Tuesday, 21 June 2016

More in common

I'm interrupting the blog this week because recent events have overtaken us, as I am sure you are all only too aware.

We have huge, important decisions to make on this Thursday and there are compassionate and principled people on both sides, although it is sometimes hard to believe that.

It seems likely that the outcome will be very close and that whatever we wake up to on Friday, there will be a vast number of voters who are disappointed.

We are being invited by pundits and politicians to pigeon-hole ourselves and polarise those around us, to see the decision in black and white.

I'd prefer, in the words of Terry Pratchett, "to always see what is really there".

One article today, which is urging readers to "Remain", is arguing that by staying in the EU Britain will help limit the EU from "lurching towards federalism" and that this will result in less regulation and "greater democratic accountability". An economist tells us we are better off in.

Another article, urging readers to "Leave", states that it is only outside the EU that Britain can regain independence from EU bureaucracy and that Leave is the only option if we want democracy restored. A different economist tells us we are better off out.

Both articles cite concerns over unrestricted immigration and both assert that it is possible to hold these concerns without being racist, bigoted or an extremist. I am sure there are bigots, racists and extremists on both sides as well but I am pretty sure that the vast majority of us - on both sides - are not.

So it seems its possible to fear EU regulation and red tape even if you love the individual European countries who constitute our neighbours (and who will still be our neighbours on Friday morning).

Its possible to fear the consequences of uncontrolled population growth and unchecked migration without wishing harm on those fleeing war and persecution.

Its possible that our economy will be fine whatever happens and that economists find it as tricky as the rest of us to predict the future with certainty.

Its possible to wish for democracy and accountability without being confident that either the Remain or Leave politicians are able to deliver them.

I know how I am voting but I know friends and family who will vote the opposite way, even though our values and beliefs are similar.

The only clear message in all this, it seems to me, are the words of Jo Cox which have been repeated many times this week and which we will need to remember on Friday morning, no matter what happens:

"We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us".

[I didn't realise, until I was looking for an illustration for this post, that the white rose is not only the flower of Yorkshire but was also used as a symbol of resistance against the Nazis, making it an even more potent reminder.] 

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