Just look at what those dumb, poor people have done!
In the analysis and picking over the UK EU Referendum result and trying to make sense of why we voted to Leave rather than Remain a revealing theme has emerged. The result was the fault of the poor, working-class.
The campaign to Leave came down to two ‘promises’,
- more money available (to fund the NHS amongst other things)
- fewer immigrants taking what they hadn’t earnt from our nation’s coffers
No surprise then that the people most affected by the policies enacted under the banner of enforced austerity voted to Leave. More revealing to me is the derision with which the educated middle-classes expressed their disappointment that they didn’t see any point in voting for something that would mean everything was to continue as normal.
We can no longer avoid the fact that we’re living in a polarised society. Our echo chambers have got fiercer and we’re merrily believing that our contemporaries represent ‘common sense’ or the ‘pulse of the nation’.
I have no real understanding of why Nigel Farage is a thing. I find it really hard to comprehend how someone like that has become the mobilisation point for a push for change.
And that is my problem.
I’ve been blessed with a financially comfortable childhood, an OK state education and intelligence that allowed me to achieve academically despite the best efforts of teenage idleness and rebellion. So my starting point for the subsequent success I’ve experienced (once I realised the value of hard work) was way above the majority of the nation.
The small electoral ward I live in is predominantly highly educated and, I understand, voted 90% in favour of Remain almost twice as much as the surrounding borough, Broxtowe, which was 45.4% Remain.
For me austerity is something to be cross about within my similarly advantaged peer group but not something that has directly affected me. Friends who have committed their careers to the NHS have felt the squeeze but their lives go on. They believe that the problem lies with prevailing national policy rather than imposition from Europe or streams of immigrants. Voting Leave isn’t going to change anything for the better.
There’s been an Isaac Asimov quote doing the rounds
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.
This ignorance has been cynically leveraged to outrageous degrees by the Leave campaign and the pervasive and supporting British media.
But the real fault lies with our ignorance of how our fellow Britons live their lives and are very really affected by the austerity policies that have left them with very little hope. It’s understandable, we spend our lives in echo chambers, detached from people with whom we have little in common.
Many people have decided that this is the moment that has motivated them into political activisim, take control, make a difference.
Are more people shouting their views at each other really going to make for a more integrated nation?
Instead we should choose to live our lives in a more open fashion. Not try and cut ourselves off and try to advantage ourselves at the expense of others. Let’s rub shoulders with our fellow citizens, travel with them, work with them, play with them. That is the way to better understand what we’re going through as a collective.
Use public transport. Use the NHS. Send your children to the local state school and be part of the school community. Attend local festivals, markets, sporting events. Help out at community organisations. Anything that means you’re coming in contact with people with whom you wouldn’t normally work or socialise with. Exposing ourselves to the hopes, dreams and travails of others is the only way we can hope to understand each other’s perspectives on what we’re going through.
History has taught us that shouting and pilorying people just leads to more entrenched positions. The blood-soaked history of Europe prior to the formation of the EU is testament to where that leads.
The EU had been the most ambitious and successful peace project that the world has seen. It’s time now for us to commit to our own national peace project lest we tear our country apart.