On the day after 23rd June

Article in Stretton Focus, August 2016

I found myself writing this piece on 24th June because of holiday dates clashing with the Stretton Focus August copy date, and the words below came to mind. For me, these words resonate with that dramatic morning after, and the strange place we are moving in since the EU referendum:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.
The opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens. Dickens’ tale is of the cities of London and Paris, intertwined in a human story of despair and suffering on the one hand, and prosperity and love on the other. The result of 23rd June in the UK has focussed on what we really have become: a nation divided – many cultures and big questions of what the UK is. There are those who have prospered well for decades, made rich by globalisation, and those who have not shared in this. They feel left out, ignored and are fearful, and they have been for decades. Now, the young join them as the open future of Europe has been stolen from them. Yet in the wider world there is greater misery and suffering, and here at home we still need to offer food banks.
There was a murder, of Jo Cox, a decent, engaged, passionate human, an MP and a mother. She crossed the party divisions in the interests of Syrian Refugees. We may understand more by now, but this cannot be unconnected from our angst as a nation not at ease with itself.
Nor can we, as a nation, fall back now on that familiar rhetoric, ‘in God we trust’, because a large and increasing minority in the nation declare themselves to be of ‘no religion’. Though, the things we have to handle now are of a spiritual nature, what kind of nation shall we be in the world of such instability? What is our vision of humanity and our contribution to its prospering and its respect for the planet? How do we play a leading role in resolving global conflict, suffering, poverty and terror and security in Europe and the world?
These are matters at the spiritual centre of our being, whether religiously or humanly inspired. Can we transcend that self-interest; those old hatreds, fears and divisions that separate and limit us? Can there be a consensus built across our society to value and respect alternative views, to recover progress made in inclusiveness and celebration of diversity?

Noel Beattie

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