Day 21

Family, family, family, family. Will of the people, will of the people. BANG ouch BANG ouch BANG ouch.
It’s a tough time. As I write this, Gatwick airport is still closed due to drone activity. Parliament is more concerned about whether Jeremy Corbyn did or did not call Theresa May a stupid woman than they are with driving this country to leaving the EU without a deal. I was driving for four and a half hours this morning, trapped in the car listening to the radio, and I was more exhausted by the news than I was by the drive. I’ve rediscovered my addiction to The Archers (broken many years ago by a devastating Archers-related love affair that is a story for another time). I love worrying about whether the new trees will take and whether Linda Snell will be able to stage the Canterbury Tales in David and Ruth’s barn; it beats worrying about the three and half thousand troops that have been mobilised in case of a no-deal Brexit. The sheer, arrogant irresponsibility behind this crisis is insane – and I’m not talking about Jill letting the new sheep dog get to the mince pies.
I don’t want to be living through these times. I am sick fed up with hearing about the ‘will of the people,’ or that the biggest threat to democracy is a vote. ‘The will of the people’  is being used like a sledgehammer to drive home a nail, although whether in the coffin of the Tory party or of democracy itself remains to be seen. Yes, 52% voted to leave. But when new information enters a question, you revisit the question. We now know that Leave lied; we now know the ramifications of No Deal. We know that the ‘easiest thing in human history’ isn’t, and that there are politicians prepared to use food shortages in Ireland to get the Irish people into line over the border question. Liam Fox and Priti Patel aren’t rogue fringe elements – they are key figures in the government. Project Fear, for me, isn’t the prospect of shortages and price hikes and lack of medicines – it’s the fact that the people who are preaching that these things are a price worth paying are not the people who will be affected by them. YOUR terror over your husband’s medication is a price I think worth paying for MY political ideal. YOUR loss of income is … oh but what’s the point. Seriously – what difference does a small blogpost make. I was exhausted already, and now there’s Christmas, and littlest cousin is poorly and builders and meal plans and please would you pick up more wrapping paper but there’s loads upstairs but FATHER CHRISTMAS I mean dude either join in the planning and have an informed opinion or just do what I ask, don’t ask what you can do to help then argue with me…
The problem lies with people with power defining the desires of the people without power. We were asked a simple question – leave or remain – on the basis of very little knowledge and absolutely no understanding of what leave would look like. Imagine being asked whether you’d like Uncle Nigel to come for Christmas. You’ve never met Uncle Nigel, but you’ve heard about him and he seems like a good chap. Cousin Boris, who makes you laugh so much you don’t worry about some of the stupid things he says, is all for Uncle Nigel. Boris says Nigel’s going to give you £350 million a week, which is nice.So you agree to invite him. Christmas with the family you know has become pretty unbearable, frankly, what with Aunty Vera insisting that you put a cross in the bottom of every single sprout and your mum forcing you to kiss your whiskery and vaguely lecherous grandfather. You always cook too much turkey anyway – one extra place setting can’t do any harm and Christmas is all about family, right? That’s the important thing.
But the time comes closer and so does Uncle Nigel. Turns out you’re going to have to spend a lot more than you thought on accommodating him. Even Uncle Jacob’s saying it’ll be a good fifty years before Uncle Nigel starts paying his own way. And Uncle Boris is just prancing about showing off his new haircut and really doesn’t seem to want to talk about that £350 million. It’s not about money, it’s about principle, see? And other relatives are going on about how a good dose of hardship will bring the family together, which is all very well for them to say, but they’re not the ones giving up their bedrooms, or reliant on the medicine cabinet in the room where Uncle Nigel’s elephant is currently living. Indeed, Uncle Jacob has got houses of his own, simply stuffed with Ferrero Rocher.
There are some adults around, but they’re not actually at the table. One of them invaded Iraq illegally, so they’re not terribly credible when they tell the children to stop being bullies. Another has a very unfortunate Bacon Sandwich face, and another wears his underpants outside his trousers. No one in the house is actually listening to anyone else.
Just imagine if everyone in the house honoured the innate humanity of everyone else. Imagine if we actually listened to the perspectives of those who voted differently, whose assumptions are at odds with ours. Imagine if we (or our elected representatives) actually looked at the evidence. We could have had a lot of conversations in two and a half years. We could have developed a far greater understanding of the hopes and fears of Leavers and Remainers alike. Instead, regardless of how we voted, we’re being bludgeoned. A People’s Vote would constitute a threat to national security, but we need troops on standby for No Deal? A nation with a shameful record of child poverty and ever-increasing numbers reliant on food banks (but it’s ok, folks, because austerity’s over) is going to make itself poorer because Leave voters are going to riot if we don’t? I’ve lost track of who’s holding whom to ransom over what.
Principle is no bad thing, depending on what that principle is. ‘You said you wanted it so you’re bloody well going to get it’ is all very well for ballet lessons and lasagne, but it’s no way to handle a complicated scenario in a suffering population. You wanted to invite Uncle Nigel; I didn’t, but I was ready to listen. I asked where he was going to sleep. I asked about how we were going to feed him. I asked what board games he likes and whether he’s allergic to sprouts. Uncle Nigel’s Uncle Nigel, you said, shrugging.  He’ll just do his Uncle Nigelly things, you know Uncle Nigel!
But the thing is that I don’t. I’d like to know what drove the Leave vote. I’d like to know what people thought that Uncle Nigel was going to bring to our collective lives, and whether the reality is answering anyone’s hopes at all. I feel that Leavers and Remainers are stereotyping each other in order to dismiss each other. I lost – I got over it – I tried to listen, but no one’s talking except to tell me that I lost and to get over it. I tried to talk, but I just get ‘the will of the people’ and threats of riots.
So Aunty Theresa’s chosen Uncle Nigel’s bedroom and all the relatives are putting their feet up in front of the telly while the rest of us get on with the cooking. I can do that. I just wish with all my heart that he’d move that elephant.

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