Notre Dame, Brexit and Assange: What matters

Notre Dame bears a fleeting tear but not a permanent scar. The same cannot be said for Brexit-laden Britain where a huge injustice awaits Assange.

A tear, a scar and a gaping wound - the consequences of a week of news culminating in the patrimonial catastrophe experienced by the City of Light, the death throes of Parliamentary democracy in the UK and the question of freedom opened by Assange.

Notre Dame stands firm

Paris wakes up this morning with a tear moistening its face, fortunately far from the scar or gaping wound many feared would be the case. On this Tuesday morning in Holy Week, Notre Dame stands firm, resolute, a Jean d'Arc rising up proudly and defiantly against the morning sky, her message ringing loud and clear "Je reste ici" ("I am here to stay"). Notre Dame, an icon of world cultural heritage and the heart of this unique city, is an example of what matters, what is important, what remains from yesteryear teaching us who we are, where we are from and where we should be going.

As Paris wakes up to find part of its Lady derobed and charred, the city, France and the world come together in a collective embrace, moving on from the shock and sadness as they saw the Noble Lady fighting the flames which would engulf part of her roof and topple her spire. The wave of sympathy rolling around the planet is tangible as funds are gathered for the rebuilding process which Parisians in particular, the French in general and humankind can celebrate together.

This is not the first time that the Gothic Cathedral Notre Dame was assailed, indeed the building was totally vandalized during the French Revolution and turned into a wine cellar but was resurrected by Napoleon I a decade later and regained its importance as a cultural icon of Paris, France and Humanity. Many of the thirteen thousand oak trees felled to form its roof were burnt to cinders on Monday evening but twelve hours later Notre Dame has risen above the flames.

The nuthouse of the British political situation

Across the English Channel, the model of British Parliamentary democracy is learning the lesson of what happens when politicians play around with serious things and misjudge, monumentally, a nation, its people and the consequences of their actions simply because today the political class lives in a crystal ball removed from the reality facing the citizens. Decisions are taken on Excel Sheets, where the bottom line does not reflect the indirect social consequences of policymaking, Pavlovian actions and reactions take place without a shred of planning or thought and shocking levels of ignorance are revealed.

There is no Notre Dame in Westminster, rather a lady flailing around banging her head against a tree countless times, while the traditional opposition has failed to seize the moment and provide what it is supposed to do - provide an Opposition - and now the entire political status quo at the heart of British politics threatens to change, in a revolutionary process bringing into play fringe groups and giving them a stage to be opinionmakers. The Change movement has arisen out of dissatisfied Members of Parliament from both main Parties (Conservative and Labour) who favor a second Referendum, the will of the majority of the British people (and a move which would cancel Brexit according to opinion polls); the Liberal Democrats and Greens, two Parties which have been consistently against Brexit, are set to make massive gains in the forthcoming European Elections in May, while the Scottish National Party (anti-Brexit) should confirm its monumental presence north of the border as its southern neighbor threatens to cancel any benefits of belonging to the voluntary Union which forms the United Kingdom (along with Northern Ireland). This done, Scotland will be poised to make a move back towards full independence, remaining inside the EU, if England makes the mistake of delivering Brexit.

To the right, the United Kingdom Independence Pasrty (UKIP) is now joined by the Brexit Party, launched by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, a trouble-maker who has amazingly been given a voice in British politics for decades and who is allowed to stir up endemic nationalistic tendencies in a very delicate balance of people and cultures which the United Kingdom is. So now people are speaking about seven Parties in Westminster with relevance in England and Wales (leaving the Welsh Nationalists, Plaid Cymru, aside because it is a Party associated with Welsh interests).

The utter ignorance demonstrated by a sizeable portion of the UK electorate is mind-blowing and places in question the validity of a representative Parliamentary system in which people vote for a vague idea at best, for the TV image of the leader of one of the political parties at worst, treating politics like football, belonging to a party and voting for it, just because. Surely, a representative Parliamentary system was supposed to be based upon informed choices made by an electorate which studies the political manifestos and chooses the path they believe in for the next five years. It is not the fault of the electorate that they were misled, lied to and misinformed by those lying about how much more money the UK would have if Brexit was delivered, it is not their fault that the decision to shoot first and think later was delivered by parliament, not the people.

If the Referendum were to be held today, between 58 and 72% of the people would vote Remain, underlying the fact that British politics has created a deep scar which will marr the future face of politics for generations to come.

Moral of the story: Do not expose murder and torture, they'll throw you into jail

Also across the Channel from Notre Dame, we observe the figure of Julian Assange being hauled away to prison. Let us not speak about the law, because those countries working against Assange (the USA and the UK and a handful of chihuahuas) have broken the law countless times in Iraq, and in Libya, acting in direct breach of international law, committing war crimes, murder and torture. When the British hacked into the German Wehrmacht communications code through the Enigma machine during the Second World War, everyone cheered. When Julian Assange tells the world through Wikileaks that American forces (and allies) are committing humanitarian atrocities, we should collectively thank him, not shoot the messenger by throwing him into jail. By doing so, we are sending the message that it is OK to murder, rape, torture and break the law. It is not.

The honey pot or rape trial cases, in Sweden, brought against him, then dropped, now possibly to be reopened, are a separate issue. What we are speaking about here is freedom of expression, freedom of the Press, freedom of Speech, the right to speak out against atrocities, against murder, against torture, and to stand up for fundamental human rights. In short, claiming for the implementation of international law. If Humankind is coming together to celebrate the resurrection of Notre Dame, then it should also be closing ranks around Julian Assange and standing up as one against criminal regimes which use murder and torture as their modus operandi. They have no place in today's world. They know it, we know it and History will judge them for what they are.

This is a planet which wishes to celebrate collective and global universal values of freedom, equality and fraternity, the three precepts which Napoleon stood up for as he gave Notre Dame the dignity she deserved - a message and a lesson for us all. Let us welcome common values of goodness, kindness and sharing cultures, celebrating cultural diversity, helping one another like the brothers and sisters we are, rather than globetrotting, creating wars to sell weapons, using military hardware as a means to enforce national terrorist policies to implement social terrorist strategies of control and going it alone, in an exercise of 1930s-style nationalism.

This is 2019, suppose we acted like it?

Photo: Por besopha - DétailsUploaded by Magnus Manske, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey