Irrational nationalism demands that we rebuild our sense of shared truthby Lyndsey Stonebridge / June 5, 2017 / Leave a comment
We will build a wall made up of policies and immigration controls, of numbers in the “tens of thousands.” Once erected, it will fortify a landscape of faintly dappled Britishness, in which children will play, and nurses will once again wear caps that make them look like angels.
Theresa May probably really does believe that it is possible to build a “cohesive society” by reducing annual net migration to “the tens of thousands.” It is in her manifesto, where she also promises to ‘bear down’ on non-EU migrants. Many people—including all university vice chancellors, the CBI and the Institute of Directors and, allegedly, some of her cabinet—think not. Even the laziest of PPE undergraduates will tell you that the economic consequences of an arbitrary, uncosted, setting of migration figures are probably not going to be good. Some are asking when taking back control came to mean signing up to the numerological fantasies of a suicide cult.
Fantasy is precisely what we need to understand here. We’ve underestimated the strength of fantasy in our political culture over the past year. Throwing reason at blatant unreason has proved as effective as smashing rotten tomatoes at a blank wall. Reason is not sticking. This isn’t just about falsehoods and fake news. It is about a limen of unreason that has got into our democracy and is putting one of its core principles to the test: reasoned consent to government.
Tony Blair popped up early in the election campaign to argue, not unreasonably, that the public needed educating about what is true about migration and what is deluded. This is what rational democracies do: they make sure everyone knows enough about important things to have an opinion. In the magic kingdom, this seems unlikely to work as a strategy. The fantasy knitting together the dream of ‘social cohesion’ is too strong: numbers, meaning people, must be controlled. “We will, therefore, continue to bear down on immigration…”
We have been here before, in this twilight zone, where borders are believed to keep people safe, delusions turn brutal and democracies falter. In the years before the last century’s refugee ‘crisis’ turned genocidal, Europe witnessed an unprecedented…