Parts of dotwav were hard to write.
Because parts of the novel required me to confront some uncomfortable political truths about the UK. Foremost of those truths was the insidious rise of the far right, and the accompanying nebulous, unjustified fear of immigration that we are bombarded with here on a daily basis from scare headlines in unconscionable, trouble making newspapers, and in sound bites from old-enough-to-know-better right wing talking heads.
I wrote dotwav a couple of years ago. Already the feeling of a nation getting ready to pull up the drawbridge of its imaginary castle was becoming impossible to ignore. I envisaged that things were only going to get worse. That our hearts were growing colder and our vision was getting myopic. So I extrapolated from what I saw and I built the artifice of dotwav on the bedrock of the growing unease I was feeling, the lurch towards isolationism that I was seeing.
What I didn’t see was that we would actually vote to leave the European Union.
Because that was just madness, right? The readers’ suspensions of disbelief surely wouldn’t stretch that far, right? A country couldn’t pull out of the great project of Europe in a fit of isolationist, inward-looking, temper, right?
Wrong, wrong and wrong again.
People often say that truth is stranger than fiction. I always shake my head at that. But then I have read some very strange fiction. The English and Welsh vote to leave Europe (and my admiration goes out to Scotland and Northern Ireland for resisting the pull) is not stranger than fiction.
It is just sadder.
Because it’s real people this will affect. Not fictional characters. This won’t be resolved in the last chapter. There is no deus ex machina that can save us. We bought into the politics of fear, and we must now face the very real consequences of that purchase.
I truly believe that this was an ideological debate (forget the red herrings about immigration and lack of housing, about social security ‘scroungers’ and a stretched health service – those were the products of UK government policies, not the natural by-products of a European superstate) and the two competing ideologies were simple. One looks at the world through fearful eyes, seeing ‘foreigners’ as a threat to our green and pleasant lands; that prefers to look inward at our island nation and imagine it magnified by our ‘show of defiance’ in the face of European integration. The other ideology is that we are all in this together. Regardless of colour, creed, social standing. It is outward-looking; trying to solve humanity’s problems by pulling people together, not by pushing them apart.
Personally I am ashamed of my country’s decision to leave the EU. I think that it’s our children, and their children, and their children that will suffer because of it. The great majority of young voters saw through the hyperbolic, fearful rhetoric and put their crosses in the box marked ‘REMAIN’. We let them down, yesterday. We let them down badly.
We have basically turned our backs on the European Union because it wasn’t perfect. Well, newsflash: nothing’s perfect. Sometimes ‘good’ is good enough. Sometimes ‘faulty’ will get us through. It’s far better to mend unique things that are malfunctioning; and it seems criminal to just throw them away. Well, we just threw away Europe. We stepped out of a post-war dream, and from where I stand it looks like we just sleep-walked ourselves into the middle of a nightmare.
The economic repercussions have already begun, but it’s not the Pound that I fear for, it’s that we chose the door marked ‘fear’ and slammed the door marked ‘together’. We didn’t care what it would do to the European Community, we just slammed the door, locked it, and then tossed a hand grenade over our shoulder as we walked away.
I feel lost and angry and afraid and ashamed of my country’s decision. I feel like the politics of fear have sabotaged our move towards a brighter future. I feel like there should be thunder clouds gathering overhead rather than this hot (European) weather we are experiencing. I feel like we traded our hopes, dreams and aspirations for dust.
I feel tired.
So very tired.