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Posts Tagged ‘Referendum’

How we ended up out out

25/06/2016

A vast number of Brits pop to the corner shop for some Alka Seltzer (touch of gippy tummy after last night’s reheated Wiener Schnitzel, and a bit of a headache – doubtlessly that bloody Chateauneuf du Pape). They then nip into the Lion and Unicorn for a restorative Pimm’s, only to wake up the next day to discover that one thing must have led to another because they apparently ended up trashing the pub, crashing the family car and drunk dialling their humourless boss to tell him he’s a twat who can stuff his job. Oh, and the headache? Yeah, quite a lot worse now. It’s going to take a lot more than Alka Seltzer to shift that bastard.

Obviously Brexit has a few additional elements, but given that many (although by no means all) “Out” voters appear to prefer black and white over grey, and a good yarn over provable facts, I decided they were superfluous for the purposes of this tale.

When all is said and done, a referendum is a democratic process, democracy is something we have respect for, and the voters have spoken. Even so, when I hear “In” voters being talked about using terms such as sour grapes and bad losers, I can’t help but wonder whether a number of “Out” voters are actually under the impression that we are dealing with a village cricket match. Or the Great British Bake-Off. Or just a general election, where the “bad losers” only have five years to wait before they can have another stab at turning their sour grapes into more acceptable political vino.

But the reality is that on June the 24th, millions of people awoke to a future that has been completely and terrifyingly blown out of the water. Through no choice of their own. And there is no turning back; no chance for redress in five short years. A little comprehension from those who have chosen to plunge an entire country into extreme political and economic uncertainty would not go amiss at this time.

More disturbing than the terms used above, however, are many people’s apparent motives for voting us out. Motives which in a lot of cases seem to have precious little to do with any sort of real understanding or familiarity (the sort that allows one to breed legitimate contempt) with the European Union.

Instead many of those who voted out did so because they willingly choose to believe that the EU exists purely to outlaw custard creams, measure everyone’s bananas and write bible-length regulations on the sale of Cruciferous vegetables. The fact that it was actually established to try to unite a group of historically warring nations in order to assure peace to future generations (with prosperity a hoped-for side effect) is something I did not see mentioned much in the run up to this life-changing vote.

Others voted out because they willingly choose to believe that the majority of their country’s problems are due to the influx of foreigners, something that most unbiased reports seem to negate. And anyway, curbing immigration is by no means guaranteed by an EU exit, as has now been admitted.

There were those who willingly chose (I say chose, because that fantasy was destroyed almost as soon as the votes were counted) to believe that the money we currently send to the EU would be instead directed into purely British interests. Deprived British communities and areas (amongst many other British interests) have long been propped up by EU grants in return for our membership fee, but Brexit didn’t think to mention to the people most strongly voting to leave that they will likely be the hardest hit by a withdrawal.

And then there were those who voted because they are sick and tired of the “political elite”. They feel abandoned by the political class, in many cases with good reason. However, that is entirely unrelated to our membership in the European Union; sinking the country into a severe economic recession and complete political turmoil is unlikely to get their problems addressed any time soon.

These are just some of the reasons the “In” voters are not sucking up their sour grapes, or working on their losing skills, just so you know.

To those who voted out because they have closely followed or read up extensively on the British/EU alliance, or had personal/professional experience of the inner workings of the EU machine, and are in possession of enough political or economic acumen to judge that there is a chance we really would be better off out: thank you. Thank you for not playing Russian roulette with our future on a prejudicial whim.

We now have no option but to look forwards, and make the most of this turmoil to try and ensure something worthwhile comes out of it. A couple of key points that have come to me in the dead of the last few sleepless nights are:

  • no more political apathy – if you don’t have a favourite, pick the option you hate the least: just vote.
  • no more complacency – the world is changing, there are no more guarantees, wake up.
  • less ideology and more reality – what is desirable is not always what is right or necessary, ideology is a boggy road to nowhere constructive, reality is a rocky road to healthy compromise.
  • less “left” and “right”, more middle ground – we all want a fair society that cares and takes care, but in order to have that we need a strong economy.
  • don’t believe everything you read on the internet or in the media – fact checking is part of being a responsible participant in political change.

And having got this off my chest, I shall say no more about it except for: onwards and upwards, country of mine, regardless of what the future might hold. I am still looking forward to making you my home again, after over twenty years. And the first thing I shall do, before even unpacking my suitcase, is to get on the electoral role…

 

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Teetering

21/06/2016

As anyone who follows the Status Viatoris Blog Facebook page will know (and I apologise if you are finding it a little tedious), the run-up to the UK referendum on our Europe Union membership is seriously perturbing me.

Political referendums are tricky things. Essentially they are asking a public who has very little practical understanding of the political and financial workings of their country (myself most definitely included) to make a vitally important decision on… the political and financial future workings of their country. It is a big ask, denoting big responsibility.

But if said public were handed all the pertinent facts and figures in an impartial manner, and allowed to trawl through them and ask questions of impartial experts in the various fields before deciding which vote made the most sense to them as a layman, it would at least be a fair ask.

What we have been witnessing over the last weeks/months, however, is about as far from fair as it is possible to get. Both sides have preyed on the public’s ignorance in an attempt to frighten them into the desired vote, and the Leave campaign in particular has shown a viciousness and immorality that should cause any sane voter, even one that despises the EU and all it stands for, to stop dead and wonder what the hell is happening to their country.

For a large percentage of the general public will not be going to the urns armed with facts, they will instead be walking in with minds full of baseless yet highly inflammatory rhetoric, designed only to trigger existing preconceptions, fears and prejudices. The “facts” they think they have in their possession, turn out at best to be incomplete representations of the actual situation.

At worst they are quite simply lies, perpetuated by a group of people confident that their audience will be too busy enjoying having their existing preconceptions, fears and prejudices validated, to bother cross-checking the “information” they are handed with any reliable, and impartial, source.

Brexiteers are being promised a rosy future that nobody can actually vouch for, based on a premise that is no more than mere speculation and which is fuelled by hatred, mistrust, feelings of superiority, and a nationalism that history tells us we would be wise to be on our guard against.

We all know that there are many problems in the UK (as there are, always have been and always will be, in all countries), and I’m sure it is comforting for many to at last be able to openly slay their chosen scapegoats: Europe and the immigrants. There. One foul swoop and the majority of our niggles will apparently be gone.

I see exactly the same scenario being played out in my country of residence, Italy. Except here they have real problems as well: a corrupt (really corrupt, not David Cameron doing a small, perfectly legal offshore investment corrupt) behemoth of a ruling class, high unemployment, low wages, high taxes, minimum government assistance… And yet Europe and the immigrants are often top of the list in the blame game, simply because they are so ridiculously easy to hate: untangling the country’s actual problems is an infinitely more daunting task, requiring some serious and uncomfortable national introspection.

But beware of snake oil salesmen offering a quick fix: be it diet pills that will magic you effortlessly thin in a month or a single political decision that will seamlessly return us to a supposedly halcyon past. Such people are either after money or power; they are unlikely to be motivated by the best interests of their rapt audience.

The European Union (like any group of people just trying to get things done in an ever more challenging world) is not perfect, and mass immigration is far from ideal, bringing with it as it does undeniable complications.

But attempting to isolate ourselves (once again) from our nearest neighbours, rather than seeking strength in common good does not seem to me to offer any real solutions. And turning our backs on a massive humanitarian crisis rather than accepting the realities of the world we live in, acknowledging that sometimes we need to be flexible enough to absorb such consequences into our way of life and accepting that what is desirable is often not what is either right or necessary, does not seem like any kind of progress.

At the end of the day, if we were dealing in comprehensive facts and figures, both for and against, I would be able to observe this process more philosophically regardless of the outcome. But I cannot watch my country basing such an important decision on little more than hyperbole, scaremongering, preconceptions, fear, prejudice, hate, half-truths and untruths, without at least having a stab at expressing my feelings.

And for those of you who, like me, have been feeling hugely frustrated by the seeming lack of accessible, unbiased facts, I offer you this:

EU law expert responds as “industrial dishonesty” video goes viral

This:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07jczmc

This:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07jl61s

And to add some much-needed humour to the table, this:

Best of British for the 23rd, chaps. Use your collective power wisely.


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