MITCH BENN: The real 2019 is weirder than sci-fi's vision

PUBLISHED: 12:00 07 January 2019

Blade Runner is set in a dystopian vision of 2019. Photo: Warner Bros/Getty

Blade Runner is set in a dystopian vision of 2019. Photo: Warner Bros/Getty

2011 Getty Images

Mitch Benn on why the real 2019 is going to be weirder than sci-fi's vision of the future

My favourite movie is Blade Runner. Specifically the original 1982 theatrical cut. That’s the one I saw when it came out, that’s the version which was the first (and for a while only) movie I owned on VHS back in 1986 (I saw that movie a lot over that summer) and the various revised and re-edited ‘cuts’ which have emerged since the film’s initial release are, to me, like annoying and unnecessary remixes of a beloved old song.

Blade Runner is, of course, set in the dystopian future of 2019. And here we are. No flying cars, no humanoid androids (as far as we know) and no colonies on Mars, but we’ve made up for it in other respects.

For not even the labyrinthine imagination of Philip K. Dick (author of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, the even trippier novel on which the film was based) could have conceived of so surreal a political situation as that which currently pertains on both sides of the Atlantic.

I don’t know how you spent Christmas, or if indeed you spent Christmas at all, but if you did indeed celebrate on or about December 25, I hope you succeeded in pulling off the same trick I did. I hope you managed to completely forget about Brexit for a while.

It was wonderful; I banished all contemplation of Brexit from my mind for the whole of the festive season. There came not so much as a passing Brexit reference from even the murkiest lobes of my brain. Sheer wilfully ignorant bliss, like a little Labour party conference of the mind.

It was a close-run thing, though; had I turned up to Christmas dinner a few minutes earlier (ie. on time) I might have been drawn into what I understand was a brief but tense conversation with my ex-wife’s pro-Brexit uncle. I’m immensely glad that I missed it; had I been there I imagine the conversation would have been rather more tense and considerably less brief. My sympathies to those of you whose festivities were blighted by similar discussions.

That particular rhetorical bullet thus dodged, I spent the rest of the holiday in a nirvana-like state of Brexitlessness. And damn it, I think after how I spent 2018 I’d earned a few days off.

Part of the reason I’ve thrown myself so wholeheartedly into pro-EU activism in the last couple of years is, I’ll admit, an exercise in pre-emptive conscience-salving. However this all plays out, I want to be able to look back in a few years’ time and at least kid myself that I did my bit. This time round, anyway; like, I suspect, a lot of my fellow Remainers, I’m haunted by the knowledge that I didn’t do nearly enough before the 2016 referendum.

That was the first lesson to be learned from that debacle; we can’t assume that the politicians are going to take care of this, or indeed anything. We need to do this for ourselves. Judging by the size of the crowds at the two massive People’s Vote marches I attended in London last year, it’s a lesson that our side at least seems to have taken to heart.

We had a pretty remarkable year. It’s not simply that the unfolding of events over the last 12 months has served to prove beyond all doubt that our side, for all that we ‘lost’, was dead right two and half years ago and the opposition calamitously wrong – that was going to take care of itself one way or another – it’s that we’ve startled our opponents 
with the size and energy of our movement.

The sneering dismissal, throughout the right-wing mediasphere, of the People’s Vote organisation as middle-class dilettantes, fell notably silent after three quarters of a million of us rocked up for the march in October. This time last year we were alone in even mentioning the idea of a vote on the final deal; now it’s freely discussed by pundits and politicos of all stripes as a distinct and growing possibility. We’re winning. But now it’s time to get back to work.

Keep reading this newspaper; keep following OFOC, the People’s Vote gang and their fellow agitators on social media, attend the events, sign the petitions, email your local newspapers and your MPs.

And KEEP HAVING THE ARGUMENT. Remember, the purpose of debating a true believer is not to change his or her mind – you won’t – it’s to get them to expose the paucity of their reasoning so that onlookers, perhaps undecided, can see just how flimsy the other side’s case actually is.

With that in mind, in next week’s column I’m going to list some of the most frequently cited pro-Brexit ‘arguments’, and some simple rebuttals for all of them. In fact I tell you what; if there’s a Leave talking point you’ve previously found yourself stumped by, email me at mitchbenn@hotmail.com and I’ll see if I can come up with a response for it.

And indeed, if there are any actual pro-Leave pundits reading this, gimme your best shot...

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