An international array of talents and skills, this kind of global cooperation is what makes the NHS the precious institution that it is, people from all over the world working together to make our patients better. Foreigners are not enemies, not antagonists, not people to be feared. Foreigners and refugees didn’t cause the banking crisis which led to the years of austerity; it was the banks, remember?
How far we have fallen since the London Olympics; the energy, the dynamism and the formidable organisation throughout the fortnight, the creativity and self-confidence of the opening and closing ceremonies, all underlining London’s place as one of the centres of the world.
But the dream is shattered, and we have become inward-looking and fearful and divided and diminished. This is the era of Boris, of The Donald; the time of buffoon politics has come. Buffoons become celebrities, get the press coverage, the name recognition.
We used to aspire to intelligence, now we ridicule 'experts'. As Isaac Asimov said: 'Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'
That Donald Trump became president of the USA was a bewildering spectacle from this side of the world. In any other civilised country, a presidential candidate who mocked a disabled person would have been immediately disqualified; perhaps this is what is meant by American Exceptionalism? But his election has to be put in the context of Brexit and that £500 cajillion for the NHS canard.
Where do you hide a leaf? In a forest. Where do you hide a lie? In a Forest of Lies.
The campaigns of poorly-concealed envy and mistrust and egotism had a painful logic; when you sell sausages you don’t wait for people to want sausages, you go out and make them hungry. When you want to appeal to intolerance and bigotry, you make people feel afraid and victimised. When you want to sell fear, you go out and make people scared.
We appealed to dragons, and they have appeared on all sides; sometimes things uprooted cannot be restored, even in the same ground, and I don’t know if we can ever recover from the consequent atmosphere of rancour and suspicion.
- Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Follow him on Twitter @drlfarrell