The great unravelling

So, Britain has voted to leave the EU. I have waited some time before commenting. I wanted to see what would happen. See how people would react. I am still not sure that I am ready to comment. It is all still very raw. But it is going to take years to settle down. We have chosen to unpick the seams. Now there will be the great unravelling. It is going to be a long and painful process. But, I suppose, it was always going to happen. I suppose it had to be done.

I voted Remain because I hoped that we could find the least painful way to move forward as a country, as a continent, as a planet. I thought that, even though progress was slow and difficult, we were, as part of the EU, beginning to make our way towards a more enlightened future. Sure, there were battles to be fought but at least we were working together with neighbours who, in previous generations we had been bombing, shooting and killing. Far better to fight battles around the negotiation table than on muddy fields and bloody beaches.

But, if I am honest, I suspected that Britain would vote to Leave. We have never exactly been enthusiastic EU members. Always on the side-lines. Unwilling to commit. Moaning about the size of our share. Obsessed with petty details. Unable to embrace the bigger picture. We can’t help it. We are an island race. We have a tendency to become insular. We believe that the seas separate us. Protect us. Britannia Rules The Waves and all that. It is in our nature to feel apart from the rest of the world.  If we are to believe mainstream media (Top Tip: DON’T), but if we do, we are told that the British public voted to Leave because of a sense of regaining our ability to make our own laws. We believe that we should have different laws to the rest of Europe. We don’t believe that we should have to abide by laws made across the Channel. Even though we were EU members and therefore had a say in forming those laws. It seems that we feel that we are somehow above the law. That our British law is best – the only law capable of being truly just. We seem to think that several countries agreeing on a set of laws weakens the validity of those laws. I would have thought that greater consensus of opinion strengthens a law – apparently I was mistaken. If you want to know what is right and fair, just ask an Englishman – preferably white, middle-aged, wearing a suit and clutching a pint of warm beer – he knows best. How arrogant and inward looking we can be.

And, when we do look outward, it tends to be with an eye to exploit whatever is out there. We didn’t establish an Empire for humanitarian reasons. We built an Empire in order to ruthlessly exploit the resources of the rest of the world. We built an Empire on theft. Then had the nerve to pretend we were “civilising” other nations. Doing them a favour. How arrogant and deceitful we were.

But, that tendency continues ……

…..Time and time again during the debate around the EU referendum and its fall-out, I have heard reference to GREAT Britain, to making Britain GREAT again. It has tripped easily off the tongues of politician’s vying for your vote. Lying for your vote. But just stop and think about it….What sort of country declares itself to be “Great”. Surely, Greatness is a title that has to be bestowed by others. You can’t just declare yourself Great. If I went around calling myself Great Andy….Andy the Great …. you would think I was mentally ill. So, why do we want to live in a country that is “Great again”. What do we mean when we say that? Do we want to be seen as mentally ill? Do we want a return to Empire? Or are we simply making ourselves feel better by holding on to a fantasy that never was? Is Britain’s Greatness a giant comfort blanket for a nation that has lost its way? A nation that is unable to accept reality. A nation that is unable to form a mature relationship with the rest of the world. A nation that is behaving like a petulant child?

Certainly, take a look at our leaders and it seems that we have been led into our present situation by petulant children. Arrogant boys who seem to think that lying, deceit, betrayal,bullying and lying again are perfectly acceptable behaviours. Leaders who, when they don’t get their own way, respond by throwing their toys out of the pram and stomp off in a strop. They don’t want to play any more. Because it is all a game to them. And they have nothing to really lose except pride. Do not shed a tear for David, Boris or whichever politician is next to fall. They will be fine. They will go back to their mansions, lick their wounds and figure out who next owes them a living. They are con-men and parasites. They are not good models of adult behaviour. It’s not their fault. Their parents abandoned them at a young age – sent them away to boarding school. To learn how to be men. But they never learned to be fully human first. So, they grew up to be hollow men. Unable to relate properly to anybody other than those who had been through the same deprived childhood. And, even with those, the primary relationship was one of competition. Brought up to regard everyone else with suspicion, unable to trust anyone, is it any surprise that lies come as second nature to them. And, told from a young age that they are born to lead, is it any surprise that they tend to over-estimate their own abilities and come to believe that they can do no wrong, cannot fail. It is not a good mix. The hollow men were always a disaster waiting to happen.

So, as I write, our country is without a leader. Our Prime Minister has said that he doesn’t want the job any more and his team are busy stabbing each other in the back to see who will be the next Leader. Meanwhile, on the Left, the Labour Party has a Leader who wants the job but none of his team in Westminster want to play with him and they are having a big strop because their party constitution says it is not up to them to choose who is Leader and they don’t like it – they don’t want to play by that rule. It is a mess. If nothing else, the decision to Leave the EU has revealed how broken our system of Government has become. It is a system caught up in its own little bubble – unable to relate to the problems and concerns of the majority of the country. I think that we need a radically different way of governing ourselves. And maybe our current mess is the beginning of a change. But I expect that what we will see is a tinkering with the remains of the present system – different ways to elect leaders, a bit of shaky coalition, maybe some form of proportional representation. And I don’t believe that is enough. I think that our problems go much deeper. Need more radical solutions.

It goes back to what we choose to call ourselves – the name we give our nation. It goes back to notions of national pride. It goes back to what it is to be an adult. It goes back, fundamentally, to how we form relationships – with each other and with the planet we inhabit. It goes back to the question of how to live well on the planet.

First and foremost, we have to acknowledge that we have not been living well on the planet. We do not have a healthy relationship with our planet. We are totally delusional about the actual terms of the relationship. We are totally dependant upon our planet for our survival. That is why it is Mother Earth – it nurtures and supports us. It gives us life. Everything we have …Everything …… is a gift from Mother Earth. From the food on your plate, to your car and your flat screen TV – all a gift. Now, how do you behave appropriately when given a gift? You say “Thank you.” You express gratitude. You show respect. When did you last thank Mother Earth for the food on your plate? When did you last say grace? And when did you last thank Mother Earth for your car? Maybe you think that it is your car – you worked hard to earn the money to buy it. True enough – but that is only a secondary transaction. Where do the minerals that make the materials that make your car originally come from? What about the fuel that powers your car? Where does that come from? All of it is taken from Mother Earth. The fuel that powers your car is the energy of the sunlight that enabled the growth of plants that rotted down and were held by Mother Earth for thousands of years in just the right conditions to transform into oil. All we do is extract it and refine it. A secondary process. We do not make energy. Yet, we behave as if we do. Behave as if it belongs to us. We take it and don’t even have the grace to say “Thank you.” In short, we behave like spoilt children – ungrateful and self-obsessed. Convinced that it is ours by right. Arrogant beyond belief.

If we are going to survive as a species, we have to stop behaving like children. We have to grow up and start behaving like adults. We have to learn to form adult relationships – with Mother Earth and with each other.

And the sad thing is we used to have those relationships. We used to know how to live better. We used to embody the right relationships (to Earth and to each other) in the way we lived our lives. Respect for the Earth’s gifts were intimately woven into everyday life. When the ancient hunter killed a deer, he immediately gave thanks to the animal for giving its life to feed his family. He did not celebrate his skill as a hunter and take the animal as a trophy. He recognised that the death of the animal was a gift and he was grateful. And if we look to the Original Peoples that survive today. Tribes that live in much the same way as their ancestors. If we look to them, we see that they see the world as a sacred place. Everything in it is sacred and to be treated with respect. Everything has its function and place. Mankind included. We are just a part of a complex whole. A single thread in an intricate and beautiful tapestry. We do not own the tapestry. We are merely a part of it. This realisation that we are a part of Nature. Not separate from. Not owners of. Simply a part of. This realisation is the first step in becoming a mature adult.

The second step is to understand what your role is in life. Everything in Nature has a part to play. Everything has a role. Everything is important. Everything. Including us. Everyone of us. If you don’t have a firm grasp of what your role is in the World, how can you feel that you are valued? How can you ever feel satisfied? You will spend your life without a sense of purpose. You will look to other people to tell you what to do, tell you what is important. You will feel that your life lacks meaning. You will feel isolated, sad and worthless. You will then start to become a drain upon others. The Original Peoples knew the importance of understanding your role in life. They had rituals at key life stages that ensured that everybody found their role. Rites of Passage. They went on vision quests or walkabout or pilgrimage. Call it what you will, they built time in to their lives when they would take time out to discover themselves and have their purpose revealed to them. Because you cannot just choose your purpose. It is not the same as a job. A job is just a way to earn money to live. Your purpose goes much deeper than that. It is the core of who you are. It is what you are here to do. And it is not always obvious to you. It takes time, energy and trust to discover.

Nowadays, we seem to do whatever we can to avoid thinking about our deeper selves. We are happy to be endlessly distracted – entertained by constant media barrage. No space or time to think. So, we accept what we are told what to do. Syphoned into a narrow vision of what our lives might be. We have nothing to help our young people discover themselves as adults. We expect it just to happen. Magically. On their 18th birthday. Our schools epitomise this tendency. They are now very far away from being places where young people can safely explore who they are. They have become factories that force our children to chase meaningless targets imposed, blanket like, on all. Factories designed to produce conformity and stupidity. They are very good at sorting and grading pupils according to one very narrow definition of intelligence. The outcome is that the majority of students feel like failures – somehow lesser than the hallowed A* students. It is a perfect system for producing a divided society with citizens who feel under-valued and pointless. How sad. What a waste of potential.

I think that we need to build a society where everybody feels valued. Where success is measured not by individual financial gain but by the physical, mental and emotional health of the whole tribe. Step One and Step Two (Feeling Part of Nature and Knowing Your Purpose) are important in getting us there but we also need a Third Step.

Step Three is knowing that Life is not to be measured in what you get, but what you give away. It follows naturally from Steps One and Two. If we are all part of a big, connected whole (the Natural World), and we all have a reason for being here (a purpose), then that purpose can only be realised in terms of its effect upon the whole. Our purpose is given meaning by the effect it has on others, on the planet. Your true purpose can never, by definition, be selfish. Your true purpose is more about being humble. Accepting that you are just a thread and your role is to serve – to work with others to weave a beautiful tapestry.

Feel Connected – you are part of the tapestry.

Know your purpose – every thread is important.

Be Humble – remember that it’s not about you.

So, returning to the EU referendum and the state of our nation, you can perhaps see why I call it the start of the Great Unravelling. We have decided as a nation that we are fed up with the way things are. Fair enough. I agree. We are not, on the whole, living well. And, rather than see the EU as part of a way forward, we have decided to abandon that project. Can’t say that I agree, but we live in a democracy so….. Now we have to find a new way forward. We have chosen to unpick the tapestry that we were weaving. Now we have to start weaving a new one. What worries me is that we are in danger of weaving a monstrosity. If we are not mindful of the Three Steps that I have outlined we will have jumped out of the frying pan and into a blazing inferno.

So, to end on a positive note, I want to outline how these steps translate into real actions.

Step One: We have to look after the Natural World of which we are a part. Action on Climate Change and a Sustainable Future has to be an absolute priority. Demand to know what your Government is going to do about it. If any politician mentions fracking as a solution, tell them to Frack Off.

Step Two: We have to invest in our young people. We have to enable them to know their purpose. Our education system is not fit for purpose. Demand change. Get involved. Become a school governor. Don’t just accept the crap the Government gives you. And, for fuck’s sake, don’t let Michael Gove have anything to do with it.

Step Three: Stop talking about Britain great again. Stop demanding that we should be proud of our country. Be humble. We are no better or worse than anywhere else. In the words of J. Rotten there’s “No Future in England’s Dreaming.” Get over it. Better to ask “How can we collaborate with others to build a better, safer world?”

Oh, and imprison Nigel Farrage for his own safety. He is clearly mentally ill and incapable of working co-operatively with anyone. Oh, he has just resigned as leader of UKIP. So, the three main architects of Brexit have now jumped ship. All giving lovely speeches and reasons for going. But, essentially, admitting that they are cowardly scum with no idea and no plan to move us forward.

Step Four: Do not trust anything any politician tells you.

 

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