Brexit Throws Down The Gauntlet For Confronting Deep Social Divisions

A piece of mine on the recent Brexit vote has just been published over on Political Theology Today.

Britain’s vote to leave the European Union is a social earthquake that will define the next generation of politics in this country.

It has exposed the deep divisions between Scotland and England, the young and the old, London and the rest of England, cosmopolitans and provincials, non-White British and White British, progressives and social conservatives, etc. Although all of these issues were bubbling beneath the surface for some time, now we have a form of open ‘culture war’ on our hands.

The challenge that it reveals is that of finding a way to share a nation between people who have profoundly different visions about what it means to be British—or a member of one of the UK’s constituent nations—and for our destiny within the world.

Amidst the triumphalism and the recriminations, the demonization and dismissal of persons on the opposing camps, we must begin to wrestle with deeply conflicting values and priorities among well-meaning people in our nation, values and priorities that often correspond to radically different ways of life, forms of community and senses of place that our nation sustains.

Read the whole thing here.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Culture, Economics, Guest Post, In the News, Politics, Society. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Brexit Throws Down The Gauntlet For Confronting Deep Social Divisions

  1. quinnjones2 says:

    Another great article, Alastair, and I think that your title and introduction strike right at the root of the problem. I voted remain, and was hoping that remain might win by a slender majority. When that did not happen I was in shock at first, especially given the high percentage of leave voters in our constituency, North Warwickshire, and in Nuneaton and Coventry, where several of my friends and family members live. A friend pointed out yesterday that, even if remain had won by a slender majority, we would still have been confronted with the fact that the country is deeply divided.
    Thank you for developing your points in such a balanced way, and with such wisdom.

  2. mnpetersen37 says:

    This was really good.

    While this is an important point, it can easily be forgotten that a country is an intergenerational bequest. Older voters have invested so much more of their lives in our country and completely merit their say in its future destiny. While younger voters may be more preoccupied with their immediate interests and futures, older voters may often be more concerned about securing the legacy of their own and previous generation’s sacrifices for the country.

    I came across this quote from Rosenstock-Huessy (given in 1968) yesterday that makes a very similar point

    I came on the plane here from Vermont. And on this plane there was a very, very reverend. And he was a college president…His students had a discussion with him, and they couldn’t understand each other very well. And he suddenly burst forth and said to them, “You can’t understand me. What do I care for your present-day question? I’m only interested in 1980, what this college shall be like 12 years from now. And you only think how to get your exam.”

    I thought that was a very profound remark. You think that you are younger and that I am old. And therefore you are related to the future quite mechanically, so to speak. You can’t help getting old.

    Now this president, however, said to the young, “You are in a hurry. You only want to know what the next course is, and what the next exam is. That doesn’t help me. I have to know what will happen in 1980 with this college. Will I then have achieved what should be achieved? I don’t care what is today, and I don’t care what is tomorrow.”

    Isn’t that a strange sequence, that the old man has to look to the far-flung future, and that you people who, sitting here, thinking you are much younger than I, are much more obsolete? What you want now is an exam, and a degree, and a — perhaps a wife…but a reasonable man of my age, my dear people, has no interest in tomorrow. But I have a great interest in the day after tomorrow, in the century after tomorrow

    So it isn’t as simple as you think, that the young are interested in the far-flung future, and the old are — as of the moment. It’s just the other way around. You are only interested in the moment of this college.

  3. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    (the manifold falsehoods, misrepresentations, inaccuracies, and distortions of the Leave campaign were an especially concerning feature of the referendum)

    I seriously doubt this. I would suggest we’ve merely gotten used to the lies etc. of the mainstream elites.The problem is that we’re in an “all lies all the time” media environment.

  4. cal says:

    I left this comment on the original post, but thought I’d transfer it over for discussion/additional comment:

    Of course, the other end of this question is that Britain remains firmly in tie with the USA. Since WW2 cemented Britain’s place as junior in the Anglo-American “special relationship”, Britain is a kind of proxy through which the US influences European politics (though not its only one nor its most influential). A British economy unmoored from Europe might gravitate closer and closer to the US orbit. Perhaps many older Britons do not realize they are not the England of the Empire, but are merely a satellite (though a powerful and influential one). This is a tough day for Britain, as it might become rent by the hurricane it unleashed. If Britain is to hang in, it needs a deGaulle to chart a passage that remains connected, but not a pawn. Unfortunately, the growing influence of Nigel Farage bodes ill.

    At this juncture, Britain is only as strong as the US allows it. And if the EU offers a competitive alternative to US hegemony, this might be the crack that might break the EU’s ability to negotiate its place between the US and Russia, bleeding members through the years. I don’t know. Perhaps even if Britain appears weak that Irish dreams of a fully independent Ireland might return and the Troubles might be upon us once again, especially if a fully united Ireland is combined with an offer of a return to Europe.

    Anyway, this was a good post. Thought I’d add in my 2 pence,

  5. quinnjones2 says:

    Thank you, Alastair, for your link: ‘Why a Brexit may have been inevitable’. I think this is an enlightening commentary which places recent events in the context of the history of Britain, with special focus on her relationship with Europe, and with France in particular. I will just comment on one element of this piece:

    ‘We (Brits) don’t wait for the leadership to make decisions for us, but they allow us to decide.’

    There is a suggestion here of a national character and, much though I don’t like to generalise, I think that we Brits do have a national character, which is probably rooted in our history and our geography. I have been mindful in the past week or so of words said by a German lecturer at a summer course I attended in Bonn University in 1964. He was talking about the division between East and West Germany and he said that he hoped there would never again be a united Germany, because he thought a united Germany could result in a fourth Reich. His main reason for saying this was this :’Die Deutschen sind Massenleute.’ He said that the German masses followed Hitler like sheep, and he feared another dictatorship if Germany were to become strong and united again. He then commented that he did not think that there would ever be a dictatorship in Britain because ‘Die Englaender haben persoenlichen Mut’ – ‘The English* have personal courage.’ I am inclined to agree with him and, much though I am shaken by all the fallout from the Brexit vote, it is a reassuring reminder that we are independent thinkers, and not like sheep! Long live the dispute!
    I have followed with great interest all the commentaries on this, and I have just one comment for Cal – no, Britannia does not rule the waves any more – but she has certainly rocked the boat 🙂

    * Many Germans I met did not seem to differentiate between English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh, and tended to refer to us all as English – they are having to differentiate now 🙂

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