What a mess. From the quiet of a Greek village, still nervous in a pandemic, with late summer weather hinting at the warm softness of autumn, my country appears even more surreal. The British people I meet out here are appalled, ashamed, or both. Greeks, and the other European nationalities who live here, think that we have gone mad. British residents and home owners are scrambling around doing the best to protect their interests as their rights are stripped away against their will - in many cases without them even having had the right to vote in the referendum that decided their fate.
The observation that I read and agree with most often is that we have a Vote Leave campaign in power, not a serious government, and it is from this that the incompetence flows. It is not equipped to govern and is fixated on its own security in power (and, at times, personal profit), rather than running a country in the interests of all its citizens. Brexit has wrecked far more than our place in the European Union. And that's before you factor in the inadequacy of the PM and cabinet.
Brexit remains undefined and its consequences unknown. A suicidal policy has been compounded by a precipitate dash to the cliff edge without bothering to work out if there is a safe route down. People keep searching for rational reasons, that Brexit is all about protecting offshore interests, selling British assets, and the like. I'm not so sure. There are plenty of grifters hustling their way through the crisis, that's true. Farage has successfully turned being obnoxious into an income stream. It's also a manifestation of hard-right populist ideology, one that has replaced totalitarianism with kleptocracy as its goal. (Bannon's arrest is a brief moment of hope and joy). But the essence of Brexit is not rational. It is an emotional spasm, rooted in mythologies and embodied in a paranoid style all of its own. It is propelled by resentment at fictitious indignities inflicted by a mythological EU. Reality doesn't feature. And even leaving the EU can not assuage their sense of persecution, something that they clearly enjoy.
Chris Grey is one of the best chroniclers of this psychosis. His insight evolved from years of academic analysis as the drama unfolded. His blog has long been essential reading. His excellent article for the Byline Times defines the problem Britain faces with precision.
Since the referendum an entire nation has been shackled to the political psychology of a relatively small number of people who – like rebellious teenagers secretly wanting to be set boundaries – demand total victory whilst craving defeat. It makes it impossible to turn Brexit into a workable policy because, at heart, it is not a policy demand at all, but a demand to be thwarted.
... for now at least, there is no answer. How can there be, when a nation is completely re-inventing its place in the world against the wishes of half its population, and with the other half gripped by a political psychology woven of paradoxical and contradictory impulses that have led them to vote for something undefined and that, however defined, is, because of that psychology, offensive to large numbers of those who did so?