The democracy of the situation we found ourselves in is something which is being flung from both sides. Remainers are, of course, shocked and upset this morning. Myself included. Hearing a far right racist politician talk about the dawn of a new independence day has induced in me such intense feelings of dystopia and alienation that I won’t be forgetting about this any time soon.
Brexiters who voted to leave for racist, xenophobic and nationalist reasons, are of course people with which I have such vast chasms of difference in opinion with that it’s not worth wasting time on. But brexiters who voted for other reasons and brexit sympathisers who I had little chagrin with before the referendum are now expressing positions about the results and the expression of democracy within them which I find not only disagreeable, but insensitive. I do believe that there are reasonable sentiments which push towards a leave vote, and I do not feel there are absolutely no conditions under which I would vote to leave. Criticisms of the EU such as preferential trading treatment to white richer European counties, stifling opportunities in developing countries, and domination by massive self-serving corporations seen in trade agreements such as TTIP being lobbied for and pressing down democratic motions, are extremely appropriate and important to note.
But the fact remains, that the 52% leave results are motivated primarily by those former brexiters, who voted for turning refugees away, for getting rid of their polish neighbours with heavy accents, for wanting to return Britain to its former ‘glory’ when it was… forcefully colonising most of the planet and treating the people who lived there like dirt. The 52% are responding the likes of Nigel Farage, a man so insensitive that in the wake of a win for him he celebrated that ‘not a single shot was fired’ while Jo Cox’s family are still coming to terms with her brutal murder in the streets of her home town. He heralds this as ‘independence’, which is surely a notion arguably more belonging to the countries we forcefully invaded. It seems we do not like a mere drop of our own medicine. He is a man who doesn’t care a jot that his posters eerily mimic Nazi propaganda. The 52% are also responding to Boris Johnson, a dangerous buffoon who quoted studies and statistics he hadn’t looked into, gave more weight to the President’s Kenyan heritage than his political knowledge when he spoke frankly about what our post-brexit trading relationship would be like, and has frankly used this entire journey of peril to propel himself into the position of Prime Minister of England. What a despicable man.
You may be able to see the insensitivity I see in the Brexiters and brexit sympathisers who didn’t vote for these reasons but are still reminding me of the importance of ‘democracy’. Here’s what I think about the nature of the ‘democracy’ expressed in this referendum. I think that the results of a referendum asked of a country in a toxic cauldron of racism, of incessant and insidious ‘other-ing’ and dehumanisation of Eastern Europeans fleeing poverty and refugees fleeing war, of poor families in chronic poverty desperate for something to change, of overworked people still not affording a comfortable life and needing there to be something to hold accountable, of statistics being bent this way and that out of all coherence, of politicians pushing for results which benefit themselves and their careers rather than the economics of a country, all ends up in what is overall actually a pretty piss poor demonstration of a democratic process. I think that the overwhelming majority of 18-24 years olds now growing up in a country riddled with changes and policies they voted passionately against, but which the older generation nearing the end of lives wanted anyway, doesn’t feel very democratic to me.
I am not calling for Plato’s Philosopher Kings. I am not saying that all these smelly people around me are too stupid for democracy. I’m saying that it’s pretty clear that democracy requires solid education, access to unbiased information, and good fucking reasons for political positions, to be present alongside the freedom to speak with influence on these issues and decisions, otherwise we get ourselves into deep trouble. We have a democracy because citizens are the ‘in practice’ part of ideas, the important part which experts and academics and politicians wrapped up cosily in theory and power can’t have a handle on. It’s the abstract masculine ideals of being an intimidating country unwilling to cooperate with anyone else lest it get in the way of our patriotic arrogance that has romanticised and driven this referendum result. But we’ve been told by all the experts that practically, this is economic suicide. The reality is that the leave campaign has lied and lied and lied. Now we’re stuck with more powerful and unelected tory leaders (democracy? huh?) intent on further and further austerity. We will be poorer in terms of money, opportunity and global advancement. The poor and the non-British will suffer and are probably very scared right now. Telling me to cherish the democracy at play here instead of the fates and livelihoods of these people is not acceptable as it may initially seem.