To be honest, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment. Not simply by what’s going on out there in the world, but by the thought of how the world is changing, and what it might look like in a few months.
This post will focus on the in/out debate here in the UK. Should we stay or should we go?
And it worries me. It worries me that the opposing campaigns are, it seems, not simply trying to convince people of their arguments, but fuelling a dramatic polarisation. It’s not enough to be ‘in’ or ‘out’, I must couple my views, it seems, with a zealous fervour to convert other people to my own way of thinking. Whatever the outcome of the debate, it feels like we’ll have a large section of the population who are not simply disappointed by the result, but devastated or livid that their votes have failed to bring what they wanted. We’re becoming so entrenched in our remain or leave views that, whatever the result of the vote on the economy, or politics, or military, or any manner of other aspects of our society, the worst outcome will be the divided nation we are left with. A substantial proportion of the nation dissatisfied either with the change, or with the status quo.
And part of me wonders if that battle is already lost.
In terms of the vote itself, I generally feel that, whatever the outcome, the country will cope with the next phase. I don’t think that the armageddon that both sides are promising in the event of their side losing will come to pass. I think it will hurt the poorer a lot more in the short term if we vote ourselves out, and that’s a big concern. But I worry too about the repair job that will be needed on the divisions that have been fostered.
The leave campaign seems to be (slightly) worse in terms of nurturing fear. And events of this week suggest that fear drives people to do bad things. A fear of other. There are some sound arguments for voting ‘Leave’, but it doesn’t feel like they’re the ones people are voting for, on the whole. The arguments that seem to gain the most traction and support tend to be avoiding immigration, and ensuring we have fewer people to support financially. From a Christian point of view, neither of these appeal. As one of the strongest economies in the world, I think it is absolutely right for us to support others.
It feels to me a little like a relationship breakdown. Having pledged ourselves to the EU in the past, we’re now finding the going a little tough, and trying our darndest to do a runner. Instead of working on the relationship, we’re running away. Instead of persevering with those who would benefit from our support, we’re voting to ditch them and just look after number one. ‘We want our country back’ seems like a frighteningly self-centered approach. And it also makes me wonder why people think we’ll be hunky-dory trading with the EU in the event of Leaving it. Canada has good trade deals, they say, and Norway’s doing ok. Well, Canada never stuck two fingers up to the EU, and then turned round and asked still to be friends. And Norway pays money toward the EU, and submits to some of its rules (without any say in the making of those rules). Plus, Norway is swimming in oil, so everyone wants to be Norway’s friend! So suggesting that the UK will be fine and dandy in the event of a vote to leave seems pretty ridiculous.
It’s a relationship. It needs to be worked on, not jettisoned. Some changes need to be brought. Changes on both sides of the relationship. But I can’t help thinking the relationship needs to be upheld.