30 March, 2017

It's not EU it's me......!

Theresa May's letter (in English) is given to its Polish
addressee at his office in Belgium!
On my lap top are three news agency icons: the BBC, The Guardian newspaper and Associated Press one of the American news agencies. Each morning as I make the early morning cup of tea at about 6.30 am I open up my lap top and glance at each to look at the headlines for the UK, Europe, the USA and the wider world. Today, as I expected, the BBC and The Guardian were dominated by the various items about Brexit. Associated Press, not to my surprise, had mostly US dominated items. It did, however, have the headline that most chimed with me about Brexit; they seemed to have got it just right. Maybe it proves that a more accurate assessment of any particular situation can be made from standing back and seeing the bigger picture. In this case maybe the view from New York is rather more accurate than our own perception here in the UK and Europe. Associated Press’ headline was: “It’s not EU it’s me: UK files for divorce after 44 year marriage”.

As I read the header I shook my head in both sorrow and anger – it was exactly right. With yesterday’s triggering of Article 50, effectively setting out the divorce proceedings between ourselves and the EU, we are like two partners in a failed marriage ridding ourselves of each other. The important phrase to me, however, was “It’s not EU it’s me...” – a clever rewriting of “It’s not you it’s me”. Within that header is all that you need to know about the Brexit debacle, Brexit supporters and the state of modern Britain: namely, you are unimportant it’s me and my desires that are paramount.  Like the selfish husband or wife who sees only their interests as of importance and have no notion of the partnership, the feelings involved,  the give and take element of a marriage or of the vows that they made in entering the arrangement so, too, Brexit campaigners, the delusional wing of the Tory party, the right wing media and all those who mindlessly voted for Brexit in last year’s Referendum have consistently reflected the same selfish me, me, me view of life so prevalent in modern western society – and especially so in the UK
The Sun's headline - no more to be said about its or Brexit motives

Overnight all the pundits have been hard at work analysing the letter written by Theresa May to trigger Article 50. Presumably May and her ministers and civil servants  worked long and hard at setting out the various points that they wished to make concentrating as much on what they didn’t say as what they did. There was an immediate response from the EU and from the pundits highlighting various controversial issues in the letter such as issues of international security and the exchange and cooperation on issues of crime and terrorism.  The Sun newspaper this morning ran the disgraceful headline “Your money or your lives” – in other words give us (the UK) what we want in the Brexit negotiations or we will discontinue work with your security agencies and thus put European lives at risk from the terrorist and crime threat. The newspaper went on to say: “...the Prime Minister would be crazy not to use our peerless anti-terror security services as a bargaining chip. Some critics may be disgusted... We need to play every decent card in our hand, and security is one of our strongest.” Of course government ministers raced to distance themselves from this, assuring the populace and the EU that this was never their intention, but the damage was done and for me it shows up what Brexit is – a total shambles. The letter triggering the break from Europe is undoubtedly the most important document written by a British government for years – its precision and implications had to be exactly right both in word and spirit, no ifs no buts. By acknowledging that the letter did not mean what the Sun said it did – and certainly politicians and pundits across Europe and the UK took the meaning that the Sun did, that Theresa May was issuing a threat to Europe – the Brexit government was also acknowledging that they got it wrong, they did not strike the right note. Well, if that be the case then in my book they are either incompetent because they did not get it right or despicable because they actually meant it and are now trying to deny it having been caught with their proverbial trousers down. I’m not sure which, but I suspect it is both. And the shambles didn’t end there. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor also quickly pointed out that the UK’s demand for negotiations about both our withdrawal from Europe and the initiation of new trade deals were unacceptable. The so called “parallelism” would be a non starter. Frau Merkel told reporters in Berlin: "The negotiations must first clarify how we will disentangle our interlinked relationship... and only when this question is dealt with, can we, hopefully soon after, begin talking about our future relationship".  European newspapers virtually without exception, greeted the Brexit letter and its contents with a mixture of pain, puzzlement and predictions that the coming two years of negotiations could get nasty – especially if the UK resorts to what they perceived as “blackmail” over issues like security cooperation.
They were not wrong, for this outlook and position of threats and blackmail has characterised virtually every meeting and summit that we have had with our European friends and colleagues over the last 44 years of our European marriage. For as long as I can remember we have been unwilling to be equal partners in Europe always wanting special concessions or a bigger share of the pie. And, like badly behaved children, we have stamped our feet and sulked when we did not get our own way. The era of gun boat diplomacy that so characterised the British Empire of the Victorian age when Prime Ministers like Palmerston threw their weight about in Europe and across the world and threatened to send in a good old English gun boat if we did not get our way are still lurking in government and alive and well in national psyche.  We may not now send in a gun boat but, like the bully on the playground, we still seek to throw our weight about and find it impossible to cope when we do not get our own way; the worm in our national sub conscious, tells us, that  we, the English, (I choose my word carefully) are best. We might laugh at the old Flanders and Swann song “The English” but it still rings loud, clear and sadly believed in the ears, hearts and minds of the Tory party, UKIP, the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph readers, and in jingoistic, flag waving pubs and bars across England:

The English
(Flanders & Swan)

The rottenest bits of these islands of ours
We've left in the hands of three unfriendly powers
Examine the Irishman, Welshman or Scot
You'll find he's a stinker as likely as not

The English the English the English are best
I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest

The Scotsman is mean as we're all well aware
He's boney and blotchy and covered with hair
He eats salty porridge, he works all the day
And hasn't got bishops to show him the way

The English the English the English are best
I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest

The Irishman now our contempt is beneath
He sleeps in his boots and he lies through his teeth
He blows up policemen or so I have heard
And blames it on Cromwell and William the Third

The English are moral the English are good
And clever and modest and misunderstood

The Welshman's dishonest, he cheats when he can
He's little and dark more like monkey than man
He works underground with a lamp on his hat
And sings far too loud, far too often and flat

The English the English the English are best
I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest

And crossing the channel one cannot say much
For the French or the Spanish, the Danish or Dutch
The Germans are German, the Russians are red
And the Greeks and Italians eat garlic in bed

The English are noble, the English are nice
And worth any other at double the price

And all the world over each nation's the same
They've simply no notion of playing the game
They argue with umpires, they cheer when they've won
And they practice before hand which spoils all the fun

The English the English the English are best
I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest

It's not that they're wicked or naturally bad
It's just that they're foreign that makes them so mad
The English are all that a nation should be
And the pride of the English are Chipper and me

The English the English the English are best
I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest

Flanders & Swann - brilliant - but their gentle humour has a barbed point

Yes,  all a bit of knock about fun. Nothing wrong with that we might chuckle. Except, except....... if one looks a little closer we have form on this in a number of areas. Our glorious National Anthem is a case in point. ”God save our gracious Queen.....” we are enjoined.........   Well, I’ll put aside my republican reservations about how in a parliamentary democracy such as ours, where the basic underlying principle is that every man and woman is supposed to be equal, yet we tolerate a national anthem that is asking a God to somehow “save the Queen”. In other words we are asking an entity (a deity) that arguably doesn’t exist to somehow preserve an entity (an hereditary monarch) that arguably shouldn’t exist in a parliamentary democracy based upon equality!  Why should we save her, I wonder? Does she need saving? Is there a shortage of Queens so we must preserve what we have for some sort of regal “rainy day”? But it doesn’t end there; unlike the EU anthem based upon  Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”,  there is nothing in our anthem of the virtues, ideals or aspirations of our country or our people.  Instead, if one reads all the verses, not just the first verse, which is the one usually sung,  it is not only to do with lauding and pouring rewards onto the preserved  monarch’s head it also has some very unpleasant words and ideals, encouraging aggression and pouring scorn and destruction on “knavish”  foreigners – notably the “rebellious Scots”:

God save our gracious Queen
Long live our noble Queen
God save the Queen
Send her victorious
Happy and glorious
Long to reign over us
God save the Queen

O Lord our God arise
Scatter her enemies
And make them fall
Confound their politics
Frustrate their knavish tricks
On Thee our hopes we fix
God save us all

Thy choicest gifts in store
On her be pleased to pour
Long may she reign
May she defend our laws
And ever give us cause
To sing with heart and voice
God save the Queen

Not in this land alone
But be God's mercies known
From shore to shore
Lord make the nations see
That men should brothers be
And from one family
The wide world over be.

From every latent foe
From the assassins blow
God save the Queen
O'er her thine arm extend
For Britain's sake defend
Our mother, prince, and friend
God save the Queen.

Lord grant that Marshal Wade
May by thy mighty aid
Victory bring
May he sedition hush
And like a torrent rush
Rebellious Scots to crush
God save the Queen

The undercurrent of anti-foreigner feeling is alive and well in the UK and especially so in England. The Brexit campaign brought it out into the open with a vengeance bringing a rise in hate crime, a rise in general intolerance and a suspicion of our neighbours. Watch English TV any and every week and you will not have to wait long to see a programme harking back to the World Wars – their unsubtle message invariably the same, how the good old brave and fair minded British saved the world from itself and brought  light and salvation to those poor, demented and wayward foreigners; these films and programmes will repeat time after time the message that the Frogs, the Krauts, the Wops and the Diegos are inferior, rather pathetic, not to be trusted and responsible for most of the world’s ills. Watch our football fans abroad and how each game is seen as a battle to overcome these European teams who so often are better than us – too often it brings games not only on the pitch itself but pitched battles on the streets of host cities and xenophobic headlines in the right wing press.
Punch's view of how to treat foreigners

England and the wider UK have a proud and glorious history but as a nation we are blind to our weaknesses and failings and with a misguided sense of our worth. So much of our history and how we today see ourselves is self centred. Maybe we can explain it because of our island geography – we always have been a little removed from mainland Europe, we have rarely had to suffer the invasions and the great sweeps and movements of people that most other European nations have experienced. Our island home has been both a barrier to the impact of other powers and influences but has, at the same time, given us a warped view of the outside world giving us too often an air of superiority. This is not to deny the huge contribution that Britain has made to the safety and well being of Europe through the ages  but it also hides the absolute fact that there are many parts of our history of which we should not be so proud. In short we have not always been and are not the good guys we like to believe ourselves to be.  To paraphrase Flanders and Swann’s song: “The English are noble, the English are nice, And worth any other at double the price”.......well, not always.

This unfortunate sense of superiority, even though our history records many things of which we might rightly be proud, is what underpins the Associated Press headline and our relationship with Europe in general and the EU in particular over the past 44 years of our marriage.  It has not been 44 years of wedded bliss; like it or not we have had and still have an arrogant “Me, Me, Me, self importance and ego centric attitude towards our near neighbours and assume that they must agree with us on our terms. This is not a recipe for a successful partnership of any kind where one partner has to constantly acquiesce to the other's demands, needs and desires! Maybe, if we had spent the last 44 years talking to our friends and neighbours in the EU rather than talking at  them they might just have been more willing to see the world in our terms. We have brought this catastrophe firmly upon ourselves; we might like to think that we are in charge and demanding our exit from Europe but I suspect that deep down, although we might be missed economically there will be some communal sighs of relief in Paris, Berlin and Brussels – and rightly so.

A few months ago shortly after the Brexit voter a senior politician from Europe had the temerity to suggest that any negotiations on Brexit between the EU and the UK might be conducted in French or German – after all it was we, going cap in hand, who were seeking to withdraw, from Europe. For me this seemed a perfectly reasonable idea; after all if I lived next door to a man who was not English and I wanted to ask his advice or to borrow something of importance then the least I could do, it seems to me, is try to address him in his own language. But this is England 2017 and the suggestion made by the politician simply drew a howl of protest from the tabloid press, UKIP and the delusional Tory Party; “We are English – foreigners should learn our language!” squealed the tabloids”

It speaks volumes of our relationship with and our respect for other nations when our schools and universities are struggling to teach foreign languages mainly because as a nation we, and our children, perceive it as not very useful or too difficult. In a survey done a year or two ago it was found that only 48 of Britain's 1,900 diplomats are judged to have an ‘extensive’ grip of a language, meaning they are close to communicating like a native.  Another 145 have an ‘operational’ grasp, meaning they can live a day-to-day life in the country but may struggle with technical or academic information.  Fifteen are recognised as having language ‘confidence’ – defined as being able to read road signs and book a hotel room.  But incredibly  some 1690 staff, or 90 per cent of the Foreign Diplomatic Service, have no recognised language abilities for the country to which they are posted! We lag far behind most other countries – for example in Australia 50% of their diplomatic staff abroad are local language speakers. In India, whose government recently declared France the preferred bidder over the UK to build fighter jets just one UK diplomat could speak Hindi. In Pyongyang, North Korea, five British diplomats are posted there and are encouraging the regime to drop its nuclear programme. Sadly, they must be finding this somewhat difficult since just one has a beginner’s level of Korean. A number of British embassies, including in Cuba, Egypt, Malaysia and the Philippines have no diplomats recognised as speaking the local language. There are no diplomats registered as speaking Latvian in Riga, the capital of the European Union’s fastest growing economy. There is only one Arabic-speaking diplomat registered in each of Britain’s embassies in oil-rich Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.

Despite these embarrassing   figures the government, in its wisdom, decided to close down the Foreign Office Foreign language School. One assumes the reasoning behind this is that everyone else must speak English, because as everyone knows that we are the best and speaking English is the best.....it’s what “good chaps” do!

I suppose, that when one looks at the letter sent by Theresa May to trigger Article 50 and realises that it is written in English yet it is addressed to Donald Tusk who is Polish and who represents an organisation based in Brussels in Belgium it tells us all we need to know about the respect that we have for other nations, their peoples and their language. But, why worry, we are leaving Europe and going into the big wide world where presumably foreign languages don't matter(!) we are superior, everyone must respond to us and our needs, learn and use our language, see things from our point of view, and where necessary touch their forelocks because  as Flanders and Swann suggest and everyone knows, “The English, the English, the English are best”.

28 March, 2017

"Dream of things that never were......"

As the ramshackle funeral hearse that is Brexit carries the rotting corpse of what was once a respected and honourable people and wends its creaking way towards Wednesday March 29th the UK Prime Minister Theresa May will write the letter that will trigger Article 50 and thus the formal process of the UK leaving the EU. We are witnessing the last few days of what was once a great and justifiably proud nation. On Wednesday, for reasons far more to do with sating the delusional appetites of the Tory Party who are intent upon clinging to some clapped out notion of an imperial Great Britain clothed in the Union Flag and basking in the long lost glow of a  forgotten Empire, than for any national good we are turning our backs upon our nearest friends and neighbours and “going it alone”. Like Captain Lawrence Oates that brave hero of Scott’s ill fated endeavours at the South Pole in 1912 as he stepped out into the icy wilderness, we are announcing to the rest of the world “We are just stepping outside....we might be gone for some time”.
Muddled thinking and headless chickens -  the defining  characteristics of the
whole Brexit debate debacle.

For as long as we have been members of the EU the Tory party has bickered and complained. A look at my previous blogs over the past five or six years reminds me that I have so often voiced my surprise that the Europeans have so graciously and for so long put up with us and our constant whining. Like spoiled and badly behaved children in playground we have constantly squealed that "It's not fair", that others have a bigger slice of the cake than ourselves, or that we have no friends to play with. Our near neighbours in Europe have watched like unhappy parents, embarrassed and bemused at our childish antics, and, I am sure and not a little offended, as year after year we have displayed a grudging unwillingness to put aside our misguided jingoistic belief in our self importance, our perceived natural superiority, our outdated beliefs of former greatness, and worst of all, our selfish egocentricity and plain rudeness to our friends and neighbours. England (and I choose my words carefully here) has long had a tradition of genteel politeness, of doing the right thing, of impeccable manners but in the past half century large portions of the Tory party and the right wing of society have proved themselves to be both boorish and thoroughly unpleasant individuals with regard to our friends across the Channel. The Brexit campaign has now spread their ill manners and loutish behaviour to a wider public - now Everyman can heap his scorn and venom  upon Europe and Europeans as a salve to his and our own failings and weaknesses.

As the years have passed, a largely unthinking electorate has allowed itself to be indoctrinated with spurious tales of Johnny Foreigner and his alleged evil plans to infiltrate and demean our  nation; the ready assistance of the head banging sections of the Tory party many of whom still hark back to the extremist speeches of Enoch Powell half a century ago, and more latterly the extremist support of UKIP, the right wing press, and a series of dubious political opportunist such as Michael Gove, Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson has ensured that a culture of blame, fear and division has taken root in the national psyche. We are now, as a nation, both unwilling and indeed unable to take responsibility for our own problems and shortcomings but are quick blame others for all our failures and our ills; Europe and Europeans are intent on one thing, argue the Brexiteers, the taking over and reducing of Great Britain to a nonentity; it's all part of an evil plan, they argue, cooked up in the corridors of power in Brussels or Paris or Berlin. The golden dawn of Brexit, we are told by its promoters, will restore us to our former glory and allow us to keep out these vengeful  foreigners, bring us untold wealth, ensure that we all have jobs rather than having them robbed from us by those of a different skin or creed. Brexit has become, in the eyes of its followers, the panacea for all our perceived ills. Well, maybe, but I don’t think so.

For me, however, there is a different  and more important, more far reaching narrative - not one that defines us or Brexit in economic terms,
Jingoistic nationalism - rabble rousing
propaganda. As Joseph Goebbels said: "Say it
often enough and eventually people will
believe you". And the Brexit Homer Simpson
voter swallows the lie.
important thought these might be - but rather one that asks the questions "What are we and what ought we to be?" Throughout the Brexit debate I have never been much moved by the economic arguments that we will be better or worse off, that jobs will be more or less plentiful, that only those entitled to will be able to claim benefits and all the rest of the well publicised pros and cons of remaining or leaving Europe. I don’t dismiss these as unimportant but they signal how, as a society, we have become increasingly defined by wealth and possessions rather than high ideals and great vision. When we finally leave Europe I have absolutely no doubt that
 life will go on, we will adjust, some things will be worse and maybe some better; the sky, however, will not fall in. But there is something infinitely more important than economics and its associated impacts; indeed, for me it is the only thing of importance about our withdrawal from Europe. It is about what it says of us as a people. Are we a people who will work with others for the greater good; are we a people who are willing to extend our goodwill to others of any creed or colour; are we a people who see our future as positive contributing members of  the wider world? Or, are we, as Brexit defines us, a people who wish to build barriers, who wish to deny our interdependence with others, who wish to always blame others for our problems and failures, and who wish to abdicate our moral, social, economic and political responsibilities to the wider world and to our nearest neighbours for a quick buck? For me there is only one answer and it is about brotherhood, goodwill, contribution, and acknowledging that we are all human sharing the same aspirations, desires and faults. I am horrified at the ease with which this country has so easily turned the world on its head and conveniently forgotten the reasons why our fathers and grandfathers in the immediate post war period worked to establish the infant European venture and bring peace, brotherhood and no little prosperity to a continent that for centuries had been riven with distrust, division and war. We should be both ashamed and alarmed at the ease with which we have walked away from our responsibilities to both our neighbours and ourselves.
David Davis, Theresa May, the corpse of Enoch Powell (the
Tory MP who half a century ago prophesied "rivers of blood"
if immigration continued and whose ideas are alive and well
in Tory mentality), and Boris Johnson.

The whole sorry shambles is best summed up by American political satirist and pundit Patrick O’Rourke who describes Brexit and its American counterpart, the election of Donald Trump as President, as “self criticising exercises”. The term is that used by US security forces when discussing a terrorist bomb maker who, in constructing the bomb, blows him or herself up by accident. It is apposite for we are indeed manufacturing an unconsidered and unintended national suicide, constructing a bomb which may well devour us. Brexit, when it finally comes, may or may not be an economic catastrophe but it will certainly be disaster in more important ways - namely that we will have lost a major part of our very humanity and the right to call ourselves respected citizens of the world. And as we put the last wires in place, and even at this late hour, we are too stupid to recognise that fact. President John Kennedy once remarked that “An error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it” – the errors in our national thinking have been consistently exposed in the months since the Brexit vote and still the Tory Party and the extremists in power refuse to acknowledge the flaws in their reasoning and correct the error by changing course. But instead, like Patrck O’Rourke’s metaphorical bomb maker, they are as characters in a macabre Morecambe and Wise comedy sketch gleeful, insanity gleaming from their swivel eyes, as they connect all the wrong wires to all the wrong terminals!

So on Wednesday I intend to redress the balance just a little – at least in my own home, and especially in my office where I sit writing this blog. It will not stop Theresa May signing the Article 50 letter nor it will cause some great and mighty social media campaign to suddenly thwart Brexit; neither will it stop all those delusional politicians and voters who seem so keen to renege on our political, economic, social and moral responsibilities. It will, however, for about 25 minutes make me feel better because it will remind me that I am human and humans, unlike most of the animal kingdom, have ideals, beliefs, hopes and dreams. They have  feelings of responsibility towards each other, a moral context in which they operate and above all a spirit that encompasses the ability to act generously, humanly, sympathetically and justly. I will endeavour to rekindle a little of this lost generosity of spirit that the followers of Brexit have brought to my country...... and at the same time I will remind myself of what we might be and  perhaps can be. Rather than gnashing my teeth or otherwise showing my anger or distress as Theresa May signs the letter effectively making us just a little less human and taking us further from our European friends and neighbours I will instead listen to some music to remind me of more important values. Instead of trade deals, reducing immigration, getting rid of the alleged benefits scroungers, or controlling our borders I will listen to a work that demands that we extend the hand of friendship to our fellow man and woman and that we join all nations in celebration of our common humanity.

The piece I will enjoy is not just any music but one of the very great pieces of the world that defines us as humans. Some might argue that it is the greatest musical work every written and whilst I might challenge that assessment I have no hesitation in saying that this work is undoubtedly one of mankind’s two or three defining works of  western art and culture and in my ideal world on Wednesday March 29th every radio station across the nation, every CD player, every digital gizmo would sound out this piece. Every choir, orchestra and flashmob would get together to sing it out so that we might all be reminded of what and who we are – first and foremost humans who must live as brothers and sisters and not pawns in  grubby deals to be done to satisfy the accountant or the banker or the little Englanders who would close us off from the world and the rest of mankind. It is a work that was written as the modern world slowly emerged in the early years of the nineteenth century. It is a work that was considered at the time to be revolutionary both in its musical format and in its inspiration. It is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, or more precisely, the final movement from that mighty and wonderful work. 

The last movement is choral and its glorious words and music are without doubt some of the most inspirational, powerful and sublime ever written. It is not without reason that it is the anthem of the Council of Europe nor is it without reason that it is frequently used in times of great anxiety or mourning such as in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 for it is about brotherhood, friendship, empathy, love of our neighbour and love of all mankind no matter what his creed or colour. It is, in short, all that Brexit is not; where Brexit seeks to divide and despise the final movement of the Ninth seeks unite in love.

"Ode to Joy" The Final Movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony: The Choral

Beethoven took the words of his countryman the German poet and philosopher Friedrich Schiller’s mighty poem Ode to Joy and set them to his glorious music. To hear the work is not just to hear great music it is to be forcibly reminded what it is to be human. It speaks of our brotherhood of humanity rather than the cynicism, pettiness and scepticism of those whose horizons are limited; it speaks of aspirations great ideals and not of vilification and grubby motive. It reminds us, and anticipates John F Kennedy’s words of a century and a half later when he told his fellow countrymen: This country cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor…….Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal.” Oh, that this quote was not broadcast far and wide and rammed down the throats of Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and the rest in the run up to the Referendum! But try explaining those concepts to the average Daily Mail reader or the unthinking nodding donkeys who, Homer Simpson like, were looking for an easy victim to blame for their ills and problems  and so voted for Brexit. Try explaining humanitarian ideals or concepts such as ethical action to  the delusional Tory, or those mindless right wing UKIP leaders Paul Nuttall and Nigel Farage, or political opportunist Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Liam Fox or David Davis; the effort will undoubtedly prove to you once and for all that Napoleon was on to something when he noted that “In politics stupidity is not a handicap”. So on Wednesday I will sit quietly - and maybe  a little sadly - and listen to Beethoven and Schiller's great words and music to endeavour to refresh my belief in the ultimate goodness of man:

Ode To Joy

O friends, no more of these sounds!
Let us sing more cheerful songs,
More songs full of joy!
Joy, bright spark of divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Fire-inspired we tread
Within thy sanctuary.
Thy magic power re-unites
All that custom has divided,
All men become brothers,
Under the sway of thy gentle wings.
Whoever has created
An abiding friendship,
Or has won
A true and loving wife,
All who can call at least one soul theirs,
Join our song of praise;
But those who cannot must creep tearfully
Away from our circle.
All creatures drink of joy
At nature’s breast.
Just and unjust
Alike taste of her gift;
She gave us kisses and the fruit of the vine,
A tried friend to the end.
Even the worm can feel contentment,
And the cherub stands before God!
Gladly, like the heavenly bodies
Which He sent on their courses
Through the splendor of the firmament;
Thus, brothers, you should run your race,
Like a hero going to victory!
You millions, I embrace you.
This kiss is for all the world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
There must dwell a loving father.
Do you fall in worship, you millions?
World, do you know your creator?
Seek Him in the heavens;
Above the stars must he dwell.

All men become brothers.......... But those who cannot must creep tearfully, Away from our circle...... You millions, I embrace you.......This kiss is for all the world.....Brothers, above the starry canopy......There must dwell a loving father”: not much there about controlling borders, building Trump like Mexican walls or turning away those in need. Indeed Schilller actually says those who cannot be brothers must “creep tearfully away from our circle”. Sounds to me a lot like he is describing our Little Englander Brexiters, those who would make us Europe’s “Billy no mates”!
The Daily Mail will write any spurious
nonsense to drum up sales and pour scorn on
Europe. The really worrying thing is
that more people read the Mail than any
other paper. That fact alone tells you all you
need to know about the intellect and 
mindset of 2017 England

The words of Schiller’s great poem may seem old fashioned today but in being so they remind us of where our priorities should lie; they speak of higher things than trade deals or controlling borders; they speak of fairness and worthy action rather than injustice or jingoistic nationalism; they speak of the joy in and of all humanity not the funereal cynical drum beat of the Brexiter. Almost half a century ago John Lennon wrote in his song Imagine:You may say I’m a dreamer, But I'm not the only one, I hope someday you'll join us, And the world can live as one.....” he wrote; well we all need dreams and ideals, something to aim for something higher than ourselves and in a western world obsessed with itself, with its selfies and its “me, me me” outlook on life especially so. So, tomorrow I will  dream a little. I will listen to Beethoven’s mighty music and Schiller’s great words and dream of what we might be not what, sadly, we in the UK have become. And as I listen and dream I will think of another comment by John F Kennedy: “The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were.”
The Brexit negotiators plunging the depths

“Dream of things that never were”.......dream not of Brexit and its follower and their Homer Simpson culture of blame, vilification, or of selfish obsessions; dream not of pushing our would be friends or those in need away; dream not of making grubby Trump like Brexit "deals" or of using people as bargaining pawns in the Brexit negotiations; dream not of the false god of economics and the grasping hands of the me, me, me society which demands more, more, more at whatever the cost to our very humanity. No, listen......... and "dream of things that never were" ...........and dream of a better time and place than March 29th 2017 Britain.