I caught up on BBC Question Time this morning as my youngest (so far) grandchild napped on my shoulder. There was much talk of Brexit, the Chilcot report and the position the Labour Party finds itself in & a really interesting point was made about how Tony Blair ran his Cabinet & government. The Chilcot report showed that many decisions, not just the one to go to war, were made in individual meetings rather than full group cabinets. I can only guess why Tony Blair liked to do things this way but I would presume it was because it’s far easier to persuade people to your point of view if you’re speaking one on one.
As human beings we are more likely to stick with our views if we have people who agree with us in the group, it makes us feel stronger & more able to argue back with things we disagree with. That’s human nature. It’s also, when done correctly, a great way to make sure you make good decisions.
We all like to surround ourselves with people who think the same way as we do, who have the same values and beliefs. Frankly it makes us feel good. It also makes us feel right. And that’s the problem. We live in a world of varying shades of grey where there is rarely an absolute right or wrong answer. A world of nuances and shades. If we surround ourselves completely with people who think the same way as us, with roughly the same experiences as us we risk losing the ability to really see the world as it is. Some might say the political elite in London have done just this & are now in such crisis because of it.
The Brexit referendum was certainly an interesting time for me on Social Media. As I explained in a previous blog I had decided, after much thought, to vote to leave the EU. Many of my Facebook friends voted to remain & I respect that. I also appreciate what their different opinion brings to my decision making. I am still very comfortable with the way I voted because I know I saw lots of the arguments against that vote & thought them through. They may not have persuaded me to vote remain but they did get me to question my leave vote & I’m pleased they did.
If we stop listening to each other, if we stop discussing the things we disagree about, if we make really important decisions without taking all views into account then I believe we’ll make bad decisions. Ones we haven’t thought through & challenged. So let’s embrace the nuances of human value systems & discuss the things that we disagree about with respect for those who disagree with us. The world will be a better place for it I’m sure.
Everywhere we look in the UK there’s talk of the EU referendum, from pages upon pages in the papers & long segments of the news to social media posts from those we’re connected to, the EU referendum is never far from our eyes.
Now I started this campaign desperate for information to help me make a decision, I was totally undecided ( I’m still not 100% sure) but I quickly realised that trying to access unbiased facts was like searching for the Holy Grail. I found myself questioning my thoughts on all the areas being talked about, here’s the process I went through:
- Immigration. I see immigration as a positive thing for our country. All the research shows that the most diverse businesses are the most successful ones and I believe the same holds true for countries providing we all treat each other with respect. Are there issues with immigration? Of course there are, no system is perfect & we should always try to work on those but we will never get a perfect system. That’s just life. So this would indicate a “remain” vote for me.
- Economy. I have no idea whether our economy will be better if we stay or go. Frankly we’ll never know what the alternative vote would have given us. Ultimately I believe the success of our economy has more to do with our skills and attitudes as a country than whether we’re in the EU or not. So this is a neutral issue for me.
- Sovereignty. Do we want our decision made in Westminster or Brussels? To be honest Westminster feels as remote from my life as Brussels does most of the time so does it make a difference for me? Do we lose some of our national identity because we’re in Europe? For me purely as an emotional decision this is a neutral with a lean towards Leave.
- Refugees. If someone is so desperate they will pay everything they have left to put themselves and their families on one of those tiny boats to cross the Mediterranean we shouldn’t be treating them like criminals. I believe we’ll look back on how we’ve acted in the refugee crisis with shame. Do some militants hide among them? I’m sure they do but does that mean we should abandon the thousands of true refugees because a small minority are a threat? Not in any society I want to be part of. We helped create this problem, we need to help solve it. I’m putting this as a neutral because neither the Remain or Leave campaign are dealing with this properly for me.
A terrified child clings to a rock on the shore as a group of Syrian refugees arrive on the island after travelling by inflatable raft from Turkey. The Eastern Mediterranean route from Turkey to Greece has overtaken the central Mediterranean route, from North Africa to Italy, as the primary one for arrivals by sea. From January to June this year, 68,000 people arrived in Greece, compared with 67,500 in Italy, accounting for nearly all the arrivals in the period. (from www.newyorker.com)
- Security. Are we safer inside or outside Europe? Does being part of the system help us share useful information. I have to think it does, although whether we’re part of the EU or not we should all be cooperating on this one. Remain
- The Apocalypse. Seriously while this is a big decision the world is not going to end & the sky fall in whichever way we vote. It’s such a shame that the national debate is such a negative one. I understand why, marketeers have known for a long time that fear sells better than any other emotion & so it’s being used to try & sell both sides of this debate to us. Positivity doesn’t have the same effect on us as human beings, which is such a shame.
- My tribe. We all have a tribe, people who tend to think like us, share our values and beliefs. They are a huge influence on us & my tribe are overwhelmingly remain. The leave campaign, concentrating as it does on immigration, feels less tolerant to me. What has shocked me though is seeing posts on social media from people I thought were tolerant labelling all “leave” voters as uneducated and intolerant thereby displaying an intolerance themselves. If we cannot, as a society, respect another’s right to disagree with us, and their reasons for doing so without being judgmental that worries me more than whether we stay in the EU or not. This is, to me, the most British of values-to respect and defend someone’s right to free speech whether we agree with them or not.
After spending a long time thinking about these issues I realised I was asking myself the wrong questions. If we have this once in a lifetime opportunity to think about whether we should be in the EU the question I think we should be asking ourselves is:
“Is the EU the right institution for the world we live in?In a world where geography is so much less important that it ever was should we be building stronger links with countries because they happen to be located next to us or should we be building links with countries who share our values and aspirations?”
If we had known in 1973 that technology and the internet was going to produce the world we now live in would we still have voted to join? Knowing the world we now live in should we vote to stay?
Asking myself this question has led me towards a leave vote despite the attendant associations around immigration. Am I certain of this decision? No-the concerns around negative views on immigration of the leave campaign weigh on my mind. It may well be that I don’t decide until I enter the voting station and that’s fine, in the end I know I’ve given this decision a lot of thought and that’s what we all need to do for a vote as important as this.