When soft is hard

When soft is hard

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is about to discover that you can be friendly with two wives, you can be kind to two wives, you can even receive forgiveness from two wives but you cannot be married two wives at the same time. That is what he has been given for his homework as Prime Minister. One the one hand a United Kingdom Customs Union to prove our oneness. On the other hand a ‘soft border’ with the European Union in Ireland to prove our loyalty to the peace between Eire and Northern Ireland. I’ll push the analogy no further.

Boris Johnson has to, however. His remit is to get divorced from the EU but maintain a fragile peace in a beautiful country that was torn with strife over whose belief was best. Now he’s effectively proposing double borders. That will be a hard pill for EU to swallow.

It may seem strange that a belief should be so demanding. The evidence worldwide is that belief is a tougher nut than ethnicity, prejudice, economic discrimination or war. It says much about our education systems that they have often neglected to teach harmony and cooperation in favour of dogma. It says even more about the development of our brains that we accept it.

Now the issue of Brexit is coming to (another) head. The feelings are strong – as strong as those feelings were in Ireland during the troubles. As strong as are the feelings in Hong Kong, that exciting erstwhile colony on the brink of disaster. As strong as the faiths that divide Arabs and Israelis. You can follow this trail for a long time without coming across a school that teaches tolerance. It’s as though believers are trying to be Gods. And why not?

It’s why we set people up in positions where they can be good examples and act as guides to behaviour. Our politicians are there to establish, maintain and develop the culture of a country, a city, a province or a parish. Culture is not exclusively the prerogative of leaders; it is the responsibility and putty of everyone in the culture. Our leaders are there to guide us, to describe a culture they think we would like to have. We then vote a sign as to whether we broadly agree with them, or not. Having done so we should let them get on with it.

There is much in the present Brexit situation that is wrong. Anger about facts, palpable wickedness and abuse of all sorts is righteous anger. Even this anger should be rigorously controlled because, by itself, it does nothing except raise blood pressures. Anger about beliefs, on the other hand, is not righteous. It is arrogant. It assumes a superiority that is only allowable to a God. If humans want to be the Gods I believe they can be, they must earn it.

It is difficult to be calm about the issue of Brexit. Even I believe passionately that leaving the European Union, with all its faults, is a dangerous and impractical step. But I recognise that it is only my belief. The data to prove my point have not yet been written, indeed, will not be written for another generation. It is of twenty-five years from now that I think. It is of those for whom a friendship with Continental Europeans will be a prerequisite in a joined-up world. It is for peace and reason to be the basis of human behaviour. It is to prevent dissention.

A bad leader gets himself into complexities from which he cannot escape. So it is with Boris Johnson. His personal culture is unacceptable as a guide to how we all should behave. His political nouce is the plan of the hit man not the plan of a statesman. His priorities appear solely personal self-aggrandisement. His considerable ability to interact personably is abused to the point of wickedness. Whether Johnson wins a Brexit or not, he must go. He is the black hole in our lives.

Parliament must now make a hard decision to be soft in its negotiations with the European Union. The bitterness of WWII is still there albeit greatly reduced. The Little England concept dies hard. A cosy corner of the world where the flowers grow because the climate is acceptable for them is a myth long since exploded. Join the world or you are left with the stragglers.

Power brings gentleness. Might is exercised by calm and reason.

If Britain leaves the world it will diminish until it has less relevance than a dead coral reef.

We must fight for the right not to fight. It is the only way to go.