This is a departure from my usual line of approach. I tend to avoid the overtly political – mainly because I don’t want to preach. I set out to entertain. To try and articulate how I see the world in an amusing way. So I tell stories, make observations, try and leave people to draw their own conclusions.
But, this week, the UK decides whether to stay in or leave Europe. The debate has flooded the media and I have had many discussions with people about it. I have listened to a lot of different points of view. I have thought about it a lot. I have considered voting both ways for a whole host of different reasons. My mind has gone back and forth. My decision this way and that. But, now, I have made up my mind. I think.
So, I want to state plainly where I stand. And explain as clearly as I can the reasons for my decision. This I do mainly for my own benefit. I do not aim to influence others. I just find that the act of writing my thoughts down helps clarify them for me.
I will be voting to Remain in the EU. This is not without reservations. I am not a great advocate of the EU. I dislike many things about the EU. But, for now, remaining within the EU seems to me to be the best option. This is why ……..
Those who want to Leave the EU seem to fall into three main categories:
Those who are anti-Capitalist – The EU is basically a Trading Market. It is inherently Capitalist. There are those that believe that we should not be part of it for that reason and, moreover, they hope that the UK leaving the EU will destabilise the Capitalist system in Europe and hasten its inevitable demise. I have some sympathy with this point of view. Personally, I think that Capitalism no longer works and we need to find a new way of communicating value to each other. So, I am tempted to vote Leave just because it may speed up the death of Capitalism.
Those who seek political advantage from doing so – Hello Boris. Without doubt, the whole Brexit debate has split the UK Conservative party. A vote to Leave will probably result in a new leader of the Tory Party and a new Prime Minister. I, like many people, am not happy with the present Government. It is tempting to vote Leave just to give Cameron and Osborne bloody noses.
Those who are racist – Hello Nigel. People who want to blame all that is wrong with the UK on the EU and migrants. People who are prepared to stir up all kinds of hate in order to gain power. People who believe that the place of your birth determines your worth as a person. I will have no truck with racists.
And, here, is one major reason that I will be voting Remain: Not everyone who votes Leave is a racist, but all racists will vote Leave. And I cannot bear the thought of standing on the same platform as racists. I cannot bear the thought that, were I to vote Leave, racists would use my vote as an endorsement of their racist views. Were I to vote Leave, and the Leave vote won, I am pretty sure that the Right wing press would use a Leave vote as proof that their anti-migrant propaganda is justified. I fear what a Leave win would lead to – a hardening of attitudes, a rise of hatred, blood on the streets (to steal a phrase from an old fascist). I cannot risk my vote being used by fascists to promote racist outcomes.
So, in part, I will be voting Remain as the lesser of two evils. In many ways, I don’t think that it will make a great deal of difference whether we stay or go. This is why:
I have found the whole debate around Brexit profoundly depressing. For me, it has high-lighted the fact that our problems go far deeper than Leave or Remain. The difficulty is not the outcome of the debate, it is the terms on which it has been conducted.
The media bombards us daily with figures – how much better/worse off each person/each household will be either in or out of Europe. The financial benefits to each individual are given great importance. How will Leave or Remain affect YOUR pocket. You are constantly encouraged to think about yourself. Put yourself first. Sometimes, the debate is widened to include your family. Sometimes, at its widest, the debate is framed around What’s Best For Britain. But the dominant message is the same – charity begins at home. Think about yourself. Put yourself first. Put Britain first. What can we get out of Europe. Which deal is best for us.
Nowhere, have I seen any serious debate around what effect Brexit would have on the rest of Europe. On the rest of the world. And, to me, that is the issue. We need to stop thinking in a small-minded way. As if we are only responsible for ourselves. As if what we do has no impact on the rest of the world. We need to accept that we are all connected. We are all part of the same species living on one planet. The level of carbon emissions in the UK has an influence on the level of oceans around the planet. That person in London who leaves their TV on standby every night is connected to that person in the Maldives whose home is disappearing beneath rising waters.
There seems to be a growing tendency to isolationism. A feeling that we are better off on our own. Better to go it alone. I think that this is profoundly dangerous. A dangerous lie that will destroy us all. It is a lie that is generated by fear, fed by fear. Fear of difference. Fear of the other.
The truth is that we are all connected, all the same, all in it together. Yes, working together is difficult, messy and uncertain. But it is the only way forward. We need to stop asking, “How can I be happier today?” We need to begin each day by asking, “How can I make my neighbour happy?”
The first question leads to a world in conflict. The second to a world where everyone is surrounded by neighbours whose aim is to make them happy. I know where I would rather live.
Both sides of the Brexit debate have framed their arguments around the first question. Both sides have made small-minded arguments. But the decision to Remain at least ensures that we view the future as, in some small way, a joint venture, an exercise in cooperation whereas the Leave campaign has been characterised by the tendency to demonize the foreigner.
I will be voting Remain. You, reader, if you are entitled to do so, must vote however your heart tells you. What is far more important is the question you ask yourself each morning: Who do you want to make happy?