A heap of broken images

Well, the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Northern Ireland, assorted dependencies and quasi-colonies – and, if you want to confuse a foreigner, ask them which has the more land area, Britain or Great Britain? – is at this moment undergoing a masochistic form of self-immolation that, for conciseness, we refer to as “Brexit”. Actually, we had a good run, us Brits, what with all those atlases where half the globe used to be coloured pink, and the world-wide adoption of the most improbable sport ever invented – even the Americans play cricket now, I hear – and above all, the only thing Britons should tug their forelocks to, our wonderful and ubiquitous language and magnificent associated literature. We are a land where, out of choice, we drink our beer warm, and if the thought of that doesn’t make our enemies tremble, then I don’t know what will. Bye, Britain; the world will be a little less ridiculous without you, and that’s everyone’s loss.

Now, the thing about Brexit is that no matter how much evidence and argument that the experts present about the economic, financial, political, environmental and security costs of Brexit, the ultras just mutter “fake news” and “project fear” and carry on with their plans to turn the country into some kind of post-liberal low-tax minimal-state wasteland of “self-employed” baristas, Uber drivers, and investment bankers. It’s almost as if – and this is the point – they want disaster. Why would that be? How could a human want to be wrong so much that they double-down to make being wrong a national calamity rather than a personal failure? Isn’t there something here about character? Something Martian writers – who honestly don’t care if the nation’s children are hunting rats and cockroaches because they’re so hungry, providing the story is well done – could use to make their writing more credible?

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow

Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,

You cannot say, or guess, for you know only

A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,

And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,

And the dry stone no sound of water. Only

There is shadow under this red rock,

(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),

And I will show you something different from either

Your shadow at morning striding behind you

Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;

I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

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