In Democracy, someone who fails to get elected can always console himself with the thought that there was something not quite fair about it!
A film evolves into true art when it contains scenes that convey strong and clear messages. This is definitely the case with “The Remains of the Day”, a novel turned into a film in 1993 and which I watched in late 90s. The movie is about the life of Mr. Stevens, a suppressed but highly devoted butler impersonated impeccably by Anthony Hopkins. Mr. Stevens is in the service of the British Lord Darlington whose mansion is frequented by diplomats and government officials during the 30s. One of the main reasons why I deem this film a piece of art, and why I still remember it, is because of a scene where one of the lord’s high guests, a gentleman called Mr. Spencer, decides to make a point with the involuntary assistance of Darlington’s butler.
Mr. Spencer asks Mr. Stevens to answer three complex questions. Interestingly, all of them pertain to global politics intertwined with currency and trade policies. The butler, who hardly understands the questions, apologises politely to his master’s guest and says that he is unable to be of assistance. Then a self-complacent Mr. Spencer addresses his company and wonders how wise is a system which relies on the opinion of millions of citizens who, like Mr. Stevens, lack the basic knowledge in economic and political affairs.
The thing that caused the memory of this scene to surface from the back of my mind is the way my social media communities have been reacting to the result of the British referendum, which, to avoid any misunderstandings, I also perceive as being against common sense and my personal interest. But regardless of the implications of the British vote, it is quite interesting to observe that Mr. Spencer’s mentality has become a recurrent theme on Facebook and Twitter recently. This is more than apparent when one sees how Bremain supporters try to ridicule the majority and portray Brexit voters as ignorant, uneducated and thus quasi-unfit to cast a ballot. Or when they celebrate the areas and the urban centres which favoured the IN vote and call for the cessation(!) of the pro-EU bastions from the UK. Hope everybody can contemplate the hyperbole of the London-Exit demand. Another interesting story is the Petition for a new referendum on the notion that the turnout was not big enough. It is quite funny that the petitioners want to appear as the guardians of the law when it is pretty sure that the same people would hardly start and sign such a petition if Bremain had prevailed with the same turnout. It is crystal clear that all these initiatives aim to the reversal of the recent vote and the question which one has to answer how ethical and moral is this.
For the history, neither Mr. Spencer, nor Mr. Steven’s master were the good guys. On the contrary, they were the film’s villains whose supposed sound knowledge on economic and political affairs led them to become Nazi sympathisers and sponsor Chamberlain’s appeasement policy. Furthermore, Mr. Spencer’s argument was exactly what the nobility of the 19th century claimed in order to impede the widening of the suffrage. In this light, I find both embarrassing and peculiar that members of the most educated generation to date adopt a behaviour that lends credence to an anachronistic mentality.
But alas, democratic choices are neither always right, nor beyond criticism. Greek philosophers and historians have made that point millennia before the beaten Bremain camp. Thucydides describes a number of occasions where the popular assembly of Athens was deceived by demagogues and embarked on catastrophic schemes. For his part, Plato rejected Democracy which he identified with “Mob”-ocracy and favoured Polity, a system where the state was run by its most educated and brilliant members. But since Plato’s time no human society has managed to define who are its most educated and brilliant members. And the next best thing to Polity is Democracy. And it should not be omitted that Democracy is not only about free and fair elections, but it is also about respect of the majority’s will and freedom of speech and expression.
The brilliant and educated supporters of the Bremain camp do not seem to act, strictly speaking, in a democratic manner. They seem preoccupied with an effort to annul the Brexit vote. I do not know if they will succeed in their endeavour. Given their skills, expertise and the fact that they are very well placed in the economic and political establishment, they should not be dismissed lightly. However, my humble opinion is that this is not the best reaction. The most educated and tolerant British generation to date should, before anything else, show the necessary respect to the result of the referendum. In a broader level, it should prove its skills by fostering a mutually beneficial deal between the UK and the EU. Moreover, instead of looking down to the farmers and blue-collar worker who rejected the EU, it should try to understand their grievances and finally see that while some were enjoying the benefits of the Grand European Project, some others in the countryside were simply paying the fees.
Finally and foremost, the most educated and tolerant British generation to date should work with its counterparts in Europe, America, Africa and Asia and deal with the global social question. Unlike the beginning of the 19th century, today the existing wealth combined with the immense technological progress suffice to alleviate the miseries of billions of people who were as unlucky as to be born not simply in the British countryside, but in war-torn and extreme poverty-stricken areas. All these people can be saved and a new far better world can be built within a few decades. The only thing that is needed is a smart plan and a bunch of creative and determined guys to implement it. The enlightened youth of the 21st century is clearly up for the task and it merely needs to prove its reputation. I know this is a bit more difficult shot than reversing the Brexit vote, but this has always been the …downside of lofty projects.
See you soon