Tag Archives: Brexit Failure

Let Them Eat Turnips: A Cautionary Tale from Brexit Britain – Thanissara

Art by Cold War Steve

My friend wrote an angry poem sparked by being served one of England’s increasingly ubiquitous “no-fault” and no reason given eviction orders. In this perfect English rose garden, jolly pub and soft green lawned village, she and her partner never missed paying rent, were an asset to the community, and devotedly restored a village heritage building as a labour of love adding value to the local Lord’s sprawling estate. After years of living quietly, being evicted was a shock. Like many of us self-effacing Englanders, even though wrongly treated, my friend didn’t want her angry poem to go public. Though thankfully, she agreed I could anonymously share it (below) prompting this article.

It usually takes anger to crack open the ways we normalize systemic injustice. However, socially ingrained English “niceness” weaves a sealed veneer that represses unacceptable displays of rage. Yet outrage is a healthy response to the ruling class destroying the social fabric of Britain while plundering public assets to ferret away in their offshore Non-dom trusts. No matter how criminal the act, it seems these self-appointed elite are above the law. Boris Johnson is a perfect example of an Etonian who train-smashed the country and yet continues to breeze around the world on the millionaire lecture circuit.

Britain has been brought to its knees by Tory Brexit hoisted aloft on a scaffolding of gaslight lies for which no one takes responsibility. Brexit and thirteen years of forced Tory austerity has led to extensive food-bank dependency and untreated sewage flowing unabated into rivers and coastlines. This is the direct outcome of Thatcher’s “there is no such thing as a society.” Yet still, the Tory parade of slick contortions, faithfully reported by the now State-controlled BBC, continues to drive their unswerving penchant for Dickensian deprivation for the majority. Nowadays, millions of UK residents struggle to provide food and heat in their homes while fossil fuel companies and major corporations stack up billions in profits; tax free with no questions asked.

As recent food shortages pinched the country tighter, British Secretary of State, Environment and Rural Affairs Therese Coffey, suggested people eat turnips. There’s nothing wrong with turnips, but in this context, citing turnips, a food usually used as cattle fodder, adds insult to injury. Coffey’s British version of “let them eat cake” is an egregious reinforcement of Tory obsession with deepening class division stunting Britain’s ability to move forward as a collaborative, visionary nation.

Just this week, Rishi Sunak (the third Prime Minister elected without input from the people) eulogized Northern Ireland’s great fortune of accessing EU and UK markets without the slightest awareness of the stinging irony that the Tories demolished any access to EU trade for England, Scotland and Wales. Britain’s extreme Brexit trade isolation, a sleight of hand that Sunak enthusiastically cheered along, has effectively pushed it into economic free-fall.

The moral of the story? There are as many to fill a library. But, in essence, Tory Brexit, like Trumpian MAGA and Putin’s Russia, as extreme right-wing political forces, do not know how to build a thriving society. Instead, they destroy the connective tissue that holds society together leaving people without a positive vision or means to engage in creative regeneration.

The destruction of the public commons is deliberate. An isolated people struggling to survive are at the mercy of narcissistic and sociopathic leaders who intend to fashion a society where they maintain power and are free to loot. While poverty deepens in Britain and the cost of living rises beyond what is affordable for millions, Tories just spent £25k on a crystal-encrusted vanity portrait of the Prime Minister and £40k on his shooting trip. It seems they lose no chance to underline their disdain for nurses, doctors, railway workers, postal staff, and so many working-class striking, in the heart of winter, for some kind of living wage.

CYRM6G The Oyster Lunch 1735 by Troy Jean Francois de 1679-1752 France French

Despite all the polished political rhetoric, the tale of Brexit Britain is a shocking story of self-serving politicians plunging a country into poverty while heightening divisions across families, communities and all sections of society. What replaces a once much happier kingdom is now a ruling class wielding raw power and their assumed right to abscond with the collective purse. Just like, on a smaller scale, the unaccountable power used to evict my friend. And like the villages, towns, and communities ripped apart, as reflected in her poem below.

To feel anger is to be alive to injustice. When mindfully transformed, anger clarifies and burns away the dross. Outrage is the fire that moves people to stand up and fight for their rights. The village is our global world, while the landlords who control the political, economic and media domains seem intent on evicting us from our collective home, Earth. So, let the fire of anger warm our heart, energize our passion, and bring us out on the streets together. We have a future to win.

Goodbye to a Village 

Sneaky, bitching 
Witch-burning village 
Good-bye to gossip-mongering 
Shifty people… 
Goodbye to pikey*-burning 
Bonfire crew, 
status-grabbing middle management 
and six-sandwiches-short-of-a-picknick
Lord what’s-his-face. 

Good-bye to those who were good 
but drowned out by the voices of the  
many that weren’t. 
The silently suffering single mums. 
The stupid clay-pigeon shooters 
and the Mafia pub landlady. 

Goodbye to the pagan TV vicar. 
The grumpy gits working themselves into the grave.
The estate managers-from -hell 
hiking rents up beyond anything 
Sussex wages can support. 

Good-bye to smug home-owners. 
The Parish Council Dodos 
and the Bonfire Society 
The same old same olds 
chatting at the Pub. 
The neighbours currently on the third husband.

The guys that shot themselves  or jumped off a cliff. 

Story of a village… 

Now it’s the gauging-out of the working class.
The maintenance team sacked or walking off.
Time for the Rock Stars to move in 
with their recording studios 
and black electric Audi fleets. 

Good-bye Village, it was crazy-making. 
Knowing you, 
I learned a lot – some good, some bad. 
I guess you’ll carry on in some 
weird drug-induced bubble. 
You are a communal mirage. 
A fixation of the imagination 
of an “English Village.”

* Pikey a pejorative term for Travellers or Romanis.

Art by Cold War Steve.

“King Charles,” Not So Fast: The Queen’s Death, An Opportunity for Systemic Change in the UK.

Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne four years before I was born. For those who grew up under the sway of the British imperial system, her stoic face was a constant tenor through the decades of seismic cultural shifts in Britain and the post-Second World War world. Like the glue we licked behind her miniature visage on our first and second-class stamps, the Queen was foremost an archetypal matron holding it all together. Her face alone, rarely breaking beyond a careful smile, imprinted duty, a stiff upper lip, and the stilted deflection, diverting “real speak” to the engrained platitudes that shape, and often imprison, the nation’s psyche. 

I am not immune from the sense of belonging to this strange, emotionally stunted tribe. I still have my letter from Prince Charles in a Kensington Palace embossed envelope thanking me kindly for a copy of my first published poetry book. I still have my special tea cups with monarchy portraits and the memory of my sweet, East End (of London) working-class grandparents, with the Queen’s congratulatory letter on their 60th wedding anniversary hanging proudly over their central mantel place. 

I have watched royal weddings at odd hours from different continents and kept an eye on the shenanigans of the Queen’s tumultuous household, mirroring the nation’s implosion of the nuclear family. And I am an avid viewer of The Crown. 

On Facebook, I posted the June ’22 Jubilee video of the Queen’s tea party with Paddington Bear to prickly comments about Paddington Bear being an immigrant (from Peru) and “look how badly Britain is treating its immigrants.” While painfully true, I still marvelled at the translucent vulnerability in the Queen’s eyes as she sat, so near death, opposite this beloved bear, enjoying marmalade sandwiches. 

Essentially, this staid woman invokes respect. She called forth double rainbows at her death. She embodied the “Keep Calm and Carry On” branding of my mother’s generation forged by German Blitz bombers, flying twenty miles long and twenty miles wide up the River Thames to unleash their devastation on London. During that whole time, the Queen refused to leave the Capital. 

But… and, this “but” is as deep and wide as the brutal plunder and oppression of the British Empire, which aches for acknowledgement and reparation for its centuries of devastating colonialism. All of which were underwritten by the Monarchy. So, while the government and Monarchy rush the nation to swear allegiance to a new King, I feel we should resist and instead engage this spell breaker of the Queen’s death with some serious questions.   

Not so fast with the sixteenth-century pageantry and assumptions that we are all onboard. Yesterday, a man who unwittingly got caught up in a procession in Oxford to proclaim the new King spontaneously called out, “who elected him?” He later said he doubted anyone heard him. Even so, he was promptly handcuffed, arrested and charged under the new Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Act 2022, a fascistic Brexit “law” criminalizing the public’s democratic right to protest. Paul Powlesland, a young Barrister, held up a blank piece of paper at Parliament Square. A police officer confirmed that if he wrote “Not My King,” he would be arrested under the same act. Here he explains how that moment shifted him to Republicanism.

Under the Monarchy’s gaze, Britain has endured twelve years of Thatcherite policies with her “there is no such thing as a society” austerity, which has sprouted food banks in most towns and cities across the country. The Tory government’s Brexit ideology, headed by the right-wing billionaire media, has crushed businesses. The UK has shifted from the world’s fifth largest economy to “emerging market economy” status in just a few senseless years. Tories, abandoning workers’ rights with alacrity, have left Britain at the mercy of unprotected corporate plunder. 

Currently, while the UK is officially under wraps for ten days of mourning, the Tory government is losing no time ripping up the Paris Agreement and its obligations. One of the first acts of yet another (the third since Brexit) just installed prime minister, Liz “rip out solar and wind installations” Truss, lifted the hard-won fight to ban fracking while transferring £130Bn for fossil fuels. To add insult to injury, throughout the summer, Tories did nothing to stop massive flows of untreated raw sewage from being released into pristine rivers and across coastlines, closing beaches and horrifying the public. 

Still, they continue ripping the country apart. Liz Truss’s encore is installing Jacob Rees-Mogg, a supercilious, top-hatted climate denialist with an affected upper-class accent, as Secretary of State for Energy, Business, and Industrial Strategy. Rees-Mogg advocates for extracting every last drop of oil and gas from the North Sea and adaptation to climate change. Just ask Pakistan’s 33 million climate-displaced people how that is going for them. 

With the “Sunlit Uplands” Brexit promise of the Tories failing so badly, Britain has yet to acknowledge it suffered a coup by an oligarchic, fossil-fuel-serving ruling, criminal class. Their lackeys are the graduates from upper-class public (private in the US) schools, who make up 74% of the current government or just 2% representation of the entire population. From a progressive forward-looking nation, the UK has devolved at dizzying speed into a nostalgic, backwards-falling country immersed in its mythic distortion of “greatness.” The reality is that Britain is now a glorified Petri dish for oligarchs to experiment with how far they can push a nation into hunger-games-type feudalism to maintain and grow their immense wealth and power.  

Given this demoralising context, I would vote for the Monarchy to be dismantled or downsized. Monarchy and its liege, the Tory party, are the lynchpin that sustains an outdated and oppressive class system with its deeply inequitable distribution of land, resources, and opportunities. The struggle to move from under the British class system is a theme running through my own life in tandem with surviving the violence of my Irish father, who grew up in extreme poverty in the Dublin slums. Primarily, I trace my father’s destructive effect on our family to the impact of British colonialism with its constructed famine, workhouses, and unrelenting generational oppression.

Even after decades of self-awareness and healing work, I’m struck by how perniciously, and stubbornly class conditioning is wired into the psyche. The “who do you think you are?” dismissal. For example, millionaire Lord Alan Sugar, tweeted to a young man, who is economically struggling but had the temerity, in Sugar’s mind, to criticize his luxury yacht, “Shut your bloody mouth, you jealous scum,

For the Monarchy to work, it has to veil the brutal mechanisms that enable its survival, which includes even brutalising its own. Prince Harry said he “had no one to turn to, even in his own family,” when his bi-racial wife, Meghan Markle, was pushed to the edge of suicide by the British establishment and the feral racism running through British society. In the end, the relentless hounding of the UK’s treacherous Tabloid press drove them from England.

While the Monarchy aims to bond British citizens to itself through nostalgia, charitable works, good press, and tradition, what we see in the actions of Liz Truss, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and Lord Sugar is the more accurate face of the British ruling class. A class of colonisers now plundering Britain itself, all the while using the death of the Queen to force-feed an archaic national narrative that is creating a dangerous void into which an authoritarian police state is already emerging. 

In my view, we don’t need a new King, and he won’t help us. Charles won’t even stand up for his son, Harry. However, the Monarchy and its Tory liege will not implode by itself. Instead, we should withdraw sentimental allegiance (including my teacups!) and build a thriving, equitable, reinvigorated progressive democracy based on proportional representation. A system informed by local Citizen Assemblies that has some chance of meeting the enormity of the poly-crises we face. We are doomed if we fail, choosing instead to be dragged along by a system entirely ill-equipped to meet our new terrifying realities. 

Already an inspiring counter-movement is fast-unfolding in the UK that is in open rebellion, which is different and perhaps cuts deeper than Extinction Rebellion. Trade Union leaders have been massively organising working-class engagement through the Enough is Enough and Don’t Pay campaigns. Hundreds of thousands have signed up, are turning up for rallies, and have pledged not to pay bills. People literally can’t afford the cost of living due to the enormous price hikes the Tories inflicted, leaving little choice between freezing, starving or not paying. 

If the Queen’s death symbolizes the end of an era, it can also initiate the beginning of a new reshaping of the power dynamics in Britain. Increasingly, the planet is run to fit the agenda of oligarchs, fossil-fuel moguls and media robber barons. It’s the same old story. At some point, the peasants will have had enough and start strategizing how to storm the castle. That time is now. 

In the UK, there is tremendous potential in the two primary rebellions, Workers Rebellion and Extinction Rebellion aligning with organizations focused on an equitable, inclusive, sustainable vision for the future. Do we want a society with people reduced to living on charitable donations, like food banks from the government or patronage from the Monarchy? What if, instead, people have a fair share, are recipients of moral reparations and have equal opportunities to empower themselves and each other in mutually collaborative ways?  

Neither do we need an endless show of torturous royal duty that precludes deeper national inquiry. Suppose we want to express loyalty meaningfully rather than pay obeisance to a distant, billionaire Monarchy. What could be a wiser Queen to serve than Grandmother Earth? She produces everything we need and use, day in and day out. For myself, I acknowledge Queen Elizabeth II’s dutiful life, but I vote for Queen Earth. 

Mary Thanissara, 9/13/22