They killed a woman yesterday. By ‘they’ I mean the forces that seem to have been in control of my country since long before the 2010 election. The forces that criticised Gordon Brown for his penmanship in writing letters to dead soldiers’ families but neglected to mention this was because he only has sight in one eye, and he would rather have written his own signature on the letters than get an underling to do it. Does anyone think Cameron really signs his own letters? Does Cameron even have a signature? It seems unlikely, signatures are personal, human things and it’s hard for him to hold the pen in his lizard fingers and keep up the pretense that he’s human. Regardless, no paper runs articles criticising Cameron’s penmanship, because the whole fuss about Brown’s handwriting was part of a deliberate, sustained campaign of undermining the man and his government on the part of the same papers that supported Cameron, in return for his collusion in their corruption.
The same papers that went big on Jeremy Clarkson, supporting him when he called Brown ‘a one-eyed Scottish idiot’. The same papers that crucified him for calling a bigot a bigot. The same papers that ran pictures of a Jew failing to eat a bacon sandwich for a laugh last year then accused Labour of being anti-semitic. It’s hard to write about. How to find the lyrics when it’s physically sickening just living here these days, when our MPs are blown away by constituents insisting that they shouldn’t vote remain?
When we look at our body politic this time, will we see the actual cancer? Or will we insist the racist posters and flotillas were just ‘banter’?
Fuck, I don’t know how to write about this. I’m numb. Tragedy after tragedy after tragedy. This murder coming so hot on the heels of Orlando, which came just as I was starting to decompress after my suicide attempt, which was a result of the PTSD I’ve had since last August and there are times when I feel that I just can’t cope. I used to think to myself that it isn’t that bad when people said things remind them of the 1930s, the rise of Hitler. Now I’m not so sure. MPs are being gunned down in the street by people shouting fascist slogans and when we point that out people accuse the witnesses of being ‘lying Muslims’, say it was a ‘false flag’ or accuse us of trying to ‘politicise’ a woman’s death. You cannot ‘politicise’ the murder of a left-wing MP by a fascist because such a murder is already political. It is a political murder. But it smarts to be accused of trying to do so by people who cheerfully politicised a disabled man’s penmanship.
This country is sick. It feels like there’s no hope for it. People – not all people, but enough people, predominantly in the South, the well-off counties – bought the lie that it was poor people and refugees who caused the crisis, rather than the banks the Tories wanted to protect, because it was a seductive lie: because it told them that if those people were punished they would get some money back. Their house prices would rise. They could buy things from Waitrose again (if they’d ever had to stop). All they had to do was vote for a party which would demonise the disabled, demonise Europe, demonise asylum-seekers, demonise the poor, and then use that demonization to push through legislation making them poorer, making it harder for them to live, making it harder for them to escape here after we bomb the shit out of their countries to try and stop a cancer we created by invading Iraq (it’s called blowback. Actual tacticians practically predicted that back in 2003, but they were ignored because the Bush boy wanted to win his daddy’s war).
People voted, twice, to take the basics away from the most vulnerable people in society because they were told those people didn’t deserve it, instead those good, striving middle class people deserved it, and the only way to get what they deserved was to punish the people who’d taken it, the disabled ones, the brown ones, the ones who weren’t queer in an acceptably heteronormative way and I AM SORRY BUT FUCK GODWIN’S LAW at this point. Godwin’s Law was funny back when everything seemed like a boozy lunch with the debating society but things have got out of hand now and this is literally the fucking Nazi script, attack the blacks, attack the crips, and blast the homos when they kiss, it’s this and if you’re so proud to call a spade a spade then call this what it is: it’s a de facto fascist state, where white men will gun women down because of racist hate and we blame it all on mental illness? Ignore the word of three named witnesses who heard the man shout ‘Britain First!’, or ‘Put Britain First!’ maybe, either way the sentiment’s the same. Britannia Nostra. But only nostra for a certain value of nostra, which is not us. We don’t belong here anymore. That’s how it feels.
I watched Patrick Keiller’s trilogy of Robinson films again recently. Our broadband was out for ten days so, unable to retreat into Netflix I went back to my DVDs. I’ve moved five times in the past couple of years, and my collection has been thinned down each time I’ve moved but the Robinson films have stayed. In the first one, Robinson and the unnamed narrator, voiced by Paul Schofield, witness the shock Tory victory in the 1992 General Election. Robinson delivers a damning moral verdict on the scene:
There were no mitigating circumstances; the press, the voting system, the impropriety of Tory party funding. None of these could explain away the fact that the middle class in England had continued to vote Conservative because in their miserable hearts they still believed it was in their interest to do so.
Their miserable hearts. The miserable hearts that hurr-hurred along to a chino-wearing boor mocking the Prime Minister’s disability, but call us callous when we point out how cynically the Randroid currently running the country used his own disabled son for photo opportunities to show how much he really cared, even as he butchered the NHS to sell to his mates, even as he made life in this country so intolerable for actual, living, less photogenic disabled people. The miserable hearts which think house prices matter more than bombed homes. The miserable hearts that lived through some of the best times Britain had, much of that courtesy of the more than generous subsidies we receive from the EU, but now want to leave that and pass on decades of suffering to their children and grandchildren because you hear too many funny languages these days and in some places you don’t see a white face (this is bollocks, by the way – I’ve lived in ‘no-white-face’ places, I’ve worked in them, and there always are white people around. I mean, I’m there for a start. What people saying this mean is that there are more black and brown faces around than they’re comfortable with. Or, to put it another way, they’re racist.)
A friend of mine just wrote this on her Facebook wall: ‘All empires rise and fall. Maybe it’s time we fell.’
I’ve been watching stuff with Gore Vidal in lately. Vidal was wrong on a few things, laughably wrong about trans experience in Myra Breckenridge and poisonously wrong about Roman Polanski and his victim, but he was right about the big thing, which was America’s transformation, in his lifetime, from a Republic to an Empire. He was a man who had to watch while the country he knew, or thought he knew, became something meaner and uglier. I can identify with that feeling a lot lately.
D’you remember 1997? D’you remember ‘Things Can Only Get Better’? We thought they would. We thought we were a better society, that we’d never go back to the bad old days of racism and homophobia, of queer and Paki-bashing, of black kids having to run from the National Front on the way back from school. It was our rock and roll utopia, the good guys had won and all that was left was to kick back, spend our increased pay packets on alcopops and listen to Britpop.
Maybe the fact that our utopia’s music and booze were so shitty should have been the first sign that things couldn’t last. But we didn’t pay attention. The banks failed, like Vince Cable said they would (and we can’t say that we weren’t given warning. I was reading books suggesting there would be a crash long before 2008. Do you know how long it takes a book to get published? People knew what was coming for a while, some of them.) And when they failed, instead of taking a long hard look at how we’d got here, at how busted our political system had become, the middle classes of England, in their miserable hearts, decided it was all the fault of queers and crips and black and brown people.
Little Britain. Little fucking Britain. I feel like that was the start of it: laugh at trans women, laugh at black women, laugh at poor women, laugh at mentally ill women – funny how often women were the butt of the joke on that show, isn’t it? Funny how the jokes aimed at male characters were less vicious, often funnier and better constructed (the Pirate Memory Game sketch, for example). Almost like when they were writing sketches about white men Walliams and Lucas were able to treat them as people. Vicky Pollard, the Kaiser fucking Chiefs singing about men in tracksuits attacking them because it’s all getting ‘lairy’ and predicting a riot. There have been riots alright.
Rhian E. Jones’ ‘Clampdown’ is a very good book to read on that topic, by the way. It really nails what was wrong with all that shit.
We’re a country that loves to look the other way. At Amritsar, at the Bengal Famine, at what we did in Ireland. At Section 28 and institutional racism. No-one wants to hear about Section 28 when they’re admiring Diana on their commemorative plates. No-one wants to talk about systemic racism when there’s a really funny Top Gear special on their television.
And people are trying to get us to look the other way at Jo Cox’s murder. Well, fuck that. Jo Cox was murdered by a fascist who read fascist publications and shouted the name of a fascist group after murdering her. Jo Cox supported the rights of asylum-seekers and the campaign to Remain. She was gunned down in cold blood because of her views. Because she believed that Britain could be a country that welcomed refugees instead of demonising them as migrants. She believed Britain could be a part of the world instead of withdrawing behind the net curtains of Brexit and tutting at continental goings-on. She believed, as she said in her maiden speech, that we have more in common than what divides us, and we should unite to make a better world instead of fighting over what’s left of the old one.
And she was murdered for it.
People are saying we shouldn’t politicise this. But when you murder someone for their political views, it is already political. You can’t hide that fact, you can’t obfuscate that fact, you can’t make it go away and you can’t look away from it, not if you want to be honest about what this country is.
Britain in 2016 is a country where people are shot and stabbed for holding and expressing progressive political views. For opposing racism and sectarianism. For believing we should help the wretched of the Earth instead of building walls against them.
And in their miserable hearts the middle classes of England, the Tory and UKIP voters, know that is what this country has become, and they know they are responsible, and because they don’t want to face that responsibility, because they don’t like to think they have something in common with a murderer, they tell us not to ‘politicise’ it.
They tell us all to do what we always do. To look away. To blame mental illness instead of the political sickness of fascism.