As we draw near to 23 June, the date of the UK Referendum on the EU, it is becoming clearer to me why this is going to be such a tough vote.
It’s not simply because the issues are complex, the case far from clear cut and the reasons for voting to Leave after 40 years as understandable as the reasons for staying.
Whilst these are all very real, I wonder if it is because we are being asked to make a decisive choice: Yes or No.
It occurred to me, as I filled the dishwasher last night, that this is strikingly at odds with the post-modern culture so many of us under the age of 50 have grown used to. Truth is relative, certainty a thing of the past, you choose your own identity, each to their own, right? Whilst I wouldn’t call myself a post-modernist as I do believe in such a thing as objective truth, I am certainly very comfortable with cultural pluralism and am sceptical of grand ideologies or organisations that espouse to ‘have the answer’.
Add to this the ‘greying factor’ that is the very normal phenomena of those approaching – or very much in the middle of – ‘middle age’. I’m not referring to the changing hue of our hair or the erosion of our brain matter. I mean the way life and experience makes us rethink the black and white truths of our youth and fade to various shades of, ehem, grey (no reference to that book intended ;-)). In short, taking a nuanced stand is something we’re more comfortable with as we can’t be 100% certain of anything.
And so when politicians state in a grandiose way “We can be 100% certain that…..” as did the Scottish MP, Ruth Davidson, last night on the BBC Great Debate, I shake my head in disbelief and even frustration. That is exactly that kind of wrong expectation that puts sensible, reasoned people off voting as they know full well we can’t be 100% certain of what to vote for.
In every other election we’ve voted in, we’ve been offered more than two choices. If we dislike the two main parties, we can opt for Lib Dems, or Greens, or an independent candidate. We can go for an ‘in-between’, an alternative to the main choices who, because they are unlikely to gain real power, can become a ‘cop out vote’ for those who don’t know who to vote. But not tomorrow. Its either Yes or No. There will be no ‘Maybe’. We will be forced to make a decision, one we may not be fully comfortable with.
I, for one am, not fully comfortable with voting Remain as I am aware of the faults and downsides to being part of such a big economic union. But on balance I feel it is better for us to Remain than Leave for various reasons and so am happy to put my cross against one choice.
And with the vitriolic, irrational, and disrespectful tone that has been at the heart of the public debate I’d be surprised if any of us feel entirely comfortable voting for either side.
However, I’m also coming to realise that maybe having to make a decisive choice is actually quite a good discipline for our post-modernist society. There are certain things in life where we can’t keep fudging the issue; a choice has to be made. It’s normally the big important stuff of life that demands this. Do I commit to love this person for life or not? Do I choose to forgive someone when they hurt me or carry that hurt into the rest of my life? Do I choose to live by one faith or another, or none (as is the natural choice for a post-modern society)?
So let’s try and accept this choice as something healthy for us all, even if it is difficult. And whatever we do, to respect each other’s decision no matter what the outcome on Friday.