The Great British Hangover

The Great British Hangover

Britain wakes; it’s the morning after the 23rd of June. The carnage of the night apparent, twenty-seven Europeans surround Britain, the brothers and sisters they had been celebrating their successes with. Britain picks up its collective phone and logs into its online banking.

“Fuck!” Britain exclaims, look of horror across its face. “I just spent ten percent of my entire savings in one night!” A pale shade passes over Britain’s face. “That’s how much I’ve spent on bills in the last thirty years,” it murmurs sheepishly.

“Who the hell let me do this?” Britain cries, head spinning, feeling nauseous.

“Well,” pipes up one of its European neighbours, face too hazy to recognise, yet with a black eye Britain somewhat remembers having dished out. “Everything started off fine, but you had one too many, picked a fight with us, betted on yourself, and lost…”

Britain starts to come to, and the realisation dawns that Portugal is the one with the black eye. Britain averts its gaze, only to be drawn to the corner of the room. It’s Greece, and they are not looking good: nose bloodied, consciousness not yet having returned.

Unable to bare the guilt, Britain drags itself over to the mirror to inspect the damages. Its broken, battered and bruised body clearly shows that squabbling with its family was not a good idea, as it evidently led it to jump head first into conflict. Its pounding head reminds us that Britain was foolish.

“Did I fight all of you?” it asks.

“You tried,” replies the tenor of Belgium. Britain looks over at its disheveled yet seemingly unscathed signing. “You failed,” Belgium continues.

Britain begins to sob. “We’ll make it up, what can we do?”

“There is nothing,” the two biggest figures in the room, who quickly reveal themselves as France and Germany chime in unison. “You must leave now.”

Britain hangs its head, making for the door, hoping to the heavens that this hangover does not get any worse.

Joking aside, there is a real issue here. Many people point to the very pronounced generation gap in voting. It’s no secret that the baby boomers enjoyed a privileged upbringing in comparison to their parents, and even their children. It’s no secret that the view of older generations tends to look at the problems faced by a generation as a failure of the youth, rather than the failure of the world the youth were born into. In situations such as the referendum, it’s unsurprising that older generations vote on what they think is best to fix a younger generation by harkening back to what they had.  Such a thought is a certain fallacy: the Empire is dead, and the millennial generation is going to be the first who is worse off in real terms than their parents since records began. The best way to help fix a generation’s problems is to give them the tools to create a world that works for them, not to enforce outdated ideals which move them away from the world they know.

That, however, is only a fraction of the real story. Generational gaps have always existed in representative democracies, with progress riding in as a new generation comes to prominence in political culture. This ensures a generally supported, although not always particularly well-thought progress in politics, keeping things relatively stable. A massive upheaval like this rarely occurs in representative systems, but a true direct democratic act, which puts power solely in the hands of the people, bucks this trend in its entirety. Is this a bad thing? It’s hard to say, but what is certain is the destabilising effect that random interjections of direct democracy can have on a system that relies on slow, methodical change.

The generational gap may be significant, but it is not the answer to how on earth we ended up here. When Britain pushed for progress internally, we ended up with the NHS, the welfare state, and an infrastructure to rival anybody’s. And it is not like that was done because there was an abundance of money; it was done after the last World War because we decided enough was enough. It is a situation not too dissimilar from the lead up to the referendum, economic depression coupled with uncertainty about the future.

The key difference between then and now, however, is the political leanings of the working class. Progress was made in Britain during the late 40s and early 50s, driven by the Labour movement, which was the realisation by the working class that society was not providing for them, the economic heart of the country. The Labour movement made it apparent to the elite that the working class would not sit through bad conditions while they continued to be the backbone of the elite’s success. And yet, the modern working class have just voted in their swathes to remove Britain from an institution that upholds their rights as workers much more effectively than their own government. And the question being begged is why?

For the privileged few, the elite who rely on the working class to make them money, if things are not going their way it has become increasingly easy to sway public opinion. In the post-war era, the newspaper and radio were the predominant form of media. The ideologies were few and the amount of people who took them to heart were fewer. The messages of media were taken with a pinch of salt and used merely as a suggestion for public opinion. In the modern era, however, the power of money can buy you a newspaper, a television channel, or sponsored content on social media. The prevalence of money has done nothing but present the working class with the idea that they are under threat. Not from the elite, who seek to use them to their advantage, but their fellow workers, who by the crime of being ethnically different are responsible for the troubles faced by the average worker.

The route of the crisis which lead to Britain leaving the EU was the 2008 banking crisis, where the floor finally collapsed on the elite’s party, bringing the roof crashing down onto the rest of us. Before the elite could buy their way out of the situation, the working class would have been in the position to raise hell, and create meaningful social change. Now, however, the elite can sit back on their golden thrones and print some xenophobic slurs. They can sit comfortably in the knowledge that dividing and conquering a nation completely subdues the only group capable of standing against them, as they are too busy attempting to defeat each other…

I recently saw a simple piece of graffiti that now seems almost too poignant for the situation. It read along the lines of: “When working class people stop reading right-wing news, then we will know real progress.”

Written by Zac Harvey,

Political Contributor

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