Irrelevant England and the Thick Brexiteer

This is a cross-post from Order of the Coif

I’ve always felt that keeping two sets of books was one of life’s great pleasures; hunting with the hounds and running with the hares, as it were. One of my fondest memories is of going from a hard-fought trade union branch meeting, where we (moderates) were slugging it out in a factional battle with the Tankies for control of the branch committee, straight to meet with a Tory friend at the Travellers Club for dinner. I call him a reactionary, imperialist ‘running dog’, he calls me a Stalinist apparatchik, and we get on famously and put the world to rights.

I would argue, though, that it’s not simply a matter of enjoying a few ironic social contrasts. Being able to understand other people’s points of view requires, to some degree, being able to empathise with them and put yourself in their shoes, even if only to understand the thoughts that lie behind their decisions and their actions. It also tends to encourage at least a degree of critical thinking about one’s own views, ideas and assumptions.

In the immortal words of John le Carre, via the fictional mouth of Roy Bland in Tinker, Tailor, “As a good socialist I’m going where the money is, as a good capitalist I’m sticking with the revolution”.

And I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, too; it’s entirely possible for two people to look at the same set of facts and come to different conclusions, in good faith.

This is a tendency I tend to associate with intelligent people, or at least I did associate it with intelligent people. I have unfortunately noticed that people I respect, intelligent people, no longer seem to practice this tendency when it comes to the Brexit debate. It has become so tribal, so uber-partisan, that it is rare to see cool-headed, sensible debate and rational analysis. Everything has become so shouty and insufferable that I’m starting to switch off from it.

How could they be so stupid?

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