UK Editor, Sean Preston considers the left and the right, the contusions and confusions, in the lead up to the Brexit referendum
Nuclear Reactor by Sean Preston
The importance of our upcoming referendum in the UK is one of significance if not importance. Just how important is debatable, like everything else to do with all this. And debate is what people have done. Debate that has been regularly boring and occasionally infuriating. On the eve of the UK saying Yes or No to continuing to be a part of the European Union, I’m left to consider, as I have many times, the reaction to these discussions.
Something awful happened this week. An act of right-wing terrorism (by definition) in the West Yorkshire, Northern England followed an act of Islamic terrorism (by definition) and an act cut through with homophobia, in Orlando, Florida. What I found to be so sad about these acts is what linked them other than the loss of life: they were avoidable. With care, attention, and respect, the perpetrators might have been helped, a tragedy averted. A lack of compassion is what promoted these crimes. The Right, of course, for the most part, has chosen to focus on Islam in regard to terrorism perpetrated by Muslims, and have done in the UK for some time now. Yet the likes of The Daily Mail chooses to view the recent act of right-wing terrorism as the act of a lone wolf. The Daily Mail is institutionally disgusting. I expect nothing less. Few do. They’re predictably one-sided.
What I didn’t expect was the same style of careless and selfish rhetoric to have emanated from the Left in the way that it has. The greater part of my left-wing bubble swamped Social Media to tell Leave campaigners that they had blood on their hands. That this was an act of right-wing terrorism and a sign of things to come. They blamed the rhetoric of the right-wing Leave campaign. They said that the campaign resulted in the death of one of our MPs. The hyperbole was worryingly similar to that of the xenophobes on the right. Yes, this was the same insular knee-jerkism that followers of The Daily Mail subscribe to. This is the same as blaming the Quran for terrorism. How has the Left of our country become like that? How has it become so unreasonable? The worst kind of reactionary. The thing that we on the Left should know to be so dangerous. Perhaps they’ll say they were being ironic. Fine, that makes perfect sense to me. Maybe some of them were. Though I doubt many of those responsible for these comments are the type to wield irony so soon after such a tragedy such as this. It doesn’t seem to follow form if their usual baaing outrage is anything to go by. These are the same people that rightly promote openness and understanding in regard to mental health. Over the last couple of years I’ve seen so many positive indications that we’re finally going to take mental health seriously. And now, what? We immediately forget all that, because it’s a useful tool in sickeling “Nazi” to the backs of Leavers? We too readily forget that victims make perpetrators when forgetting as much fits our political or social agenda. Bizarre and saddening. The Left is better than that.
It’s hard to know exactly how to react. I get that. But I’ve seen a lot of reactions that turned my stomach over the last week. Vote Leave and you’re aligning yourselves with racists. Ha! We do that when we join a queue at Tesco. And what, are there not people voting Remain for reasons that you find uncomfortable? I’m not alone in feeling frustrated and nauseated in general by this referendum. I considered a “Lexit” (Left Exit: voting Leave owing to left-wing ideology – also the lamest portmanteau our country has ever seen), but it’s a pointless exercise. I want to believe that a Jeremy Corbyn government can happen but I can’t see beyond our influential right-wing media. Besides, there’s a lesser evil here, and it’s the European Union. But my vote makes a difference to people, marginally. And so I’m forced to Remain because Schindler. Because the realistic alternative is shameful. Because I’m more concerned by the What If than the What Is. Which, when you think about it, is pretty depressing. But I cannot abide by those voting Remain that seek to disparage those considering a Lexit vote. We can go anywhere in Europe, they say, how can we give up on that? Well, here’s why: You can go and work anywhere in Europe, so can I. But there are two million children living in poverty in this country who do not have that option. Is that a direct result of the European Union? Perhaps not, but has the European Union’s neoliberal agenda helped that situation? Ask Greece.
Either way, in or out, I hope the Left can react well tomorrow. I hope they can show some kind of compassion. Otherwise they’ve lost more than Europeanism.