A Modest Proposal For The Post-Brexit Partition Of England

Word has it that London’s discordant vote in the Brexit referendum–roughly, it voted to ‘Remain’ while the rest of England voted ‘Leave’–has provoked some head-scratching among many pondering its future place in the United Kingdom:

There are a number of ways London might distance itself from Brexit, “short of building a moat around the city,” Parag Khanna argued in Foreign Policy magazine. “There is a wide spectrum of federalist arrangements available to the city, on a continuum ranging from unity to devolution to autonomy to outright independence.”

As can be seen, the Partition of England is not off the table, thus raising the prospect of an Island of European London in the middle of the English Ocean. Fortunately, the English are experienced in Partitions, which require the drawing up of new boundaries and the transfers of large populations; that accumulated wisdom, gleaned with considerable difficulty during the glory years of Empire, should come in very handy.

Moreover, it is not necessary for all of London to secede from England. Only those sections that actually voted to ‘Remain’ need actually ‘Remain’ in Europe while ‘Leaving’ England. This fine-grained selection and culling can be accomplished quite easily by sitting down with the voting results overlaid on a street map and neatly marking out–perhaps with a pencil or an ink marker–those neighborhoods that stay while others go. Modern voting data is usually quite fine-grained, right down to street and block level; this granularity could be exploited to make New London’s map quite specific: here, this street would stay in England; there, that street (along with that park next to it) would move to New Londonia. (I presume the two cricket grounds in London would stay in England, while Wembley would move to Europe.)

It is entirely possible that the resulting movements of populations will be accompanied by some hostility and unpleasantness; some of the ‘migrations’ that would result from the redrawing of maps described above would possibly split family and friends. No matter, such discordances and divides and sunderings are but the inevitable price to be paid when the people express their fervent desire to make their political destinies on their own, free of the burden of nation or continent.

The Partition of England promises to be a historic event. The inevitable anguish and dislocations it would engender would soon be forgotten, their memories only resurrected in Booker Prize-winning novels and television shows and other orgies of nostalgia; perhaps the odd Londoner would make a trip back to the Old Country, to look at lands and peoples left behind; perhaps too, some English folks might travel to New Londonia marveling at the sights and sounds of the city that Once Used to Be English. The New York Times would have to come up with a new stock phrase or two–‘the European-majority New Londonia remains locked in intractable conflict with English-majority New England’ perhaps–as the years and the Thames roll by, and a new generation of children will grow up with their New Londonia identities.

The world has grown to accept many Partitions; it will welcome this one into its bosom too.

Aristophanes’ Sausage-Seller and the Tea Partier

I have just finished writing a draft review of Lee Fang‘s The Machine: A Field Guide to the Resurgent Right (New York: The New Press, 2013); it will appear shortly in The Washington Spectator. As I read Fang’s depressing history of the corporate-funded ‘New Right’ that has derailed the Obama presidency, looked over its rogues gallery of demagogues, racists, and oligarchs, and read samples of their illiterate rhetoric, I was reminded of an ancient and particularly pungent description of the crooked politician; the passage of years have not attenuated any of its biting wit and accuracy.

Here then, without further ado, is an appropriate excerpt from AristophanesThe Knights (Act One), where Demosthenes and Nicias first meet the sausage-seller and introduce him to their intended role for him. Try as I might, on reading these lines I cannot banish from my mind a vision of a Koch Brothers representative talking to a Tea Party candidate, one to be sent to Capitol Hill to peddle bad science, voodoo economics, and racist prejudice. In real life, of course, the Tea Partier would not be so modest, so full of doubt about his mission and his ability to fulfill it; instead, he’d be possessed of a rather disturbing missionary zeal. (My apologies to sausage-sellers everywhere; I realize these analogies with Tea Partiers are insulting in the extreme.)

DEMOSTHENES

According to the oracle you must become the greatest of men.

SAUSAGE-SELLER

Just tell me how a sausage-seller can become a great man.

DEMOSTHENES

That is precisely why you will be great, because you are a sad rascal without shame, no better than a common market rogue.

SAUSAGE-SELLER

I do not hold myself worthy of wielding power.

DEMOSTHENES

Oh! by the gods! Why do you not hold yourself worthy? Have you then such a good opinion of yourself? Come, are you of honest parentage?

SAUSAGE-SELLER

By the gods! No! of very bad indeed.

DEMOSTHENES

Spoilt child of fortune, everything fits together to ensure your greatness.

SAUSAGE-SELLER

But I have not had the least education. I can only read, and that very badly.

DEMOSTHENES

That is what may stand in your way, almost knowing how to read. A demagogue must be neither an educated nor an honest man; he has to be an ignoramus and a rogue. But do not, do not let go this gift, which the oracle promises.

….

SAUSAGE-SELLER

The oracles of the gods flatter me! Faith! I do not at all understand how I can be capable of governing the people.

DEMOSTHENES

Nothing simpler. Continue your trade. Mix and knead together all the state business as you do for your sausages. To win the people, always cook them some savoury that pleases them. Besides, you possess all the attributes of a demagogue; a screeching, horrible voice, a perverse, cross-grained nature and the language of the market-place. In you all is united which is needful for governing. The oracles are in your favour, even including that of Delphi. Come, take a chaplet, offer a libation to the god of Stupidity and take care to fight vigorously.

Aurora is All-American, Grimly So

I consider myself to have some facility with words but I’m struggling today to find a term that will describe a political debate that has progressed to the point where the most perspicuous contributions to it are made by satirists, cartoonists and professional humorists. (Should all political debates be so blessed? I wonder.)  The ‘debate’–for reasons of accuracy, I must enclose that term in quotes before proceeding–that I refer to is the so-called ‘relationship between gun control laws and mass murder in the US debate.’ The Onion is first out of the blocks in responding to the Aurora shootings, quickly taking the lead, and it is closely followed by Tom Tomorrow (that link is the response to the Tucson shootings last year, in which fact one might find some resonance with the content of this post today). Having read those two, one is done.

For yes, the endlessly repetitive discussion is upon us again, its numerical parameters tweaked to accommodate its toll of the dead and wounded, with its inevitable grief counseling, Presidential consolations, NRA push-backs and hyperventilating television anchors to follow. And all too soon, we will settle back into our seats, waiting for the next time the New York Times will break out the 18-point font to let us know ammunition manufacturer stock prices have gone up again. As the penguin says, putting up with these mass killings–in one form or another, sometimes as audience, sometimes as participant–is the price we have to pay for living in this nation of ours. It’s a tax, one that won’t be up for repeal any time soon.

The mass murderers come from everywhere and anywhere; their backgrounds straddle ethnic and class divides; sometimes they ‘go postal’, sometimes they ‘go academic’; sometimes they are black, sometimes white, sometimes Asian; they are young, and they are old; sometimes they did badly in school, sometimes they were academic overachievers; they kill when they are laid-off and they kill when they are employed; they kill in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Wisconsin, Texas, Chicago, Washington DC, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware, California, Alabama, North Carolina, Washington, North Illinois, Nebraska (from sea to shining sea?); they kill rich, poor, student, mother, father, daughter, son, all alike; they use all kinds of guns, ranging from simple hunting rifles to high-powered assault gear suitable for invading oil-rich emirates; they kill in shopping centers, university campuses, movie houses, prayer services, high schools; they kill strangers, they kill family members, they kill fellow-workers and students, they kill the young and they kill the old; sometimes they turn themselves in, sometimes they kill themselves, sometimes they get shot. It’s a melting pot, if there ever was one.

In years to come, perhaps it will become a true American rite of passage: you’ve either carried out a massacre yourself, been a survivor of one, or know someone who is a victim or survivor of one. Perhaps in these so-called divisive times, the murderous violence of the gun-toting mass killer will bring us all together, united in blood-soaked gunpowder and attendance at a memorial service.

As American as apple pie? How passé. As American as a loaded ammo belt and a rifle with a scope.