Quotes: Bewildering Self-Harm

Today in the Brexit saga,

“Kent is going full steam ahead with its contingency plans to prevent gridlock on its roads in the event of congestion in Dover or Calais.

Concrete barriers have already been erected on the main port artery in Kent, with a section of the London-bound M20 between junction 8 and junction 9 now operating as a 50mph contraflow for normal traffic. Work on signage will be completed over the weekend.

The coastbound section will be closed off to all but lorry traffic from next week to allow Highways England to carry out a dry run to cope with possible chaos after 11pm on 29 March.”

Also,

“Manston airport near Ramsgate is in the final stages of preparation for use as a lorry park for up to 6,000 heavy goods vehicles in the event of gridlock.

Councillors will also hear from adult social care and health officers who have plans to minimise the risk of disruption to admissions of patients to hospitals, residential care homes and the supply of fuel, medication, cleaning and sanitation products.

Schools have also been issued with Brexit guidelines warning them to think twice before closing down in the event that staff cannot make it through the gridlock.”

From UK’s emergency plans for no-deal Brexit begin to be put into action in The Guardian.

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Michael Hirsh writes elsewhere today that

“Britain’s humiliation has been a powerful lesson for even the most virulent populists and nationalists within the EU, rendering the idea of full exit all but unthinkable, a new political third rail.”

That may be wishful thinking, for also today, across the channel and just up the road, comes news that Far-right Forum for Democracy wins most seats in Dutch provincial elections.

Interesting times.

Quotes: Speeches of the Elite

John Lanchester from his new book, The Wall:

“I fell for a moment into a reverie, a kind of guided dream, in which I imagined baby members of the elite being born from chrysalises, already wearing their shiny suits, their ties pre-knotted, their first clichés already on their lips, being wiped down of cocoon matter and pushed toward a podium, ready to make their first big speech, spout their first platitude, lose their virginity at lying. They’d be made to do that before they were given any food or drink or comfort, just to make sure it was the thingthey knew first and best, the think that came most naturally.”

Quotes: Carry That Weight

My due diligence for a trip to southeast Asia has taken me down an obscure path. Exploring French efforts to regain their Indochinese colony after WWII has led me to Theodore White’s Fire in the Ashes: Europe in Mid Century. Teddy White went on to write the Making of the President series of books starting with the 1960 Kennedy election, books that made his career.

He started his book with a lengthy description of intercontinental air travel because then, few people had had that experience. He wrote, “in our years almost as many men cross the great ocean by wings as travel it by boat,” revealing not only a no longer acceptable sexism (“men” cross the ocean) but also that when the book came out in 1953, more people still traveled across the Atlantic by ship.

But the quote I mean to highlight comes a few pages later:

“It is obvious that new leadership in both America and Russia is now wrenching the whole course of world affairs into new patterns and perspectives. What is less obvious is that in this wrenching process Europe, forgotten through the postwar years as a factor in power, must contribute as greatly as either of the two new titans.”

The Americans have urged the Europeans to take more responsibility for their own defense for as long as I’ve been grown up. Here is an exhortation to Europe to rise up and carry its weight in world affairs that is sixty-six years old.

People Are Losing Their Minds

“Therefore there has to be an argument, doesn’t there, that says instead of Dublin telling this country (The United Kingdom) that we have to stay in the single market etc within the customs union, why doesn’t Dublin, why doesn’t the Republic of Ireland leave the EU and throw in their lot with this country?”

 

– BBC Today program anchor John Humphrys suggesting that the best solution to the Brexit impasse might be for Ireland to join the UK and quit the EU.

Emergency?

There is a debate this afternoon about whether the president’s speech tonight should be aired by the broadcast networks (the cable channels will carry it). I believe there is a more important topic for discussion. If the president uses the speech tonight to declare a state of emergency, go and immediately read this.

Polish Politics

Gdansk, Poland

Want to share what I think is an insightful article on the current state of politics in Poland in The American Interest. It’s by Gazeta Wyborcza columnist Katarzyna Wężyk. Read it here.

Here are some quotes:

Polish “Neo-authoritarianism … accepts democratic elections. But … only as a way to give the majority a mandate to govern unencumbered by minority rights.”

“We ‘normal’ people have to stick together, the pitch goes, form an impenetrable front against dangerous outside forces, and not let our unity be eroded by pity for the undeserving.”

“Polish neo-authoritarianism is … based on shared hostility toward the elites and the weak—women, refugees, those with ‘pathology’ (that is, the poorest, people with alcohol or drug problems, broken families)—and bound by the sense that “normal” people have a right to dominate these groups.

The figure of a refugee— the ultimate Other, so different as to be barely recognizable as human and thus dangerous—was significant in ensuring a PiS (Law and Justice Party) victory. (PiS leader Jarosław) Kaczyński warned during the campaign that migrants carry ‘all sorts of parasites and protozoa, which, while not dangerous in the organisms of these people, could be dangerous here.’”

“Law and Justice gave its supporters … a kind of empowerment, albeit an empowerment that comes from the ability to humiliate, belittle, and bully others, and then to feel justified in so doing. It offers a surface narrative of regaining dignity, acquiring national pride, and restoring justice; but its underside exudes darker undertones of punishment, exclusion, and contempt.”

Warsaw, Poland and the Vistula River