Most US citizens are vaguely aware of something called Brexit only because Trump has praised that “man of the people” the UK Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffer Johnson for doing “a great job” despite losing an unprecedented six separate votes on major legislation in the UK Parliament.
In normal times, a single loss in Parliament would automatically trigger the Prime Minister’s resignation but just like Trump, Johnson cares only about preserving himself even at the cost of destroying his own country.
Furthermore, Johnson then attempted to neuter Parliament by shutting it down so he could ignore it entirely. This action was ruled illegal by the British Supreme Court but Johnson has simply said the Court was wrong to say that he committed a crime.
Doubtless we shall see many petty criminals henceforth employ the “Johnson defense” and state that no Court can convict them because Courts are just “wrong” when you don’t agree with their rulings. This does sound rather like Trump as well, doesn’t it?
Although Johnson is bound by legislation to request an extension of the Brexit process if he can’t get a deal through Parliament by 19th October (and there’s no chance of this whatsoever) he continues to state that he will take the UK out of the EU on 31st October by ignoring this law entirely. For Johnson just as for Trump, laws are for bullying other people and never, ever, apply to oneself.
So why does Brexit matter to anyone outside the UK? Who cares if a middle-ranking country wants to self-harm on a national scale, destroy the underpinnings of its system of governance, and trash its economy? After all, this will mean US corporations can step into the wreckage and buy what they want from UK Ltd at knock-down prices, which is precisely what Trump and his cronies are counting on.
The reason it matters is because Brexit, like the 2016 Presidential election in the USA, was the world’s most basic IQ test.
Brexit was sold on a barrel of pathetically obvious lies and impossible promises that only the most amazingly stupid and ignorant people could possibly have believed even for a fraction of a second. Likewise Trump got elected despite being clearly the most infantile, ignorant, incompetent, and unqualified candidate in the history of the USA. Only the most amazingly stupid and ignorant people could possibly have believed even for a fraction of a second that Trump would be anything other than the odious flabby vermin he has proven himself to be on a daily basis since losing the election but being given the White House by a totally dysfunctional Electoral College that is laughed at by every other nation on Earth including the most unsavory African dictatorships.
The reason Brexit and Trump triumphed, along with Bolsonaro in Brazil and Babic in the Czech Republic, is the same reason the neo-fascist AfD in Germany and PiS in Poland and Fidez in Hungary and Le Pen’s ultra-right party in France and Salvini in Italy and New Dawn in Greece and all the other neo-fascist Parties are gaining mass support.
It’s because a huge percentage of every nation’s population is stupid and ignorant. These people will never understand the complexities of the global economy, nor the fact that global problems like climate change require coordinated solutions agreed across national boundaries. They just want to be told what to think, what to chant. They want a “strong” leader.
For the stupid and ignorant it’s sufficient to embrace a simple-minded sound-bite, a pleasing meme, and endlessly chant the slogans they’re fed by those who are unscrupulous enough to prey on them.
It’s no coincidence that both Trump supporters and Brexiteers have been easy prey for Russian troll factories whose purpose is to increase social discord and destroy western nations from the inside. The sad thing is how easy it’s all been for the Kremlin. Putin supported Brexit (the Russians funded the main Brexit party UKIP) and Putin did everything he could to aid Trump and the stupid ignorant voters of Britain and the USA then gave Putin everything he could have hoped for, and more.
How did this happen? It happened because we’re using a broken system called representative democracy.
Representative democracy is predicated on two unspoken assumptions:
The first is that representatives will, for the most part, be modestly capable of fulfilling their roles and will at least occasionally put the national interest first.
The second is that voters will have the intellectual ability to grasp the important issues of the day and the willingness to expend the necessary effort required to learn about those issues.
It is not difficult to see that there is no nation on the planet where either of those two conditions pertain, never mind both.
What this means, therefore, is that representative democracy is the problem.
It’s what led us not only into two World Wars and countless stupidities besides, but also into our current descent into chaos and tyranny. Any naïve dreams that a post-Trump USA will be a less dysfunctional nation can be set aside. Trump has taught the entire world, not just the US Republican Party, that as long as you can whip up the drooling howling dull-eyed mob you can do whatever you want, even if that persistently undermines the nation you claim to be making “great” again. This is because the mob is too stupid to realize what is happening. In fact, the mob will continue to cheer their Great Leader even as those cheering are eventually led off to concentration camps themselves.
Don’t think it can happen? Then you haven’t read history. Go away and read a comprehensive history of the Soviet Union, a comprehensive history of Mao’s “great leap forward” in China, a history of Pol Pot in Cambodia, and of course read about Hitler’s Germany. Those Brexit and Trump voters? They’re precisely the same as the people who made all the other atrocities of history not only possible but inevitable. The fact they don’t know that this is the case is irrelevant — they don’t know anything.
We’ve all heard the stupidities of Trump supporters. “He didn’t say what he said on that tape” is my personal favorite for the Cretin of the Year award but there are so many other examples to choose from. Likewise Brexit supporters are renowned for their own idiocies, such as believing that “giving control back to Parliament” means shutting down Parliament so it can play no role in the Brexit process.
Nice middle-class people like to believe that “everyone is equal” and other foolish platitudes. In reality of course we are not equal in any way. Some are tall while others are short, some have the aptitude and determination to become concert pianists, most don’t. We embrace inequality everywhere: which one of us, needing a tooth extracted, would go next door to our neighbor because surely she must be equal to and just as good as a skilled dentist? Which one of us would happily get on a commercial airliner knowing that it would be piloted by a babbling amateur who’s never flown an aircraft in his life but is convinced he’ll be a “great and stable” pilot?
Our pretense at equality is nothing other than sheer hypocrisy and we’re paying the price globally. Representative democracy is unfit for purpose and we desperately need to start considering options that may be better suited for purpose. As long as we pretend that competence is dangerous (“we can’t try to have competence because a long time ago someone somewhere used a test to discriminate against someone else and so all tests are bad and we should never use tests of any kind anywhere at all…”) we merely permit the slide toward horror to continue to accelerate.
We are in the closing phase of our accidental experiment with representative democracy. Denial won’t get us anywhere except deeper into the mess we’ve created by clinging for far too long to a system that is fundamentally and ineradicably unfit for purpose.
Let’s hope that after the horrors to come, a few clever people begin to engineer more adequate solutions to the problem of how we should govern ourselves.