All opinions are not equally valid. This was brought home to me today, on a longish drive home, when I decided to succumb to the current national fervour and tuned in to the England vs. Wales match. I think it was pretty exciting. To be honest, I have very little experience to go on and there’s really only so much you can garner over the radio. The commentators seemed excited though, so at least someone was having a good time.
Crucially, I’d be the first to admit that other than being vaguely aware that the 2016 You-Wafer Eurovision Soccerball Trophy Tournament is currently underway, I know very little about Roundball. This is a source of some not insignificant anxiety to me. Every day I live in fear that someone might attempt to strike up conversation by asking my thoughts on last night’s match, or about how much Arsenal United paid for their latest Goal Attack player. Sometimes late at night I can’t sleep for imagining myself trying to explain the rules of the game to my hypothetical future children, desperate to understand what the other children play…
‘So, to begin with, the game requires two opposing teams composed of eleven multimillionaires per side.’
‘Right. Well. Erm. Each side takes it in turns to shepherd a pigs bladder, distended with air, into large fishing nets held aloft by scaffolding poles. The winning team is the one that does this the most often.’
‘Daddy, what’s the offside rule?’
‘That’s very complicated, Brutus. Perhaps I’ll explain it to you when you’re older.’
I do actually understand the offside rule (which is more than can be said for most referees, am I right?) but I don’t know the first thing about fielding a winning football team and nor, to be honest, do most of the fans. If they did, we’d be selecting players by online poll, and each giving up five minutes of our time to distance coach the lads over FaceTime. We don’t; we select a whole team to coach our national side and make these decisions for us.
In fact, the whole thing is a bit like democracy. Every five years we elect a bunch of folk on the basis that they seem to have fairly similar views to our own. Since the vast majority of the population doesn’t have time to consider the minutiae of, say, modifications to commercial tax law, we rely on these elected representatives to wrestle with such issues on our behalf.
Recently, though, you may have noticed the whole thing’s broken down. The elected representatives have bowed out. Suddenly, the entire population has been asked to wrestle with the choice between socio-economic suicide and sense, and they’re having a jolly hard time of it. I don’t blame them. There’s rather a lot to consider. And the government hasn’t even seen fit to create a bonus bank holiday for us all to spend the day researching some of the more important issues. We’re supposed to do it in our spare time.
The cheek of the whole situation is not lost on me. This, from a parliament that’s reducing its working week to four days because it hadn’t actually expected to be elected, and doesn’t actually have that many new laws to make. How embarrassing. Well, frankly they ought to try spending the day at the economic coalface with rest of us, digging our ailing nation out of recession, before coming home to be bombarded by wall to wall coverage of insipidly depressing commentary on the biggest decision of our lives. When all we really want to do is have a cup of tea and watch Love Island. The whole idea of a referendum on such an issue is the democratic equivalent of being forced to use the self-service tills in Sainsbury’s and being held responsible when you just can’t identify the unexpected item in the bagging area. The entire population is, even now, clawing ineffectually at the screen, waiting for an assistant to come. Don’t believe me? The polls are literally 50:50.
Now I have a lot of faith in my fellow countrymen. I meet them all the time and, by and large, they’re an excellent bunch. But, since they wouldn’t want me managing their Soccerball team, I’ve no idea why I’m supposed to choose their economic/ political/ democratic destiny…
But, since you’ve read this far, I would just say this:
There was once a continent torn apart for three thousand years by war. In fact, every few years they liked to waste millions of young lives in order to redraw the borders between countries. Quite what these wars achieved, other than generating revenue for the cartographers, is anyones guess. In fact, at one point things got so bad that when a sailor discovered a brand new continent, half of the old continent’s population fled there to escape everyone’s apparent enthusiasm for ritual slaughter. The wars got worse. The ways of killing each other became more efficient. The line between the battlefield and the family home became non-existent. Finally, there was a war started by one particularly evil man who aimed to put the whole continent behind only one border; for the small price of everyone’s freedom and human decency. Fortunately, but painfully, the particularly evil man was stopped. But not before almost everything was destroyed and almost everyone was dead. At last, the people of this continent had had enough and so one very wise man came up with an idea to end all wars. Imagine, he thought, what might happen if the the whole continent was bound together socially, politically and economically. Suddenly, the borders may as well not exist and there’d really be no need to routinely murder one another. Now, that sounds to me like a brilliant idea. A thoroughly commendable, sensible, straightforward and decent idea. Dare I say it, it sounds to me like a thoroughly British idea. The sort of idea a man like Winston Churchill would have.
On the 23rd of June please don’t abandon the idea. It needs us. And it’s down to you and me now.
Please don’t leave.