Belfast Telegraph

EU Referendum: We're cursed to live in interesting times

By Lindy McDowell

May you live in interesting times, the Chinese are reputed to say. And these are indeed undeniably eventful days.

You reach a certain age when you think you've seen it all. In this part of the world especially, where we've been so accustomed to interruptions from the Hand of History, we've become pretty much blasé about the seismic and the significant. On the local political front in the last couple of decades, we've seen more seismic activity than Etna.

Meanwhile, on the wider global stage down the years, we've witnessed profound change and turmoil. We've lived through momentous events that, for good or bad, have shaped our times, our lives, our world and our future.

Awful tragedy, supreme human achievement, scientific and technological breakthrough and man's enduringly constant inhumanity to man.

Witnesses to history are not just the officials who stand on the sidelines as great peace treaties are signed or war plans are drawn up. They are not just the intimates who have the ear of rulers and access to the powerful.

We are all witnesses to the history of our time. History is today's breaking news, the front page headline on your morning paper, the newsflash on the radio and "now trending on Twitter".

Walls coming down, the death of a princess - who among us who lived through it will forget where we were when we heard about that?

And watching on television that days as two passenger planes cruised out of a clear, blue sky on a sunny New York morning and slammed into the twin towers and into the history books.

Some events - the latter particularly - are made memorable by horror. Others just take you by total surprise. Even when you were partly expecting it. Even when the polls - for once - almost got it right.

You wake up one day and the world is just the same - but suddenly everything is changed - and with the potential to change utterly. It would be fair to say that the Brexit vote is such a moment in time.

A young friend put it well. "I woke up and heard the news," she said, "and I just thought to myself, 'Someday in the future children in history class will be having to learn this date and about what happened on this day.'"

And about what happened next, of course …

Sadly we are still in the dark about that bit.

We only know that, as just about every pundit in the land is describing it, we are now in "uncharted waters".

For once an understatement there.

And for once too, those words like 'momentous' and 'seismic' and 'historic' that get bandied about all the time (usually to sum up the likes of, say, a football star changing clubs) truly come into their own.

We are entering a new epoch.

The UK, deeply divided on the issue, has exited Europe, the Prime Minister has resigned, the Tories are in turmoil, the Labour Party is rent with bickering, Boris is triumphant and Kay Burley is in overdrive.

Who knows how or where it will end up? We can only hope for the best. But these are certainly interesting times.

And unsettlingly, ominously, that old Chinese proverb quoted above... traditionally it isn't actually meant as a good luck wish.

It's a curse.

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph