I went to visit a good friend in Hull over the weekend. Hull was a pretty pleasant surprise, all things considered. I liked its indie vibe. I liked it better than Plymouth, but less than Glasgow. It had lovely cake, a good whiskey bar and fabulous sea food. It was very flat and quite cold, as this whole winter has been, everywhere across this island. Cold and damp. The kind of damp cold that gets into your bones and torments the traces of every injury you've sustained from birth to the present day such that staying in your house until spring starts to seem like a good idea.
On the way home from Hull, we got stuck in a terrible traffic accident. The kind where they stop traffic on both directions of the motorway and fly in a medical helicopter before sending police to instruct the cars to reverse, one at a time, and drive backwards up the on-ramp, decanting everyone into rural Buckinghamshire. In the two hours between the initial crash and the instruction to reverse, there was plenty of time to listen to the radio, which is how I found out that a date had been set for Britain's EU referendum.
There's a lovely form/content fusion there, really, because I can't think of a better metaphor for the howling stupidity of the entire referendum issue than 'car crash'. In fact, I can't think about the referendum at all without a vague sense of nausea and a strong urge to make escape plans, in the manner of savvy Germans watching the rise of Hitler in the 1930s. I may be dipping a toe into hyperbolic waters with that last sentence, but seriously - referendum + the Trump nightmare currently unfolding in the land of my birth leaves utterly aghast at the current political landscape. How are these impossibly absurd things - things which don't even bear thinking about - suddenly things that might actually happen?
I've gone on at length (in both word-count and duration of time) about the paradox of democracy, which for me amounts to the problem of a system where under-informed or problematically biased people make bad, fear-motivated decisions that we all have to live with and allow politicians to essentially get away with hijacking our countries and lives for their own political gains. I don't know what the solution to this is, since obviously (right?) democracy is a good thing. It's good that serfdom no longer exists, that most of us have relative autonomy, that we're able to vote (again, most of us - I still can't vote where I live), etc. But voting isn't and shouldn't be random.
When I'm teaching performance-making, there's often a moment where students ask me, or their colleagues, if something is good. Or perhaps they ask us to help them decide between two options: which piece of music? which projection? which piece of text to end this sequence? The knee-jerk response is usually to respond with personal preference, but the question that first needs to be asked is: what's the goal? What are you trying to do? Once I know the answer to that question, then I have a rubric for deciding. It's not random, it's specific and teleological - in other words, turn out the lights because you need the darkness to make a point, not because it looks good or (worst of all) interesting.
When I listen to Trump supporters or proponents of Britain exiting the EU, I don't understand what they're doing, what kind of world they envision, what they're working towards. So much of what is said is just inaccurate, more personal than political. Everyone needs to go read Benedict Anderson on imagined communities and come to grips with the fact that the entire concept of nation-state is a relatively recent phenomenon. The idea that somehow countries only belong to the people that were born in them, that the right to move freely in pursuit of happiness is somehow limited to individuals comfortable with describing themselves as 'expats' - what sort of world do these modes of thinking point to? And are so many people captivated by these ideas because they're frightened, or because they've mistaken politics for entertainment and forgotten that what and who we vote for has implications that continue once the coverage stops?
I don't know the answers to these questions, but they're occupying me of late. These questions and the escape plans. Like Oliver Imhof (whose excellent Guardian editorial is well worth a read), 'I will not live in a country that defies values such at the solidarity and human rights that a postwar Europe - including Britain - worked so hard for'. I also will not live in a United States presided over by the stewing ball of hatred, capitalism and intolerance that is Donald Trump. And so where to? And how to do all possible to prevent both these outcomes?
Goodbye Northwood Dairy
6 months ago