what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Europe's Fateful Day

My last post predicted (on 14 June) that those voting to leave would significantly outnumber the others but, as one Prime Minister of the 1970s famously said, "a week is a long time in politics"
I was, like most people, shocked by the killing of a young English Labour MP last week, this being the main reason why the promised summary of Barnett's book has not yet appeared. The murder may or may not be the factor which has apparently seen a significant swing toward "remain" (and the betting money is certainly on that result).
What people actually do when they reach the privacy of the polling booth (if they actually do) is always the imponderable as I well know from personal experience. In 1979, I was a very active public campaigner for a "no" vote in the referendum about creating a Scottish Parliament (I felt then it was the slippery path to independence); I appeared on public platforms with prominent MPs – but- when it came to vote - I actually found myself putting a cross in the "yes" box!!    

So now, as British voters trek to the polls, the feeling is that "remain" might just make it.......

Here are two thoughtful pieces on the implications of the campaign from one of my favourite journals – this one which focuses on the fact that Britain has always had a “semi-detached” view of Europe  and a short magisterial piece which refers to a writer (JB Priestley) from the area in which the young MP was born -   
who is remembered mostly for a single play, which he wrote towards the end of the second world war but which he set two years before the start of the first. It covers a single evening in the life of a smug, prosperous Midlands family, the Birleys, who are enjoying a celebratory dinner. It is interrupted by an unexpected caller, an inspector of police. A young woman is dead.
 It emerges in the course of his interrogation that every member of the Birley family contributed in some way to Eva Smith’s suicide. It’s all a bit schematic; at times it creaks. Yet this standby of tatty rep – with its old-fashioned Christian Socialist values, its whiff of the supernatural, its overhanging presentiment of mass slaughter, its mysterious denouement – somehow moves and provokes modern audiences. It has become one of the classics of our age. Young people love it. 
Now, why might that be? It’s a question worth asking at the end of this vicious campaign, as we look with foreboding to a denouement of our own making in the early hours of Friday. I suspect what appeals to young people about this play, what gives it meaning in their own lives, is that it preaches – and it does preach – the importance of moral responsibility.
Read the inspector’s closing speech. I’ve retained the name of the original character, Eva Smith, but it might be interesting if you substituted the name of a young woman from an ethnic minority. 

But just remember this. One Eva Smith has gone – but there are millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths left with us, with their lives, their hopes and their fears, their suffering and a choice of happiness, all intertwined with our lives and what we think and say and do. We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish.
 In the end, the early summer of 2016 was never about money, about a balance of economic advantage, about notions of sovereignty, about the parrot cries of 'freedom for Britain’ or 'Britain first’.
It was not even about immigration. It was about a shocking want of kindness, an absence of love, a grievous loss of humanity. The inspector is calling. Again he’s calling. This time, he’s calling on us.

Der Spiegel has a longer article here. And the Dublin Review of Books does a good summary of the debate as it took place in the columns of the Guardian newspaper

If the vote is for "leave", this piece will be worth studying in detail   

No comments:

Post a Comment