I spent a while yesterday listening to fragments of the increasingly chaotic Brexit debate going on in the UK. One little event stuck in mind: the exchange (provided by lip-readers) between Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker at 50 seconds into the video below.
“What did you call me?” May began. “You called me nebulous.”
“Yes, you did. Nebulous! Nebulous!”
“I didn’t,” said Juncker. “I didn’t!”
I can’t read lips too well, but I can read the expressions on people’s faces, and Theresa May certainly doesn’t look too happy about something.
Juncker later says that May misinterpreted something he said. He said he hadn’t been calling her nebulous, but someone else, or something else. They inhabited separate realities.
But it all seemed utterly childish to me. They all seemed like squabbling children, who were all starting to cry because someone said they were nebulous. What a terrible thing to be told! You’re nebulous.
And in fact more or less everyone I saw on YouTube yesterday seemed like so many squabbling children. And if there’s a debate in Parliament about it all, I suspect they’ll all look like children too.
None of which bodes too well for Brexit.
My guess, right now, is that Brexit won’t happen. I think it will get cancelled by the European Court on some technicality. Something like that. Something along those lines. And what will follow is the formation of a Brexit political party, and an antiBrexit political party, rather in the same way the SDP (remember them?) started up in 1981.
But increasingly I don’t think it really matters what happens in the UK about Brexit, because I think that what we are really witnessing is the slow motion disintegration of the EU, in which drama Brexit is just one small bit part player.
What seems rather more serious to me is what’s been happening in France over the past few weeks with the Gilets Jaunes. I think these events in France are as significant as the shock June 2016 Brexit vote, and the shock November 2016 Trump election. Those two events were votes, but the Gilets Jaunes wasn’t a vote: it was a sudden popular revolt against the French government. And one that nobody saw coming. I can’t think of any pundit who’s been saying: “Watch out for the French people. They’re coming to the boil.”
I think the Gilets Jaunes have shown the rest of Europe how to bring down a government. For they succeeded in bringing France to a halt, just by blocking roads. They didn’t actually bring down Macron, but if they’d gone on they would have done so. The riots in Paris were just a noisy sideshow. Governments all over Europe (and beyond) must now live in fear of Yellow Vests:
Egypt bans yellow vests in fear of copycat protests
For all over Europe (and perhaps all over the world), the governing political classes have become detached from their peoples. They inhabit separate universes.
Nothing illustrates this better than the tide of smoking bans which have swept over the world in the past decade or two. For governments and health experts these appear as a great step forward, almost as great the invention of sewerage systems, saving millions of lives. For the people who endure them, they bring no benefits whatsoever, and only division and alienation. The antismokers and the smokers inhabit separate universes.
It’s the same with global warming/climate change. The climate scientists inhabit a universe in which we are all going to be roasted if we keep putting CO2 into the atmosphere. But the protesters in the Gilets Jaunes inhabit a universe in which no such thing is even beginning to happen. Once again, there are two separate universes, two separate realities.
And there’s a deepening loss of faith by ordinary people in medicine, in science, in government, in everything. What happened with religion during the Reformation 500 years ago is repeating itself, but this time in the secular realm. Back then a lot of people stopped believing the bishops and the Popes of the Roman Catholic Church. Exactly the same thing is happening now, but in Climate Science rather than Christianity. But it’s essentially the same loss of faith, the same loss of trust. It’s a loss of faith in authority of almost every kind, because the authorities seem to have all gone rather mad.
The Gilets Jaunes mark the point where ordinary people had finally had enough of a “climate change” that seemed completely nonsensical to them, because they couldn’t see it happening in their own lives.
The Gilets Jaunes may have been the first to revolt, but they won’t be the last.