Heartbreak, desolation, helplessness and exhaustion. Those are some of the words which describe how I’m feeling after waking up this morning to find out that the British people have voted to leave the EU. My country has decided to step into the wrong side of history, undoing decades of progress. The hurt is only leveraged by the fact that the results of last year’s general election taught me that I shouldn’t dare to hope. What kind of world do we live in when young people don’t dare to hope?
The most devastating thing for me is that I can’t even blame the people. The opportunistic Leave campaign used lies and misinformation to capitalise on the real pain and suffering experienced by an increasingly marginalised working class. This was the same tactic used in the general election to win the votes of rural England and Wales. A convenient scapegoat was offered up – immigration – to misdirect the real culprits. A referendum was promised and now the head of that very campaign has had to resign. I guess there’s some solace in the fact that this strategy backfired in the long run. That small victory is drowned under the fact that the same strategy of fear mongering and blame shifting was abused to galvanise the British public into making this poor decision. As is, it is clear that the immediate back tracking on the £350 mil propaganda (see Farage on the morning news) is the first taste of things to come.
The fact is, democracy is seems broken. When the tabloid newspapers and campaigners are able to print and say whatever they like regardless of whether it is actually true – what chance do people have of making an informed decision. This morning even the “impartial” BBC managed to dig that knife in a little deeper. I sat in shock as I watched Corbyn getting lambasted for trying to be honest with the public instead of selling them lies and hate. Yes, lies and hate are clearly more effective – but how have we come to a world where honesty in politics is openly deplored?
Yet, judging by the content of my Facebook news feed this morning, it would appear that the biggest assault on democracy might be social media. In the golden age of information, it would be easy to argue that people have the ability to make more informed decisions than ever. However, when I look at my news feed, 100% of the posts I see convey their disappointment at the verdict. This isn’t just because all of my friends are like minded. Considering my home town voted to Leave by an overwhelming margin of 73%, I think it’s safe to assume that plenty of people who voted leave occupy my friend list. I imagine this effect is the result of the algorithms that doctor what you see based on your interests. Before the vote happened I didn’t get any posts on my feed that were pro leave, so I can only assume that people who expressed an interest in voting leave would have experienced the reverse. This is a travesty considering that it is estimated that the majority of people source the articles they read from their FB feed. Add to this the fact that I got four Leave campaign information leaflets through my letter box and exactly zero from Remain and you begin to wonder how anyone would have had access to other side without a great effort on their part. Obviously this effect works both ways, but in this particular case the Leave campaign was so in your face and brazen that it was hard to miss.
Then there’s the map above* which shows the regional distribution of votes. There’s a certain level of hypocrisy involved when a nation that is the union of several countries wants to leave another union of several countries because it is worried (unjustly) about “sovereignty”. Especially given the confusion that English people felt about Scotland wanting a referendum in 2014. It seems that Scotland and northern Ireland would be well within their rights to leave the UK . Perhaps even London could one day become independent. Suddenly, something that sounded like the premised for a dystopian novel no longer looks so farfetched. Has today dealt the blow that will dismantle Great Britain?
I don’t know what else to say, although I have many, many more thoughts. I guess all we can do is wait and watch as the facts emerge and people realise that the reasons that they don’t have job security, or housing and get poor service from the NHS has nothing to do with EU policies or strain from ~0.3% population increase (185000/64.1mil) from EU immigrants. I guess we’ll have to sit back and watch as the UK government deals with the black hole in legislation that leaving the EU will cause. We’ll have to wait and see who wins when the new policies are rolled out – my money isn’t on the working or middle classes.
You reap what you sow.
* all images are from the Guardian