An island lost at sea: the future of British identity
It’s been less than a week, and already the tempestuous sea is lashing the hull of our small ship; a ferocious Easterly wind has cast us adrift, sending us off course and into the unknown. We did have some charts, but we lost them – or they’ve become useless because of those damned rain clouds. We’re scrambling for the sails, dashing for the railings and holding on tight, cursing the man next to us for being complicit in this doomed endeavour. Our captain set sail with us, sure, but he disappeared at the last port – something to do with omens in the sky, and not buying into the whole captain-down-with-ship rubbish.
We set out knowing who we were. Bobbing along calm currents, the horizon held promise: known seas, established trade routes brimming with pioneering vessels and a world of foreign and exotic destinations at our finger tips. Our friends even told us who we were; we were Britain, and we mattered. Now lost in this darkness, only the beating tide keeps our company, and brother turns on brother in matters of blame.
Identities are formed by those around us. When we have no neighbour to call friend, we cannot know ourselves. So it’s fair to say, Britain is pretty clueless to who she is. Never before in modern memory have we had such a crisis of consciousness, an irreconcilable fracturing of our past, present and future. We’ve split from the EU, but we’ve also split from who we are. And within this identity crisis, the younger generation have suffered the most. Prior to the election, older generations spoke often and nostalgically of Britain’s greatness, in a tableau of fanciful tales that painted the picture of a once-magnificent Britain, whose purity must be preserved.
Meanwhile, millennials, as the generation of travellers, think upon their friends overseas, and imagine a Britain of virtual walls, obscuring the colours of the world at large. The heart of Britain has been split down the middle. In this game of tug of war, nationalist sentiment has prevailed, but at the cost of the fallen and disheartened future generations who will ultimately be left to pay the price. We’ve sought to preserve Britain’s past at the cost of its future; for the nostalgia of Great Britain, the young generation are faced with an existence bound by uncertainty, forever incensed by the actions of those that came before.
The pound has nosedived, as predicted, and global stock markets are still reeling from the effects of Brexit, coupled with ongoing uncertainty and endless question marks. But far greater than any economic damage, is the loss of cultural adhesive that once tied us together. Self-doubt makes us vulnerable, and steers us further towards calamity. Our political establishment is unravelling at the seams; the sense of loss and doubt is unparalleled, with a nation of blank faces and wordless sighs, too disheartened and broken to even begin plotting the course ahead.
There’s regret on all sides. We didn’t do enough, or we were misled. Until the reasons for our decision become apparent, our identity will be in limbo. We now have to retrace ourselves, and overcome the economic divisions that have blinded us on all sides. Politically, we have no neighbours or friends; nobody is about to reaffirm to the British who they are, or what their future will look like. The disconnect between the old and young has thrown Britain into a middle ground; we were neither completely Remain or Leave, and the hesitation to pull the trigger on Article 50 will show the extent of our self-doubt, and half the nation’s inability to reconcile what we’ve done. Talk of acceptance is, for now, null. Either the reasons for our actions will eventually become apparent, or future generations will remain haunted by Britain’s increasingly ignominious past. Remember that kid in class that threw tantrums and you never let him forget, no matter how many years had passed? We’re now that kid.