It’s all kicking off on my social media channels. One contact of mine has unfriended “dozens of people” and another has posted a vitriolic video full of venom. A school teacher friend of mine tells me of children hurling racist abuse in the playground at other children of any ethnicity, Irish to Italian. The shopping centre seem tense, the queue for the car park seems slightly more stressed than usual, and every conversation is populated with one question: “What did you think of the result?”
This is not a post to discuss what happened in the European Referendum on the 23rd June 2016, instead this is a post to describe a personal observation in the wake of the voting result itself where the UK population said it preferred to leave the EU rather than remain part of it.
Back in 2011 I wrote a a piece entitled “A Sect Cannot Be Destroyed By Cannonballs” which addressed the tendency to attack the alleged sources of violence with a similar style of attack, and the theory that this approach was probably the least effective. The post was pretty popular, in fact Stephen Fry retweeted it which sent hundreds of thousands of people to my site and crashed the page. He has apologised many times since; unwarranted. Unfortunately however, the post mainly landed on deaf ears and the same activity continues to this day, fighting fire with fire and hate with hate.
What I’m noticing now, following the EU Referendum result, is a similar tendency to attack those who voted in a certain way, with a level of contempt that I fear shows a dark undercurrent to our human nature. Whilst I absolutely understand what it is like to feel aggrieved that a decision didn’t go in the way one would have hoped, what I find harder to understand is how this level of contempt is likely to bring about any positive change, if that is indeed what the purveyors of this contempt desire.
And to that point, is it definitely the case that those who show contempt at others who disagree, want positive change? I ask because those who are currently very loud, seemed awfully quiet in advance of the voting. Surely if the passion is so strong after the results, the passion would have been there in advance?
Why did the current armchair experts not share their wisdom with the voting public in advance of the vote, so as to avoid a decision they would dislike?
I don’t know the answers, but I do believe that a democratic decision typically requires:
A) Our ability to have a say – E.G. a vote
B) Our personal accountability in understanding (as best we can), the contexts within which we have the ability to have a say – E.G. learning as much as possible about what’s going on and what it means
And in addition to these requirements I believe we should add a third point:
C) Our respect for the outcome and the human beings that may have voted in a different way than ourselves
This point isn’t anything other than a basic human right, yet much of the hatred that is being slung around the web at the time of writing is everything other than basic human rights.
Yes, I get that people are angry. Yes, I understand that people are fearful of the future…but I have to make it absolutely clear that there is one sure-fire way of zero progress being made, and that is to attack each other.
If we really want to unite and work together, we really need to start acting like it. I don’t just mean the media channels that throw emotive headlines at us to allegedly trick us into making bad decisions, I include all the people in our social timelines who are mud-slinging.
I mean you, your friends, your families, your colleagues. I mean every single one of us. We all have the opportunity to collaborate and build better, but oftentimes our default reaction is still to pick up the nearest stone and throw it at someone else’s head. So much for progress 🙂
Let us not lower ourselves to a common denominator of playground bullying.
Let us rise up and take whatever challenges we face, together not apart.
Let us remain positive in the face of negativity and seek solutions rather than rally around problems.
Let us not fight hate with hate.
Jonathan MacDonald, Sunday 26th June 2016