In or Out? Why this EU vote is so hard for a post-modern society

decision-making-300x300As 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.

4 thoughts on “In or Out? Why this EU vote is so hard for a post-modern society

  1. Well written Siobhan. Sitting in Europe we only really hear the experts on this, and not the emotive arguments that most Brits would have been subject to for weeks on end. Emotion is such a dangerous and powerful catalyst in this sort of debate.

    From someone sitting across the channel it is almost unbelievable that anyone could vote to leave. Whilst there may be one or two, maybe even a few things that one may find irksome with being a member of an economic union, how anyone with all the facts who has taken the time to gain an in-depth understanding of both the restrictions and benefits of the agreement could vote to leave is unfathomable.

    The population elect politicians to make these sorts of judgements with the understanding that their job is to know more about this and understand the pros and cons better than the average person on the street. This may sound terribly Machiavellian, but there are times when a plebiscite is simply not the best solution. I would suggest it would be fair to say the vast majority of English citizens are simply not well enough informed to make such a judgement.

    At least in the short-term, with the Pound no doubt going to be in free-fall for some time, we who live on the other side will have a cheap(er) holiday destination.

    • I agree, Dan, and don’t see it as Machiavellian to suggest that. These things are extremely complex so Im with you in that I’m not certain a referendum is right for this issue. Its a blip from the normal process of our politic system of representative democracy. My post wasn’t really trying to address the issue of whether we should be given the choice to vote or not, but that given we have been, I’m wondering if this is one of the reasons why its so tough to make such a binary decision. But I have to say, writing this hours after waking up to this shocking, awful Leave result, my post sounds glib. I really did NOT thing it would be Leave – call me an optimist or out of touch with a vast number of voters. Yes it might be a healthy discipline, but maybe its not one we should be exercising for this issue…..

  2. Well written Siobhan. Sitting in Europe we only really hear the experts on this, and not the emotive arguments that most Brits would have been subject to for weeks on end. (Only when outlandish claims become newsworthy in their own right!) Emotion is such a dangerous and powerful catalyst in this sort of debate.

    From someone sitting across the channel it is almost unbelievable that anyone could vote to leave. Whilst there may be one or two, possibly even a few things that one may find irksome with being a member of such an economic union, how anyone with all the facts who has taken the time to gain an in-depth understanding of both the restrictions and benefits of the agreement could vote to leave would appear to an outsider to be unfathomable.

    The population elect politicians to make these sorts of judgements with the understanding that their job is to know more about this and to understand the pros and cons better than the average person on the street. This may sound terribly Machiavellian, but there are times when a plebiscite is simply not the best solution. I would suggest it would be fair to say the vast majority of English citizens are simply not well enough informed to make such a judgement.

    At least in the short-term, with the Pound no doubt going to be in free-fall for some time, we who live on the other side will have a cheap(er) holiday destination.

  3. so well written siobhan. That very last sentence is so important and I think the reason I have felt so uncomfortable with the whole EU vote is that a lot of people feel so strongly one way or the other that the whole concept of respecting anothers choice has gone out the window. We’ve even seen it amongst our group of friends – instead of respecting each persons choice they all end up arguing fiercely their own stance.

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