Ever since the referendum, the government has been busy foreclosing possibilities. Brexit, we’re told, means Brexit: everything has to mean precisely itself. We are about to become a ‘truly global Britain’, and it should be taken at face value: not Britain within the globe, but a globular, rounded, edgeless Britain, its landscapes groaning and buckling as the corners close in on each other, sealing together, and becoming perfectly round, so you can walk desperately through the fields forever until eventually you come right back to where you started. No way out, and no way in. The entire country has taken on an unspoken nihilist ideology, a constant drizzling hatred for all life. We talk about the burden of migration, having to cope with however many new arrivals, the drain on common resources that each of them represents. In other words, the human being is both excess and negation, something distressingly more than it ought to be, something less than a presence, something that ought not to exist at all. Every person is a void, sucking up food and jobs and healthcare that could have gone to someone else. In a post-industrial society, our dominant economic activity is no longer production but consumption, and politics lacks a language for all the other ways in which any person can add to the world: all it can see is a ravenous jaw and a shitting anus, a despoiler, a locust. A locust can be quantified; a locust can be understood.
There’s a slow and creeping war against the imagination, fought trench by trench, digging in to every open space of meaning and cutting down to the solid self-identities. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty gives no indication of how the notification is actually meant to be delivered; it’s according to whichever constitutional mechanism the country in question chooses. We could have done anything. The British government could have decided to release fifty lions into the streets of Brussels to announce its departure. Fifty MEPs and their clerks could have jumped to their deaths from the European Parliament. At the very least we could have waved an enormous flag from the cliffs of Dover. Instead, with every option available, we chose to write a letter, and have it hand-couriered to Donald Tusk. A glorified invoice. With the dancing lies and tragic deaths of the referendum gone, the national future is now being decided by paperwork. Doors closed, shutters sealed, the stifling spacelessness inside. We communicate through hand-written notes passed through the cracks; the rest of the time, it’s silence, sullen and ungrateful.
How are you meant to create art in a windowless world?