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.


Three Things Thursday: 23 June 2016

Joining with Nerd in the Brain (and others) for Three Things Thursday’. As “Nerd” says…

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

First, although I have hated the toxic campaigning associated with the In/Out of Europe referendum here in the UK, I am very grateful that I live in a country where I have the opportunity to vote. The emphasis these days is often on encouraging women to vote because of the struggle for women’s suffrage in the twentieth century. However, we shouldn’t forget that when parliament was established in 1265 the elected members were only voted for by male land-owners. The Great Reform act of 1832 extended voting rights to urban middle class men, but even so only one in five men were eligible to vote. The subsequent reform acts added various classes of men to the electorate, but it wasn’t until 1918 that most men aged 21 and over could vote. In the same year, women over 30 got the vote, but not until 1928 that there was universal suffrage and every adult could vote. At that time the minimum age was still 21, and this wasn’t reduced to 18 until 1969.So hurrah for everyone being able to vote… now we just need some more decent politicians to vote for (not to mention the abolition of that most undemocratic institution, The House of Lords). Tomorrow I shall be grateful that the referendum is over!

Second, I’m grateful for my lovely friends and my niece in Manchester, who made last weekend such fun. There was knitting, eating, tea-drinking and a great deal of laughter. These picture are just a little taster…

Third, I have to mention the limery. This time last year were were still in the construction stage, and now it’s full of plants and surrounded by them too… you all told me that the disruption would be worth it and you were so right.

So that’s it for this week. What are you feeling grateful for?

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