Imagine an asteroid is going to hit in a year’s time.
This asteroid has been on its way for a year. Its trajectory is well known. The asteroid will hit hard.
There are many predictions about the ruin it will cause. It’s easy to calculate. It’s a matter of mathematics. Common sense, accountancy and science all agree.
But what about the people? The people who are going to be hit by this asteroid. What are they doing, one year before it hits?
Wouldn’t you assume that they would be somewhat worried, or upset? Wouldn’t you think that they would be trying to find ways to protect themselves? To change the flight path of the asteroid? To stop it, if possible?
You might well think that. But you would be entirely wrong.
The people who are going to be hit by the asteroid sit around complacently, mostly on their hands. They don’t even talk much about the asteroid although they can see it when they look up.
This is the scenario I saw on Brexit Day, or 29 March 2018, as I was doing the rounds of the Brexit and Anti-Brexit events in London.
At one event, in a nice new conference centre right next to Parliament Square, all the high end British speakers (academics, politicians, high end civil servants, journalists, you name it) displayed unruffled comfort under the shadow of the impending asteroid, leaning back and smiling. The only person who showed any sense of urgency was the only non-British European. He was the only one who pointed at the asteroid, shouting: do something! That thing is going to hit you!
The rest kept sitting on their hands and smiling. Looking at the foreigner sideways, shaking their heads. He’s disturbing our complacency.
But, in reality, action is extremely urgent. Because, while it is true that the Brexit asteroid will hit in one year’s time, we only have until October to stop it. That’s because all the EU countries will have to ratify the leaving agreement of the UK – yes, even with the so-called transition phase.
That leaves five months.
Five months until the point of no return.
The asteroid is hanging directly over our heads, accelerating every second. And yet, apart from that one EU foreigner, everyone is still sunning themselves under a clear blue sky, ignoring the vast black rift the asteroid is already cutting into it.
I felt sick with anxiety, watching this. I wanted to shake all the handsitters, shouting: do something do something do something NOW!
And the worst thing is, they are the ones who can change Brexit, the ones with the power and the influence and the access to do something. But they don’t.
All the time I was sitting there I thought: what is this that I’m seeing? What kind of trance-like bubble am I looking into?
And then it hit me: It’s a scene from a surreal, nightmarish pre-school play.
For an endless moment, the children frolic around on a threadbare carpet of pseudo-grass. A sun and a sky are painted on the backdrop. They look as if they’ve been there forever, although they are, of course, only painted. But the children do their best to believe in them.
And then, that backdrop splits. I imagine it with a sound like ripping fabric. A tiny sound first, a tiny hole, then growing. Soon there is a slit in the backdrop, then the lower part of the sky drops down.
As it flaps onto the stage, the asteroid is revealed. It’s big, it’s ugly and it’s coming towards us with a big rush.
But the kids can’t hear it. They can’t see the rift in the canvas. They frolic as before. They sing little songs with their fragile little voices. They sit on their hands.
Then one boy, who has wandered in from the street, climbs up on the stage. He sees the rift immediately. He hears the roar from outer space. As he points toward it, we can all hear it too. Except the children on the stage.
The boy waves his hands, he jumps up and down, he shouts. The children look at him, shaking their heads disapprovingly. He disturbs the music. “An asteroid! An asteroid!” The children turn away and smile. What can you expect from a foreigner?
I wonder if they will have time to get up when the asteroid hits the stage.🔷