We are in the middle of our holiday, and at a time when we should be thankful that we have got liberty back, we need to recall it came at a considerable cost. What Brendan O’Neil does not say out loud is that people died in Watt Tylers rebellion, in the Chartist movement, among the suffaregettes, and that the reforms and limitations on the power of the crown never came cheap.
Brexit merely hurt feelings.
Let’s now celebrate the meaningfulness of Brexit. It really cannot be overstated. Brexit is one of the finest acts of democracy in the history of this nation. It ought to take its place in the history books alongside the Levellers’ demand for universal male suffrage in the 1640s, and the mass march for democracy in St Peter’s Field in Manchester in 1819, and the Chartists’ agitation for the right of working-class men to vote in the 1840s, and the civil disobedience of the Suffragettes in the 1910s…
Because Brexit, and, more importantly, the post-referendum battle to protect Brexit from the anti-democratic elites, shares something incredibly important in common with those democratic leaps forward in British history. Which is that it embodies the patient but determined assertion of ordinary people that they have as much right as the rich and the well-educated to determine the political fate of the nation. That belief in the rights of the people energised the men, women and children on St Peter’s Field in 1819, and the women who gathered outside parliament on Black Friday in November 1910, and also the millions of us who voted to leave the EU and take back democratic control. Brexit is in keeping, entirely, with the great democratic struggles of our history.
The First World War was bloody, and the German menace of that time mimicked the current issue: the state as hegemon, and a lack of freedoms. The Prussians are disciplined, dutiful, serious, lutheran (and paid an enormous cost during the first world war: if you visit the royal church in Berlin, go to the crypt, and see how many aristocrats did not live to see Armistice day.
The current European project remains an attempt by the French (in particular) to ensure there is no further cup we cannot refuse.
The Garden called Gethsemane
In Picardy it was,
And there the people came to see
The English soldiers pass.
We used to pass — we used to pass
Or halt, as it might be,
And ship our masks in case of gas
The Garden called Gethsemane,
It held a pretty lass,
But all the time she talked to me
I prayed my cup might pass.
The officer sat on the chair,
The men lay on the grass,
And all the time we halted there
I prayed my cup might pass.
It didn’t pass — it didn’t pass —
It didn’t pass from me.
I drank it when we met the gas
But that is not the way things are. Richard Thompson is writing as much about his parents and grandparents, who drank that cup, as the far more ancient day that Christ did his duty, for us all.
So feelings? Meh. Feelings are trumped by shed blood.
May we instead have peace, though the contempt of the elite may lead to something else.