I recently saw ‘Fighting with my family’ at the cinema and loved it. It is the enjoyable, uplifting story of how Saraya-Jade Bevis (professional name Paige) makes her personal journey from the fringes of Norwich life to become the youngest World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) ‘diva’ in the US, highly successful professional wrestler and business personality. The matinee visit was an all-too brief escape from the traumas of the UKs self-destruction under the coup, virus, and fiasco of Brexit.
That is until I had to look at the film afresh when I came across this week’s Economist and its commentary on Wrestlemania, Trump and American voters. Their proposition is essentially that, like Wrestlemania, Trump supporters know the whole theatre of his presidency is staged and fake. They understand his policies are nepotistic, corrupt and supportive of specific ‘c(k)lans’ (literally and metaphorically). But they just want to see those he chooses as his enemies suffer – immigrants and their children, black professional footballers, Mexico, Canada, the EU, and any civilising world order.
In my terms, for the Trump redneck it is easier to watch a staged drama of incoherent ranting, raging and rampage than to do something positive and challenging to improve their own, their families and their communities’ lives and experience.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. The Brexit of Farage and Francois, of Johnson and Jacob, is as staged and fake for their own self-interest, and as corrupt and clan-like for specific far right and non-dom groupings, as Trump’s – which is why the US’s fake president is so supportive of it.
Over 1m Remainers marched on March 23rd with good-natured inclusion of a breadth of UK opinion. A very few thousand (maybe 3000) Brexiters marched the following week with angry intimidation, assaults of journalists and politicians, and multiple arrests. And this week the BBC are giving relentless, uncritical coverage to the incitements of Farage and Francois, of BoJo and Jacob, whilst trying to reduce and ridicule the critique of them by Lammy amongst others. These are the contrasting realities of the choices we will make between now and October 31st . There is no doubt what the differences are between the type of UK Remain or Brexit will deliver.
This is why it is so difficult now to have any sympathy for the dwindling number of Brexiters and why their leaders are so petrified of any democratic testing of their support – whether uncorrupted second referendum or European elections. I strongly believe the overwhelming and increasing Remain majority want the type of Britain exemplified by the 23/03 March spectacle and the 6m petition. Sadly, though, there is still a sizeable minority who prefer the raging and rampage.
When Barthes – the influential French social philosopher – turned his attention to the world of wrestling in Mythologies (published as it happens the year I was born!), he diagnosed it as theatrical spectacle – of suffering, defeat and justice. For Barthes, it is normally the wrestler who plays the ‘baddie’ who is ultimately defeated in the drama. It is this that gives the spectator justification for enjoying (and paying to watch) the angry violence and pain that precedes it.
I am told that in contemporary Wrestlemania the good vs evil formula has been dropped. Individual wrestler personas can play both good and evil roles. The baddie often wins. This moral equivalence and ambiguity lie at the heart of Brexit, Trump, and other populist right leaders seeking to pervert representative democracy as a civilising, effective form of governance and social mediation.
In ‘Fighting with my family’, Paige/Saraya is very human. She has flaws and suffers considerable setbacks on her journey – but, ultimately, we see her as a ‘good’ diva, deserving her success and connecting with a broad inclusive audience.
Sadly, I am not sure we have yet found our ‘goodie’ for leading the fight against the coup, virus and fiasco. May and Corbyn’s moral ambiguity and their mutual complicity in the evil is overwhelming. Sturgeon and Lucas have been consistently impressive – but both seem to have restricted dramatic appeal. Maybe someone will emerge from ChangeUK or from civic society. Or maybe Fighting with my Family represents an anachronistic, nostalgic world-view when good and evil existed separately.
That is the most frightening thing of all. Has, for instance, the BBC bought wholly into the moral equivalence and ambiguity of Trump, Farage and Bojo, the lies of the referendum as the will of the people, because there are no credible champions of ‘justice’ in the majorities of the Remain and the anti-Trump forces? Or are there no champions of the ‘good’ majority because the BBC, now effectively the WWE franchise of the UK deep state and its far right non-dom puppet masters, is censoring and suppressing the tolerant, progressive, and majority remainer UK narrative for which the country so much yearns and needs?