The EU Referendum campaigns have been nasty and divisive - and the result even more so. Historically, I try and keep personal politics off this blog because it represents an entire community, and not the preoccupations of its course leader, but in this instance I feel compelled to share. The short version is there is a petition asking the Government to look again at the constitution of the referendum and I'm encouraging you and others to sign it. At time of writing, the petition has amassed 2.6 million signatories in a short matter of hours - which is unprecedented.
Many people (well, about half of the country who could be bothered to vote), feel acutely uncomfortable with such a momentous decision being taken on the strength of too few percentage points, and many people who voted to leave the EU are experiencing some form of 'Regrexit' in light of all that has happened since. For a course leader completely comfortable with working with multicultural communities and European partners, with immigrants and 'outcasts', a course leader who feels privileged to work within diverse, inclusive communities, I am repulsed by much of the pro-exit argument and all its tacit, drip-drip-drip xenophobia. I am likewise furious that a Westminster-centric power-struggle in the Conservative party has been aggrandised in this way with such obliterative consequence, and disgusted by the way Farage, Johnson and Gove (self-serving opportunists, all of them) have been permitted to co-opt legitimate electorate frustrations with austerity and disaffection with party politics, and re-enscribe them as anti-European invective.
I very much doubt this petition can effect any change; after all, the referendum represents 'democracy in action' (though maybe not if you suspect people weren't given a real choice, if 'choice' means the ability to choose between facts, as opposed to between competing ideologies), but I can't just seethe and sigh as this country self-harms so spectacularly and represents itself - and me - to the rest of world as so proudly insular, so happily solipsistic and so fucking backward.
For those of you who have already completed your studies in postmodernism, you'll recall Baudrillard's conception of the 'simulacrum' - which is a simulated 'hyperreality' so ubiquitous, and so encompassing culturally, that it has 'replaced the real'. It is a fake image so often repeated, so often enshrined and so often inhabited, that it is 'more real than real' - an existent construct most often solidified from the vagaries of nostalgia, juvenilia, and nationalistic folklore. My view is that the fears that gave us Brexit are fears of modernity itself - real, strongly felt and not to be dismissed for sure - but no different (and no more calamitous) than the alienations and terrors experienced by society during its many other previous periods of accelerated change. The country that Brexit wants to give us is a simulacrum, nothing more - so seductive for some in its golden ageism and comfort of 'simpler times' - but it's the UK as an ossified theme park of pubs and cricket, of spitfires and bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover, and mostly white people watching the Great British Bake Off (though obviously without the "political correctness-gone-mad" that saw a brown-faced muslim woman win the contest last year...).
You can sign the petition here if you want to - it will only take a moment of your time. If you didn't vote - and now you're wishing that you did - sign the petition. If you voted 'Out' on Thursday, but you woke up today with a sick-feeling in your belly, sign the petition and feel a bit better. If you're proud to be member of a community that is inclusive, diverse and tolerant, sign the petition. If you believe in the responsibility of the arts to unite people, to innovate and to make positive change, sign the petition.
University derives from the original Latin word universitas, meaning 'a number of persons associated into one body, a society, company, community'. I mean, for fuck's sake, if you're a university student sign the petition.