WHY I CHOSE THROUGH LEWIS CARROLL’S ALICE IN WONDERLAND AND THROUGH LOOKING GLASS AS THEMATIC SOURCE ALLEGORY FOR BREXIT
1. The atmosphere is confusing, surreal and alienating, with the laws of nature, gravity, time, space are suspended regularly – there are shifts of paradigm sometimes within the same scene transmogrification without necessarily a logical reason, it’s both dreamlike and awfully real. (c.f. the dizzying change and upheaval post Brexit, fracturing of political certainties overnight)
2. All interactions in Wonderland are enveloped in a spirit of reactionary truculence. Every one is always arguing Red King and Red Queen, Carpenter and Walrus, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Humpty and Alice, the Duchess and Alice, Mad Hatter and Alice, The Lion and Unicorn, White and Red Knight etc. And no-one ever, ever apologises for anything they say.
3. Rules of engagement are continually being invoked by authority figures to justify the state of affairs (as chaotic and absurd as they might be), but no-one can ever seem to establish them irrevocably rules are changed arbitrarily and we move from one to other without consensus (Unwritten Constitution, Royal Prerogative v Parliament), they’re often proved wrong
4. Eccentricity and individualism taken to their absolute extremes, these are often considered a positive, endearing English trait but to our European neighbours Brexit seems to be a sort of perverse insularity, entitlement to exceptionalism, and pure orneriness when combined with intoxication with one’s self righteousness and Nimbyism – it becomes a frightening toxic brew
5. Victorian ideology percolates through the book, children should be seen and not heard – something that seems Alice is pilloried, stultified and patronized, despite being astute and competent, infantilization of the electorate - Wonderland is Alice’s escape but in a sense Alice’s is a perverse rebellion; it her choice to follow the White Rabbit, but it soon turns hellish
6. A sense of choice but no real agency, Alice is confronted with choices, but never knows the ramifications (law of unforeseen consequences) who to trust, who to believe, whose nonsense to take seriously and her place in this world we took the Red Pill of Leave, and now are part of a huge chess game without knowing the rules which we have to learn as we go (post BREXIT)
7. Language being used arbitrarily to mean exactly what people want them to mean, whether this is ‘freedom’ ‘British people’ ‘sovereignty’ ‘democracy’, in Alice a lot of nonsense is spoken and the speakers are indignant, adamant, in their absurdity – but words are palpably used as ‘speech acts’ to create the world –a constructivist discourse in action – (i.e. media manipulation)
9. A world of logical paradox and inverted logic in which everything has its double and the contrary (Tweedledum keeps saying contrariwise): fast is slow, up is down, cruelty is kindness wrong is right etc, which is similar to the Orwellian Double Think propaganda (so Brexit really equal freedom?) In Through Looking Glass causation is reversed (Leave first, THEN plan!?!)
10. Enormous psychological violence, fearmongering and stress is visited upon Alice –, she is way out of her depth (c.f. British people) and constantly questions the decisions she takes – a 7 year old being given choices she does not fully grasp, and then being threatened, challenged to defend them, hallucinations, having her physical integrity violated (growing, shrinking etc)
Finally, it’s a well loved British story that has captivated generations - a home grown allegory well suited to satire. It’s a story that allows us to make sense of the nonsensical. Lewis Carroll himself wrote satires of voting methods and politics and John Tenniel his illustrator worked for Punch. Finally it uses a devil-may-care comical nihilism which is what is needed vs Brexit.