What we want: for us to start listening to our intellectuals

After the election, I hope that there is a time and space for thought. 

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What I wish is that this election was not happening. Not now. The Labour Party walked into a bear trap. We are in an era where the country, not recovered from the trauma of Brexit, has to face itself once again.

It is delusional to believe that in some way the nation will come together. Perhaps it will. But this takes a leap of faith too large for me to exhibit at the moment.

We have leaders, but little leadership. It is difficult to see where that might come from without an overhaul of the very definition of what a leader is. Or what the nation in the world is.

The UK has already been written off at some committee levels in the EU. And yet, we continue to believe that even a referendum result for “Remain” will bring the old times back. The hope.

The United Kingdom was and is a fragile proposition, a group of ancient peoples bound together under a Crown and governed by a parliament that took centuries to create and now is seen, by many, as antithetical to the national project itself. Replaceable. But with what?

After the election, I hope that there is a time and space for thought. The UK has never really prized thinkers and intellectuals, but in these days this is a stance it cannot afford. It is people who come together and think who might save us and know how the nation can find itself again.

The Conservatives have created a kind of Dissolution. Like Henry VIII, they have taken a chair to the stained glass windows; an axe to statues of reason; and the torch to the churches of the rational.

Answers do not always come at once. But it helps if we have good questions. And good thinkers can ask them. I hope for that.

Great democracies such as the US and UK are on the brink, not because of climate change, nor income inequality, nor racism, nor war. These are symptoms. We are on the brink because of fear of moving forward. Fear of leaving our entrenched positions. Fear of being wrong. But I hope that I am: I hope that what I see is wrong. 

This piece is part of our “What we want” series. Read the rest of the articles here

Bonnie Greer is a playwright, author, and the Chancellor of Kingston University.

This article appears in the 04 December 2019 issue of the New Statesman, What we want

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