The Word Rabbit

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This article was written on 29 Mar 2017, and is filled under Uncategorised.

Lubeck and the idiocy of Article 50

Today sees Theresa May submit the letter signalling the decision by her government to invoke Article 50 and withdraw from the European Union. It also sees the anniversary of the RAF’s raid on the German port city of Lubeck. One is a letter, the other a vicious act of warfare, so any comparison between the two would be facile and intellectually shallow, but in fearfully pulling away from a community of nations, the Government have shown at a stroke that they are not prepared to heed the lessons of what happened when one nation stopped talking to others.

Even by Air Chief Marshal Harris’ estimation, Lubeck was not a hugely important target and nor was it defended like one, which gave the attacking bombers, who flew overhead on a moonlit night, the perfect opportunity to destroy it. When they had finished, several thousand people had been made homeless and large areas of the city had been set on fire due to the use of incendiaries, a tactic which would have grave implications for Dresden a few years later. The raid was part of the RAF dropping any pretence that it could target industrial installations with any accuracy and instead try to affect the morale of German civilians by… well, by killing them in large numbers.

There were other Lubecks during the war, often with a steadily rising death toll, until the Allied air forces, because the Americans got involved as well, were bombing rubble. To fly over a German city in the months after the war was often to fly over a wasteland that was dotted with half-collapsed facades of buildings and abject people reduced to beggary. Such is what happens when you stop talking and rely on a bellicose national chauvinism to be your guiding star. For Germany, the Jews and sundry other supposed ‘undesirables’ were to blame for its ills, while for the Brexiters it’s the EU. Neither is right and, in Lubeck as with other German cities, we can see why.

When you stop talking, you show that you are not interested in understanding. When you put people into camps, as this Government is doing, you create an ‘other,’ to which people can be added entirely at your discretion. Ill people, old people, people who need benefits, people who need love and understanding. And when you close the doors, as this Government is also trying to do, desperately, you divide humanity into people who are worth your time and people who are not. All things that the Nazis did too, of course, but those are perhaps not comparisons that May and her Cabinet of placemen want to hear.

Lubeck shows where the road that May is standing on will lead if it is followed to its logical conclusion and when a country becomes too bestial to be tolerated. I don’t think anything like this will happen here and am fairly sure that we aren’t about to see Birmingham destroyed from the air, but we will see devastation of a different kind. Living standards will drop, of course, people will lose jobs, work and opportunities and all the roads not travelled will never be travelled at all. This is all so that some people, mainly old people or stupid people, can have a blue passport. They’re not bothered about people who want to do business with Europe or who might want to study there because these things are alien to them. They don’t, so you shouldn’t.

The devastation, then, will generally be private. It will be felt in individual lives and homes across the country, either indirectly through chances not taken, which is perhaps the most painful, or the ending of opportunities and work. While Lubeck was blown apart with explosives, our lives will feel the force of inertia and subside more slowly. Of course, for May and her cohorts, this will not be the case, as they are already moneyed and have no reason to fear the future. Their children go to private schools, they have private healthcare and they have no reason to fear the job market as they are already rewarded handsomely by their friends. We can tell a different story, of course, but then we don’t matter.

It took Lubeck years to regenerate itself and there is a sculpture there called, I think, ‘The Mother’ which shows a grieving figure. She could be grieving for anything and is as much the repository for the viewer’s grief as the sculptor’s, but to me it means the end of possibility and the end of hope which feels, right now, pretty fitting.

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