Image taken from The Dreadful Story of Pauline and the Matches, Heinrich Hoffman, 1858.
(I offer my apologies in advance to Warren Zevon.)
One of the ways in which personality-disordered people sometimes garner lots of attention to themselves is by committing suicide in a slow, dramatic way. Imagine, for instance, someone climbing in broad daylight to the very top of the arch of the Fremont Bridge in Portland, Oregon, while wearing a bright fluorescent lime-green clown suit. Picture him swaying precariously over the Willamette River while screaming his intentions through a bullhorn to all and sundry for an hour or so. Then, after traffic has shut down in both directions, while drivers are out of their cars staring raptly skyward, and news crews swarm like bugs in helicopters all around the bridge, watch him jump off and make the biggest (and last) splash of his entire life as he hits the water.
That's how Great Britain seems to me in the aftermath of the Brexit vote. While I have been following the rise of far-right racist ultranationalism in Europe over the last few years, I hadn't been watching Britain very closely. Much of what I know has been hastily gleaned from news over the last two weeks. Many of you may know far more. Yet things have played out pretty much as I might have expected, and the British are now getting their very own taste of the outworkings of damnation.
Here's what I know so far:
- The breeding ground of the Brexit campaign consisted of the frustrations of many Britons who were experiencing the loss of the standard of living that had been promised to them under a "free market", capitalist economy. They felt that their country was at the mercy of a foreign bureaucracy over which they had no control. In this, as an observer in the USA, I'd have to agree somewhat with them.
- That frustration was fed and amplified by the fomenting and encouragement of completely unrealistic racial and national pride, violent racism and dangerous xenophobia. Immigrants - especially the dark-skinned, and especially the Muslim - were targeted and blamed for the unraveling of the British working class and middle class. (But surprisingly, that blaming extended to the targeting and blaming of white Eastern Europeans as well.)
- The cheerleaders of the campaign to scapegoat immigrants - the same who championed the entire Brexit campaign - were a handful of doofus fly-by-nighters, among whom were Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, and Nigel Farage. They played a classic scapegoating game of the type seen in textbook cases of dysfunctional families where the family member who is causing the greatest damage manages to deflect blame onto a family member who has no logical connection to the suffering which the family is experiencing. Farage, Gove, and Johnson are members of Britain's wealthiest class, and it is the predatory policies which this class has championed, not only in Britain, but worldwide, which are causing the suffering now being experienced by ordinary Britons. (For an example of predatory policies, try looking up the word "austerity" and the phrase "income inequality.")
- It is also coming out now that many of the claims made by these men during the Brexit campaign were in fact lies. Indeed, Nigel Farage has admitted that some of his claims were false. I think he feels free to admit this because he feels that his victory is now secure. Also, the Brexit campaign led directly to the murder of a British member of Parliament in a killing that had a distinctively American style, as a gun was used by a disgruntled Angry White Male to do the killing.
And now that enjoyable position, and all that depends on it, has all gone up in smoke, set on fire by the architects of the Brexit. Other nations are already re-thinking their reliance on British financial services. The British pound has already suffered a drastic decline. The Brexit architects have, in the space of two weeks, already shown themselves to be incapable of governing a country. (Hey, man, if your feet can't reach the pedals, you shouldn't be behind the wheel.) The Brexit is already threatening a serious increase in trouble for an economy that was already in trouble. (See this, this and this, for instance.) And the Brexit vote has fractured the British body politic - perhaps incurably. Britain is about to find out in a hurry that it is no autarky, no self-sufficient paradise.
I know that Schadenfreude is a sin, yet there is something in me right now that feels more than a little satisfaction. It is a dark satisfaction, the kind that a researcher or scientist might feel when reality validates a theoretical model, even though that model has predicted something horrible. For the troubles that Britain has gotten itself into are a direct validation of Galatians 6:7 - "Don't be deceived. God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption..." It is also bitingly funny (more bite than a very strong and bitter cup of espresso!) to think of how the Brexit champions will cope with the damage they've done, now that they are running out of scapegoats. Think of the doofus right here in the USA who is pulling similar scapegoating stunts in a bid to capture the White House this November.