He is laughing, with a touch of anger in his laughter, but no triumph, no malignity. It is the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is generously angry — in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls.
In a previous post, I wondered how likely people in the UK would be these day’s to rise up against fascism. Whilst I don’t know the answer, it seems to me that the political and social mood in the post-EU-referendum UK makes it less likely than in recent history. The dominant social and political driver seems to be mindless, emotion-led populism with little tolerance for dissenting voices.
Heresy in the UK
Anyone who is currently adjudged to be against Brexit (whether they actually are or not) is fair game for a public kicking:
- Justices of the Supreme Court are called enemies of the people for performing their constitutional duties;
- Senior civil servants are smeared as incompetent and have their impartiality questioned by MP’s;
- Unelected narcissists with an overblown sense of entitlement throw a public hissy fit when they are not given a job which is not vacant and for which they have no experience or qualifications;
- The Government shows disdain for parliamentary democracy by refusing to properly involve Parliament in the Brexit process and by fighting a needless legal wrangle in the Supreme Court to keep Parliament excluded from being involved in triggering Article 50;
- The Government shows contempt for the electorate and Parliament by refusing/failing to define what Brexit means and trumpets meaningless platitudes instead (taking back control, being sovereign again, Brexit means Brexit);
- The Government shows little to no respect for the semi-devolved nations and seems ignorant of the potential impact of Brexit on devolution legislation and important treaties such as the Good Friday Agreement;
- The Lord Chancellor fails to meet the oath she swore to protect the independence of the judiciary;
- Foreigners are fair game to blame for every ill; even those from nations whose citizens fought and died in defence of the UK.
There exists a general suspicion and distrust of experts, ignorance of and ambivalence towards the rule of law and constitutional norms, a snarling mob mentality that insists that the will of the people must be obeyed and a finger in the ear, la la la I’m not listening response to hard questions. To ask what Brexit means in reality, to voice an informed concern about the legal, practical and economic implications of Brexit, or to point out the difficulties to be overcome is to be a breamainer, a remoaner, a traitor, an out of touch member of the metropolitan elite: a heretic.
The George Orwell quote above is taken from his essay about Charles Dickens, in which Orwell describes how he imagines Dickens’ face to have looked whilst he was writing. It is a face that anyone who cares about justice, truth and facts should strive to adopt against the UK’s current political and social climate, and its own smelly little orthodoxies.