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Roman Holiday

01/07/2016 11:49 | Updated 01 July 2016

(contains swearing)

"The truth is that we have long been in a prison called neoliberalism... The EU is one key institution in a transnational neoliberal club... Most Remainers want to pretend that the prison does not exist because they still get privileges to visit the living areas. The Brexiters cannot forget it exists because they are never allowed to leave their small cells." Jonathan Cook

In the early nineties, Thieves - the duo I was in then - was working on a debut album. It wasn't going well. It took months- nine and a half, in fact. The production budget was haemorrhaging cash. Our tapes were routinely dismissed and returned by the label. We were constantly instructed to return to the drawing board. I had some sort of breakdown. For a time, I cried myself to sleep at night, and discovered, each morning, the disturbing phenomenon of waking up in tears. I am sure some of you will understand why I am thinking about that difficult time this week.

I realise that we all exist in some sort of bubble. Mine combines London, the arts, academe and a Facebook news feed of like-minded people - for the most part. On Monday, I went to the Architectural Association for a members meeting. I was joining two German colleagues. On arrival, I was greeted warmly by the school's Ibicencan registrar and her Canadian husband. Afterwards, at dinner, we were joined by another two colleagues, both Romanian, both, suddenly, feeling very unwelcome, on an island that had felt like home just days ago. It seems ludicrous, but I am a little concerned about what I might face on the street when I leave the house. "Don't be ridiculous McAlmont! You're in the centre of London." And your point is?

The next afternoon I had to sign a contract. I met the general manager of the organisation in Brixton Village. She arrived with her eighteen month old son. His name is Guy. His mother described it as a "British name." She is French, her husband is Spanish. They met, married and settled here. When this became plain to me, I instinctively facepalmed and shook my head. I realised what I was doing and apologised. I fumbled that it was wonderful that they had found each other, and that my response was actually about what had just happened politically. She smiled weakly and shrugged her understanding.

Yesterday, at the library, William rang. He was completely gloom and doom. He needed cheering up. Join the club! He's a linguist. His party piece is counting from one to ten in any language you throw at him. The surge in demonstrative racism is breaking his heart. He has not had a decent night's sleep since the result. I abandoned the research and sat with him for a bit. Afterwards, I was heading into Soho from Bloomsbury to meet my friend John, and as I crossed Oxford Street, I saw my buddy Martin waiting for a mate outside Tottenham Court Road station. After a hug and the exchange of "How you doing?" It quickly became a conversation about the state of things. Martin said, "It's mental. Fucking Mental. We've got no government. We've got no opposition. We've got no country. It's perverse to say so, but it's strangely exciting."

I kind of know what he means. As a citizen, I am in bits. As a history enthusiast I am, as Martin put it, strangely excited, even though I am totally bricking it: for myself, the people I love, the country, the world. People are investigating their heritage, to see if they have rights elsewhere on earth. Some are applying for permanent British citizenship. Some are discussing the constructive use of the time available, to ponder where else in the world they might go. Some are evoking Christopher Isherwood's 1930s Germany. Others are saying "Move on. Get over it." Casual dismissal, of concerns over racism, comes in the guise of, "There has always been racism," as if that glib pat can make your petrol-bombed shop, or dog fouled, living room window easier to swallow. "Oh my God! You're kidding, right?" That's what a friend in New York said when I Skyped him two nights ago.

2016 has got some form on it. Prince and David Bowie, peerless cultural symbols of western symbiosis, are snuffed lights, recalling the fiftieth anniversary of the fourth of July (1826), when Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, died on the same day, prompting talk of ill portent. Almost one hundred and ninety years on, to the day, it is the end of June 2016; we are officially halfway through the year. Brexit seems to be the confirmation that 2016 is not just bad: it comes with chips! The United Kingdom is unrecognisable. The marginalisation of millions, and failures in "Education Education Education," suggest a severe likelihood that words like migrant and refugee are fired liberally with no knowledge of their meaning; they may as well stand for rat or cockroach.

Drunken racists on a tram in Manchester, tell a manifestly non-African male, with a pronounced North American accent, to fuck off back to Africa. I know. Right? I come home - on the tube. I log into Facebook, and happen upon two photographs of a man in a St Andrew's flag, and a regular looking woman, both perpetrators of racist attacks in the last hour - ON THE TUBE! In the House of Commons, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, architect of this bun fight, instructs the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, "For Heaven's sake man, Go!" for the good of the country - Eh?

Journalist, Paul Mason, usually cucumber cool, visibly sweats and loses his rag with a Jeremy Corbyn assassin on The Daily Politics. The American satirists we check in with, when we need a good laugh, are having a Roman Holiday at the expense of the British. Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Ukippers, racists and Bregretters are paraded in unseemly sequences that make Britain look like Pig's Knuckle, Arkansas. However, as the British joke becomes quickly stale in the fidgety US, they are beginning to panic that Brexit could well be "Trump: The Prequel." Seismological activity has been detected on the San Andreas Fault!

Westminster, it seems, is another of those bubbles I mentioned earlier. Within it, politicians play Risk and Monopoly with lives and ideas. In the corridors of power, the electorate is a game of Machiavellian Battle Ships. Citizens are statistical pegs on a punctured grid. If you are feeling disoriented, melancholy, freaked, angry, concerned, worried, or shocked, I'm not surprised. That, I can identify with. This mayhem has been orchestrated, as if by the Gods, playing Chess in Jason and the Argonauts. If, however, you think that the British should just "get over it" and "move on," One: you're not helping; Two: what do you mean? Three: where do you get off? And Four: just use your loaf! I can't conclude this because it is evidently just beginning...

So I'll pick a quote, any quote. Rosemary's Baby will suffice, "This is no dream. This is really happening!" DM

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