Brexit, Trump & The End of The World
by Ben Kinkaid · 28/03/2019
“it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. We can now revise that and witness the attempt to imagine capitalism by way of imagining the end of the world.”
And now, here we are. The end of the world. Who’d have thought it would look like this? Stagnation on a political front. Extremist violence. Police brutality. Two world powers on the brink of collapse. The media terrified of becoming irrelevant. Economic instability. And you and I, hand in hand, happy to watch as the world crumbles around us.
The truth is unsurprising - we knew it was coming. When 62,984,828 people voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 United States presidential election it’s difficult to believe America was surprised. The alternative they had been provided wasn’t any different. And across the pond, when 17,410,742 people voted for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union it’s hard to believe the UK hadn’t been anticipating it. The people wanted something to change.
In the U.S., Donald Trump tapped into the fears and frustrations of the people to win his presidency. He trash-talked his opponents (the political left), ridiculed the way things work in America, and repeatedly called out the media. Sure, he may be a narcissistic jackass - but at the same time he managed to connect with genuine concerns. (That isn’t to say Trump has done anything about these issues since). Concerns about how the Democrats have failed to stand for liveable wages, accessible healthcare, or citizens’ rights to freedom and justice. Concerns about how the press has become implicit in the country’s corruption, presenting the same mind-numbing merry-go-round stories rather than actively investigating the daily abuses of corporate power (the kind that have lead to a horrific inequality of wealth). Things that impact the people in their day-to-day lives.
In the UK it’s not dissimilar. Brexit was (and still is) the opportunity to thrust two fingers up (violently) at the establishment. For the most desperate, it was the chance to say to Westminster “We, the people, don’t care what happens. We need change”. For others, the UK’s departure represents an opportunity to break-away from an undemocratic body (punishing the UK politicians at the same time). The UK sees privatisation of the NHS, cuts in police forces, reduction on spending in the education sector, surges in the numbers of homelessness and those dependent on the state. And at the same time the people see sleepy old men and women slumped in the stands of Parliament, taking home cosy paychecks after a long hard day of achieving nothing at all.
And to reduce what’s left to ashes, most of the world is bracing itself for a crash of the financial markets. The Euro-sector is backpedalling hard following negative GDP growth reports out of key contributors like Germany, the Great British Pound is fuelled entirely by wishful thinking and fantasies (appearing to rise when paid compliments, and plummet whenever a scathing article is written in The Guardian), and in the USA a constant increase of all debt (public, credit card, student loan, corporate) leaves them teetering on the edge of the abyss. And there aren’t any safety nets this time - the world hasn’t seen enough growth since 2008 for us to cover our losses.
everything’s not lost
Had that been all that there was to it, this would simply have been a meaningless tirade. It’s not really the end of the world though, is it? Just the end of the world as we know it. Queue the R.E.M. record.
Scholar and author David Harvey writes a fantastic exploration of modern capitalism in “A Brief History of Neoliberalism” and he eventually presents two conclusions or solutions to neoliberalism. The first is a reactionary movement inside the political system, and the second is a retaliation - seemingly outside of neoliberal society. The first idea can, perhaps, be seen in the likes of socialist “pink tide” governments in South America. The second has, until now, seemed a little more abstract. It builds on the idea that it’s impossible to imagine a solution to the way society works whilst implicit in that society, and one can’t really be outside of neoliberal society.
The bad news is that America is too far gone. There is no escape clause, no “Get Out Of Jail Free” card. Their politics have stagnated. Their swamp hasn’t been drained. The left wing and the press don’t appear to be changing like the people wanted them to. On paper all the United States needs is a vast redistribution of wealth, and for that money to go back into communities and societies for betterment of all people. In reality, the likes of Bezos, Gates and Zuckerberg are unlikely to ever part with their money on the necessary scale. They’re in need of a saviour (larger than Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax) and it’s hard to see where that hero will come from.
The good news is that Brexit saves Britain. As it stands, Westminster is stuck between a rock and a European hard place. The UK’s Prime Minister has failed to deliver on her promised deal, they can’t turn back for fear of riots from more than 17 million unhappy Brexiteers, they want a delay but can’t have one, they want a deal but can’t have one, they want a no-deal but don’t appear to have the ***** to go through with it. Impasse. The longer they stay in this state, the ever-more apparent it is that these self-serving elites are incapable of acting as representative for their constituencies. As soon as they agree to depart - if their predictions are correct - mass hysteria and chaos cause Britain to crumble to dust. Or, alternatively, the United Kingdom survives being hauled out of the EU, and becomes one of the first countries in the world to take steps leading away from global capitalism.
Complete destruction of the ruling class gives people the opportunity to think of something new to fill the gap. Some new way to run the country, and to build a society for the better. This whole process has given people the chance to re-assess what it is that they stand for and what they want from the future.
In or Out, there’s opportunity in the remaining rubble of Westminster. Sorry America.
“We gaze continually at the world and it grows dull in our perceptions. Yet seen from another's vantage point, as if new, it may still take the breath away.”
- Alan Moore, Watchmen (1987)