“The air in my country is very foul”
Ian McEwan, at a press conference in Barcelona, March, 2017
Pieter Breughel the Elder, The Fall of the Rebel Angels 1562
Oil on oak, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. Image: WGA
“Now is not the time to obstruct the will of the people” Theresa May in the House of Commons, 2017.
“Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is therefore an emanation of virtue; it is not so much a special principle as it is a consequence of the general principle of democracy applied to our country’s most urgent needs.” Robespierre, in a speech to the National Convention, 1794.
The embodiment of the people ‘s will, and the exponent of State terrorism: Maximilien Robespierre, smiling his sweet megalomaniac’s smile, before the Revolution.
Maximilien Robespierre, oil on canvas by Pierre-Roch Vigneron, 1786; in the Museum of French History, Palace of Versailles. Image: Britannica.com
We are being bullied into acquiescence with a disastrous rupture with Europe. Our economy and civilization are being degraded, people we love might be torn from us, and we are told to be silent.
Brexit is being imposed upon us in a reign of Terror, in which dissent is suppressed and the rule of law threatened.
“Any institution which does not suppose the people good, and the magistrate corruptible, is evil.” Robespierre
“Enemies of the people” Daily Mail denouncing the judges of the High Court who upheld Gina Miller’s case for parliamentary sovereignty.
Our centuries’ old representative parliamentary democracy is broken, smashed under the weight of public opinion polls and political opportunism.
This is not democracy; this is authoritarianism.
If you don’t like Brexit, and you love your country, don’t shut up. Never stop protesting.
“It is the right of those of us who voted to remain to continue to speak for what we believe is in our country’s best interest and not allow ourselves to be cowed into silence.” Ian McEwan, March, 2017
Detail from The Rape of Europa, bronze by Il Riccio (Andreo Briasco), 1520.
Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest. Image: WGA
Sofa by the Spanish cartoon artist Ekhi-Guinea
GRABS POPCORN is how humanity, sick of itself, is self-medicating its way to disaster instead of getting off the sofa to resist and protest.
William Holman Hunt The Awakening Conscience 1853. Tate Gallery. Image: WGA
“The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion” (Edmund Burke) and one big delusion, Brexit, is already being ridiculed internationally by political satirists. It is the Ship of State run aground by its captain’s folly, a misled charge for glory and independence through the wrong exit, leaving everyone standing awkwardly in the backyard among the garbage containers, too embarrassed to go back in.
Lord Rochester with Monkey by Huysmans, 1670s, an allegory of human pretentiousness and folly.
“….I’d be a dog, a monkey or a bear,
Or anything but that vain animal
Who is so proud of being rational.”
(Satire Against Reason and Mankind)
Rochester, when he wasn’t drinking and whoring himself to death or writing obscene satires and plaintive love lyrics, was a critic of the government’s unwise decisions and duplicity.
Brexit has given teen slang a new word, according to clever and twinkly US chat show host Seth Meyers.
The definition of brexit (verb): to leave a party without thinking of the ramifications of your decisions.
“Tiffany told everyone she was too good to be there and stormed out without realizing she had no money for a taxi, her phone was dead, and she was 3 miles from the nearest subway #Brexit”
DON’T LEAVE, TIFFANY: Apollo and Daphne, marble sculpture 1622 -25 by Bernini. Image: WGA
“Ourselves with noise of reason do we please
In vain: humanity’s our worst disease”.
Tunbridge Wells, John Wilmot, Lord Rochester
Drawing of the Alfred Jewel, incribed “AELFRED MEC HEHT GEWYRCAN” (Alfred ordered me to be made). The gold, quartz and enamel jewel, two and a half inches (6.4cm) long, was discovered in Somerset in 1693. The figure of a man holding two flower-like sceptres is thought to represent Sight or the Wisdom of God. Image: Wikipedia
Alfred, King of Wessex from 871 to 899, the man who let the cakes burn because he was too busy thinking about how to run the country, liberated the Anglo-Saxons from Viking oppression and, crucially, made peace with the Danish immigrants.
Maintaining close political, economic and cultural links to mainland Europe was central to Alfred’s policy.
He saw strength in unity, not in division.
He believed that educating the English, especially those training for high office, in Latin as well as their own language was essential to English influence and future protection of rights: “All the sons of freemen who have the means to undertake it should be set to learning English letters, and such as are fit more advanced education and are intended for high office should be taught Latin also.”
Alfred the Great is the only English king to be a hero of parliamentary rights and American Independence. His codification of English laws, his ‘Deemings’ or Doom book (Book of Laws), dated circa 893, were the foundation of English Common law, established, according to Thomas Jefferson, “while the Anglo-Saxons were yet pagans, at a time when they had never yet heard the name of Christ pronounced or that such a character existed.”
“Parliament is sovereign and the guardian of our democracy.” (Philip Colvin QC)
Today, 1000 British lawyers have delivered a letter to the government protesting the illegality of the EU Referendum, and that it was not held in the long-term interests of the people.
The British Government might have breached the 2015 European Referendum Act. This is the same government so swaddled in its own tax-funded cocoon that it completely misjudged the public’s disaffection, palpable to the rest of us, when it called for a Referendum to appease its own right wing, never dreaming, apparently, that it would lose the vote.
A series of blunders is determining our national destiny.
Alfred was a centralizing ruler who promulgated democratic rights: “Doom very evenly! Do not doom one doom to the rich; another to the poor! Nor doom one doom to your friend; another to your foe!” (from Alfred’s Doom Book).
Alfred was a secular Christian, not a bigot. He saw Christianity, and Latin civilization, primarily as a tool for restoring and improving standards of education, government and culture in lands devastated by ignorant marauders, not as moral bullying to stamp out other beliefs.
Alfred and his achievements survived the cult that the Victorians, in their self-righteous way, made of him in their own image. Like God, Alfred was turned into a genteel, bearded C of E patriot in fancy dress. The probability remains that he was still England’s greatest king.
The amazing thing about Alfred is that, unlike Arthur, the legendary Romano-British king of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, he lived in flesh and fact, not as a projection of hopes for national destiny, not an amalgam of shadowy warriors and fictional constructs, not an allegory, but a reality.
His head was on the coins, which were inscribed AELFRED REX and were highly valued currency.
Arthur shows us what imagination and idealism can achieve, the eternal quest for meaning, the beautiful yearning, the divine poignant pointlessness of being human – he shows us the picture of our souls – while Alfred shows us the template for good government.
Alfred proves you really can provide an enlightened programme of arts and education reform alongside a sound economy, fair legal system, peaceful foreign policy and a strong, properly equipped army and navy.
Good government is worth a few burnt cakes.
At a time when England has no leadership, when the United Kingdom is threatened with internal division, adrift and friendless in northern seas, where the weather gets worse every year, Alfred is one of the few statesmen whose reputation is untarnished.
If you want to be loved and respected, it helps to be a ninth century king, so far away that not even a Chilcot Enquiry can touch you.
This blog is haunted by untouchable dead people, all of them known unknowns, their thoughts and feelings impertinently second-guessed.
Let’s imagine, for instance, what Elizabeth I would have done with a woman called Andrea who told her that she wasn’t fit to be queen because she was not a mother with a stake in her country’s future. Some form of time-warped justice has been done, because Leadsom has been hoist with her own petard.
Childless Gloriana mulls regretfully over the legacy of her reign – and she was one of the best statesmen Britain has ever had.
Pearls drip heavily from her clothes while Old Father Time dozes behind her on the right; Death grins over her left shoulder and two elongated, middle-aged looking putti fly in to remove the crown from her head.
Never before or since has sovereignty looked so tired.
What would Alfred, the far-sighted man in the jewel, see now? Unity, tolerance, fairness, higher education, science, art, economy, trade, justice all under threat again; a record of social inequality and shameful foreign wars.
He would see that a series of blunders is determining national destiny.
A divided people have been led by fools in a bloodless remake of the Charge of the Light Brigade.
Great Britain has voted itself to be one of the “what-ifs” of history.
There is hope, enshrined in law and democratic rights, initiated by Alfred’s one thousand year old deemings:
“For all of these reasons, it is proposed that the government establishes, as a matter of urgency, a royal commission or an equivalent independent body to receive evidence and report, within a short, fixed timescale, on the benefits, costs and risks of triggering article 50 to the UK as a whole, and to all of its constituent populations. The parliamentary vote should not take place until the commission has reported.”
Parliamentary sovereignty must be upheld. It is the heart of our democratic constitution, fought for and refined over centuries. Democracy is not an advisory X Factor public vote of 52 -48. Continue reading