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  • Writer's pictureMike O'Driscoll

Thinking about Dick.

Not that dick, this Dick - the Philip K. one who said, “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.”

Fuel shortages, empty supermarket shelves, lack of workers in the hospitality industry, crises in our care homes, not enough lorry drivers, women under threat from dodgy police officers told to flag down buses - this is our new, broken reality.

Well, to paraphrase Talking Heads, "How did we get here?" Clearly, there's no simple answer, yet most of us know that there's one event more than any other that played a hugely significant role in getting us to where we are now. Yet, to listen to politicians of the two main parties, you'd be hard-pressed to find evidence that they share our belief in the certainty that the shit show in which we're caught up is down to Brexit.

For the Tories, who threw themselves behind this catastrophic ideological blunder, there can be no admittance of error, no acknowledgement that things have gone disastrously wrong. To admit that it had all been a mistake would also entail revealing the extent to which they had lied about the consequences. Can't have that. Instead we get what we are seeing now, government ministers queueing up to deny reality, to apportion blame elsewhere, to deflect our attention by claiming things are just as bad everywhere else.

And for Labour, Brexit has become the political equivalent of Macbeth, the disaster whose name cannot be spoken. Maybe some polite euphemism can be coined to put them at their ease: The Gove Manoeuvre, perhaps, or the ERG Strategem. For fear of alienating former Labour voters who deserted the party at the last election because of their perceived pro-EU stance, Labour politicians have put themselves in the invidious position of having to deny what the majority of people in the UK already know - we are where we are in large part because of Brexit.

Because there was no clearly thought through exit strategy prior to the referendum; because the whole campaign was founded on lies and disinformation that appealed to people's fears, anxieties and prejudices; because we were told leaving the EU would be the easiest thing in the world, when all along, our leaders knew that it would not be so; because exit negotiations with the EU were carried out in bad faith; and because Johnson, Gove, Frost et al have constantly and shamelessly threatened to renege on the terms of the very deal that they negotiated and sold to us as 'oven-ready'.

The UK faces an existential crisis and yet we distract ourselves with all manner of nonsense. Universities silence academics who speak the truth; free speech is curtailed; men speak loudly to circumscribe the limits of women's bodies; anti-vaxxers see the hands of secret global organisations attempting to control their minds; the media either blindly cheerlead for the government, or are cowed to the point of timid compliance by the threat of funding cuts or privatisation.

This is our reality, where to speak the truth is to risk ridicule or being silenced. It seems appropriate to give the last word once more to Mr Dick: “It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.”

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