‘ Vox Populi, Vox Dei ‘ (“The voice of the people is the voice of God” : reflections on Brexit)

This kind of incident led to a situation in the Nepali Press in which journalists don’t want to write the truth and readers simply want to be entertained with rumours and appalling stories about the misdeeds of people they don’t like! They prefer jok

July 8, 2016, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.09,No. 24, July 08,2016, Ashad 24,2073)

Over 30 years ago, I spent my spare time helping a relative in a small weekly newspaper. I had the grand title of Features’ Editor and wrote everything from features based on one to one interviews and investigative articles to agony aunt columns and organising readers’ letters. It was a learning experience during a gap between research assignments and I would have been sorely tempted to keep at it had the newspaper editor not been highly critical of a Panchayat cover-up, not quite of Watergate proportions but hefty enough. It was closed down promptly.

This kind of incident led to a situation in the Nepali Press in which journalists don’t want to write the truth and readers simply want to be entertained with rumours and appalling stories about the misdeeds of people they don’t like! They prefer jokers and entertainers rather than politicians who look after people’s interests honestly. This, believe me, is a worldwide tendency. The Fourth Estate is supposed to monitor the other branches of society and ensure civil governance is just and fair. Nowadays it seems it is supposed to entertain and to pander to the interests of the dishonest who are rich enough to buy the loyalty of the press. Money is the new ‘vox dei’. No point in checking facts - who wants to know the facts as long as fiction fits into our preconceived notions about just about anything?

The newspaper that published erroneous reports coming from Brussels and ‘dropped them over the wall’ so to speak into the UK was obviously not interested in truth, only in attacking an organisation they wished to defame. Now it’s all over they might well regret shooting themselves in the foot!

Meanwhile members of government are left with an exposed rift in society. A rift everyone knew was there but which almost half of British society chose to ignore.

But then, why blame one portion of British society for this rift when it was/is nurtured by those who still seek to divide and rule? Why indeed? 

Because of the acts of racially incited violence that took place after the EU referendum, it looks as if Britain has become overwhelmingly racist. Racist against whom may we ask? The pockets that voted overwhelmingly for ‘leave’ were places in the Midlands and the North East that are home to families descended from people from the Indian subcontinent, the Caribbean and Uganda. It seems paradoxical that those British descended from immigrants should have a grievance against the current wave of immigration. It bears scrutiny.

The reasons are not so simple and straightforward. After the Industrial Revolution, Britain became a nation of haves and have not’s. It also became a hive of industry in, principally, the Midlands and North East and out of this hive rose the self-made men (and women let me add) who fuelled the engines of the Chartist Movement and financed adult schools for workers.

The aristocracy feared another revolution. There had been one already and one king had lost his head for presumably inviting the French to invade and take on the Cromwellian armies. No, they didn’t want another one but what to do now in the reign of Victoria to calm down the self-made men and Chartists, the hordes of poor smarting - some of them from the realisation that had their grandfathers not been descended from second sons, the local sqirearchy could have been theirs. Laws of primogeniture are much to blame for poverty and many other social ills.

Attempts had been made historically to silence any groups thought to be inimical to the wider interests of the state. Many of these groups were religious, because they were Protestants who objected to various dictates of the Church of England.  They also refuted the Divine Right of Kings – a curious idea dating back into the far reaches of European Christian history which held that God spoke directly to the monarch and through the monarch to the people.

Now let’s say that oppressive as this sounds many good things came out of it: the Pilgrim Fathers sailing off in the Mayflower to America.

The establishment of schools and universities by the Religious Society of Friends, who having been bereft of their lands turned to making chocolate (Fry’s, Rowntrees, Cadbury’s) and building decent housing for their workers, took place during this time. These were the pioneers of social justice –the Nightingale family produced Florence who shipped herself off to the Crimea to nurse the wounded and dying.Elizabeth Fry of the chocolate Frys laboured for prison reform and William Wilberforce for the abolition of slavery.  All these things were happening concomitantly with the pompous rule of the East India Company. Contrary to popular Indian belief Britain as a whole was not living off the wealth and labour of India, some Britons were (Clive for example) but by no means a majority.

So, back full circle to causes behind the leave vote. To dissuade the self-made men from supporting the Chartists, someone (adignitary of the Church no doubt) came up with the ingenious idea of building a 2nd- level of public schools on the lines of Eton but not quite. “Send your son to a public school and we’ll make him a gentleman and give him a nice Oxford ‘accent’. There was and is and may ever be the dividing line in the UK - ‘accent’.

A nation of many ethnicities and renditions of language that date back to the great sagas, the very rendition that came to define the true blue Brits happened to be a false one: one easily adopted by those whose native tongues are other than English (ref: Winston Churchill’s The history of the English Speaking Peoples) but not by the basic British speakers with Old English vowels. Accent, encouraged by parents who sent their kids to ‘elocution lessons’,created a rift that those Britons who believe they speak the English language correctly will never understand. They might never be able to accept that the most correct English is probably spoken in Edinburgh!

The EU freedom of movement made it possible for people from all over Europe to work in the UK without any qualifying exams and so forth. Did those descended from the families who settled after 1947 see this as fair when so many obstacles had to be overcome by them to carry out their own professions (Law, Medicine, Teaching, Engineering)? I rather think not and before we accuse the Referendum results as being based on racism, I think there are many other aspects, racism in a loud-mouthed minority is one, but not the overwhelming one.   Not least is being lied to by those we all grew up to believe told the truth, the absolute truth and nothing but the truth. Restore that standard and then only will ‘vox populi’ be ‘vox dei’!

 

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