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Brexit & The Other
Friday 8th February 2019 @ 12:48 pm

If you haven’t seen ‘Brexit: The Uncivil War,’ the C4 drama concerning the biggest self–inflicted political wound in British politics since Chamberlin’s Appeasement, you should check it out. (

It has many moments of genius, high production values, wonderful narrative, and most significantly a very easy–to–follow synopsis of what (according to the playwrite James Graham) actually happened.

It shows the genius of high end, unfeasibly gifted political operatives – Dominic Cummings (according to this portrayal) is a proper political geek. I went to school with people like him, it scares me to think that some of those people could end up in such a position of magnitudinal influence.

It highlights the incompetence of certain political structures in the midst of modern technological systems – showing, ironically, right wing upper class disdain of the methods which in the end handed them victory.

It revels in the negation of institutionalism  – where crusty Parliamentarians who are used to having things their own superior way, are outpaced by Big Data, without the first notion of what that means.

And of course, watching Benedict Cumberbatch is just wonderful – he is an acting masterclass in any role he picks up.

I cannot remember the exact scripting during one of the most telling scenes but it happens when Cummings sees Remain campaign lead Craig Oliver in the London Underground and they slip away for a pint together, it’s a very telling and challenging scene. In many ways it is the microcosm to the macro issue. Oliver chastises Cummings for creating negativity and resentment within UK society, and Cummings quickly and candidly corrects him.

‘I surfaced it, I didn’t create it,’ is the line. (paraphrased). In other words, Vote Leave did not create a hyperbolic fractious dissenting voting underclass – as has been sometimes sketched. Vote Leave gave voice to millions of disenchanted and disenfranchised voters. Many of whom, for very good reason, suddenly knew they had a voice that mattered.

Project Fear had no answer.

Elitist political institutionalism taking an ‘it’s the economy stupid,’ front line was never going to work amongst millions of people facing job losses, crumbling community infrastructure, climbing rates of suicide, and a perceived (incorrectly) invasion from other lands – of people ‘just not like us.’

For people like me, who passionately believe that humanity is better together – this small recognition is a mountain–range of challenge. This reality, should we want to face it, demands that we genuinely engage ‘the other,’ recognizing that the other is not a fiery, foreign, flagrant anomaly. That other is sitting across your table, living across the road, shopping beside you in Tesco, leaving their kids off at school from the car in front, working behind the counter in the post office, standing beside you watching sports, and drinking at the next table in your local pub.

The irony of this time in history, is that we have never before had such tools for immediate and sustained connection, and we have never been more distanced from each other. Our modern western imagination is swimming in a tide of maximized individualism personified through personal screens and headphones. It’s getting harder and harder to connect, in a world where it’s never been more possible.

Deep down, for me this is a faith issue. For people of all faiths. It’s why I am connected to ‘The Good Summit’ bringing together wide varieties of people (bankers, students, health care professionals, politicians, NGOs, SMEs, social entrepreneurs etc), with no other agenda than, ‘let’s connect over what might be good for the world.’ It’s why in the next few weeks I’ll be part of ‘Space to Breathe’ bringing together young adults from Palestine, Israel, Ireland, Britain and farther places, with no other (or maybe more important) agenda than simple human engagement. It’s why I am proud to have a day in a couple of weeks where I will sit with religious representatives dreaming and planning the future of Dublin through Dublin City Interfaith Forum.

And still, if I happen to be sitting over a coffee with you, you Brexiteer you, you will raise the hairs on the back of my neck, I will stiffen, and I will deflect what you’re saying because I passionately believe you are wrong. I really do. Maybe that’s OK – because you also passionately believe I am wrong.

So – something different. Here, today, I commit to trying to do better. To be present. To listen. Actually listen.

Not to fudge issues or pretend differences are not important. They are.

But I commit to showing you respect. And I ask nothing more than that you might do the same toward me. Because after all, the genius of Brexit: The Uncivil War, is that the play put Cummings and Oliver in a pub together talking about it – giving just one hint of how in the midst of the turmoil we can begin to understand we are better together. 



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