It feels as if some unseen force is stirring a cauldron of emotions that would burst into conflict were it not controlled by the convention of the ballot box. Perhaps the frostiness of the winter world outside acts as a constraint. A stone’s throw away from here is a church hall. The door is open, the voting booths ready.
There was a full moon last night. It shimmered in the frosty light throwing grey, indistinct shadows reminding me of the witches – without their chant – from Macbeth. Unsettling portents.
In this indistinct state of mind, my thoughts are sinking into what might be called ‘history’. As a child, history is studied as a time apart from one’s own, distinct, contained understood even if argued about. Recently I heard it defined as any time up to fifty years ago, so a large number of living people are, according to this definition, already part of history.
There is much mischief and meddling hiding inside the internet to manipulate the election happening while I am writing this in the United Kingdom of Great Britain, and little knowledge of history, let alone memory. Winston Churchill is remembered as one of the leaders who won the last World War, but not as the politician with the vision to see that peace could only survive if the nations of Europe co-operated and traded with the rules they had all had a part in creating – a level playing field – while still retaining their historical identity. It was a high aim, but not beyond reach as time has shown. Europe has never lived through such a long and prosperous period of peace.
So what price peace?
Much mischief is going on behind the scenes with huge sums of money supporting the Leave or Brexit campaign – no level playing field. By some magic, outside the level playing field of our nearest neighbours in the most prosperous trading block in the world, we are told that this time we shall prosper, even though we will have to pay tariffs to trade with them. Is this midwinter madness? Perhaps. Anyone over the age of fifty is part of history and might just remember the 1960s when mini-skirts shocked the old brigade. But the reality behind the fun was that, outside the post-war European tariff-free trading block, Britain had slipped after the end of the war and rationing to become known as ‘the poor man of Europe’. That gradually changed after 1973 when Britain entered the European Union, prospered and became a leading voice in a free trading block of 450 million. Outside the European Union, Britain will have no say in its future and most probably will sail back to before the 1707 Act of Union when England and Wales united with Scotland to become the United Kingdom of Great Britain. An independent Scotland will stay in the European Union and Hadrian’s Wall will again mark the divide between Scotland and England, Wales and Northern Ireland – that is until it joins with the southern part of the island and enters the European Union as well. So England and Wales, shorn of the northern territory and the island to their west in the Atlantic will stand proud – and alone. Fifty years on when these crucial elections today are history, how shall we be seen – and judged – as history?