It’s a topsy-turvy world nowadays. While our end of the continent is dominated by Brexit travails, everywhere else I look – near and far, big and small – I observe contradictions. The world has gone mad: and, if such insanity is a permanent state for the foreseeable future, it seems we must learn to live with the contradictions we face.
Take the picture above. Enjoying Oxford’s Christmas market in Broad Street, I came across a wooden cabin selling handy kits for creating homegrown versions of such delicacies as smoked salmon. Alongside a pile of vegan cheese-making mechanisms stood one for do-it-yourself bacon-curing. I’m just waiting for an outraged group from the militant vegan tendency to spot the contradiction and burn the booth to the ground. That might make for an interesting sizzling effect suffused with the rich mingled aroma of cheese and bacon.
Sadly, I can’t exclude Brexit. Not the rights and wrongs of whether we should stay part of Europe, or not: nor yet the terms on which we should or shouldn’t do so. For me the most maddening aspect of the sorry mess is MPs’ sanctimonious posturing, the necks of Brexiters and Remoaners alike so stiff that any bending towards compromise appears physically impossible for them.
Yet, whatever the outcome of the present impasse and Theresa May’s last-minute dash round European leaders (assuming she keeps her job, indeed), it’ll surely satisfy almost no one. From the start, a vote of 52-48 in either direction was always going to be unsatisfactory in implementation. Hell, you can’t even change the constitution of your local golf club without at least a two-thirds vote in favour.
Brexit with a deal, Brexit without a deal or no Brexit at all will infuriate sections of the populace in fairly equal proportions. A no-deal Brexit will do terrible damage to the economy. A May-deal Brexit will be so full of compromises that everyone will be cross. And a People’s Vote leading to Remain (even supposing it does) will leave the 52% who originally voted Leave profoundly disillusioned with our democracy – and even more with our Parliament.
So, whether or not what emerges from the present debacle gives you or me what we want (assuming you or I even know any more), we’ll be living with contradictions: most likely, I think, Brexit in a form that no one wanted. Such is the frustrating nature of compromise: yet compromise, in my view, is the only way of achieving anything approaching consensus.
So what about Parliament? I reckon we should imitate the old Vatican method for electing a new pope. It locked all the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel and reduced their food each day. I bet that stopped them staring at the ceiling (not a bad one, as ceilings go), and focused their minds on choosing the Pontiff.
I’m almost ready to follow precedent and start stashing barrels of gunpowder in the Westminster cellars. By contrast, Times columnist Emma Duncan felt, the other day, that Brexit misery is making her and others more aware of the need to focus on what the country needs (“This Brexit car crash has turned me into a patriot”). Learning to live with such contradictions, perhaps – when the shouting is over – we shall begin to mend fences and pull together for the common good.
Offering respite from Brexit was the amusing story of the two nuns who stole $500,000 dollars to go gambling in Las Vegas, a misdemeanour spectacularly out of kilter with their vocation and (presumably) vow of poverty – though the casinos presumably returned them rapidly to that condition. Their archbishop said their religious order had repaid the money and seriously disciplined the two miscreants, so saw no need to take the matter to the police.
Organised religion has something of a track-record of not reporting wrongdoing to the police. Given the gravity of what churches have hushed up over the years, it’s one contradiction we should refuse to live with. Alas, that fact renders this last observation anything but funny.