There have been plenty of attempts to understand the motivations of Brexit's Leave and Remain camps, but few better than David Goodhart's theory of "Anywheres" and "Somewheres" - of a rootless, educated class and those with a stronger sense of place and belonging. While not specifically writing about Brexit, Goodhart believes the mindset of aloof, progressive Anywheres explains their allegiance to the EU, and since this group is so influential in high places, the reason for their allegiance is a key factor in the rift that has split our country in two.
Goodhart claims that Anywheres are married to the concepts of individualism and autonomy, evident among diehard Remainers in their desire to travel unhindered around Europe. This, he suggests, is central to their liberal, citizen-of-the-world identity and distinguishes them from the more parochial Somewheres. But there's something amiss with this part of the theory. While it's true that the story of modern Britain features an arrogant, entitled elite (the Anywheres) versus everyone else, it's surely not their attachment to personal freedom that defines them. How can it be when they are so besotted by an institution that is inherently illiberal and undemocratic?
The easy answer is to say it's a case of autonomy for me, not for thee - that the EU's suffocating bureaucracy and lack of accountability doesn't stop the better-off from doing what they please - but that's not quite right. Everyone feels the EU's bureaucratic pinch, and the professional middle-classes (the bedrock of Remain) particularly so. It's those with the wealth and opportunity to spread their wings who first run into the flak of Euro legislation. While they would undoubtedly like as much autonomy for themselves as they can get, middle-class Remainers don't care for it much in principle. On the contrary, they recognise its absence as bringing considerable benefits.
The thing with autonomy is that it allows us to decide for ourselves what we like and need, to reveal what qualities we appreciate in others and what endeavours we deem useful. This promises success to those who give us what we want, but offers short shrift to those who think the world owes them recognition regardless of what they bring to the table. And this is what lies at the heart of our present situation.
If people truly had a say in how their taxes are spent and to what extent they are governed, a vast number of elite jobs simply wouldn't exist. We wouldn't have the same number of regulators, bean counters and other makework mandarins. There'd be fewer speech censors, health tsars and eco enforcers. Put simply, there wouldn't be as many people working towards curtailing our freedoms and wasting our money, because few of us would voluntarily pay for this work to be done.
As long as those freedoms still exist, however, we can call people out for being obnoxious, lazy, useless or anything else we don't like about them. We can deny them the power and prestige they crave but don't deserve. It's this freedom and this obligation to the little people that our ruling class fears most. It's what threatens their pampered existence and must be stopped at all costs.
To contend with this, the elites have spent years building a society within a society: one based around their own value system, full of lucrative jobs that play to their 'skills', contrary to the wishes of the wider public, who are forced to bankroll it all the same. The denizens of this world live behind the frontline, beyond accountability. Within their Shangri-la, they decide what's important and valuable, and who's deserving of recognition and reward, even while those on the outside look on with despair.
This has allowed them to make victimhood a marketable quality and grant victims moral authority over everyone else. Since anyone can feel persecuted by anything if they try hard enough, free expression in general can be portrayed as the source of hatred and injustice in society, allowing the ruling class to stamp it out and, with it, the challenge to their own power.
It's not just ruling class bigwigs who fear other people's judgement. It afflicts everyone from obstructive NHS receptionists to sad misfits who weren't asked to the ball - anyone, in fact, who thinks life would be less rosy if they were on the end of an honest appraisal. They hide their fear behind causes that blame our freedom for hurting others, ruining the planet or making us fat. They use 'whiteness' and 'the patriarchy' as metaphors for free will and its consequences, and portray them as part of some oppressive social order. They want us silenced and they favour arguments that render our opinions irrelevant.
This is why the trans movement is such a big deal at the moment. If the public can be made to accept that a man is a woman simply because he says he is, then all bets are off. Truth, fact and our preference for them over delusion will be rendered invalid. All judgement will become mere prejudice unless it falls into line with approved opinion. Our ability to argue against official diktat will be removed, and with it the freedom to live as we choose. Lose this battle and we won't have a leg to stand on.
This contempt for human autonomy, particularly among the untutored masses, is what unites Remainer extremists, crony capitalists, Third Way nannies, and progressive movements like Extinction Rebellion and Hope Not Hate. The champions of these causes recognise that their place in their world and their precious self-image depend upon not being exposed to honest scrutiny. In many ways, the real point of conflict in our society today is the divide those who willingly avail themselves to the free judgement of others and those who won't.