BREXIT: THE FRONT OF THE QUEUE
By Wm. Franken
I say the following as an expatriate Yank who has a deep love for both his native homeland and his adopted one of Great Britain: there is great reason to foresee positive consequences for American and British relations as a result of the Brexit referendum. I say this based upon the principles of choice and merit that are the philosophical underpinnings of a shared history and culture.
I did not move to Great Britain because I have a burning passion for globalist super-states led by a centralised group of unelected officials. I did not move to Great Britain because I believe all cultures are equal and the flight out here was simply shorter and cheaper than the one to Turkey. I did not move to Great Britain to whinge about the perceived evils of the St. George’s Cross, the Union Jack, or the concept of nationalism more generally.
I moved here because, ever since the age of fourteen, after seeing my first episode of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” on our local PBS affiliate in Missouri, a lifelong fascination for British culture was set in motion – for its history, music, literature, and most especially, its comedy.
There are times I recall an interview John Lennon gave to Tom Snyder during Lennon’s final years in New York. At one point, Snyder asks Lennon why he wants to remain in the US. To which Lennon answers, “Because this is where the music came from. This is what influenced my whole life and got me where I am today.” Well, that’s what I feel about Britain. It’s where the comedy came from. (Not to mention The Beatles) It’s where so many things came from that influenced my life and made me the person I am today. Britain is not just another place for me to live and work. It is the realisation of a childhood dream. And I thank my stars every day that dream has come true.
In my earliest months out here, I would often respond to strangers who inquired about my desire to relocate, that my love for British culture is akin to my love for women. There’s a beautiful congruence at something being very similar to me in many ways, yet still possessing a delightful plethora of intriguing differences to maintain my fancy.
To be sure, not all of those differences are necessarily attractive. During one of the referendum debates, I voiced to a friend my persistent surprise at how nakedly some pundits express their contempt of the working classes and proceeded to compare this with how everyone in America at least pretend they come from humble beginnings. Which is why Hillary Clinton will always inject a bit more down-home soul in her speeches when she’s lobbying for votes in poorer communities. And which is why, having been born and raised in a small Midwestern town, I have such identification and affinity for those regions that voted to leave the EU, such as rural Yorkshire and the Welsh Valleys.
The United Kingdom I fell in love with at such a young age, the United Kingdom from which I learned irreverence, surrealism, and satire, the United Kingdom of the Magna Carta, John Locke, and Winston Churchill, the United Kingdom that was ever in my thoughts as I pursued a master’s degree in Restoration and 18th Century British Literature – whilst others in my graduate class were beginning to murmur about “white privilege”, “Western bias”, and other academic forerunners to the modern university “safe spaces” – that United Kingdom awoke with a mighty lion’s roar on Thursday, 23rd June, 2016 following what seemed an irreversible sheep-like trudge into globalist rule. In the waning hours of that night and well into the following morning, I, along with many others the world over, witnessed something unfold and claim its rightful place in history; something I had previously thought could only exist within the dusky confines of Biblical lore:
David had beaten Goliath.
If this ancient metaphor seems a tad hyperbolic, one simply has to consider the tidal wave of propaganda the Leave supporters had to successfully weather in order to bring the long-forgotten principle of national sovereignty to bear. Bucking not only against the raging waters of the EU transnationalists, but the overpaid and undertalented celebrity elite, the monolithic pull of the mainstream media, the clearly misguided yet unfortunately energetic youth, the ivory tower academics and their penchant for elevating fear above hope, the self-interested pleas from major corporations like Virgin and Ryanair, the meaningless mantras of uncertainty and anxiety repeatedly hammered into the public psyche by establishment figures in both the Tory and Labour parties, and even the veiled threat from the Obama administration about heading to the “back of the queue” – the Leave voters, with the quiet reserve so characteristic of this nation’s people, maintained their course with firm conviction to the result so many desired, yet dared not expect. In fact, it would not be amiss here to compare the calm steadfastness of subdued principle in the face of such rabid opposition to the exploits of this nation’s most beloved naval hero, Lord Nelson. For a battered ship had survived a tumultuous storm in the hopes of bringing to these shores once more the promised bounty of national sovereignty.
Of course, if the Biblical and military metaphors are still a bit too grandiose, there are numerous variations one could choose from to characterise the referendum result. In my more light-hearted moments, I can also liken the success of the Leave campaign to the triumph of the Delta Fraternity over Dean Wormer in the 70s American screwball comedy National Lampoon’s Animal House; (Dean Wormer being alternately represented by Jean-Claude Juncker, Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, or George Soros.) The hardworking underdog citizenry of this nation, once esteemed for their sacrifice and selflessness, had made themselves heard, much to the chagrin of the establishment. The dispassionate globalists, the one-worlders with allegiance to neither flag nor country, bureaucrats and self-appointed experts who had for decades deviously – and to their own recent detriment – conflated nationalism with racism, could only stand by fuming, egg dripping down their disappointed faces, as history changed direction in the course of a single night. The spectacle was pure comedy at its anti-authoritarian best.
The theme song for the referendum could very well have been David Bowie’s anthemic “Changes”, although some reworking of the lyrics would have had to have been undertaken. Given the demographic breakdown of the results, it wouldn’t have made sense to sing about “these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds” For it was not only the working classes but the older generations, those who could remember a time before the EU super-state undertook to over-regulate and gut their vital industries whilst the Labour Party simultaneously insulted their intelligence and social status – all the while incredulously and patronisingly expecting them to vote in their favour! – that ushered in what we can only hope at this stage to be another glorious revolution. Whilst the children, the millennials too often looked at to lead the way – a continuation of the inverted hierarchy established during the 1960s of youth over experience – were stodgily resisting any change whatsoever.
With notable exceptions worthy of recognition for standing outside the pack and resisting the full thrust of political peer pressure, the younger generation, by and large, were calling for nothing more dramatic than the prolongation of a dismal and destructive status quo. And given the naked ageism and classism that has permeated both mainstream and social media in the wake of this referendum, it has become clear the “children” are now the ones doing the spitting.
Over a week has now passed and I still occasionally see Remainers sporting their glittery “I’m In” T-shirts and find myself wondering how passionate one can truly be about an institution so patently glum, sedentary, and corrupt as the European Union. I deign to envision another corollary besides rooting for a multinational bank by which one isn’t even employed, but invariably come up short.
I can, however, always understand passion for one’s own nation. It’s unfortunate that a good portion of the Remain camp cannot. To a multinational, populist passion is always suspect. And to nullify any potential threat to the establishment, mistruths about motives are invariably ascribed to nationalist sentiment – xenophobia and racism being the chief rhetorical weapons. For in the EU schemata, as in the larger globalist world view, there are no nations, there are no sides, there is no better and there is no worse. The jihadist hotbed of Belgium, the failed economy of Greece, the non-integrated asylum state of modern Germany, were all, until recently, placed on an equal footing with Great Britain at the table of collective and crippling compromise.
No. Remaining in the EU was not a passionate position, but rather the manifestation of mass gullibility in blindly accepting a series of ad hoc rhetorical equations. For every conflation of nationalism with bigotry, there was a converse conflation of multinationalism with enlightenment. The EU, for example, being conveniently equated with Europe and Europe being conveniently equated with culture – wine, cheese and arts funding, if you will. Whereas a cursory glance across the political landscape of the continent, with its struggling unified currency project and the abject failures of its undemocratic centralised powers, empirically demonstrates the EU is diametrically opposed to the very European culture it purports to foster. I myself adore European culture. One could in fact say I’m passionate about it. Which is exactly why I have always decried the erosion of national identities that is part and parcel of an EU vision. Great Britain may have been the first to leave, but let us hope, for the prolongation of broader European history and culture, she will not be the last.
But the EU is merely a symptom of the wider ideological pathology of globalism. A pathology that, like its smaller counterpart in the European Union, comes equipped with its own reductive inferences: Individual nationhood is distasteful, whereas the global community is, ipso facto, a virtuous thing. Can anyone actually mouth these sentiments with a straight face given that the global community today contains a theocratic Iran, totalitarian North Korea, and an increasingly militarising China -- all the while as the Islamic State continues to slash and burn their way across the hemisphere and beyond?
Finding themselves flailing in the face of reasoned polemics, there were moments during the televised debates when the Remain camp desperately reached for the Nazi card, sanctimoniously emphasising that that, too, was a nationalist movement. Unsurprisingly, they had little to say for the fact that Nazism was also a socialist movement. A socialism predicated on the flawed presumption that certain successes are ill-gotten and therefore invalid – the same premise that served as lifelong justification for Hitler’s unabated hatred and genocidal practices towards the Jewish people.
Of course, no one should argue that the European Union is the second coming of the Nazi party, just as, conversely, no one should draw similar comparisons to the nationalist policies of the Brexit campaign. What can be said with any certainty, though, is that continued adherence to the multinational socialist outlook of the EU would only lead to the further diminishment of British exceptionalism. The fact that Britain is now poised to reverse a decades-long slide into this quagmire, thanks to the outcome of a single referendum, should be encouragement to patriots across the Atlantic that the deleterious effects brought about by eight years of Barack Obama’s denigration of America’s own exceptionalism can be just as easily undone.
It is telling that, during the final debate, self-proclaimed “citizen of the world” Barack Obama’s name was bandied about numerous times as a fait accompli case for remaining in the EU. That is, until one MP courageously pointed out that Obama, thankfully, was not going to be president forever. Why it took so long for the Leave side to respond to the invoking of the president’s name testifies both to how deeply affixed Obama’s cult of personality is on the global stage as well as to the underlying fear that going against his endorsements would lead to false accusations of xenophobia. For what differentiates a xenophobe from a nationalist is that where the former would incorrectly blame immigrants for stealing their culture, the latter would accurately blame their leaders for giving their culture away. And though, undoubtedly, the Obama administration has given much away, Brexit is now a signpost revealing how to get it back.
Perhaps Great Britain in particular and Western Civilisation in general may be slowly awakening to the reality that there is no virtue to be had in self-flagellation. I myself wouldn’t want to live in a United Kingdom that endlessly apologises for its world status in the manipulative tones of guilt and shame. I want to live in a United Kingdom that, whilst not glossing over its historical transgressions, nonetheless endeavours to highlight and capitalise on its many successes – a Britain that loves itself as much as I love Britain. We often hear, for example, of disenfranchised minority youths in Western societies becoming radicalised. Far too many leaders have sought an answer to this problem with more apologies and more accommodations. But the question must be raised, are these youths disenfranchised because the West has not apologised enough or are they disenfranchised because the West has apologised too much? After all, why be loyal to a nation whose rhetoric and actions are steeped in self-hatred? It’s virtually impossible to love a doormat. Moreover, if the leadership of Britain and the US were to widen their lenses and truly act upon the principle of “thinking globally”, it becomes readily apparent that many enemies see apologies as opportunities.
Great Britain is by no means out of the proverbial woods just yet. They have acknowledged the futility of a doomed relationship and have expressed a sincere desire to move on to other opportunities. In reaction, the EU leadership, sobbing like a jilted lover, has screamed “Fine! Pack your bags and get out!” And that is exactly what Britain needs to do, lest it backslide over the course of two years into the same political morass from which it has only recently voted to extricate itself. Yet the machinations within the Tory party following David Cameron’s resignation portend grim challenges for the future of Brexit; most particularly with the ascendency of Theresa May as the major contender for the premiership, herself a Remain candidate from the exact same government. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” the electorate might have hummed as they heard her make the astounding assertion that “voters want more than a Brexit PM” – belying, of course, the fact that Britain needs a new prime minister precisely because of Brexit. Furthermore, the two chief architects of the referendum and the ones who made the most prodigious use on the campaign trail of Americanisms like “Independence Day” – Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson – have both exited the political stage, the latter having been betrayed by his fellow Leave-ally, the Machiavellian upstart Michael Gove. Meanwhile, north of the border, Nicola Sturgeon and her contingency are clamouring on again about independence for Scotland in order that they can continue being dependent on the European Union. As an expat watching all this infighting, backstabbing and manoeuvring unfold, I can only sit back and paraphrase Ray Liotta’s narration in Goodfellas after Joe Pesci gets whacked: “And we had to sit still and take it. It was among the British. It was real greaseball shit.”
Despite all this political negativity, however, optimism must and will prevail. For it was optimism that defeated the scaremongering of the Remain camp at the polls and it will be optimism that goes forth to guarantee the people’s wish that Britain once more claim its rightful place in the world, this time on its own terms. Brexit is about many things – sovereignty, trade, and immigration, to name but a few – and yet all these could easily be distilled into two distinct principles: Choice and Merit.
From its very conception in the aftermath of World War Two, the European Union was based on no grander principle than geographical proximity. This is not to discount the altruistic motives certain European leaders had in reviving war-torn regions of Western Europe, but when considering American initiatives at the time geared towards the same goal of post-war revivification, most notably the Marshall Plan, the idea of proximity alone justifying a political and economic union – especially in this postmodern age of internet commerce – is utterly absurd. Imagine how disgruntled, to put it mildly, Palestine would be if it were finally granted statehood only to be told, because of proximity, it had to immediately enter into a political and economic union with its arch-nemesis, Israel. The unpleasant historical fact is, with Britain’s exit from the EU imminent, the only Allied nation has left the European picture, leaving a map composed of areas that were either neutral, occupied, or Axis powers during World War Two. Whereas in order to account for historical merit in the context of the global conflict often cited to justify the creation of the EU, one must zoom outwards to incorporate allies such as the Commonwealth nations, Russia, and, most revealingly, the United States. Nations with which a post-Brexit Britain now has the freedom to choose to foster improved relations.
How ironic it is that by abandoning globalism, the world suddenly gets much bigger.
It has been posited by some in the Eurosceptic movement that the EU is, to some extent, a protracted attempt to assuage German guilt. If that indeed be the case and Germany wishes to continue making the culturally suicidal mistake of shaming itself out of its Leibnizes, Beethovens and Einsteins, let them. But not at the expense of requiring Britain to do the same with its Shakespeares, Elgars and Darwins – or, by extension, America to do so with its Jeffersons, Gershwins and Twains.
Brexit has the clear potential to represent a victory of merit over quotas and informed choice over convenient proximity. And perhaps it will also prove the long-desired harbinger that the flat-lined pulse of Western culture will beat once more. Most importantly, however, it can be the opportunity for Britain not only to inspire other nation-states within the EU to reclaim their own national sovereignty, but to reverse and consequently invalidate Barack Obama’s meddlesome naysaying when this determined nation finds itself at the front – not the back – of the queue.
“Let us go forward together.” – Winston Churchill.