OBSERVING the alacrity with which campaigners completely miss the point, I wonder if I’m making an error in attaching such importance to that trifling matter – the vote.
The vote. Dispensed only after centuries of struggle. The sacred, blood-soaked democratic right.
Now, as a privileged electorate faces the ballot, in an inferno of irony, no entitlement is more trivialised.
It takes a certain sinister daring to disregard democratic principles, and a certain crassness to ignore them.
Both attitudes are amply on display as the nation approaches the EU referendum, and those falling into these camps join distinguished if unenlightened company, from Caesar to Hitler.
Not a particularly progressive coterie. Perhaps I’m being unfair. Let me be generous and give them, say, Plato, to balance the boat.
What, I wonder, would that pillar of Western philosophy make of this vast pantomime, what form would his opinion take?
In an elegant dialogue he would first condemn the process. Not the spectacle of overblown persuasion staged by politicians, but the referendum itself – the vote.
You see, nothing could be more distasteful than the tyrannical majority directing the course of the state, the collective future falling into such grubby hands.
His critique would then expand, as sophists ensconce themselves on couches to heed the word of Socrates, to take Parliament within its compass.
The uneducated, worldly, impulsive masses could never be trusted to be rational – not in Athens, not in the U.K. Only chaos can come from such a laughably open system.
What is needed is a coeval of wise administrators, ascetic philosopher kings dedicated to the greater good. A commission, let’s say, of noble sages.
Such a gathering of expertise cannot and should not be contravened, least of all by something so trivial as a ‘vote’.
A right it may be, but wrong entirely.
We’d be richer without it, don’t you see? Without it you’d be safer, politicians more to your taste, and the convenience of holidays more to your liking. Business demands it, peace depends upon it, and brotherly union is only engendered through it.
How dare the rabble impede this utopia!
So it went in 1933 and 44BC. So it goes, in a galling regression, in 2016.
Some people pronounce themselves incapable of legislating for their safety or their justice. If they didn’t enjoy a watchful eye, their own human rights – not, it seems, as inalienable as we thought – would vanish.
The people are children, and abnegate their agency and responsibility to the wise parentage of others.
Patronising it may be, but palatable with a few inducements. Would you not, simple citizens, be happier in the knowledge that multinational corporations can trade on across the continent, that you may taste the trickle-down from the heights of their enterprise? Of course you would.
The Left, in a magnificent role-reversal , has never supported big business more fervently.
They have erased from their history any memory of opposition to the EU, forget that darling of the shallow socialist, Tony Benn, decried the Union taking liberties with freedom.
Like good internationalists, they understand the pacific counsel of apparatchiks has spared the continent the wars which once raged across it. We can discount the debacle in Ukraine, and the horrors of the former Yugoslavia. So long as Germany doesn’t invade France again, peace has prevailed.
Not just this Teutonic bogeyman, but that of the Tory terror is kept at bay – we see daily examples of sweet, social democratic Europe balances Conservative excess, do we not? Or do we not?
At least we are protected in other ways.
Supra-national control has proven its aptitude for policing, so much so that even fervent nationalists beg for its edicts, after a presumed Damascene miracle.
(On a scientific note, referendums can, it seems, polarise even within the two hemispheres of a Sturgeon’s brain).
The safety of our shores would be we sacrificed without our blessed Union.
If we altered our diplomatic arrangements one bit soldiery would cower, intelligence forces become idiotic, and police cooperation capitulate under the weight of too much democracy.
Vulnerable, having seceded, we must then renounce all ties with the continent – because we cannot enjoy Mozart or Rilke without the most gross hypocrisy.
Just like Remain will not dare pick up a Marquez novel for fear of such dishonour, smash their American records, or deny themselves their Middle-Eastern monotheism.
You see, cultural exchange is only possible when formalised in law – at least when appropriating from a continent.
Finally the tectonic agreements drawn up in endless treaties would be repealed, and this island would drift – as implied by the asinine conflations of a particular American propagandist – off into the mid-Atlantic.
While this litany of irrelevance drones on, the Leave Right (which in a parallel 70’s debate boasted Enoch Powell in their midst) also waffles impressively passed the point, bemoaning feareded boat-loads set for Europe.
Each camp appeals, I suppose, to its audience.
Like The Republic, the Brexit ‘dialogue’ has nothing but contempt for democracy and, as a corollary, even less for the electorate.
But, as it seems principles of self-governance are of such little concern, I wonder if the problem is really one of self-respect.