Apparently we’re off

Hello world – this is Great Britain calling. You may have seen us in the news this week because we’ve been having a referendum. We had a choice of whether to remain in the EU or to leave and the majority of us who voted wanted to leave.

In the months leading up to be big day there were claims and counter-claims from the two sides and the whole thing got extremely unpleasant. People told lies, people made up numbers and much was said that was not supported by evidence. It became impossible to tell fact from fiction. In addition, some areas received almost no coverage – there was lots of talk about immigration but barely a mention of the environment, for example. All this meant that, when it came to it, a lot of the decision for many people was based on a gut-feeling. As a scientist, this was something that I personally was not happy about. I wanted to see numbers, I wanted to see facts and I certainly did not want to see sniping and personal attacks.

Unfortunately, however, facts were in short supply. This was mainly because the choice was not between two things, it was between one thing (remain) and not that thing (leave). This meant that whilst it was possible to find genuine information about our history within the EU, what might happen if we left (and even if we stayed) was all conjecture, if not pure fantasy in some cases. The ‘leave’ position was not linked to any specific plan or model, so it was impossible to extrapolate and then assess the implications. In my opinion, the referendum was poorly framed, because we really didn’t know exactly what we were voting for.

Thus, when the vote went the way of the ‘leavers’ the immediate situation was that nobody knew what was going to happen. Uncertainty breeds fear and this was manifested immediately in the responses of individuals. I saw the result at about 6:45 in the morning just before my swim, so I then spent a calm 40 minutes mulling things over as I progressed up and down the pool. I find swimming a rather peaceful activity and one that allows ample opportunity for calm consideration.

It might have been better if everyone had gone for a swim rather than immediately taking to social media, as so many did, to express their feelings. There were messages of joy and messages of doom; there were racist comments and offensive comments; aspersions were cast by some members of the losing side about the intelligence of the winning side; some young people claimed that old people had wrecked their future…. and on it went. As the morning progressed, social media allowed a sort of mass hysteria to develop and much that was ill-considered was written- by both sides. The trouble is, once a snowball starts rolling down a hill it gains speed and it gets bigger. I watched with dismay as this happened, as the remainers fuelled each other’s fear with doom-laden statements and accusations…

… and then I turned off my computer, went out for lunch and finally made a little toy tent. The sun shone, vegetables grew, raspberries ripened and there was no rioting in the streets.

I am shocked about the implication that all those who voted to leave the EU are racist bigots or, indeed, haters of Europe (as distinct form the European Union). I expect that many who voted to leave had a dream of starting again with a clean slate, of a better future without the unwieldy bureaucracy widely associated with the EU. Now, you could say that this is naive… our country has layer upon layer of bureaucracy all of its own and its government is built around a long-established and out-dated hierarchy including an unelected House of Lords and many civil-servants and politicians linked through an old-boys network. However, I know that many people voted ‘leave’ in the expectation of change for the better. And that is what needs to be the goal now… change for the better… irrespective of how I, or any other individual voted.


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  1. Beautifully put Jan. Let’s go forward in positivity towards making a better future.

  2. Dr. Snail, THANK YOU. I have just spent a very depressing half hour on social media and was feeling very upset by the vitriol and sheer stupidity I encountered. I felt I would meet chicken licken shortly telling me the sky was falling down! Your post has said it all brilliantly. Here’s to a better U.K. for everyone.

  3. Val

     /  June 25, 2016

    A lot of people voted for change….any change….so they voted leave. Thing is whilst remaining had its issues, Pandora’s box has now been opened…..and found to be full of cans of worms which will never go back in the can….
    People protested, never expecting to be on the winning side and now are at a total loss as to what to do…..
    I hate the racism, the nasty comments, the xenophobia etc…..but there is an awful lot of it out there 😥

  4. I like the idea that all the bad-tempered, vitriolic, irascible, resentful, opinionated and downright rude people on both sides of this particular debate should be made to go swimming for half an hour before uttering. With luck, some of the worst might drown… It really has brought out the worst in some people. I commented on Brexit on another blog whose author was interested but remote from the issue. I got a historic date wrong by two years and had another commenter jump down my throat with both boots on, repeatedly, even after I had immediately acknowledged the error. Apparently this minor slip was a cardinal sin which merited an aggressive and hostile reaction on someone else’s blog. A soothing session in the pool might have calmed things down!

    • Feelings are certainly running high and this blog (my own space on the web) is the only place that I have made any reference to the referendum. Sadly social media seems to be a place where some people feel it’s acceptable to behave however they like. Here, however, we are seeking kindness and understanding and, as a benign dictator of my own little space, I will not allow vitriol.

    • Oh dear, Kate. That’s really unfortunate. I don’t see that as often on blogs, but I sure do see it in other venues. Many of us in the US fear that the desire for change will lead to electing Trump. I quiver at the thought of such a hateful demagogue taking power.

      There has got to be a way forward. Jan expresses her thoughts on the subject beautifully.

      Jan, I’m glad you wrote about this. It’s getting a lot of press here. People feel uneasy, as is often the case with so many unknowns.

      • It’s certainly not the sort of thing that I would allow here on my blog. You’ll be pleased to know that, so far, I haven’t felt the need to reject any responses to what I wrote – thank you readers.
        We are all unsettled by change and the liberal left, who normally feel quite comfortable in the UK are currently in a state of shock. I’ve read several ‘I want my country back’ type comments in various places. However, this IS our country (whether we like it or not). It’s just that some of us are suddenly being exposed to ideas and ideologies that we don’t normally encounter, to feel disenfranchised in a way that, perhaps, many of those who voted ‘leave’ normally feel. So, whilst I’m very worried about what happens next, I am trying to focus on two things: first, that I can’t do anything about the big stuff, I can only get on living my life as well as I can; and second that change can be good and maybe some positives will emerge from this uncertainly… only time will tell.

        • I’m pleased to hear that the comments remain positive hear. I’m seeing the same on other blogs as well.

          Your attitude is a good one. Change is part of life, and is often for the better. When it’s not for the better, hopefully we can adjust to make things whole again. I was sorry to hear about the increase in racially motivated hate crimes and or violence. I fear the same here if Trump is elected. These are troubling times.

      • Regarding your hateful demagogue: I think we’re astonished at how far he’s come despite his manifold – and all too manifest – unfitness to lead even a camel to water. We should all tremble if he wins, and I think the echoes around the world would put Brexit thoroughly in the shade. But one thing interesting thing has emerged from Brexit: the number of people who voted to leave, thinking it would never happen (and are now regretting it). It just shows that every vote DOES count and we CAN do something about the big stuff if enough of us exercise our democratic rights. We have a general election here on Saturday. I’m finding it hard to distinguish one set of lying scoundrels from another, and fear my vote will be going to the independent candidate in order to ensure that some form of coalition may be necessary. That way, we can’t simply be steamrollered into anything too drastic without consultation.

        • Kate, every vote does count. I wish everyone not only voted, but took the time to really understand, to the best of their ability, what that vote represents. California has the process of voting for initiatives on the ballot and I’ve just read that we’ll have 17 this fall. Some pe0ple simply fatigue and vote no on everything or they don’t vote because they don’t want to make the wrong decision. it’s a dilemma. Trump is falling further and further behind in the polls, along with demonstrating that he has no political chops to run a campaign. He’s also running out of money. So…yeah to his incompetence finally working against him, for the better of everyone in the country, and the world.

  5. Well said! And it sounds exactly like the political climate in the U.S., which is why I don’t do politics online. Social media seems to have turned politics into “I’m right, so you are completely wrong” and people no longer discuss anything. It’s just an insult showdown. Your election actually led to an interesting discussion with the kid, and I discovered we disagree on some topics. But guess what? We still like and love each other, and no insults were exchanged. I heard a quote once, and cannot remember the source, which said (more or less) “we need to remember there are people of intelligence and good-will on both sides of this debate.” Hopefully the people with intelligence and good-will can figure out how to build a good future for Britain.

    • I’m sure we will find a way… even if it’s not a comfortable journey. I generally avoid any discussion of politics, so this is a rare blog post for me. However, I think there’s a need for some calm voices amongst all the shouting right now, so here in my little safe space on the web I feel able to share my thoughts.

  6. I’m not an economist or a politician, but there must be pros and cons for everything, in the end. A lot of us here had not expected you guys would vote to leave, so it was quite a surprise.
    40 minutes of calm physical activity – brilliant idea. If only our own politicians and social commentators would do the same. (You mention xenophobia and racism and nasty comments – so much of what goes in SA gets played out on social media, and some people are truly abusive and vicious).

  7. Maya Panika

     /  June 25, 2016

    Thank you for a calming dose of sanity amidst the explosion of hate, pique, blame and bile that seems to be everywhere right now.

  8. I am reminded (as I often am!) that the chinese character for crisis is made up of Wei = danger and chi = energy, or in this context opportunity. We can choose which to focus on. So I am deciding not to join in the panic but to go and see if my resown carrots have germinated, and are there any more strawberries ripe?

    • And, after all, those are things of direct importance to you. I was going to pick more raspberries, but it’s just too wet right now, so I’ve done some crochet and some sewing and next I will cook dinner and continue to ignore the media.

  9. It was so lovely to come here and find a calm pool of sanity 🙂
    I, too, love the idea of getting people to have a swim before responding to the present problems – swimming always was my favourite form of meditation 🙂


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