Monthly Archives: June 2016

EU Exodus: “Hope is more powerful than hate”

It’s no accident that I’ve been exploring stories about times of change in British history on the eve of the referendum on Britain’s remaining in the European Union.

My initial response to the news that the vote to leave came top was not a pleased one.

I made my own mind up about why I wanted to stay, eschewing the manipulative fear and fiscal based arguments.

Economy is not the most important factor for me. Its prioritisation is behind much of what is wrong in our world. But unlike most on the left, I don’t see a single nationalised system as the way to run a country instead. I will put forward my alternative another time.

I voted to stay to stop our own government being its highest authority. I want to ensure that the articles of the Europeans Human rights act remain in force here. I want there to be somewhere to appeal to about our flawed court system. I want a decision for good to affect a continent – and one that is likely to be noticed by other countries too. I also want to enjoy a close and free relationship with other nations.

The Socialist Worker spoke in favour of leaving, but with a different voice to the often xenophobic and naïve and uncouth cheer on the extreme right. I find the SW a naïve and emotive voice, but it is sometimes interesting to read. It balanced the disappointment with the vote’s outcome of those who ought to be part of its family, but who the socialists often shun.

The Social Worker points out what Europe has done wrong and claims that this leave vote gives us a chance for change. The Greens point out what Europe has done right and what might be achieved with its reform.

I read some papers outside of my country to see what they said about today’s news. I’d enjoyed the German Der Spiegel before (eg re the Prism revelations) but today, this supposed quality paper from a fellow European country felt gloomy. It spoke of nothing that either the Socialists or the Greens did, but about economy and how the pound has fallen, how we’re distant and shrinking…

The title of article was good –  “Fear and Loathing in Britain” – yes those emotions are behind much of the campaign and the voting ethos – and the reaction to the vote. But I do commend Caroline Lucas, Britain’s Green MP, for saying she wants a country “where hope is always more powerful than hate” – a speech that Will Ladislaw would have commended. The rest of her article was copied by the other Greens speaking today, but their wish for uniting division and their avowal that the rights the EU has given us must be protected is commendable.

I am angry that the Stop The War Coalition convoy of aid to Calais was largely prevented last weekend, on grounds of “state of emergency”, “terrorism” and “football hooliganism”. I find it disgusting that support for the crisis we’ve helped create is something that authorities want to resist. I do not want yesterday’s vote to support that mentality.

The vote result doesn’t have to mean immediate, or any action, and I believe what it means should be thought about, not pressured or held to, for it was ‘won’ by a small margin and the 4 million name signature petition which I signed shows how strong feeling is that this referendum does not reflect the people’s views. How did this vote come about – what forces were whipping it up? What does that simply yea or nay represent? Many see that general dissatisfaction is being shown, and that the oldest and currently leading party is in disequilibrium, which could open a way for a new balance.

As I continue my reviews of my latest reading and watching, I’ll be considering those decisive moments of votes that they represent in the light of this one.

This isn’t just a matter for Britain or Europe only. Distinctness is not an excuse for division, nor division a cause for divorce, detesting, damnation and despotism.

We need something very different, but I’ve not seen anyone offer it yet. As Will Ladislaw says, we want peaceful reform not extremism, for long held barriers to be eroded, and for a system that does not simply benefit the few and puts welfare before wealth.

And if you don’t know who Will Ladislaw is, read my next but one article to find out.

You may also want to read my earlier article – No axes, no strikes, listen to Hegel – which is relevant to today’s news.






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Middlemarch and Sherwood

What links a Lincoln green clad arrow pinger, a mine magnate’s niece who’s chased by horses and her teacher, and a bonnet wearing philanthropic clergyman’s wife?

If you’ve read the blurb to my novel, you’ll know that I like making unlikely comparisons. If you’ve read the rest of this blog, you will see more of them.

The answer to the first question is firstly geography – for they are all located in the East Midlands; secondly, literature and film; – and lastly – well off people fighting to support the cause of the poor.

Thus Sherwood and Eastwood and Middlemarch are not so far apart.

I wrote my thoughts on Eastwood’s famous son – and the escapades of Ursula Brangwen – on Good Reads.

The rest of this concentrates on Sherwood – whose forest’s inhabitants need no introduction – and the fictitious manufacturing town invented by George Eliot, filmed in Stamford.

I like to read and watch and visit in themes, so if you want to know what my days out to Nottinghamshire and Stamford (and elsewhere in the East Midlands) involved – read them here.

Robin Hood and Dorothea Brooke are further linked by the fact that they are in some ways superhuman archetypes. Robin is borderline superhero, and in some versions (such as 1980s TV series Robin of Sherwood) he has a higher calling from a deity, the son of a god, the fulfilment of a long promised title: he is, as the theme song goes, The Hooded Man. (Does anyone else find the otherwise excellent Clannad’s keyboards tinny and dated?). Dorothea – ‘of the gods’ – is likened to not only famous mystic and theologian Theresa of Avila, but saints, angels and the Virgin Mary. (I ruefully acknowledge that Schmoop pointed that out to me).

Robin too has a special Mary in his all male band of called followers, who live rough and itinerant and give, in their way, good news to the poor and freedom for the prisoners and the oppressed… strange how closely Robin’s mission matches Isaiah 61, Jesus’ own self confessed mission statement. Robin descends from the higher echelons to save the people.

Dorothea also cares about the poor, about justice – and mercy – letting sheep stealers off fatal sentences, providing better homes for tenants, doing good with her money, such as supporting overlooked but genuine clergy and would be world changing doctors.

Both though are truly human as well as divine.

There is much in common with 1195 – the years leading to Magna Carter, 1832 – the Reform Bill – and now. All these are the cusp of a sea change  against long oppression and imbalance. Hence these stories keep coming round again. The 2006 BBC Robin Hood (with Jonas Armstrong) made explicit parallels to the middle eastern wars funded at the expense of the poor and where fair justice was dispensed with, and that there was no need to travel to Arab countries to see evil – “the real cancer is right here”.

Hence my satisfaction that seemingly disparate reading and watching material has a common thread.

I’ll talk more about Middlemarch in my next piece, but I wanted to round up by a final parallel which is more than pedantry.

It’s about accents in the TV versions.

In his otherwise excellent site Bold Outlaw, Allen W. Wright says that Kevin Costner’s infamously poor/non English accent in the 1994 Prince of Thieves film doesn’t matter, because we don’t know how people talked in Robin Hood’s day, and some say that the modern American accent is more likely than today’s English one.

As a North American, he would say that.

As an English person, I feel that Americans not adopting the accent of the characters they play is not only cultural laziness but symptomatic of America becoming a synecdoche for all the English speaking western world. If actors of other nationalities play an American part, they change their voice – but not in reverse. Many dramas exported to America are remade, or redubbed.

Only one Robin Hood so far has used the right accent for Robin, going by what we today recognise as Nottinghamshire, and that again is the 2006 BBC series with Richard Armitage.

All the others do what Middlemarch also did – as well as so many films. The rich have a British gittish queen’s English accent, and the serfs and villagers and tradesfolk have the general lazy west country bumpkin voice that I have moaned about so many times. It’s not even true of the West Country! It’s not how people in the Midlands speak. And that accent serves to delineate class via accent and associate the country one with being not only rustic but stupid, poor, ill educated, lower, subordinate.

Thus class – a distinction and divide that Robin and Dorothea are working to erase – is demarcated for yet another era, and that shorthand is perpetuated and spread across not only Britain but all the countries who watch our dramas.

I shall be back with more about Middlemarch (or truly, Lowick and Tipton) shortly.

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