There’s something inherently cathartic about saying the words “home for Christmas“. Telling people that you’re home for the holidays is the equivalent of lighting a log fire, or catching the first smell of a cinnamon-scented candle. It instantly brings closure. Just uttering the words is a four-syllabled sigh of relief. “Home for Christmas“. Ah, the most wonderful time of the year.
Of course, it all changes when you actually get there. It’s Day 2 of being back with your parents and your Mum has already declared war on the Democratic State of You due to glass hoarding she deems excessive. I don’t see what the problem is. We have at least 15 glasses to share between a house of four people. I currently have two of those on my bedside table. As far as Mum’s concerned, though, I might as well be meth that I’m stashing. “Not under this roof, you selfish little junkie.”
That’s not all, though. This trip also happens to be the first time I’ve visited my hometown since the result of the EU Referendum. I’m from a place in Nottinghamshire named Kirkby Woodhouse. It’s shit, but in an endearing, sentimental kind of way. Hometowns are rarely ever perfect, but you love them because their yours. Kirkby belongs to the constituency of Ashfield, a voting area that secured the 11th strongest Leave total, with almost 70% of voters opting in favour of leaving the European Union in June. Its nearest major town, Mansfield, belongs to the 8th highest Leave constituency. For Gove, Johnson and co, it was a part of the country that was ripe for the picking.
Arriving back there after six months, nothing had changed. It was pretty much how I’d left it. It still looked how home should look, still smelt how home should smell. But there was something a little off; something not quite right. I can’t have been the only one experiencing a similar feeling. When Ashfield declared – overwhelmingly – for leave, I felt betrayed. To me, it was inconceivable. “That’s not what I want, you can’t do that“. Well, they can. And they did.
It’s this kind of subconscious arrogance that fuels the very problem with current socio-political climates. I – like the rest of those who fell onto the Remain side of the debate – assume that these towns owe us something. If we tell them that it’s good, they’ll follow suit. It doesn’t work like that, though. If you leave parts of the country to fend for themselves for years, starving them of industry, opportunity, social welfare and – on the most basic of levels – genuine dialogue, there’s a chance that the feeling of alienation will grow into something closer resembling resentment. The Westminster bubble is the most insular of notions; it isn’t just a case of a small cohort of possessing power, it’s a case of a small cohort of people possessing any kind of identifiable relevance at all.
So, when I return home, like the prodigal son I perceive myself to be, and express a sad and angry disbelief at the area’s decision, I’m thinking exactly how the ruling classes have thought for the past 30-40 years. If you discard a cohort, class or culture of people and do absolutely nothing to discourage such social isolation, what do you think they’re going to when they’re finally given an opportunity to claw back some kind of agency? Especially, when the lizard men start throwing around phrases like “Take back control“. It’s not just a situation exclusive to myself, either. All over the country, distant, rural, forgotten areas are staging a fightback. It’s happening on a worldwide scale, too – just look at the US Election and the rust belt. A platform that has been patented by the metropolitan elite is being seized and redistributed on a phenomenal scale. The influence of the cities is thinning, the voice of the outsiders is growing.
It’s a new era of politics, that makes for a new era of thinking. Brexit was the beginning, while Trump’s victory was the next domino to fall in a chain of protest actions. Most people aren’t crying out for anti-immigrant rhetoric, isolationism, or a wall. They’re just crying out to be noticed. It’s time we started listening.
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Words by Niall Flynn