Picture: Bonjour, Pierrot! by Ethel Wright (public domain).
Friday, 24th June, 2016
Your alarm goes off at 6.30am. When you roll over to switch off your iPhone you see dozens of unread messages on your phone. They read, “I can’t believe it”, “We’re fucked,” “I’m ashamed,” “I’m leaving,” “Getting my Irish passport,” and other things to that effect.
For a moment your heart sinks. You’re afraid to open Safari, but you do and it reveals last night’s live-stream on the Guardian’s politics page. The last update projected the result would be 53% to remain to 47% leave.
You refresh the webpage. The headline blares out at you: UK votes to leave the EU.
Disbelief. It must be a joke. An error – something. You jump up to look out of the window. The streets of Shoreditch look normal. It is still early. Perhaps everyone hasn’t seen the result yet.
You are so outraged you feel you have to say something. So you open Twitter. You are sure you can think of something pithy and clever to Tweet. Something your 162 followers will LOL at.
You remember all the half-formed Tweets in your drafts you had prepared to celebrate the remain victory. You had about 140 drafts intersecting with different topical subjects. All of them will be wasted now. Maybe there are one or two of your #postcapitalism or #capitalismkills or #fightpopulism or #everydayracism draft tweets that you can repurpose into something anti-Brexit.
You open your drafts – they’re all gone, #nightmare. This is the third time this has happened to you. Twitter is shite. You wish Apple designed everything. Other companies can’t be trusted with design. All those characters that you had so carefully crafted – gone.
You want to throw your iPhone onto the floor in frustration, but you remind yourself it’s not Apple’s fault. Plus, you’ve only just upgraded to this phone and while it is a steal (at £99 upfront and £60 per month for 24 months with 200 mins of calls, 500 texts and 1GB of data a month) you are only three months into your contract so you can’t really afford to trash it at this point. Besides, now the UK is leaving the EU, you don’t know if you will be to get a new iPhone.
You take a breath, shut down Twitter, and decide that you’re probably too decaffeinated to think straight. In the kitchen are all your tools to sooth your withdrawal. Firstly, you arrange the mise-en-place. The Hario ceramic V60; the unbleached V60 paper filters; the small-batch Honduran single blend coffee beans (always from the beans, because how do you know which method of extraction you are going to use, and therefore what type of grind you need, in advance?); the thick, American diner-style, ceramic cup; the copper, long-spout, pour-over kettle; and the hand-operated coffee grinder.
As you make the coffee, you start to wonder how disrupted your morning ritual will be by the EU referendum result. Will you be able to get coffee? Will you be able to buy milk? Will you be able to get hold of that Hario syphon coffee brewer that you have had in your Amazon wish list for months (you knew you should have bought that instead of the matcha-tea-paste pestle you bought)? It doesn’t occur to you, (although it should, because you are a sophisticated remain voter, not some leave voting neanderthal) that coffee does not grow in Europe; that the unsweetened, unroasted almond milk you sometimes use comes from California; that the dozen different Hario products you have purchased came from Japan; and that the EU’s customs union makes importing all of these things more difficult. You find yourself unable to concentrate so you pour the water while it’s too hot, and clumsily. It burns the grinds and under-extracts the flavour. The worst of both worlds. It tastes both burnt and weak. Like a franchise barista on their first week at work.
You’re starting to feel anxious. You can’t take your mind off the result. You think about texting your boss, who is actually your dad, and tell him that you can’t make it into work today. You just need to stay in the flat (which your dad/boss is the landlord of) and get your head together. You know he will call you a bleeding-heart snowflake. But you’re technically a freelancer and he said you should act like a one so now you’re going to take a day off, because your suffering from anxiety. And that is what being an adult is, right?
But you can’t talk yourself into it. You’re worried your dad is going to ridicule you. He has always confused you. He owns a publishing company focused on political books that ‘speak truth to power’, as their marketing says. He runs a software company that builds a gay dating app and employs people from all over the world (he is always talking about how he needs it to be easier to employ people from India and America and China), yet inexplicably to you, he voted leave.
You text him. He texts you back immediately, “Take it easy, son. I’ll have loads of time to gloat.”
Your dad infuriates you. Doesn’t he realise that he just voted against everything he is supposed to stand for? You wonder if he realises he has sided with the #racists and the #fascists. But at least now you have the day off.
You sit down at the small table you eat breakfast at every day, and open up Facebook. On your newsfeed, everyone seems to be going as crazy as you are. One of them has posted a screenshot of a graph showing the decline of the value of sterling overnight. It’s posted with the comment, “Happy now, leave voters?”
The graph shows a drop of about 20%. You have no idea what this actually means, but the sharp downward trend alarms you, and the sarcastic anti-leave sentiment makes you feel like you belong to an underground rebellion. This is easier than acknowledging the reality, that you voted how the mega-banks, the conglomerates and the government told you to. You voted for the status quo. But now you’re technically in the minority again. And this is where you feel comfortable. So you add a comment. With a precariously balanced piece of toast and avocado in one hand, and your phone in the other, you type out your support, “Glad I’m not the only one who’s incensed. It shows what happens when you don’t listen to experts.”
You continue to scroll but then you notice the little red notification dot informing you someone has responded to your comment. The comment is, “Will #ProjectFear ever stop?”
You drop the fork. A Leave voter, in the flesh. Well, the virtual flesh. You’re shocked, no disgusted, that you’re connected, even by a degree of separation, to an out-of-the-closet and proud leave voter. You thought leavers only existed in the distant north, in places called Redcar, Hartlepool, Boston, Calderdale and Wolverhampton – uncosmopolitan places.
You delete your comment, which deletes the reply, and log-out of Facebook. You can’t be bothered with the #harassment and the #populism today. You’re vulnerable, you need to find a #safespace, so you log into Tinder. Checking your matches will make you feel better. But first, you need to update your profile, to keep it topical and #progressive.
You open the profile editor and look at what you had written before. It read, “#Momentum,” despite the fact that you’re not a member of any political movement, “male feminist, honest, open-minded, creative, accepting of all, real coffee, fair-trade, travelling, ski weekends XD, intersectional-Marxist. Hate right-wingers, hate pro-lifers, if all your pictures are selfies swipe left, no fake tan, no chavs, natural girls only.”
You delete that and think for a long time. You type, “NO LEAVE VOTERS. Anybody els feel like they don’t belong anymore?” You save this, happy that you have gained some small revenge.
You open up your settings and look at your matching preferences. The age range currently says 18-26. You reset the scale so it shows you potential matches between 18-21. You feel forlorn when you look at the age on your on profile – 32. You don’t feel like 32. You’re definitely a young 32. You haven’t been interested in girls your own age for a few years. You don’t really get on with girls your own age. Well, you do, but they’re all friends. The girls you know that are your age are so career-focused and, well… rich. You can’t keep up with them. Everything has to be scheduled and serious. They want to know what you want out of life and what you want from your relationship with them after only six months, sometimes even less. You’re actually doing girls your own age a favour by targeting younger girls. 11 to 14 years age difference isn’t even that much these days anyway.
You can see a couple of notification dots and you decide to check your matches. The first match is a chubby girl that you must have liked by mistake. She has already sent the opening message. You unmatch her, leaving her message unread and unanswered.
The next match is a girl called Fong Li. She’s Asian. From the name you’re pretty sure that she’s from China or Taiwan. It doesn’t say on her profile if she’s British born. It’s hard to tell from her pictures. She has a couple of pictures in Asia, but you’re not sure if they’re holiday pics, or ‘before I moved to the UK’ pics.
She’s 26, so at the limit of your interest anyway, but you’ve never dated a non-white girl before, and that has always been a stain on your liberal credibility. But is it OK to even think that she could be your “non-white girlfriend”? Are you #orientalising her? Probably. But would that matter? No one would challenge you – if they did you could just frown and claim they are not being very #progressive.
You’re not sure how to start the conversation. Should you make a comment on her ethnicity or not? Is a positive or a neutral comment better? What is the most #progressive thing to do? If you ignore her race, surely you are psychologically colonising her. But if you point out her ethnicity, aren’t you otherising her? Is she going to be particularly sensitive today, after the UK has voted leave? Maybe today is the wrong day to message her at all. When did the match happen, was it before or after the result? Brexit has fucked everything up. You don’t even know how you’re going to talk to a non-white person now, or ever again. How are you going to fuck anyone now as a white, cis man?
You try to find to something on her profile to inspire a conversation starter. You see she’s still attending London School of Economics and is doing a PhD on pan-Eurasian free-trade.
“Shit”, you whisper to yourself, “she’s probably a Tory anyway. Minority Tories are the worst.” You unmatch her. Definitely dodged a bullet there.
You pour yourself another cup of coffee out of the carafe while you flick through your post. It’s mostly credit card bills. You know it’s time to sit down and sort out your debts again. Move them over to new credit cards to get the preferential joiner rate. But now you’re scared about what is going to happen to interest rates. Will you even be able to open another credit card? Will your credit rating be affected by Brexit?
If you’d have known that the country was going to be headed for financial uncertainty, you wouldn’t have taken out all of that credit card debt in the first place. The referendum result might leave you paying more interest on your credit card bills than you expected. But it isn’t your fault. Fucking #capitalism.
You need to channel this anger into something productive. There will be so much buzz around the decision, this is the chance for your intersectional culture blog to make its breakthrough.
But you can’t work at home surrounded by all of these distractions. Your fridge only contains avocado, bottled water, almond milk, half a sourdough loaf, some IPA and a load of niche condiments you bought and never use. You twist one of them around, it’s black garlic ketchup. You feel like it’s something you should use. It’s very you. You see yourself hosting dinner parties and cooking with unusual ingredients. You see yourself as a cook, no, a chef. You always fancied yourself as a chef one day. After you’ve finished your novel, and done the tech start-up, and worked in politics. You see being a chef as maybe the last 10 years of your career. Set up a restaurant and get a couple of Michelin stars. Maybe even get a TV show or at least release a best-selling cookbook. Yeah, that sounds like you.
But right now you don’t have time to cook so it’s a cafe brunch. You really should go to the local, independent coffee shop, Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, but the wifi there is absolutely shite. So you decide to go to Starbucks, for your sins, for the internet connection.
When you get to the ‘local’ Starbucks it’s already approaching lunchtime so there is a queue. You keep your ears open, but except for a few passing comments, it doesn’t sound like anyone is talking about the result of the referendum. You pull out your phone to check that it actually happened. It did, the news is there.
The couple in front of you is an interracial couple that appears like they are on a first date. You can’t help but overhear the man order. He asks for two cappuccinos. Yuck. You feel like interrupting and informing him that cappuccini is the plural and she’s perfectly capable of ordering for herself, but you don’t. You don’t want to be #harassed today while you’re feeling vulnerable. Today you don’t know who you can trust or what will happen to you if you put your head above the parapet and #resist.
As you order your berry tea hot chocolate, with a little self-disgust, you overhear a bit of their conversation and your ears prick up. The guy asks where the girl is from.
“I’m from Hackney,” she laughs.
He moves too awkwardly, trying to cover up his inherent #racism, but you think she is on to him, “No, I mean where is your family from, originally?”
“I’m just kidding, I know what you mean,” she says, touching his arm, “my grandparents were born in Senegal.”
Why is she pretending this is OK? Why isn’t she standing up to him? Doesn’t she know that this is #hatespeech? Is this what Britain is now, colonists attitudes and dog-whistle racism? You would call the police, but how can you ensure that it would be taken seriously? Could you call the police and specifically ask for a female, ethnic-minority officer?
You look around the Starbucks, wondering who else around you is a racist, who supports rape culture, who is transphobic? Quite possibly every white person except you?
This is Brexit Britain now – be afraid.