Brexit, a Momentous Non-Event

By Arthur Sevestre / Deep Green Resistance supporter

Walk the line

“If they give you lined paper, write sideways.” ~Daniel Quinn

The UK is to leave the EU. The world will never be the same. Many feel that this will make many matters much worse in the UK. I agree. But I also think that matters would have been getting much worse in the UK if they would have stayed.

There were only two choices in the referendum: leave the EU, or remain. These options may seem quite fundamentally different, unless you take a few steps back and look at it from a bit of a distance.

Almost all the arguments for and against were framed around the economy. The leave campaigners said that leaving would be best for the British economy, and for trade and jobs. The remain side claimed it would be better to stay for the very same reasons.

When people are given a real piece of lined paper, literally or figuratively, then most will write neatly on the lines without much thought. This is what happened in the case of Brexit. If the paper was the full range of possibilities for people to react to the referendum, then the lines were a way to control and limit peoples’ minds and actions without them noticing. The lines drawn for the referendum suggested that only voting for or against Brexit was possible. Nothing else. Leave or remain, but no qualifications possible, let alone distinctly different options.

Sliding premises by people

“The first rule of propaganda: if you can slide your premises by people, you’ve got them.” ~Derrick Jensen

To say the above in a different way, the lines on the paper are what you might call premises. Author Derrick Jensen argues that if you want to make people accept opinions as fact, there is almost no better way than by using language to slide these things by people unnoticed.

When both leave and remain campaigners framed their position as being best for the economy, they slipped through the premise that a strong economy is desirable or even essential to live well. Citizens accepted the premise as a matter of fact, not a proposal needing consideration.

How could one even write sideways on this lined paper that was handed out? Not by ticking one of those boxes. Both boxes offered by the political and economical establishment were about growing the economy, increasing trade, and creating more jobs. This meant that every vote in this referendum effectively was a vote for growing the economy, increasing trade, creating more jobs In other words, every vote in this referendum was a vote for growing the economy, for increasing trade, for more jobs, for… hold on.. when was the last time a growing economy was about making things better for ordinary people? When did they get more money to spend, and better jobs which paid better? And what about the rest of the living world?

Hasn’t recent economic growth been the result of squeezing the last bits of money out of the poor classes to further fill the bank accounts of the rich? On a EU-wide scale, hasn’t it come from squeezing the last bits of money out of the likes of Greece, Ireland and Portugal, only to make the bankers in the richest countries richer? Hasn’t the EU as a whole squeezed empty other parts of the world, such as Africa? Despite its claims to virtue, the EU is not about fairness and making things better for all.

More importantly, a growing economy is at its very basis a measure for how efficiently the rich few manage to force the middle class and poor masses to work away health and life (jobs) to convert ever more of the living planet ever faster into dead products for the profit of the few (economic growth), and into toxic waste and a dead planet.

These are some of the very most fundamental lines on the paper provided to voters in this referendum. The leave and remain campaigns weren’t the first to draw them. These lines have been around for an awfully long time, which makes them seem even more set in stone. We’ve gotten so used to them that while they constrain nearly all our political discourse, they are more or less invisible. We notice them perfectly, or we couldn’t write neatly on them, but we are unconscious of our acceptance. What a trick.

Tick outside the box

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.” ~Noam Chomsky

The referendum allowed voters to influence some issues. For example, travel within the EU may now be severely impaired for UK citizens. But the real matters – those determining whether we have an inhabitable planet for the foreseeable future, and thus whether we have anything to travel to – were not on the table. Their absence doesn’t mean the vote had nothing to do with them. Instead it means that every vote, leave or remain, was a vote against a planet still being able to support life.

Some suggest EU environmental regulations force the UK to greener standards. Others argue that an independent UK might set stricter regulations than one limited by EU rules. Voting with this in mind might be called a form of writing sideways on the lined paper they gave you. You were supposed to vote for a stronger economy, but you used your vote to try to say something you weren’t supposed to be able to say. You were trying to, if not bring about actual change, at least change circumstances so that real change can be more easily achieved.

So maybe, just maybe, it can be argued that writing sideways was possible. But the time and energy spent trying to do so could have been spent more effectively on other routes to change. The problem is that the rulers of neither the UK nor EU show any sign of putting the living planet first. Even if voters care strongly, the elite divert, convert, and pervert that into care and support for slightly different corporate industries, such as those which profit from “green technology.”

Industries such as Renewable Energy™ attempt, quite successfully, to slide premises past us. They call technologies “renewable” even though they depend on mined minerals and fossil fuel for their production. They limit us to lively debate about whether we will power our gadgets, tools and machines on fossil fuels or on these “renewables,” never allowing the question of whether we should use these tools at all. It doesn’t matter whether the chainsaws cutting trees run on petrochemicals or on water. It doesn’t matter whether the fighter bombers dropping depleted uranium on poor brown people living on top of “our” resources fly on kerosene or on biofuels. It doesn’t matter whether the mining equipment ripping holes into the earth runs on diesel or on hydrogen fuel cells. If you use technology to kill the planet, the planet will be killed. We need to be having that discussion.

Thinking outside the box so far that you realise that there is no box

“Understand: the task of an activist is not to negotiate systems of power with as much personal integrity as possible–it’s to dismantle those systems.” ~Lierre Keith

If we want meaningful change, it’s useless to accept the paper we’re handed and spend our energy trying to write on the lines with integrity. Even writing sideways won’t achieve much; not only the lines, but the very pieces of paper on which they’re drawn, constrain our thoughts and actions. To obliterate the limits they impose, we must throw away the paper altogether.

Consider the game of Monopoly. A player playing to win has no choice but to amass as much money as possible at the expense of the other players, with an inevitable outcome of one player ending up extremely rich and, because of that, the rest reduced to beggars. (A player indifferent to winning will simply become a beggar more quickly.) If the players feel the game isn’t going well, they might vote to replace the current banker. But the new banker is constrained by the design of the game such that nothing significant will change. The players cannot change the outcome unless they completely change the nature of the game. Effectively, they must replace the game with something else. We should keep this in mind as we evaluate the dominant culture.

We have more than just a vote. We are not limited to marking an X on a piece of paper to decide who rules us while we continue playing the same game. We can use our voices without the constraints of the lines or the papers. We can use our hands, arms, legs, feet, knees, elbows and hard heads to wipe the monopoly game off the table and replace it with a game which benefits all. Such a momentous change would expose Brexit as the non-event it is.

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