[spectre] Fwd: Chris Oakley: The view from outside

Andreas Broeckmann ab at mikro.in-berlin.de
Fri Oct 7 10:04:23 CEST 2016

[Chris Oakley is a British artist: http://www.chrisoakley.com
His message to friends and colleagues is documented here with his 
permission; ab]

Betreff: 	The view from outside
Datum: 	Thu, 6 Oct 2016 14:45:32 +0100
Von: 	Chris Oakley <contact at chrisoakley.com>

Dear All,

I have been wanting to send this communication to my friends and 
colleagues in Europe for some weeks, but find myself only just emerging 
from the state of shock resulting from the Brexit vote sufficiently to 
collect my thoughts coherently. I fear for what my country has unleashed 
on both on Europe and itself, and wanted to share some of my 
observations from this side, which is an increasingly uncomfortable 
place to be. Perhaps I desire to sound a warning about the sentiments 
being stirred up elsewhere. I'd also like to state clearly that I voted 
to Remain, and strongly supported Britian's continued membership of the 

I awoke on the 24^th June to discover I had been walking in a dream 
world for my entire life. I believed Britain to be flawed, but 
fundamentally fair, politically and culturally fairly stable, in spite 
of distasteful elements around the fringes. Above all, I had believed 
Britain to essentially reasonable in character, and inherent fair. 
Whilst never brimming with patriotic sentiment, I felt broadly positive 
about my country. And then the narcissism and unbridled ambition of 
Britain's political class stepped in, leaving the Britain I now inhabit 
unrecognisable from the Britain prior to the 23^rd June.

Parliamentary democracy effectively died that day, accompanied as it was 
by the self-immolation of the Labour opposition party, which at best had 
been non-committal in its position towards Europe. The referendum itself 
came about in response to the extremist brayings of an otherwise 
marginal political party in the form of UKIP, having but a single member 
of Parliament, alongside the further reaches of the Conservative hard 
right. The new government has signalled its determination to sever all 
existing ties with the continent in terms of movement, trade, and 
justice, and is free to do so without political opposition. The new 
Prime Minister has laid out a path whereby she will overrule the 
constitution of the UK first by triggering Article 50 without obtaining 
the consent of parliament, and then proceed to implement a law that will 
allow ministers to strike existing laws from the UK statute books 
without recourse to Parliament. I feel alone in recognising that this 
represents a dictatorship, flying in the face of the principle of 
parliamentary democracy.

All of this has been justified by the 'overwhelming mandate' of the 
referendum vote. This overwhelming 'landslide' of 51.9% to 48.1%, with 
two of the UK's 4 nations voting firmly to Remain. This margin of 
victory for Leave has justified the political abandonment of the 
remaining 48%. Politicians who campaigned for Remain (including the new 
Prime Minister, let's not forget) have abandoned their support for the 
Union en masse, as 'the people have spoken'. It has become legitimate is 
any public forum to shout down opposition to leaving the EU, with Remain 
supporters shouted down as 'Bremoaners' and 'Bremaniacs' who need to 
“suck it up. You lost”. Given the chance to express the most abhorrent 
facets of the national character, the British people grasped it with 
booth hands, and managed to throw in the UK's first political 
assassination in 30 years.

The divided a result ans narrow victory for Leave would suggest to the 
rational that what is required to heal a divided nation would be a 
compromise. Parliamentary debate about the nature of Britain's departure 
from the EU, which ties to maintain, or if indeed we must depart. But 
no. The roadmap and goals of the Brexit deal are being planned in 
secrecy and without Parliamentary oversight, by a troika of ministers 
with divergent goals, all of them pushing for absolute severance of the 
links to the Bloc.

All of this would be bad enough, but then there is the day to day lived 
experience of life on the new Britain. People voted Leave for a wide 
variety of reasons, many of which have little to do with the EU at all. 
Many also voted believing the rampant and often transparent lies of the 
Leave campaign. Some were angry with the effects on ongoing austerity 
and demonisation of the poor by the previous government. Many voted out 
of racist beliefs, and those who voted Leave but don't share these views 
have legitimised the racists. Many voted leave out of pure sentiment, 
hankering after a return to a Britain of the past that probably never 
existed. How many voted leave in ignorance of the history of the last 
few hundred years of European history, of which only the last few 
decades have been marked by widespread peace? I simply have no idea how 
to deal with those who voted Leave, because they all share one 
characteristic. They are impervious to reason. And most significantly, 
they are everywhere.

There may be have been rational reasons to vote to leave the EU, but we 
heard almost nothing of them during the referendum campaign. Opposition 
to the TTIP trade deal could be one, for example. Instead, absurb 
sentimental arguments about sovereignty and a return to former glories 
alongside comic claims that the EU was holding Britain back from 
boundless trading fortunes went hand in hand with uncloaked and rampant 
xenophobia. Not just Farage, but Boris Johnson as well framed a vote to 
leave as an act of war on the EU, both stated that they hoped Brexit 
would lead to collapse of the EU.

In the history of 20^th century, Britain's role in Europe is defined by 
the ousting of Fascism; its 21^st century role seem to be to deliver it 
back to the continent. I do not say this lightly. The new face of 
British politics carries many of the tenets of fascism; we have 
overwhelming nationalism, disdain for human rights (especially for 
foreigners), we have the rebirth of a the nation and the awakening of a 
people suppressed by the decadence of neoliberalism. We have our 
scapegoats. The popular media drove the people towards Brexit and does 
not need direct control, disdain for intellectualism and expertise has 
taken root. The rights of the labour force are about to be stripped. I'm 
still waiting for the fraudulent elections, but as we now effectively 
have a one-party state, they are unlikely to be required for some time. 
Nothing seems politically impossible in this country any more.

At least we still have friends in Europe and beyond. Marine Le Pen 
tweeted in praise of a quote from our new prime minister:

“If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of 

Let's not forget about Geert and Donald. They still like us, too.

As someone who has not only benefited from being a member of the EU but 
has based a part of their future on it, it's quite difficult to explain 
the feeling of living through this on the wrong side of history. It is a 
crisis, both politically and psychologically, and infuses everyday life. 
It's clear things will get worse, and causes for hope are snuffed out 
daily. Many report that they have been drinking heavily since the vote 
(we are British after all, even if half of us are no longer proud of 
that fact). It is impossible to consider the future when the path is 
unclear. Many have talked of leaving the UK, something which will become 
increasingly problematic as travel restrictions inevitably bite and the 
Pound continues its collapse. This place where I was born may no longer 
feel like home, but to leave would be to give in to this tide of idiocy. 
Unfortunately, stupidity is uniquely difficult to defeat.

As an artist, it is enormously disappointing that the art world seems to 
have disengaged with the situation. Now that the initial shock has 
passed and there has been time to stare clear-headed into the abyss, I 
for one am ready to begin to respond. I have accepted that my anger 
about this situation will never subside, and making artwork as a 
response seems a small and futile gesture. But I am a bit old for 
pitchforks at dawn, and the mood for armed uprising is surprisingly 
lacking in my country folk. We are a sanguine people. Or perhaps a bit 
lazy. Best not to make a scene, old chap. Perhaps to persuade others 
that dancing to the drumbeat of nationalism has never been the wise path 
is the only positive course of action. If anyone still listens to the 
Idiot English.

Best Regards,



+44 (0)7932 715337
www.chrisoakley.com <http://www.chrisoakley.com>

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