2007 - 2021

Der Schrei der Natur


If anything captures the mood of the nations (s) and the madness infecting Anglo-British politics, this image of the Tories seated in front of Edward Munch’s The Scream is it.

The painting which was given the original German title by Munch as Der Schrei der Natur (“The Scream of Nature”) has become an icon of despair. Its scene was identified as being the view from a road overlooking Oslo, the Oslofjord and Hovedøya, from the hill of Ekeberg, and is said by some to be influenced by the nearby slaughterhouse and lunatic asylum. The figure at the front is said to be a Persian Mummy.

The fact that this photograph isn’t real doesn’t matter at all. It’s as real as the phenomenon we’re living through and is being imposed on us.

As ecological catastrophe unfolds – a ship sets sail across the Northwest Passage and the Conservatives record on the environment is predictably disgraceful – the image represents better than anything these sense of staged, fake, decay that’s swirling around us.

In a brutal assessment of his own parties handling of government, Matthew Parris writes: “What have we come to? Like some dark moon below the horizon, a rogue force is wrenching us from our orbit, and nobody knows what to do.”

He continues (seemingly running a bout a year behind the curve): “The Tories are turning Brexit into a humiliating shambles.”

“It now appears they and their leader started the countdown to Britain’s expulsion without even the vaguest plan for what we’d be aiming to achieve, let alone realistically likely to achieve. Worse, they pulled the trigger knowing very well that “Brexit” still meant different things to different members of the party and its government, and there was no reason to hope that divergent aims were ever likely to converge. I call this criminal: irresponsible to the point of culpable recklessness towards their country’s future. The Conservative Party just thought they’d give it a whirl and all but one of them voted for the adventure.”

He concludes: “I left Spain feeling ashamed to be British. I return to England ashamed to be a Conservative.”

Holidays can do that to you.

But if that’s the view from within the Tory party what the hell are the rest saying?

Cry Freedom

Joyce McMillan writes about the “the kind of chaos that results when politicians start to make policy in response to populist myth, rather than to the reality of the society they represent”.

She identifies three related tragedies unfolding before us, both international and inter-generational:

“…behind all this sound and fury, meanwhile, there are a growing number of real human tragedies that no-one in the upper echelons of Britain’s two main parties seems to have the courage to name, never mind to prevent. The first is the tragedy of the hundreds of thousands of valued EU workers who are now, in many cases, making plans to leave, such is the uncertainty they face; the health workers, care workers and young entrepreneurs who have become part of the lifeblood of our economy and our communities. The second is the tragedy of the 48 per cent, those 16 million people across Britain who never wanted to leave the EU at all, and are now obliged to live through the multiple disruptions of Brexit without either government or opposition willing to stand up for our views and our culture. And finally, there is the tragedy of the future generations who would have voted Remain by a vast majority, and whose entire future will now be darkened by this ill-fated decision.”

This disruption and betrayal isn’t going to go away.

Meanwhile Ian Dunt at the Independent has a go at trying to peg down some meaning to the bizarre statements swirling out of Downing Street about freedom of movement and Article 50 (“No.10 announcement on free movement completely without meaning“):

“This morning Downing Street moved to reassure them. Yes, there would be transition, but free movement would end in March 2019. Details of a new immigration system would soon be brought forward. “It would be wrong to speculate on what these might look like or to suggest that free movement will continue as it is now,” the prime minister’s spokesperson said.

So that’s it then? The big announcement has been made. Free movement ends when Article 50 does, making it much less likely that there’ll be any transitional deal. The nightmare rears its ugly head again: regulatory chaos, queues at customs checkpoints, a degradation of supply networks, businesses hammered by their inability to satisfy country-of-origin checks, lost jobs and lost investment. Britain humiliated and impoverished.

Or possibly not. It’s also possible that the Downing Street statement means precisely nothing. Listen to that Hammond interview again. When he’s told the immigration minister is promising that free movement ends in March 2019, Hammond replies:

“He’s right because freedom of movement is a concept defined under the European Union treaties.”

So according to Hammond, his plan to keep free movement in practise on April 1st 2019 is compatible with the Downing Street claim that free movement will end in reality on March 31st 2019. Everything stays the same, but technically free movement has ended as that is a term defined by the EU. Try not to beat your head against a wall.”

It’s increasingly looking like Brexit is just an exercise in self-harming motivate by a grand but often unspoken ideological agenda married to a dangerous new nationalism.

Dunt concludes: “So in summary: Today’s announcement means either that free movement will end, or that it won’t end, or that it might end after a while, or that it won’t end after a while, or that if it does end the system which replaces it might be completely different or that it might be identical.”

Eagle-eyed readers might recall that Philip Hammond was the chap who came out with the wheeze that an independent Scotland might be more vulnerable to attack from outer space. So searching for sense and meaning from him may be an unenviable task.

But what is the ideological programme the Brexiteers are pursuing?

A quick note that last year the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt co-authored a book about privatising the NHS – might offer a clue.

We are looking at an extreme ideological dogma married to a buoyant (if incoherent) new national fervour.

The difficulty here is that English nationalism isn’t allowed to exist and you aren’t allowed to talk about it.

Unless you are English.

Which is fine and grand because there are some eloquent writers trying to make sense of it all. Not least of which is Anthony Barnett who notes: “Now, a new wall has been thrown up across part of Europe. At the moment the barrier is just a declaration. Perhaps it is all the more alarming because its meaning and consequences are still unclear.”

He writes in his new book from Unbound:  “The Lure of Greatness: England’s Brexit and America’s Trump”:

“If you are young and British you have had your freedom to move, live, love and work in another country of our continent taken away from you by the outcome of the Brexit referendum. Your right to be a European and, just as important, your right to welcome Europeans to live with you, has been removed. Perhaps your expectations were unspoken and it is only now you realise something precious has been lost that is akin to bereavement.”

But, he continues, the situation is unclear and fluid:

“Put the pain to one side for a moment. When 17.5 million people voted to take the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland out of the European Union by a majority of one and a quarter million, they did at least three things: they repudiated their governing elite; they challenged the oligarchy of the European Union and its associated network of global power, even if they did so by walking away; and they tore our country apart from our neighbours in a dangerous fashion that risks turning it into a closed and bigoted place. We face the prospect of England being reduced to a self-regarding country: prejudiced and divided, impoverished yet obsessed with money-making, separated from Europe’s culture and leaving its immediate close neighbours Ireland and Scotland infuriated by our selfish recklessness.”

As the independence movement feels itself to be immersed in despondency it’s worth remembering three things: first that plans for new strategies and new ideas are very close to being presented, and a positive unifying programme will soon emerge. Whilst there is a lot of infighting and bitterness going on that takes prominence there is also a lot of hard-work and practical development work going on int her background. Keep the heid. Keep the faith. Ca canny.

Second that some of the divisions that have emerged have always been there and that a sense of false-unity might be worth dropping.

Thirdly that the level of structural and meta crisis the Tories are leading Britain into is completely unprecedented. As Matthew Parris puts it: “the Conservatives are criminally incompetent” – but they are working harder than ever to break up Britain and destroy the last vestiges of credibility they might have amongst there own supporters. We could never have managed it alone.

The Tory Scream photo is fake, the reality is not.


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Comments (13)

Leave a Reply to John S Warren Cancel reply

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  1. florian albert says:

    ‘The fact that this photograph isn’t real doesn’t matter at all.’

    It should matter. Once you accept the use of such photographs, you are accepting that your opponents can do likewise.
    Both from a moral and a practical perspective, going down this road is disastrous.
    If you endorse such photographs, do you print fabricated quotations, on the basis that they tell, what you consider to be, a ‘truth’ ?

    1. Not everything is literal.

      I made it abundantly clear that the photograph wasn’t ‘real’.

      1. florian albert says:

        ‘Not everything is literal’

        When you write ‘The fact that this photograph isn’t real doesn’t matter at all’, you can’t reasonably complain about being taken literally.

    2. John S Warren says:

      There is an interesting question in there, but not I think the one you actually present. Nothing is ever quite what it seems. Nothing.

      The important issue is not that which is false, but knowing it is false. Once it is known to be false, if the purpose is to deceive, it is disarmed. Notice that, nevertheless the power of this fake photograph is not entirely disarmed by knowing that it is fake.

      Let us suppose it was not a fake. Now that would be a very strange order of reality; it would tell us something quite different, and quite, quite bizarre. Knowing it is false is very important, but it does not exhaust the value of the photograph, provided we understand that it is fake.

      The important matter is knowledge; knowledge of that which is false. Typically, the best we can do in the world is to discover that which is false. The discovery becomes more difficult as the technology develops exponentially. The concomitant of this emerging capacity requires more of us, as citizens. At the same time, the discovery of falsity is as far as even philosophy can go. We can search for “truth”, but the discovery of truth is beyond even philosophy.

      As for the prospect of “going down this road”, if this means being able to prevent the manipulation of facts; that ship has sailed. It sailed before Diogenes was born. The endemic manipulation of everything did not begin with “fake news”. It is everywhere and everywhen. This is axiomatic. Every citizen therefore requires to be questioning of everything; an intuitive sceptic, if not quite a Pyrrhonist. Accept that what you are told or presented may be false, whatever the source (and whether deliberate or not); test it as best you may, and if you discover it is false then form a judgement of its worth. If it is not discovered to be false, it does not necessarily follow that it is true; its “truth” in any case, will in most cases of substance be contingent; and subject to later revision.

      Everything else is window-dressing.

      1. florian albert says:

        ‘the important issue is not that which is fake but knowing it is false’

        When I look at a photograph, I generally assume it to be genuine. (Very occasionally,
        e g if I am looking at photos from Stalin’s Russia, I do not make such an assumption.)
        I strongly suspect that most people do likewise.
        Further, I very often look at a photograph without reading what is written beside it; where it may be identified as a fake.
        Far, far simpler all round to have nothing to do with fake photos and fake news.

        1. John S Warren says:

          What do you mean by “genuine”? How many photographs in the modern media have not been manipulated, ‘photoshopped’, refined, retouched, coloured, distorted, reversed or in some way altered from the “original” (itself a testing concept). When you say it is “far simpler all round to have nothing to do with fake photos and fake news”, this assumes you already know what is “fake”; which of course was exactly the point I was making (you are, in short begging the question). But discovering the fake, in turn, as I suggested, is sometimes very difficult to discover, and it is quite easy to be misled, especially if you are prone to “assume it to be genuine”; so what you readily “assume” may be false. Your first comment was careless; your second seems confused.

          1. florian albert says:

            ‘What do you mean by “genuine”‘ ?

            For starters, something that is not a clear and foolish attempt to confuse and deceive.

            The Scottish left, in decline and on the defensive, rarely misses an opportunity to go into a cul de sac.

            Bella Caledonia prints a fake photograph. Its editor defends this. Your reponse ignores the central fact that this self indulgent behaviour helps condemn the Scottish left to continued irrelevance.

          2. Your just being willfully stupid. As has already been pointed out it was made clear in the second paragraph that the photo was fake, with a link to an article about this.

            In fact the ‘falseness’ was THE point of the article.

            It does nothing to discredit the Scottish left. Stop making a fool of yourself.

  2. Elaine Fraser says:

    Thank God for bella -breathing hope into this sorry mess. Keep up the good work Mike for all our sakes.

  3. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    If free movements ends when the UK leaves the EU, there won’t be any transitional arrangements, as you mentioned in your article.

    The EU stated that the UK would be subject to all EU laws during any transitional period. They also stated that the period would be a maximum of two years!

    Apart from anything else it demonstrates (yet again) the corruption/ineptitude of the MSM.

  4. Alan Findlay says:

    No. 10/11 seem to have more or less agreed the need for a period of transition, to minimise the pain of departure,and acceptance of a Norway type arrangement with the EU as the best of the few longer term options.

    The EU however don’t want to minimise UK pain. and Norway surely does not welcome their current rosy arrangement with the EU to be redefined/dominated by a much bigger/self-centred UK.

    I think Brexit is about to be abandoned.

  5. Gordon bradley says:

    Am I entirely alone in thinking that the pure entertainment value of this fiasco is off the scale already ?
    Our born to rule masters exposed as the shambling, inadequate, incompetent balloons they have always been ? What next ? I can’t wait !

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