In an ideal world, the proletariat would be informed. But they aren’t
Power in the hands of angry, neglected people is never going to end well
“Oh my God.” I’ve woken up at 8.03 on the morning of the referendum. I stare at the BBC homepage at the deeply distressing news in front of me. No way. I must be dreaming. This is the worst day of my life. I cry most of the day. At some points, my parents cry with me.
It’s bad for me, worse for my parents, but the people I’m most terrified for are the British working class. How many will starve now due to food price inflation? I ask myself, staring out at the fields. How many will be unemployed, hungry, homeless? How many will die when the NHS crashes? I watch them praising themselves at their ‘victory’ and am reminded of Lord of the Flies. Do they know what inflation is? Where on earth do they think we are going to get food or fuel from?
I look at their innocent, lost faces swelled with the pride of identity. They haven’t done this maliciously. They really believe they won’t be hungry. They really believe there won’t be a brain drain, that we will have enough doctors and nurses, that the economy won’t grind to that of Greece or Poland. They really think they can make Britain white again. They really don’t believe that we won’t have anything worthy to export. Why should they? No one’s told them the truth.
“We are going to be GREAT Britain again!” A woman sing songs cheerfully, dancing around in the street. “We are going to get rid of the Muslims, we are going to build back the Empire! We will never surrender!” A man pushes in front of her to the camera. “No more EU!” he roars, delightedly. “No more immigrants!” My parents stare, gaping. None of us thought this would happen. No one was actually this badly informed, this poorly educated, this out of touch with reality. We all had free, compulsory education, right?
My mother is silent, sometimes crying. She had dreamed of moving to Germany when she retired, of building a house in the woods, of being European. All burnt to ashes overnight. All her saving, planning, gone. My worries are more immediate. When the economy crashes, will I be able to find work, or will I have to leave the country like most of my generation? Where will I go? How long until we start going hungry due to food prices? A year later, that was still the worst day of my entire life.
The gravity of the lack of information the working class had begins to peel away. “See!” They gloat, a few days after the pound begins to creep slightly higher. “Brexit will be great! We will be richer than ever! Leaving the EU has changed nothing!” They don’t understand we haven’t left yet, that the worst will begin in two years time after Article 50 is triggered and all the announcements are made. No one has bothered to tell them what the EU even is. When things go badly, and the pound plummets, they shift nervously, muttering about stiff upper lip and british sovereignty. My dad gets particularly angry at a distant aunt and another idiot online.
“Who will we trade with?”
“India, the Caribbean! Africa! Like the good old days!”
“The good old days? You mean when we owned those places and enslaved the people who lived there!?”
“Oh that old argument, all Brexiteers are racists!”
“What on earth will we trade with them?”
“Sugar, tea! Like in the good old days!”
“We import those you idiot, we have to pay for them!”
“Well, what do I know? When Farage is PM, he’ll work it out!”
“If you don’t know, why the fuck did you vote?”
And so it continued, the gaping lack of information burning right through our lives. The illusion of Cool Britannia, a first world educated state, was crumbling. The lack of education ordinary, majority people have finally bit the middle classes and their snobbish attitudes of work-ethic-to-make-it. The truth of it simply is that the resources my generation and most of the middle classes grew up with simply do not exist for the quotidian masses. I’m incredibly privileged. And I had absolutely no idea the gulf was so extreme.
I had no idea that people hated muslims so much.
I had no idea that people didn’t know what the EU was.
I had no idea that people were so scared of immigration.
I had no idea that people believed we could have the Empire back.
I had no idea that people didn’t understand how important free movement and trade tariffs were.
I was ignorant to the ignorance of my own country. I was ignorant to their awful schools, terrible education, appalling information sources and disgraceful propaganda exposure. In my entitled snobbery, I had presumed that everyone was as informed as I was, that everyone had had the same education and access to the same information. And now, for that laissez faire privilege and looking the other way, the whole country is being punished.
If we want to end ugly nationalism and power in the hands of the ignorant, we must educate, inform, challenge, care for , empower and humanise the working class. For too long with have dismissed their lack of prospects and poor education and opportunities as down to their imagined laziness or stupidity, when we really should have been tackling the horrendous lack of funding and empathy they suffer through. Brexit is not entirely the middle classes fault, but we have a lot to answer for.