The word purgatory has come to refer to a wide range of historical and modern conceptions of postmortem suffering short of everlasting damnation and is used, in a non-specific sense, to mean a condition or state of suffering or torment, especially one that is temporary.¹
Thus feels Brexit. On the back of a 52/48 referendum which looks to have been wholly inappropriate as a vehicle for shaping British global influence in the 21st century. As effective maybe as a trial by ordeal. That contradictory process whereby God would show the innocence of an accused by allowing for some form of miracle to save the accused from death. Contradictory in that evasion of a drowning amounted to evidence of witchcraft in cases where the ordeal was water-based.
A number of groups have formed in this post-referendum nether-world; or purgatory.
Tortured souls remoaning what seems to have been a death-like experience on 24th June 2016.
Others wandering around as if nothing has happened at all.
A small but vocal number rejoicing at the prospect of a final cleansing of the soul which then prepares it for the ascent into a Brexit heaven. This celestial Brexit boost is, of course, more spiritual than financial if Mark Carney is to be believed. But who is he to clip the wings of a nationalistic expectation which he cannot possibly understand? He does not appreciate the boundless opportunities that arise by virtue of being English, after all. German Wings? Euro Wings? No, these are English Wings.
This rejoicing group also obsessing with the perceived hell that lies below. That of infernal bureaucrats creating new laws and regulations. Computer-literate, multilingual modern ivory hunters cutting off the Brexit riches and leaving the nation-state lying in a pool of its own blood, unable to extricate itself from the net of regulatory interference.
Others wandering silently and hoping that the soul when purged of the sins of capitalism and therefore thoroughly cleansed may find a different heaven altogether. A Socialist heaven.
One of the most unusual search questions on Google must be this:-
“How long does it take to get out of purgatory?”
If the question is bizarre then Google’s response is even more so.
“A Spanish theologian from the late Middle Ages once argued that the average Christian spends 1000 to 2000 years in purgatory… But there’s no official take on the average sentence.”
So, assuming a mid-way point of 1,500 years and a departure date of 29th March 2019 there are only 629 years left of the initial Article 50 notice period. Of course, there is no heaven; and there is no hell. Neither is there a purgatory. It just feels that way at the moment.
There are regressive influences who have wished to perpetuate the idea of binary heaven and hell destinations. With religion, so also referendums, it seems. Riding on a wave of religious but also historical and empirical metaphor. Sovereignty and now damnation, dissenters, treason, plotting and subterfuge; thwarting and subversion. Popular will. Insisting that Brussels would not receive a brass farthing.
At first glance there is no “way out” of this self-imposed purgatory. No salida de emergencia. So-called transition deals and implementation periods simply increase the length of the period of this desperate sojourn. Leaving over a cliff-edge has evidently been addressed by the impact studies which may exist. Casting the country out over the fire with wings which may or may not work is a singularly reckless escapade that only the birdmen of Parliament would be willing to countenance. The super-dogmatic Disaster-Capitalists who view the population at large as some form of Darwinist experiment fodder.
The choice today remains exactly the choice that the public had on 23rd June 2016. Donald Tusk, Emmanuel Macron and Jean-Claude Juncker have made it clear that the UK can halt the process of leaving at will.
If that exit route were to be taken then there would have to be change. In reality England has been drifting into and out of the waiting room for tortured souls for many years. Opt-outs, posturing, showboating and negative engagement have meant that the full benefits of membership have never felt themselves apparent, save to the large numbers of British migrants.
A reliance upon English as the lingua franca has encouraged a reticence and arrogance that has impeded the true understanding of the place England occupies on the planet. Similarly it has obscured the magnitude of a Union whose strength is now coming to the fore in the context of negotiations which have been nothing of the kind. There are British migrants living in Spain who bewilderingly voted to leave such was the level of misinterpretation of the power positions of the parties. People who seriously believe that they are indispensable to whichever nation should have the good fortune and honour of receiving them; generally in the late autumns of their lives, too.
However, this de facto 27-member Union has done what every good Union should and stood as an effective and efficient framework to unite its members.
The way out of this purgatory is with the young. The split in voting habits on EU membership is as sharp a statement of division as any this country has seen and here lies the solution. England has tried a little foot in; now a foot out. Either way, it has not worked and is not working. Economically there may be an arguable case that it did but not in any real and sustainable sense. Saying you are the fifth largest economy in the world is of no consequence if you cannot afford to buy a house and sit there waiting for an inheritance.
Along with a belief in purgatory blood letting was a popular treatment modality at one time.
Blood transfusions are now routinely performed. England needs a new, oxygenated blood supply to treat its arterial sclerosis and there are signs that it is coming through.
“Under-25s were more than twice as likely to vote Remain (71%) than Leave (29%). Among over-65s the picture is almost the exact opposite, as 64% of over-65s voted to Leave while only 36% voted to Remain. Among the other age groups, voters aged 24 to 49 narrowly opted for Remain (54%) over leave (46%) while 60% of voters between the ages of 50 and 64 went for Leave.”²
When Guy Verhofstadt said that Brexit was a “catfight gone too far”³ within the Conservative Party he was using the power of understatement at a critical time, as a medic may seek to minimise the threat of a disease to a patient.
The Conservative Party has become a malignant tumour to England which also threatens its surrounding tissues north and west. It arose from a suspicious but long-standing and thought-to-be-benign cyst.
Tempting it is to conclude therefore that Britain finds itself in a course of aggressive chemotherapy, as opposed to a form of spiritual purgatory. A chemotherapy effectively now adminstered remotely by natural process. A stand-off between the tumour, the patient and destiny, assisted by concerned medics and onlookers.
The positive signs are that the tumour is turning on itself having met with little resistance from inside the body. The tumour must be defeated by the strength given to the immune system by the new blood supply.
As the period of purgatory looks to be extended so does the course of treatment and the number of restorative oxygenated cells available. Body and soul to be cleansed, as one. A miracle? Or just the power of modern thinking?