As the brexit referendum becomes a memory there are some resounding changes that have happened to the UK’s collective consciousness. I’ve read two “opinion” articles this morning – one from the Financial Times “Britain is falling into denial about Brexit” and one from The Quietus “Fabric’s Closure & The Rise Of A New British Puritanism” and there are resounding messages about denial and the Britain of the imagination in both articles.
Sport is brilliant at galvanising a population in resounding and overwhelming nationalism and the Olympic success of Britain has been very important in galvanising people behind Brexit; demonstrating that the UK is “better than the rest”. Every medal cost £4.5 million in funding from the lottery et al and the UK had the facilities left over to train in from the previous olympics. The UK’s success proves to me that investing in sport financially pays dividends, it does not prove that Britain is an inherently great sporting nation.
The Financial Times piece that I read is about the reality of Brexit – that it will be a very difficult process in which there is unlikely to be a happy ending economically as two of the worlds major trading players, the US and Japan, have iterated at the G20 summit that Britain will not be first in the queue for trade agreements. That in a diverse system with products manufactured with components and materials from all over the world – the path of least “friction” (caused by tariffs and borders) is the most attractive. The article points to the denial and rose tinted glasses of UK society.
The Brexit vote gave a great big thumbs up to the blue collar workers, to the white aspiring male worker, to racism and introversion. It reminds me of the prevailing historical vision of 1950s, there is a “British Bake off” conservative twee prevailing culture. A culture which seeks to deny any subversion, sweep it out of the way, keep it for wealthy arabs at the Dorchester or MPs private parties with prostitutes. It’s very like the McCarthy era where juxtaposed against this prevailing mainstream culture there are subcultures of opposition, of civil rights movements, of beatniks, of dissent.
In 2016, we are no longer sitting round a TV watching propaganda in our living rooms, we are on our own little devices being fed supporting material that the google and facebook algorithms think we want to see. Socialists see socialist articles, conservatives see conservative articles, racists see racism. We all are given the impression that we have the prevailing viewpoint. We are stuck in a rut, frozen in the status quo.
Whilst society is paused and sucked into algorithms and nationalistic euphoria. Feeling confident that “Brexit means Brexit” (what the hell?) The Conservative majority are busy trying to phase out British sub-culture, the breeding ground of anti-establishment thinking and challenges to the “norm”. There have been approximately 30 night clubs closed in london in recent months. That’s shocking.
We really need to see this as a much bigger deal than we are doing – night clubs have been really important in the development of thought because they offer an opportunity for diverse people to gather. Whilst a local pub might survive on a static clientele, clubs bring people together from all over the country. Those people don’t just drink alcohol, therefore their capacity to talk and think and empathise is greater than you find in a male dominated pub environment.
I hope people fight the flood of puritanism. The further down that path society travels the more protests seem to occur. Maybe we are on the verge of some kind of opposition. There was the Corbyn element which for a while seemed to give the dance music scene hope, but it seems to have lost its gloss and even if Corbyn were to win the leadership battle we have to question whether his credibility has been so badly affected that his own party have made him unelectable. Conventional politics has never really been the politics of change though.
It is going to be very interesting to see at what point the realities of Brexit will sink in to the general population. As Philip Stevens says in the Financial Times, “This is not a process promising anything resembling a happy ending.”
Take away the music and dancing and it’ll be a dull grey britain that remains.