It is closing time in the gardens of the West.
– Cyril Connolly
Yesterday’s news from Britain has bought the world to its knees. Europe’s most powerful institution has lost a crucial pillar and the hopes and dreams of millions dangle on the brink. It’s difficult to guess what brought us to this place – the path behind is tangled and dim, the path ahead is subsumed in darkness. As we stumble, blind, into the thicket of history, the only thing that’s certain is the stark reality of this uncanny severance – Harry Styles is leaving One Direction.
Things simply cannot go on as they were. Who would want to see Louis, Liam, and Niall in concert, a hair-gelled triumvirate of pure dead weight? 1D is finished. And, to add insult to injury, the United Kingdom is leaving the EU.
Britain, of course, is nothing like Harry Styles, who is young, popular, and has a future. The Jingoistic element of England would love to think of itself as a nimble Adonis breaking free from the oppressive yoke of Simon Cowell – ie. Brussells – but that analogy doesn’t really hold up. Brexit is more like Jeremy Clarkson sawing off his own arm because it once shook hands with a Polish person.
As the global markets bottom out and Francois Hollande pulls his secret lever to flood the Channel Tunnel, it’s important to look for silver linings. Some succor can be found in the fate of David Cameron, the pig-porking oligarch whose oinking indiscretions are now the least embarrassing element of his legacy. If you listen closely to the Prime Minister’s resignation speech you can hear Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence playing just behind his eyes.
Some might say that Cameron fell on his sword, like the incorruptible Roman Senator Cato. But that analogy doesn’t really hold up, because most of this is Cameron’s fault. He cynically empowered bigots to get himself elected and proposed the referendum in the first place. Stepping down as everything crumbles around him is more like swallowing the ol’ Hitler Tic Tacs.
As an uninformed dabbler in British politics, I’d ignorantly hoped that the total humiliation of the Conservative Party might pave the way for a leftist revolution. Alas, no dice. Much of the British Labour Party – which makes its Australian sibling look like a bastion of unity and integrity – is already using Brexit as a chance to off its leader. The socialist Jeremy Corbyn actually does resemble Cato, if he had a penchant for elbow pads and was totally out of his depth. But this hasn’t helped him fight a tide of Blairite discontent – he might be gone within the fortnight.
The fact Scottish secession now looks inevitable is a further blow to Labour, who have often relied on a swathe of progressive seats north of Hadrian’s wall. To top it all off, Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister has called for a referendum for a united Ireland. At this rate, the Kingdom of East Anglia will reassert its independence in about three days.
Cue Trump, appearing in Scotland to gloat about the end times. Brexit is godsend for the multifarious nationalist groups that are growing like weeds through the cracks in the world. Whole global institutions are crumbling, the illusions that sustain them flicker like holograms. Everything is enveloped in a palpable sense of entropy. How many recessions does it take to bring down a liberal democracy? This is how the world ends. Not with a bang, but a Guardian live stream.
The analogy doesn’t really hold up, but it feels like world is going in one direction. In one day, in one country, an economy tanked, an Opposition Leader stumbled, a PM fell and a kingdom, united for three hundred years, was sundered at its core. When things start to implode, they really commit to imploding. As the old saying goes, in for a penny, in for nine-tenths of a pound.