recklessness simply becomes a way of life. Watching everyday life in Britain gives one such an impression. Well, at least for the most part. There are some, like the young and famous linguist, Alex Rawlings, who is so scared of what is to come after Brexit, that he cannot imagine how “This whole country is on the brink of the worst disaster since the second world war, and everyone is just sipping coffee, going about their daily business as if nothing is happening.” So, is it the proverbial sangfroid of the English or imperial hubris that keeps them in the stratosphere totally out of touch with ground realities?
I believe that this indifference is breaking down at a very rapid pace. The edges of the black hole they are hurtling towards is already visible on the horizon and panic is setting in and replacing the sangfroid, as 700,000 Londoners marched this week in an attempt to reverse Brexit. But it is a case of too little, too late. For many reasons, it is a done deal. The only question that remains is how the deal is going to be worked out. So far, there isn’t even a shadow of a deal worked out. Like all acrimonious divorces, this one is going to leave chaos and unhappiness in its wake. Most importantly it is not a modern divorce with a fair and liberal court in attendance. Quite the opposite. It is the sheer power of the European Union (and its Rule Book) that dictates what is to be. Like a woman in a male chauvinistic world dealing with the intransigent man she wishes to leave, constantly hearing the refrain of that American dictum, “my way or the highway”, however suave it may sound when delivered with European savoir faire. With every passing day, it seems the “highway” it’s going to be. In other words, a no-deal Brexit. Between now and March 29, 2019 it will be a question of who blinks first for the benefit of the world at large to see, while the preparations for a no-deal Brexit by both sides are already taking place as we speak.
“This is the biggest ‘get real’ moment of my political life. The fate of our country for decades will depend on this. It is as if we are driving towards a cliff, but won’t face up to the reality that the road we have chosen will take us over the edge” (Foreign Office Minister, Sir Alan Duncan). Not very different from my “black hole” analogy, though more apt for the Britons who have had to confront the sheer cliffs of Dover whenever setting out for Europe throughout their history.
Like the woman who has had this horrible and tortured marriage, even if she gets nothing materially advantageous in her divorce settlement, at least she walks away with the feeling of freedom and being her own sovereign. Will that be the case of Britain? Or will she be walking out of the protected shelter of a strong family of 28 into a world of rapacious wolves ready to attack and tear her to pieces? If we are to believe that the world follows the political principles laid down by that infamous guru of modern realpolitik, former American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who famously said “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests”; then who in their right mind would be interested in befriending this puny island which is about to implode. Added to that is the simple fact that Britain was an imperial power that had cruelly colonized half the world for over two centuries, a period during which it enriched itself by cruelly pillaging, exploiting and crippling the colonies and its people. They have not forgotten that. Their memories are very different from those of the colonizers, who to appease their guilt and misguide their own populace created a false narrative of benevolence along the line’s of Kipling’s “white man’s burden”. All that has been exposed by some exhaustively researched books that have been written in the recent years, including MadhusreeMukherjee’s “Churchill’s Secret War”; Nicolas Dirks’ “The Scandal of Empire”, ShashiTharoor’s “Inglorious Empire”, among others. In the market based economies of the world today, these ex-colonies are the bulk of the markets that are emerging.
What does its “special” friend the USA have to say? Well, first of all, Kissinger is still the hero of the American establishment, left and right, and his philosophy still reigns there. So what are US interests regarding UK and the EU? TheUK served a far better purpose for the USA while it was a part of the EU, providing an ally, even an agent, within its biggest commercial and cultural rival. With Brexit that will end. Their ties are historical, beginning with the very foundation of early America. Since then Britain has changed a lot, from being the biggest Empire in human history to being reduced to a small and fractured country that is faced with the biggest existential threat it has known since Hitler attempted to wipe it out of existence. As such, it can only be of peripheral interest to the USA. So we shouldn’t be beguiled by fancy words that American leaders may be pouting as politicians are apt to do. That doesn’t mean that Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, David Davis, Jacob Rees-Mogg or even Theresa May would have problem in finding a well paying job in the USA should they wish to use the revolving door like Tony Blair. But everyone else would.
So where does that leave Britain and what’s to become of its future? To begin with the Britons, are the not the only one in this mess, the whole world has been there, at one time or the other, and all of us in our long histories have see the troughs as we have the crests. They have to ignore their politicians and business leaders, irrespective of what they tell them, as they rarely have the people’s interest at heart. The people alone, both as individuals and collectively as a society, have to realize a few things:
They have to take a deep look at their Imperial history and acquaint themselves of some of the hard facts of that long period. That they were not a rich nation to begin with, before they set out to “make their fortunes” needs to be looked at closely. They did indeed make their fortune, but how? Their wealth, knowledge, even their ‘democracy’ and the social values that took root on their soil, were results of this transplanted wealth, and would not have been possible without it.
Once they realize these facts, they have to atone for the wrongs that were done. Real atonement is along the lines that Reverend Desmond Tutu laid out. It has to be from the heart. And it has to be symbolized nationally as a constant reminder to all people.
The path of rapacious greed (they often call it progress) has to be re-examined and other goals have to be re-established. All the accounting being done is financial and material. They must not take their moral and social values from those whose lives are spent in making profit and augmenting their wealth. They speak with forked tongue. If social values change from purely material ones to moral and spiritual ones, they will even feel relief and lightened of their burdens. This coincides with the looming environmental problems that the world is facing and the solutions are the same.
Britons need to re-examine their relationship with the United States and the nature of their policies. It is a malevolent structure and needs to be shunned instead of being imitated. Whatever moral values that existed in the British society have been disappearing because of this. Civilizations are built not on material wealth but on moral foundations. Make a new start.
No matter which way things go, as T.S. Eliot said, the world won’t necessarily end with a bang but with a whimper, so do not expect an explosion on April 1st 2019. That would be a bad April Fool’s joke.