On election eve, a Brexistential dread

Simon Critchley writes: The mood of nausea at the world, a disgust at the entirety of existence, is familiar to those of us who cut our teeth reading existentialist fiction. Novels like Sartre’s 1938 “Nausea” captured a feeling of disgust with the world and disgust with ourselves for going along with a world so seemingly blissfully happy with itself for so long. For Sartre, the dreadful had already happened, with the rise of National Socialism in the early 1930s, and it was a question of learning to face up to our fate. This is the mood that I want to bring into focus by exploring the concept of Brexistentialism.

For I must admit that I’ve become a Brexistentialist of late, thinking back to that evening on June 23 when I watched the entirety — eight hours or more — of the BBC’s live coverage of the referendum on whether Britain would leave the European Union or choose to remain.

I was home in New York. As the coverage began, the pollsters, the experts and the markets seemed confident that the good people of Britain would act rationally and vote to remain. And then, with the news of early results from postindustrial northern cities like Sunderland and Newcastle (which are strikingly similar to cities in upstate New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania), one became slowly and dreadfully aware that something else was taking place, something was shifting before one’s eyes. By the early hours of the morning on June 24 that smug, smiling, awful face of Nigel Farage was declaring a new dawn, and a day of independence for Britain. The supposedly decent, honest, ordinary people of Britain had spoken. The unthinkable had happened.

Will the same thing happen across the Atlantic? No one knows, least of all me. But the parallels are evident and the anxiety is there, the same nameless dread, that the country that you thought you knew is actually something and somewhere else entirely. That one’s country has unraveled morally and spiritually in such a terribly painful, deeply divisive way. [Continue reading…]

Might I add that us Brits have perhaps an over-developed capacity for existential dread.

But fear that produces paralysis is no better than no fear at all.

My hope in the hours before polls close tomorrow evening is that a sense of dread in the face of a possible Trump presidency cripples no one. On the contrary, it should provide all the more compelling reason to vote.

This isn’t about saying who you like. If that was the basis for voting, the Oval Office would end up vacant. It’s about choosing the next president.

A vote for Jill Stein is a vote for Trump. A vote for Gary Johnson is a vote for Trump. A spoiled ballot is a vote for Trump. Staying home is a vote for Trump.

There is only one way of stopping Donald Trump becoming president: by electing Hillary Clinton.

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