Thursday 19 September 2019

Brendan O'Connor: 'How we landed in a sci-fi novel'

Boris Johnson Photo: PA
Boris Johnson Photo: PA
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

It was hard for the people in 2018 to pinpoint when exactly their lives had become a science fiction novel. For some people it was when the toddler-in-chief had a tantrum with a journalist. It was just one of many, but it cemented for some that somehow, a major asshole had become the leader of the free world.

For others, it was when Malibu started burning and the celebrities began fleeing their homes. If even the celebrities, who had enough money to insulate themselves from the chaos, were being engulfed in it, then things were surely, finally, out of control.

But most people could not pinpoint the moment, because it all spun out of control in such a banal, gradual way. You only needed the norm to deviate by 1pc a day, to have deviated completely in 100 days. So there was no major tipping point. Just a slow drip, drip whereby suddenly, what would have seemed utterly bizarre a year before, now seemed perfectly normal.

For the people of Ireland, a small country off the then united continent formerly known as Europe, some date the tipping point to the emergence of the second Johnson. Most people had not known there was a second Johnson. One was enough for the world. Those who were aware of the second Johnson had rested secure in the knowledge that he was not like his brother. He was a Remainer, and thus regarded as more reasonable than his brother.

His brother Boris, too, had been a Remainer, while also being a Brexiteer. But he had flipped a coin and decided he was a passionate Brexiteer. When the second Johnson, the reasonable one, started acting like his brother but from a different perspective, it seemed like the final straw.

Everyone in Europe had long been bored with Brexit. The Brexiteers themselves were bored of it by now too. Some of them woke up in the morning and looked in the mirror and wished to themselves it would just go away. And then they would get a grip and go off for another day of passionate Brexiteering.

Eventually everyone got so tired of waking up each day to roller coaster headlines that there would be a deal... and then there wouldn't be a deal... that they all agreed to give the UK whatever they wanted just to end it. And Theresa May agreed to give Europe whatever they wanted just to end it. But when they told her she could have whatever she wanted, it turned out Theresa May didn't know what she wanted and she didn't know if she could get it past parliament.

And everyone just shrugged their shoulders and moved on. And the next time people got as excited about anything again was when Taylor Swift faced off Oprah in the Democratic primaries.

Sunday Independent

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