I’m leaving the country tomorrow. Only for a short break, mind, just a few days, but I’m still wondering what kind of Britain I’ll be coming back to.
It’s that kind of time we’re living in. This country doesn’t seem to know whether it’s coming or going. As far as the European Union is concerned, of course, we’re going, which may or may not turn out to be true. Even if it is, we don’t yet know how, or even when, or what the consequences will be either way. Our politicians keep telling us everything will be fine but like the nation, they are so hopelessly divided on the issue they sound like parrots screeching in an aviary. Even those groups that agree with each other on policy can’t seem to find common ground on methodology. We’re told we may have to have another referendum, or perhaps a general election, but nobody seems terribly enthusiastic for either. We’re getting used to confusion and stasis. We’re now so inured to the Brexit negotiating impasse, or whatever it is that’s holding things up, that many of us are on the brink of ceasing to care what happens.
Last week, Prime Minister Theresa May went to Salzburg, Austria, to present Britain’s plans for leaving, only to be told that it was unworkable. She knew what they thought before she left London, so rejection can’t have been a surprise. What was a surprise was the vehemence of the rejection, with President Macron of France calling Britain’s Brexiteers ‘liars’. May returned home humiliated. Never mind, a new season of Strictly Come Dancing has started, and tonight on the BBC is the final episode of The Bodyguard. Life goes on, even if it’s only on the telly.
The result of May’s predicament, if the commentariat is to be believed, is that once die-hard Brexiteers are having second thoughts about the whole idea, and once ardent Remainers are so angry with Europe that they would just as soon we got out as fast as possible and hang the consequences. A sizeable minority – which may soon become a sizeable majority – have no idea what to think, and so revert to a default position of no longer caring one way or the other – except for wishing that the whole thing will soon be over.
We’re all suffering, in short, from Brexit fatigue.
This writer is developing similar feelings about President Donald Trump. After two years of reading his puerile tweets, of wondering whether the Mueller investigation will ever end, let alone come up with devastating conclusions, of thinking that Trump may just be aiming to destroy democracy and install himself as Supreme Ruler, I’m now finding my outrage is diminishing by the day through sheer boredom. He may be intent on establishing a right-wing dictatorship, and turning decent citizens into feral beasts, but mostly he’s Just There. That discordant racket emanating from the White House is fast becoming white noise, like the untraceable hum from some distant electrical appliance, annoying for a time but gradually less audible until it can no longer be heard. Quite a number of Americans must be feeling the same way about the Crisis in Government, since the Dow Jones Industrial Average ploughs on relentlessly to new highs, investors apparently oblivious to what’s going on in the world and in the face of ever-increasing warnings that the stock market is overcooked and that we’re all going to be heading, if we’re not careful, for a recession even bigger and longer lasting than the one in 2008.
Of course I still care about what happens to Britain and Europe, and needless to say I still loathe Mr Trump and most of what he stands for, but I’m finding it increasingly hard to raise the energy or the enthusiasm to care as much about either subject than I once could. They are both Just There.
A change of pace, however brief, will do me good. Actually, I’m going to Cracow, Poland, with a mandatory side trip to a village called Oswiecim, once known to the Germans as Auschwitz. Now, that’s the kind of experience (I’ve been there before) that ought to bring my responses back to some semblance of normal.
I’ll write and tell you about it when I get back.