It’s been a week since the UK General Election. I’m not going to blame Corbyn, the People’s Vote, the electoral system or the LibDems for what happened. Instead of seeing this as their loss or folly, I have been struck down by the realisation of the Brexit movement’s victory. I must acknowledge it. The falsehoods and misinformation are immaterial. They out-campaigned us and out-manoeuvred us.
As I try to untangle this, I take little solace in the knowledge that my side may have lost the vote, but we still have won the argument. That kind of thinking helped me through the aftermath of the referendum, but it’s not working now. I say this in all sincerity. I’m not looking to be right. I’m too busy wallowing in my own defeat for that.
Defeat is a monstrous burden to bear. Maybe it’s because the three and a half years of my life engaged in Brexit conversations, delivering leaflets, attending rallies and marches and above all else, wishing it away. I turn once again to Buddhism, the Zen variety this time. In this tradition, and I paraphrase Thomas Merton, when a person feels kicked, crushed and defeated , a spiritual path is the best place to be. I meditate and breath.
But that’s only part of it, since the GE, I live in a world that feels alien to me and this is not an exaggeration. I recall the Reagan/Thatcher years, where I strongly disagreed with the policies of both and had to live with them as a US resident and then a British one. But I could understand then, and especially now, why people voted for them. Both politicians benefitted from the economic boom at the time while the left on both sides of the Atlantic experienced a paucity of leadership. I feel on safe ground saying that if Reagan or Thatcher had behaved in the ways of Trump and Johnson – the bare-faced lies, the racist and sexist remarks, the stirring up of hatred – they would not have been re-elected. This is where it hurts, I’m having to acknowledge that I live in a new world order, where cult-like charlatans rule the most powerful countries on our planet. Historians will be quick to point out that this is not a new world. This is an old world that was around before my lifetime, the interwar years in Germany comes to mind.
So I take inspiration from Michael Tippett, who composed A Child of Our Time in response to the disunity in Europe just before WWII. ‘The world turns on its dark side — it is winter,’ the chorus sings. But we know that after winter the flowers will start to bloom again.