Monthly Archives: February 2017

Infection

Whilst certainly not one of the best episodes of classic sci-fi series Babylon 5, season 1 episode “Infection” is astonishingly prescient. In the episode, an archaeologist working on far and distant planet ends up merging with some alien technology he finds there. The planet has been dead for a thousand years or more and, during the course of the episode, it becomes apparent why.

It turns out that the Icarans have been invaded so many times from outside that they decided to make a new weapon. Twelve of them, to be precise. These weapons bond with a person to turn them into a hugely efficient killing machine designed to destroy anything that isn’t a pure Icaran. The next time they got invaded, the Icarans activated these killing machines and sat back to see the results.

It was very efficient: the invaders were repelled and destroyed and there was much rejoicing.

But the machines didn’t stop. They were programmed to destroy anything that wasn’t pure Icaran. The ensuing bloodbath was planet-wide as every single living Icaran discovered that they did not match up to the standard of purity laid down by those who had created the machines. Over the years of migration, the species had mixed and had picked up DNA from outsiders; the social standards had drifted; they evolved slowly. The machines didn’t care about that: they had been given a standard of purity by their creators and it soon turned out that nobody, not even the creators, were pure enough to be permitted to live. And thus a thriving civilisation was wiped from the face of the galaxy by its own ideology.

The parallels with our own planet are obvious. From the Holocaust to Rwanda, Daesh, and the rise of far-right groups in Europe and the USA. Farage’s Breaking Point poster and the Republicans’ Build a wall chant are examples of the same thing.

The reality is that humans are a single species, and have been so for at least 60,000 years as the various other human species died out. It’s probably worth noting that they didn’t die out before interbreeding with Homo Sapiens – in Western Europe, we are about 2% Neanderthal – but they did die out. Leaving us. All alone in the night. And we have been arguing about who is the purest ever since, through conflict, war and genocide.

We must be very careful indeed when we are pondering taking steps down the path to isolationism, to cleanse our societies of the other, to retreat to tribalism, protectionism and exclusion. Down that path lies a river of blood and, as Lady Macbeth discovered, it can be very hard to wash your hands clean once they have tasted that river.

Oh Lord, forgive me, I agree with Tony Blair

In 1997, oh so many years ago, Tony Blair’s Labour party swept the Conservatives from power. I admit to being delighted, as I had grown up under Margaret Thatcher’s government and it had not been a particularly wonderful experience. I had never particularly liked the Labour leader: he always came across as greasy and wheedling, but I was desperate for a change at the top. I guess I was young and naïve: pretty soon it became apparent that the only substantive change had been the names on the office doors.

It took the Tories a decade to get themselves back together again and they crept back in in 2005 in a surprising coalition with the Liberal Democrats. The rest is history, as they say, but Tony Blair was gone and largely vanished from the public eye except for the occasional appearance to comment on the Palestine peace process.

And then a desperately insecure prime minister made a manifesto promise to have a referendum on EU membership because he needed to cement his position in a party that was disinclined to support him against well-placed threats from within the party. It was a promise he’d never need to keep, of course, because the polls all said that he’d need another coalition to form a government, and that would mean he could quietly ditch the promise. Except that the Conservatives got a majority in the 2010 election and could form a government by themselves. Oops. The referendum duly took place and, again, the pollsters were confounded and David Cameron ran for the hills with his tail between his legs.

Enter Theresa May with her “Brexit means Brexit” bullshit, which sells well in the right-wing newspapers but actually just translates as “made-up-word has no defined meaning”. Her slogan is quite an effective club, though, and she is not shy of swinging it about whenever she is asked to explain how leaving the EU will benefit anybody. Seeking clarity on what kind of exit we should be looking for, she gladly gave us much more detail.

With the colour scheme decided, then, it was time to get down to detail. It turns out that you can’t leave the EU and remain in the Single Market unless you … well … carry on paying the same subscription fees and allowing the same freedoms as you had to when you were an actual member. You get all the rules, regulations and costs as if you were a member, but you don’t get a seat at the table deciding what those rules should be. Mrs May decided that this is a bit ridiculous. If you’re going to leave the EU, you should do it properly. Unfortunately, this means abandoning access to the largest free-trade area on the planet. Well, Brexit means Brexit, and the fact that this is going to completely fuck over our entire economy, causing us to lose a huge stack of jobs and lose our position as the anglophone bridge into the EU and generally lose any relevance we might feel we deserve on the world stage is just a minor detail.

Re-enter Tony Blair. In a speech he made, last week, he called on Remain type people to keep fighting for the future of our country, to fight to remain in the EU. We are convinced that the referendum result was less about the actual effects of EU membership and more about xenophobia, funding public services and Rupert Murdoch vying to retain unfettered access to government.

As a dyed-in-the-wool Europhile, I find myself strongly agreeing with Tony Blair. I hate myself for it, but I agree with him. The government is taking us straight towards a cliff edge, both feet pressed down on the accelerator, and they’re unwilling to consider, even for a moment, whether or not this is a great idea. Or even a good idea. Or even that the idea is one that can be considered. After all, Brexit means Brexit. The people gave a clear mandate (because squeaking a tiny majority in a poorly-debated referendum is a huge mandate), and it is not for us to consider whether or not this is a good thing to do. No. We must exit the EU at any cost. Even at the cost of the livelihoods of many millions of turkeys who voted for Christmas.

Stop continental drift: I want to get off.

ps. This article is very interesting.