When I was little, I sometimes played ‘cops and robbers’ with the kids in my neighbourhood. I was almost always the cop, running after the baddies with a toy cap gun in my hand.
Forty years on, my daughter’s generation still plays a version of cops and robbers, but I recently noticed they’ve put names to the robbers: Johnson, Trump and Bolsonaro.
No, I’m not making it up. And instead of the usual, ‘you’re the worst mummy in the world,’ my 9-year old recently accused me of being ‘as bad as Boris Johnson’. A bit harsh if you ask me.
Speaking of which, the last couple of days has me thinking that not even the best trained political scientists can make sense of the current state of British politics. For that, we have to look to British literary giants such as William Shakespeare and George Orwell, aided by the comic masterminds of Monty Python.
You know things are really bad when the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, feels the need to apologise to the visiting delegation of Lebanese politicians for the appalling behaviour of British MPs.
If Johnson aimed to bully the EU into submission, his strategy seems to have backfired spectacularly, for there’s no indication that Brussels is about to back down on its position regarding the Irish backstop.
But, following the shambolic proceedings in the House of Commons this week, I wouldn’t blame the EU for wanting to be rid of Britain as soon as possible. I can just imagine Michel Barnier dancing down the street with open arms the way Nicole Kidman famously did when she left her lawyer’s office having finalised her divorce from Tom Cruise.
The usual veneer of civility amongst British MPs this week gave way to overt contempt, aggression and resentment as if they’d all finally taken their masks off and shown themselves for who they truly are. It was an ugly sight to behold.
And yet, I can’t help thinking that there’s something good about what’s happening right now. Upsetting the status quo is a requisite for effecting change, and change we need.
As much as I would have preferred that Britain didn’t vote to leave the European Union, I don’t agree with those who still hold out hope that Brexit will never come to pass. For that would mean a return to business as usual, re-establishing the old order – it would be a missed opportunity for the kind of progressive change that would render British society more equal, just and fair.
Perhaps I’ve been reading too much psychology, but out of breakdown comes breakthrough. Crisis, psychology teaches, is necessary for the system to evolve and progress. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the current crisis in British politics will lead to progress, but at least there’s an opening.
Just imagine, if rather than becoming Singapore-in-Europe, which surely would please the wealthier echelons of Britain’s movers and shakers, post-Brexit Britain emerged as the most progressive country in Europe, leading the way in terms of climate-friendly politics, social and economic justice, etc.?
Oh, I know, it’s a hopeless utopian dream, but please don’t wake me up!
Then again, it bears reminding that Extinction Rebellion is a homegrown British movement, and the British suffragettes were nothing if not radical. So, perhaps we need to dream the impossible for it to become a reality.
For, as Father Topo, the kind-hearted and wise elf in Matt Haig’s A Boy Called Christmas, says, ‘an impossibility is just a possibility you don’t understand yet.’