Charterhouse

Nick Thomas: The new anathema

Boo to Brexit: actors bearing no resemblance to Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Michael Gove in Brexit: the Musical, performed in London after the EU referendum (Getty)

English language drama is a bit thin on the ground here in Amsterdam, though there is clearly a demand for it, because Orange Theatre’s production of Martin McDonagh’s heart-wrenchingly horrible comedy The Pillowman last month was a deserving sell-out. The show was terrific, and drinks with the outstanding company afterwards just as good.

My heart only sank when I looked at the back of the programme, and read this plug for the their next project: “NOVEMBER 2018 – AN ORIGINAL COMMISSIONED PLAY ABOUT BREXIT. How do you tell the story of a secession? A rebellion? A departure?” How, indeed, let alone that of something as mind-numbingly tedious as a process more akin to trying to change your mobile phone network provider all day, every day, for two years.

But of course you could also spend that long trying to find a member of the artistic community, even or especially in Britain, who has a ghost of a clue what the European Union is really about or why so many people want to leave it. Instead of the truth (the EU is about power and money and oligarchy), they prefer to believe that it’s about love and brotherhood and cultural enlightenment, and anyone who’s against all that must of course be a cretin who shouldn’t have the vote.

Recently the Archbishop of Canterbury publicly expressed the extraordinary view that the EU is “the greatest dream realised for human beings since the fall of the Western Roman Empire”. A man of his worldly experience can’t possibly believe that. Was it just a cynical ploy designed to fill depleted Anglican pews with luvvies?

One of the reasons some people voted against Brexit two years ago was that they believed – wrongly – that it would hamper their ability to travel on the continent. But unrestricted travel is on its way out now, anyway, and not just because centrist parties all over Europe are on the back foot as a result of popular reaction to the “migrant” crisis.

Tourism has also become a problem, and Amsterdam is the latest of Europe’s prettier destinations to announce measures to restrict it. Interestingly, the initiative comes from the Left, who object to the sheer footfall of foreigners spoiling the aesthetics of the city for those who actually live in it (like me). They seem oblivious to the irony that if they applied the same principle on a national scale they would find themselves on the extreme Right.

I put the term “migrant” in quotation marks for a reason. I used to think that the BBC had adopted the term out of soft liberal wussiness, because “immigrant” had accrued a stigma in the public mind. I now realise that “immigrant” and “emigrant” are being erased from the public vocabulary because they imply the existence of defined places that can be entered or left, and objective definition is the new anathema for the slow, grinding forces of those satanic, anarchist wolves who strut in the sheep’s clothing of tolerance and inclusiveness.

If a territory belongs to anyone who wants to live in it (except Jews in Palestine, naturally); if you are the victim of a hate crime because you say you are; if you are a man or a woman because you say you are – well, then, freedom might as well be slavery and truth a pack of lies, because objective definition, the structure by which we understand our society, the world, the cosmos, has gone out of the window. It’s clever because it taps into the base ignorance of so many young people who have been taught almost nothing except that their opinion is valuable.

It is still true that if, for example, you know someone accused of murder to be innocent and say so, you might be accused by the local mob of defending a murderer. But now that phenomenon has been inverted for anarchist ends: if you know that a self-proclaimed refugee is actually a criminal chancer and say so, you will be damned for regarding all refugees as criminal chancers.

This is an all-out assault on the notion of truth, and Christendom is its ultimate target, via its ungrateful child – secular Western society. But if we just have the courage to point out what nonsense it is, maybe a generation of the lapsed and lost will start listening again.

Nick Thomas is a freelance writer based in Amsterdam