BOTH campaigns in this seemingly perpetual EU debate have built certain of their houses on foundations of slippery definition, linguistic sleight of hand, and idealistic stupidity -most obviously in the form of the category error.
Next time it would be to the nation’s credit we employed a bit more clarity in speech, and thought.
Politics is nothing if not partisan. The word could be a necessary parallelism, a pre-requisite for discourse – the political whole depending on warring parts.
Entering the clichéd arena of politics it therefore necessary that the combatants cleave passionately to their preferred point of view, to ensure this (at minimum) binary phenomenon goes ahead as it always has.
There is a consequence of this manoeuvring as old as the practice itself – the asinine zealotry of ideology, the blindness of towering, perhaps wilful stupidity. Where can this be found? Like a detective searching for clues, evidence may be insinuated, pointed towards by some other area of inquiry.
One clue which yields great results when seeking examples of such political idiocy is the embarrassing, intellectual self-immolation of the aforementioned category error.
This manner of mistake should make its perpetrators bashful, because to make it is to fundamentally misinterpret and misrepresent the world. It is to misperceive its objects and obstacles in such a manner that a lesser primate would find the idiocy fatal. An example is to be found in the confusion of terms such as leader, campaign, camp, Leave, Remain.
They have, through no more than a lack of examination, taken on the profoundly idiotic grammatical and political use as party leaders, election campaigns, and the battling political parties themselves.
In the search for ammunition to support opposing arguments, the lines of definition and reality have been blurred.
Marina Hyde of The Guardian, for instance, has expressed bizarre fears over who will triumph in the referendum. “A vote for leave will be taken by Farage and countless others as a vote for him”, she says. A mistake she seems set to make herself, in an article entitled: ‘So Britain, are you ready to enter the Kingdom of UKIP?’
Don’t vote for Farage, they say. I never would. Hardly anyone does, not even in South Thanet. But to direct one’s concern at him as though he stands to gain Primeministerial elevation from a UK exit is committing a serious error, and producing unnecessary – though perhaps intentional – fear.
Blinkered idealists might wish to apply the same fatuous linguistic mistake to the fictional election chances of Mr Cameron. I’m sure many on the left will be horrified to know they’re voting for Dave by backing Remain. There is Labour Leave of course, which has actually, seriously employed the faulty argument that a vote for Remain is a vote for a Tory government. But, despite the use of this spurious line, this is not a General Election.
Another such (howling) error pervading empty minds as the vote approaches is the threat of “leaving Europe”. We have recently had Michael Moore commenting that: “You sacrificed and suffered in the 30s and 40s to save Europe. Why would you want to leave?” Given the non-existence of the EU at this time, we can only assume he erroneously means the continent, and has rather grand expectations for the geological impact of Brexit. Or he wants us to remain in a political
Leave believers too seem to be under a peculiar delusion that Britain’s moated isolation will be physically enhanced by exiting the Union, somehow stretching the Channel beyond the abilities of desperate migrants to negotiate. I would be alarmed if the plate tectonics were to reverse their inevitable drift, and send the U.K spiralling toward Iceland in this way. But this is not very likely.
What is likely is that the language of escatological terror has accidentally entered the discourse, and people believe that to exit a political bloc is to forsake a geographic – and indeed historical and cultural – setting.
This same error troubles people’s identity. I am “European” after all, I rather like German literature, to exit “Europe” would incur a loss of this identity – or, as you will spot, the designation and persuasion remains unchanged, regardless of hypothetical outcome.
These may seem laughable slips in speech, but they have also served as sleights of hand used cynically by politicians, and employed unthinkingly by so many partisan players in this unending debate.
The campaign of category errors is typified by the imbuing of two words – leave or remain – with meaning dramatically beyond the meagre powers of the two options expressed on the ballot paper.
The rather curt answers – in fact, merely an X for each – to a question of political union have become loaded with obfuscating associations. Leave means racist, right-wing, insular, democratic, independent, and slew of other adjectives. Remain is a place-holder for left-wing, internationalist, inclusive, bien pensant, technocratic and so on.
We have grown used to thinking of either option as standing for its own peripheral bluster. They don’t.
The hypothetical outcomes of such a simple binary have also been speculated: recession, isolation, international trade, advantages, disadvantages, pros, cons. This is more clearly the area of unmuddled discourse.
However, no outcome, excluding those directly in the sights of the ballot paper’s query, is a necessary consequence of either vote – just as the motives of the voter do not necessarily match the public definitions.
But politicos have attacked these voting options as synonymous with the worst imaginable outcomes either way. They are not.
Opposed camps have built their campaigns and castigations on the error of these definitions. The answers, those two options available to the electorate, do not perform the function of this additional nonsense, and either vote will not necessitate any of the associated concepts listed above, or vice versa.
For now the rest is speculation which has been accepted by embattled believers in one side or other, to the detriment of clarity.
This may be the most important collective decision in decades, and people are holding tightly to their own political banner, but we should at least speak clearly and, by extension, think clearly too.