I am going through the various stages of grief and loss one feels after a death or divorce. When the Brexit result was announced, there was shock and disbelief, then fear, denial, sorrow and now fury. I rage against the killing of the EU dream by ill-informed voters who are full of self-pity, spite and spleen.
The way they see it, effing migrants and middle classes have taken over the country, stolen the birthrights of true Brits. So they put their trust in Farage, Boris, Gove, Rees-Mogg, Duncan Smith – ruthless and loaded politicians. This gang of dissemblers fuelled class discord by bashing the educated, professional classes during the campaign. Gove, an Oxbridge man, previously a columnist for The Times, damned "experts"; Farage, MEP and ex-City trader, berated the "elite".
This could have been a funny sketch in Monty Python, but in our times no one is laughing. Dictators from Chairman Mao to Idi Amin targeted and tried to wipe out intellectuals, artists and freethinkers, the assiduous bourgeoisie and entrepreneurs. Multitudes were whipped up against the most productive and conscientious members of society.
At times, over the past few months, I felt I was living back in Uganda when mob fury was unleashed against my university lecturers and others, including blameless civil servants. I heard the same refrains over the past few months: these were the enemies of "the people", they were selfish, didn't care about the disenfranchised. Those who were accused kept quiet, kept their heads down. Shouty, disgruntled Britons often dominated the airwaves, silenced those who were rational and thoughtful. Debates, even on our most prestigious programmes became coliseums, pits of noisy hell.
How dare they turn on those who are cultured, well-read, erudite and liberal? And why do we let them? Because of middle-class decorum and tolerance. We must now reclaim our dignity and our value. And expose the tricks and fakery of the Brexit leadership. They don't give a damn about proles and plebs. What would Boris and his Mrs do if one of their daughters had a boyfriend from the local estate? Farage claims to be a beer-drinking common man, but how many plumbers have been invited to dinner at his house?
I am a social democrat and egalitarian. I have known poverty. I didn't have my own bed till I was 12 and a half. My mother, Jena, had to beg for food on credit from our local shopkeeper. I missed out on school trips and teachers gave me their copies of text books because we could not afford to buy them. Jena was madly aspirational, believed education was a passport to a better, more secure life. And it was. As it was for Labour MP Alan Johnson, artist and film-maker Steve McQueen, London mayor Sadiq Khan, Baroness Warsi, business secretary Sajid Javid, Tory MP David Davis, broadcaster Melvyn Bragg, writer Owen Jones, Bristol mayor Marvin Rees and others. They all strove to and became successful, joined the middle class. Is that a tragedy or a triumph?
Admittedly social mobility has stalled and privilege is becoming generational. Middle-class people have a duty to those who are struggling to make it. I try and work with charities that try to improve the lives of impoverished children in this country. I hate the terrible inequalities, the way the captains of global capitalism have crushed individuals and communities around the world. I want to pay more tax, live in a fairer country. But I will not join middle-class self-flagellators or indulge those who blame high achievers for the state we are in.
I will not join middle-class self-flagellators or indulge those who blame high achievers for the state we are in.
When Guardian journalist George Monbiot opines that the vote was a howl "against exclusion, alienation and remote authority", I want to howl back. Ours is a representative democracy, which means elected parliamentarians have to make the decisions on our behalf. They can't please us all, but most are assiduous and informed, work incredibly hard and do their best.
It is among the middle classes that you find imaginations and commitments which extend beyond pure self interest. They, not the upper classes, believe in the good, enabling society. These beliefs are strong among some working-class people, too, of course, but too many others seem to be volatile rebels without a defined cause. Among them one finds disenchantment with our political system, institutions, leaders and progress, dangerous cynicism that poses as righteousness.
If demagoguery pushes out democracy, as it did in these past months, ours will become a wild and vicious land with a power vacuum which could be filled by Machiavellian and authoritarian leaders. Populism is a potent weapon. Educated, empathetic, intelligent men and women of the middle classes must stop cowering and apologising. Those who hate us have taken over the public space. It is time for a comeback, a fightback.