Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and certain others

(The planned post on Lent has been set aside for this even more topical one.)

In the current confusion about Brexit, I’ve been struck by many things, but one is personal.

(None of what follows relates in any way to ordinary friends and acquaintances who voted Leave, and who continue to campaign for Leave. Many of them had and have civilised and even Christian reasons for their decision. And there’s no doubt that the EU is a very imperfect organisation.)

However, as a staunch and unrepentant Remainer, I am not happy with the behaviour of the people at the top, mainly in the Tory party, who promoted Leave.

In my possibly jaundiced view, they encouraged the country to resent Europe for decades, and then pushed us into a completely unthought-through referendum, without even agreeing among themselves what Brexit meant, ie hard or soft. They argued for “sovereignty”, which they interpreted as not obeying larger rules than Britain’s own, thus undermining the very concepts of international law and global co-operation. They fought this campaign dishonestly, and played on racism.

They then consistently blamed and continue to blame all the resulting chaos on everyone except themselves, in particular on the EU negotiators and on their hapless Prime Minister, to whom they were and are equally consistently disloyal. (The entire backstop issue has arisen because the Brexiters didn’t have a solution to the predictable problem of the Irish border. It was plainly their job to make a viable plan for this, and to do it before June 2016.)

When people began to say, “Isn’t this a mess? Maybe we should vote again?” they responded that this showed contempt for democracy, an“argument” that appears designed to stir up civil hatred and possibly even violence in a manner almost criminally irresponsible. I cannot type about it without getting up to walk around the room.

All this was at a time when the world faces one of the greatest challenges ever, one which unquestionably needs to be met urgently and with a united approach around the globe.

You may disagree with some of the above, but I think it’s the view of many Remainers.

When I think and type these things, I am filled with an almost uncontrollable rage, despair and frustration. What I have come to see in the last few days, is that this consistent reaction means that I look on these people as my enemies.

I’ve very rarely had enemies.

And there’s the rub. My enemies. So I have a duty to forgive and love them.

This is very difficult, partly because the wrong they are doing to me, and to our country, and to the world, is not a past action, but is still ongoing. They’re not sorry, and they’re still doing it, and it may – probably will – get worse and worse. (This is what is known as Project Fear?)

How can I love these people? Genuinely, how do I do it?

I suppose I start by not “liking” insults to them on Facebook. And by finding a way to engage with the process and debate without the above rant.

No, of course you’re right. I start with prayer.

Love from the PPI Blogger

  • Malachi Malagowther

    15th March 2019 at 12:28 pm Reply

    This is a very heartfelt rant and gives a good insight into the Remainer perspective. It would be interesting if you could persuade a committed Brexiteer to give an equivalent “rant” from their perspective for comparison on your blog.

    I thought Project Fear was the campaign by the Remainers to convince the Brexiteers that there would be a series of terrible plagues (flu pandemics, death of the firstborn, climate change, Nile running red, polluted rivers, locusts, fall in the value of Sterling, frogs, rampant inflation, famine etc.) if the Anglo-Saxon nomads weren’t allowed to continue seeking the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey and with mountains of butter and lakes of wine

  • Clint Redwood

    15th March 2019 at 12:40 pm Reply

    You’re right about starting with prayer, but remember the next line following that which you quoted…

    …and pray for those who persecute you.

    When you genuinely pray for JRM to have a good and successful day, not that he would “see the light” but that his investments would go up, or he would enjoy his weekend, then, bizarre as it may seem, you will start to love him.

    (And if Paul is right it might also heap hot coals in his head, but if that’s why you do it, it won’t work…)

    • Penelope Wallace

      16th March 2019 at 6:32 pm Reply

      Indeed so, Clint.

  • Stephen Sheridan

    17th March 2019 at 8:46 am Reply

    It was helpful to see this perspective Penelope and I hope that letting it out there gave you some relief from the frustration which we probably all feel. The underlying issue of how to cope with anger and those with whom with have fundamental disagreements, that drive us to consider them enemies, is a very difficult one. It is only recently that I have realised two things personally that can help.

    1) When you start to see some one as an enemy, stop and reconsider if that is really what you mean. The word enemy is a very powerful one. It gives huge sway over you to negative thoughts and to your personal anger. The typical use of the word is in war, where it is used to reinforce solidarity in battle, where the enemy must be defeated. My father suffered two national enemies in World War 2, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia as both invaded Poland in 1939 and both inflicted death, destruction and horrific acts of oppression to his country and his family (including his father sent to a concentration camp and later dying, a young sibling dying after being forced to stand in a freezing lake for hours, a female cousin sterilised by the SS in a concentration camp as part of their experiments for the eventual genocide of the Slavs and his comrades murdered by the Soviet NKVD in Katyn Forest with their families deported as slave labour to Siberia). Given these traumas, one would expect that his attitude towards the Germans and the Russians would be to consider them permanently enemies. But it was not so. He spoke both their languages fluently and whenever he encountered Germans or Russians he was friendly, charming and amusing. In 1988 my parents insisted I join them on a last holiday together – it was a German cruise ship in the Baltic. We were surrounded by Germans and we visited Leningrad (now St Petersburg again of course) – a city that suffered a 900 day siege by the Germans. On our table for meals was an ex-Luftwaffe fighter pilot and his wife. Given my father was a bomber navigator they were obviously direct enemies, but when they started talking about the war (alternating between English and German), there was no animosity at all – it became a technical discussion about the aircraft they had flown and the merits of various tactics as well as how they had managed to survive and their gratitude for having survived. Similarly when we were in Leningrad my father made lots of jokes with Russians and struck up (with the aid of some US cigarettes) a good conversation with the bus driver and allowed me to ask him questions through translation which gave me some personal insight into the cynicism with which Russians saw the Soviet system. So I asked my Dad later, how his attitude had changed from when he considered them enemies. He said that he only had enemies during the war when he was specifically fighting them and even then it was not really them as people who were his enemies, but the ideology that motivated them. That motivation is usually fear and anger (probably why in Star Wars Yoda says “fear and anger lead to the Dark Side”). After the war was over, there was no need to even consider them as enemies and my father was just grateful to God that he had survived, so he let go of any anger. Anger had helped him fight, but there was now no need to fight and so no need for the anger and no need to see others as enemies.

    2) So how does one let go of the anger? Well, as you say, prayer is a great start, but I discovered very recently that thinking about anger as temptation is very powerful. At the start of Lent I had just listened to our Priest (a man who has been so kind and helpful with my Mother who is rapidly declining with dementia) give his homily on the temptations the Devil had given to Jesus and asked us to consider what temptations we would give up for Lent. It suddenly came to me that my biggest temptations were not physical ones, but getting angry and resentful about things – particularly in my personal life, work life and my political views of the world. So I decided that I would be giving up resentment and anger for Lent and hopefully as a matter of course. It is early days yet, but it seems to be working. You have to let the emotions boil up and express themselves first in your consciousness, but when they have done that one can simply mentally set them aside and let them go. It is a huge relief and is making me much happier. It also allows me to finally understand how my Dad coped.

    That was a bit long-winded I’m afraid, but I thought that the personal aspects would help explain the mental process.

    On the specific Brexit issue, I could give you the equivalent Leave perspective, but actually it would just be a mirror image in many ways, so I’ll give an overview. Leavers feel betrayed by the majority of MPs, who stood on Leave platforms in both Tory and Labour and are now not carrying it out. They also feel betrayed by the same Leave leaders you see as enemies, because they failed to get their act together to get a Tory Leader to manage the process and they failed to agree and articulate what the process should be. I thought it was glaringly obvious that as the EU doesn’t actually have any negotiating room (they did keep saying this) so the only solution was a Canada-style deal, but the only way to negotiate that was to spend the money to prepare for no deal and then issue Article 50 when we were in the last preparation stages.

    Instead on a binary issue, where if either decision is enacted then half the people are going to be unhappy, our useless politicians have managed to find a process that has made everyone unhappy! I now think that the EU side is rightly bored with it and will probably insist that we revoke Article 50. Parliament may do this under the guise of another Referendum, but the details of this Referendum will be highly controversial, so it will be kicked into the long grass and Brexit will fade away. The worst case is if May gets her so-called Withdrawal Agreement through, as legally that removes our sovereignty completely – Remain would be far the better option and that is mainly why the WA was constructed in the way it was.

    So here is an interesting question (albeit extreme hypothetical) for both Remainers and Leavers – given the level of division in the country this has exposed, how would you vote if you knew that the option you believed in if enacted would result in a civil war? Would you suffer the result wanted by your opponents and avoid the civil war or is the issue so important that you cannot let it go? I voted Leave, but if Remain wins at the end of the day then it will be better than that the division gets so bad that owe have people fighting in the streets.

    Regardless of this our politics will have to change. The Tories are an ideology-free entity who seem to just want power for its own sake, but have no solutions to the real problems we face and Labour are now a middle-class seventies quasi-revolutionary movement reborn, equally bereft of any viable ideas. In both cases the majority of their current MPs do not reflect the views of their membership and there is no party for traditional working class voters (who I think are the majority of Leavers judging from people I know and work with). This has to change quickly or our democracy will be in danger of collapse, but the old parties sit like zombies blocking the way. Meanwhile we have a transport crisis, an infrastructure crisis, an energy crisis, a housing crisis, we still haven’t sorted out what went wrong in the financial crisis, we have an ageing population/healthcare crisis, a criminal justice system crisis and an unstable world around us. Even prior to Brexit our politicians were not getting to grips with these problems, because fundamentally they and much of the media are too lazy to address them and because they know they are clueless about solutions. Instead we get meaningless corporate-speak and virtue-signalling.

    Nil desperandum, we can but pray for resolution, it may come in the most unlikely way.

  • Judith Leader

    17th March 2019 at 11:17 pm Reply

    As a staunch remained I was disgusted also by the leader of my own party, the Labour Party, for his lack of leadership over the campaign. I imagine it is because he is a classic Brexiter and he also doesn’t like Criticism of his lack of leadership (hence the respected MP Hilary Benn gets demoted). I may add that I have since resigned my membership from the Labour Party because of its racism namely anti-Semitism (and in the Conservative party there is amongst MPs downwards or upwards as the case maybe Islamophobia) and so the mess we are in isn’t just down to the lies of Boris Johnson et al but also the Labour Party.

    In this country I see little to be proud of in a lack of leadership on both sides and the thought of a new Deal Brexit fills me and many others with horror. As far as our Christian attitude and forgiveness goes I think that we are not able to forgive what was done to our country on behalf of others, and let’s face it it’s an on going problem i.e. the austerity plan that affected the less well off and the needy disproportionately, how do you feel about forgiveness when we see people on the street as well as food banks being part of everyday life.

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