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Saturday, 9 July 2016

Once upon a time...

A week is a long time in politics, and a fortnight must seem like an eternity. A couple of weeks ago, in the immediate aftermath of the EU Referendum and the knee jerk reactions from both sides, the yah boo sucks and teddy slinging I realised that this moment in history may have  significance far beyond any horizon we can see.
As a writer I cannot ignore it, and as someone fascinated by history, I definitely cannot put on the blinkers.

Going back to my schooldays and studying history, a major section dealt with the Second World War, and the work began with a look back at the origins. The majority of the studies I've come across pinpoint the end of that conflict as sowing the seeds of the conflict to come, Marshal Foch. Allied Supreme Commander,  described the Versailles Treaty not as a peace treaty but an "armistice for twenty years." Words that were prophetically true and theatrically borne out by Hitler taking the French surrender after the Fall of France in the same railway carriage the German surrender had been taken. He then had the carriage destroyed. Foch's estimate was out by 64 days.

A major feature of the Remain campaign was dubbed Project Fear, scare stories that were intended to swing the voters towards staying; scare tactics were not unique to the Remain camp, but the added scare for the Leaver's to overcome is the unknown. Vote Remain, it's about staying where you are, (Donald Runsfeld's remarks about "Unknown unknowns" just came to mind) and that was the biggest hurdle for the Leave camp. The vote to leave would be a leap into the unknown!

The unknown is a scary place, well. you don't know what you are letting yourself in for!

Project Fear, go back to the end of the First World War and Marschal Foch's fear, can we translate that to the aftermath of the second world war and the roots of the European Project. The First World War was described as the war to end wars, the horrors of the trenches and the effect of mechanised weaponry, notably the machine gun that created the slaughter on an industrial scale; yet the Second World War followed within a generation.

Europhiles have repeatedly pointed to the European Union as the harbinger of peace in Europe, but reality shows a different picture. Until German Reunification in August 1990, both sides of the Inner German Border were effectively occupied territory, The Soviet Union in the East and the Allied Powers Europe (UK, USA and France) in the West. Both sides ranged impressive forces and arsenals against one another in the Cold War stand off that developed. Then the Berlin Wall came down and the break up of the Warsaw Pact followed.

Peace in Europe, is it simply stopping one country becoming top dog and overrunning the rest, an absence of actual open warfare, or something deeper?

Project Fear; Once upon a time, it was a dark and stormy night, and June the 23rd for many seems like a dark and stormy night, and that is precisely the problem with telling scary stories; the storyteller winds up more frightened than the listener. You tel the story so well you scare yourself, but the listener knows its all bluff and bluster, does that shed light on the reaction, they created a nightmare scenario that was so credible to them the sudden kick of reality made their nightmare seem real.

The reaction;  protests against a democratic vote in London? Why am I surprised?  I grew up with the stand off in Europe as a background to my youth, the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain and the forces of Communism on the other side of the wire. The Nuclear impasse of the arms race, the white domed patience of Fylingdales, Thule and Clear Cape watching for the Ballistic Missiles coming over the horizon, and then it all changed. The Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall torn down by the people they held back. Bare hands against barbed wire and concrete, an un-assuaged thirst for democracy, for the right to vote in a free election, and London has protests because the vote didn't go their way.

Ad hominem derision and insults thrown at those who voted to Leave, insults are not an argument. Take the time to find out why they voted, but beware the first question you may be asked; did you vote? If you didn't and you're challenging the result, don't expect any sympathy.

Project Fear? What are we supposed to be afraid of; Runsfeld's Unknown unknowns, or something else? Is there reason to be afraid, or are we all just succumbing to scare stories, have we frightened ourselves silly?

In the wake of the result the United Kingdom will have to broker a new deal with Europe, or whatever is left of it when the dust settles, and there is a pretty good dust storm (dust, really?) being kicked up at the moment, and maybe I just need to remember a quote from those old history lessons.

2016 has the potential to become a pivotal year in history, much like 1933. Working through the inter-war years the studies touched on F.D. Roosevelt and his New Deal; that year in his inaugural speech as 32nd President of the United States he said the "only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

In the same year Adolf Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany (did you get that bit - elected) as leader of the National Socialist (Yes, Socialist) Workers Party of Germany, and we all know where that led.

Racist, xenophobic, fascist, words that are bandied about at the moment like confetti; insults and derision. The Leave voters have been labelled all these and more; uneducated, poor, unintelligent - that somehow they don't understand.

What's there too understand, a deep rooted belief in democracy and a distrust of the political elite?  Whatever you may think of the vote and however you cast it, the pause for thought about the European Project is being utilised by leaders of various EU countries.

It may cause a change of direction, a slowing or even halting of what appeared to be an unstoppable march to political union, even a reversal. If as some claim the extremists are on the march across Europe where is the wisdom in a single European government,

Twenty eight countries, all with their own parliaments making their own laws, and their own trade deals, or one supranational government taken over by the extremists at some point in the future, and the whole of Europe falls.

Ridiculous? The whole of Russia fell to the Bolsheviks in the wake of the October Revolution in 1917: the Bolsheviks were the minority party in the Duma.

What price a single Europe: and on the flag; bright golden stars in one ring
to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them

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