Disclaimer, I am an unabashed Remainer in regards Brexit. Although I accept the EU has many failings the world needs to be coming together not sowing division.
Britain is in the midst of a huge crisis of self-identity. An illusionary image of the past has smashed head on into the reality of a present day Britain, which feels a need to redefine itself in a globalised world.
Conservative Values vs. Reality
A large number of pensioners and middle aged Britons hang on to a notion they are living in a powerful nation leading the world, amplified through a soft lens of empire and great military victories against tyrants. There is a misplaced belief that the British have some unique resilience that no other people possess.
Younger generations on the other hand inhabit an all-together different world of social media, instant information and ease of travel, bringing a broader perspective. The melding of cultures and ideas is making the concept of the Nation State less important, with global factors like the environment and poverty taking greater priority alongside technological change.
Not all older people believe that Britain was once some idyll in a world of madness, just as not all young people believe in an open, transparent world where individuals can be who they wish to be, yet Brexit Britain’s generational differences are fairly stark.
Nigel Farage, along with Trump and other populist leaders have tapped into these differences and brought them to the surface; and the results are not pleasant.
The revolution that the West is presently undergoing appears different to the counterculture of the 1960s, mainly because the old levers of control are so less powerful than they once were. During the 60s turmoil, information and knowledge seeped through society more slowly, providing time for institutions to reluctantly adapt. The student communes and Vietnam protest were radical, and posed real risk to different nation states, particularly in France, and should not to be belied, yet power over the people was not only vested in pillars of government alone. Mass employers, unions and, to a lesser or greater extent, the rise of mass cultural icons (e.g. celebrities and popular arts) and consumer products, all distracted or exerted new forms of power. Only in hindsight will it be possible to compare this period with those of the past, all else is conjecture and personal viewpoint.
This project is seeking to understand just a small part of this present period we find ourselves, and what novel ideas will emerge from it.
Top image represents the rock and hard place where the Malthouse Compromise staked its position, an ill-conceived attempt by Conservative MPs to hold their party together. Lower image is the logo of mobile phone app Snapchat, which can be seen to capture in 10seconds our instantly disposable culture.
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Feature Image: Brook | John McKiernan