The Disney Brexit Empire

One of the continuing hangovers from Brexit appears to be the Disney-esque revision of British history. It is human to adorn rose-tinted glasses when thinking about our past, but it appears some commentators are imagining British history to be one of valiant colonialists bringing freedom and enlightenment to primitives in other lands; that we need to invoke a ‘Blitz Spirit’ to navigate through the increasingly difficult times Britain is and will be facing.  It is a romanticised revision of our past to create a yearning for an imaginary future. 

It is no wonder that in a recent YouGov poll, 27% of British people wished there was still a British Empire and 32% thought the former Empire was something to be proud of. 

Events and actions trying to confront our country’s past sins have evoked fear and anger, not at the sins, but at the people trying to shine a light on the atrocities of our past.  To plainly speak the truth of our active involvement in slavery or to call out the calamity of Brexit and the absurdity of terms like Blitz Spirit is ‘unpatriotic.’  To speak out with facts instead of deluded realities causes anger and resentment.  

I do understand. Most people do not want to hear about the wrongs they have done, or be reminded of the mistakes they, or those they look up to,  have made. 

I do though. 

My mistakes enable me to grow as a man, emotionally and intellectually.  I make mistakes as a businessman, a father, a fiancé and a friend. It hurts my ego to accept those mistakes but by accepting what I have done I become a better father. By seeing where I have been to arrogant in my assumptions I evolve as a businessman.  By not shying away from the wrongs in my past I become a more emotionally intelligent partner.  It does not make you weaker to engage with your true past, it makes you a more empathetic and compassionate person. 

When we fail to apply similar principles as a nation we suffer the consequence of believing in a narrative that never existed. We also refuse to accept the truth of our history and gaslight generations of people by whom we wronged. Brexit is encouraging that refusal to confront our past and we have a Government willing to fuel the fires of deception by unwillingness to learn from their mistakes and, instead, scapegoat the EU or refugees.  

I spoke to a German journalist recently who said, as a nation, the Germans remind themselves of their past horrors in order to grow and develop as a people. There will always be shame at crimes committed, but that shame is used to motivate the population into being a force for good. 

Instead, in Britain, there is denial of the past and a rewriting of even the most recent history.  Deception and denial should have been the Conservatives slogan for their conference.  

The Leave campaign promised so much and, so far, Brexit has delivered very little. Sunlit uplands with a booming economy, magnitudes of wealth and a xenophobic’s dream of zero immigration were promised with none of these coming to fruition.  Ministers who exclaimed joy over the oven ready deal are now decrying the EU for such an unfair deal.  The lack of humility and integrity about promises never delivered is trickling through British society making people mistrustful and cynical of basic facts. Brexit is making us isolated from each other the way it has isolated us from the rest of the world. 

Empires fall. They always do. Humankind has an unfortunate naivety of not learning from the past and another Empire rises from the rubble, ready to eventually fall again.  The Brexit Empire ideology, created with words of sovereignty and control, will fall. The question will be: will we learn from it?  

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