There is a fly stuck in my window. It is buzzing and butting at the glass intermittently, alternating between hopeful zeal and impotent despair. A car goes past. There’s a lawn mower somewhere nearby. I can hear the neighbour’s insomniac kid screaming. Life is going on, and as I watch it, I feel strangely disoriented.
Because something is off. Something seismic has happened in our green and pleasant land, and the world ticking by, pretending to be the same, is in fact less certain, less safe and less united than it was mere hours ago. It just hasn’t realised it yet.
It’s the kind of tense, eerie normality that precedes the horror of pretty much any dystopian future movie ever made. And episodes of Casualty. I’m just sat here waiting for the accident to happen – or the aliens to land. (Maybe Will Smith will turn up, or some ex-Hollyoaks actor. Possibly even Peter Capaldi).
In fact, now I think about it, isn’t isolationist politics, right-wing absolutism, conservative fear-mongering and the wilful rejection of progression and liberalism, like, the beginning of The Handmaid’s Tale? Or 1984? Or The Walking Dead???
Because there is something end-of-the-world-ish here. Certainly the end of my comfortable, smug, middle-class mummy-world.
It might not be monsters or thought police (yet), but there’s a lot that’s very real to be afraid of. Things I assumed could never happen to me, in my town, in my country.
There’s the economics – the value of the pound, the value of my house, my savings. The danger of recession. The fear for my kids’ future. Of losing my job, my freedom of movement. Opportunities, education, social mobility. The wonderful third sector propping up the most vulnerable – itself propped up by EU funding. The doctors that treat my kids being sent back home. The loss of benefits and public services. The loss of Scotland. The renewal of the troubles in Northern Ireland. Terrorism. Division. A generation of dissatisfied youth. The breakup of the EU. The rise of the right. Trump.
I don’t mean to overdramatise, but THIS IS HOW IT STARTS, people. Sure it was a referendum yesterday, but tomorrow it’s a zombie apocalypse!
That’s how I feel today, anyway. I’m sure many of you – however you voted – feel the same way, too.
Christ, it even reads like fiction – two aristocratic schoolboy chums playing out their rivalry on a political chequers-board, carelessly using Joe and Joanne Public-England as disposable pawns with a sickening, glib, glee. I think I’ve actually read it – it’s by Jilly Cooper. It was **probably** called ‘Hoodwinked!’, and had a picture on the front cover of an arrogant bloke in pinstripes getting sucked off by Geri Halliwell in her Union Jack dress.
[Personally I think we should have just got them to measure their dicks with rulers at the back of the Commons and be done with it. (Mr Speaker! We’re going to need considerably smaller measuring devices!).]
Back in real life, I wonder if this banally-coated upheaval, this sense of unease and unreality, is the experience of our grandparents upon hearing of the German invasion of Poland. The calm before the shit-show. I wonder if it’s the experience of people elsewhere in the world right now, where there is civil unrest, political tumult, where that turned on a sixpence to oppression, violence, war.
It is in fact the very people many ‘leave’ voters wanted to keep out, that I feel closer to now than ever before. Because I have a new appreciation that this shit can obviously happen to anyone, anywhere.
As Jo Cox told us – we have far more in common than that which divides us. These are people who also feared for their jobs, saw their money worth less than the paper it was printed on, faced personal restrictions, worried for their children’s futures. People who lived somewhere, divided, hostile. Who watched sovereignty, religion or national identity turned into something increasingly poisonous. This, right now, is how it started for them, too. Just before their world descended into antiutopia.
How quickly we have forgotten the uncertainty and danger of the divided and unchecked Europe our Grannies and Granddads faced, and what they fought for. How easy it is to be detached, to fail to identify with the crying mother beating her chest on the 10 o’clock news, halfway round the world after another bomb. In a dusty city that looks nothing like your own, wearing different clothes, speaking a different language. How easy to turn over and watch Big Brother instead.
But she is us, fellow Mums and Dads, far more than Carmen with the double Ds, trout pout, and hunger for fame over on Channel 5. She’s just somewhere and somewhen else, slightly farther down the road to hell. That love she feels – that’s your love for your child. That fear of change, of political machinations she couldn’t control – that’s your fear right now. Just like it was your Gran’s fear, too. Theirs just came to pass. Yours hovers on a cusp.
We woke up to a very different world yesterday; now we have to wake up to how we got there. And we got there, I believe, by not looking, not listening, not feeling and not caring. Because it wasn’t happening to us.
If nothing else, this referendum has proved we don’t need history, geography or ideology to divide us – class will do just as well.
No one listened to the dad-of-five on the estate in an impoverished seaside ghost-town, who couldn’t get work that paid enough to make ends meet. No one listened to Maggie from an old, defunct industrial heartland who couldn’t ever get a Doctor’s appointment. The woman in a crippled rural village with zero amenities, who cares full time for her husband, but had her benefits cut anyway. No one listened, and no one represented them. They are us, too. Same feelings, same fears, same failings.
And when given the chance to finally have their say, to vote for actual change, they said leave. But what they meant was so much more than that – boiled down to a dangerous, unnecessary, underhanded binary. They meant, something’s got to give. They meant, we’re sick of rules imposed upon us from afar. They meant, this isn’t fair. They meant, it was better in the olden days. They meant, I’m struggling. And we should have heard them.
It’s only now we’ve realised that ‘It won’t happen to me’ and ‘It won’t happen here’ are just a pay cheque or two away, just a referendum vote away. Just half a world away. Just next door.
It’s hard to know how political to be on here. Half the time I don’t even know why I’m doing a blog in the first place. I suppose it’s part loneliness, validation, therapy, catharsis. Part vanity. I will go back, very shortly, to providing some comic relief from reality – the less apocalyptic but no less real struggles of parenthood.
But if I’m going to write about real life, in real time, it would be ridiculous to ignore the biggest event of recent British history, likely to ripple throughout the rest of the world for weeks, months and years to come. Something that will affect us as parents, and affect our children’s lives, forever more. As much as I’d like to pretend it’s not happening, it is. And while it might not end in zombies, the uncertainty of it has shaken me to my core.
Whether you voted in or out, whether you know all the arguments off by heart or went with your gut, we are where we are. It might feel like there is very little any of us can do, now the die has been cast. But I have to do SOMETHING. So I will start here. I will open the window, and rescue the fly that’s been stuck there as I type.
It is highly doubtful our politicians will ever be held accountable for their decisions in this matter, their failures or their lies. I can’t do much, but I can and will hold myself accountable for my own complacency. I can start to listen for pain, see distress, and I can start to try to effect change – however small – where I can. I can start to really model empathy for my children, and hope they grow to try and make this fucked-up country (and wider world) a slightly less crappy place.
And who knows? In times of apocalypse, the flies could be taking over the world very shortly, anyway. I might as well secure a merciful death/life of servitude to our Insect Masters while I still can.