Tuesday

“Brexit: An Uncivil Debate” reviewed


Review of the cultural, spiritual and healing potential of the drama: “Brexit: An Uncivil Debate”.

The fractious malaise of current times, underpinned by a lack of valuing and cultivating the skills of cross-tribe dialogue, action planning and review is the last thing I wish to perpetuate in reviewing the pithy drama: “Brexit: An Uncivil Debate”. It doesn’t even matter to me whether the key individual dramatised as the well-spring of the “leave” result, Dominic Cummings, was accurately portrayed. I do not wish to write about Benedict Cumberbatch’s acting for modern media is over-obsessed with actors etc rather than unfolding the themes to get at the underlying values and then holding these values up to the light of the standard of the highest an individual can become, which, for me, as a Buddhist, is a Buddha. First one needs to become a “true individual” and James Graham‘s drama was foremost for me a plausible account of what happened behind the scenes of the Brexit vote, showing the immense impact a “true individual” can make; in this case summarised as “the largest political upset since the fall of the Berlin Wall”.

I could just cut to the chase now and show that what we need for healing are more Dominics. I refer you to the work in Brazil etc of my friend Dominic Barter, recognised in the “Radical Efficiency” report as one of ten project leaders whose projects have cut through the conventional state/politician-led ways of working and found cheaper, more effective ways of working. Dominic Barter and Dominic Cummings (as portrayed in James Graham’s drama) are, for me, both archetypal examples of the application of the key concept in Stephen Covey’s culminating work, which added a third dimension to his previous blockbuster of living and working from deep spiritual values (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People). Covey’s swansong work was “The Eigth Habit”, which all too gliby can be summarised as “Find Your Voice and Help Others Find Theirs”. For me, this ideology of how to empower people was the strapline underpinning the drama “Brexit: An Uncivil Debate”. The tragedy of what happens when people rally round the concept of “Take Back Control” only to have Westminster politics undermine the kind of Brexit they had mythologised was the closing of this drama (set in 2020, when Dominic  was being held to account in a fictional Independent Review of the Referrendum); and the rolling of the credits was preceeded by endnotes on Cambridge Analytica and another company engaged in “creative data use”(my phrase, seeking a better one), the funders and the election of Donald Trump.

 To enhance this review, I may well follow the link to watch the programme on Channel 4 and pull out the quote from Dominic about how poor a form of politics a Referendum is, as it creates a false ‘black and white’, polarising much more nuanced matters to be worked through collectively. If you are watching the programme, I’d be grateful for your pulling this out, for me.

One of the compliments I value most highly in my 3.5 year relationship with my partner, who, like me, is not ashamed to declare her vote as having been Remain, as she sat watching Dominic ‘own’ the managing board that was attempting to sack him is that few people could handle a meeting like that but that I was the only person my partner knew who could do what Dominic did in this meeting; no spoiler alerts needed –but watch it if you ever intend to plan a coup or make any difference in the world (#Textbook).
What I take away from a night reflecting on this drama is the importance for healing dialogue of engaging respectfully with that theme that galvanised so many, and for which "Europe" (however understood) was just a symbol: Take Back Control. My intention dialoguing with Brexit voters is to talk more about the wish for and techniques of community empowerment. As for dialogues with the "rabble rousers", some as bizarre to me as Jacob Rees Mogg (to whom I was simply polite on my last encounter), I'm wondering how they can be spoken to more effectively in service of "Good Will To All Men"? (NB It was Christmas Day when I had my poignant hour with Jacob Rees Mogg…)

The Buddhist movement to which I belong runs retreats entitled  “What the World Needs Now”, all of which arrive –spoiler alert- at a very different answer to John Lydon in his song with the same title. The political and economic (& dare I say ecological/spiritual) upheaval indicated by the Brexit vote has decades to run its course (which fits nicely alongside my plug to focus your energies as I attempt to on http://2066.info). My greatest of many mentors, Sangharakshita, effectively said that what we need are whole communities of “true individuals”, more Dominic Cummingses and Dominic Barters etc etc, not less: Look up on FreeBuddhistAudio.com “Evolution or Extinction?” and absorb and live this template for how we get out of this Brexit / Climate Change / power in the hands of e.g. Donald Trump, Vladimir Putins... Once this teaching is observed, and it will take decades, my greatest fear is voiced well in the Leonard Cohen “First We Take Manhattan”:

“You know the way to stop me, but you don’t have the discipline”.