Ideas in power

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Today has been interesting. I’ve been marching for Europe with 50,000 others (maybe more).
I bumped into Jeremy Deller, the artist who only yesterday had staged the extraordinary We Are Here Because We’re Here tribute to the Somme that was 100 years ago. I told him how much I appreciated it, and it was such a poignant reminder of why the EU exists now, as a response to two devastating world wars. See here for more images of the WW1 soldiers appearing silent like ghosts in public spaces all over the country.
When walking away from the march with my banner I was shouted at more times and with more swearwords and sharpness than I’ve ever been shouted at in my life. Did those people have no memory of what violent words can do, how seeing people as ‘other’ can have terrible consequences? Looking at the tweets after the march, most of them are Leavers saying that by marching we are not respecting democracy. I’ve never known a time in four decades that there was so much disagreement, frustration and outright hatred across the whole nation.
I was trying to count all the ways we’re divided right now:
  • The ‘I’m-not-Racist-but’ people versus Pluralists
  • Blairites versus Corbynites
  • Remain-populists (‘the people have spoken, let’s make the best of it’) versus Remainer-resisters (‘stop Article 50’)
  • Frustrated at not being understood versus Angry at being called stupid
  • Urban versus Rural, Young versus Old, Property-rich versus property-poor etc etc
And then I was trying to track where they stand on Leave or Remain. But then my brain gave up. Returning to resting position, I came back to an idea, which is that ideas should be in power not (types of) people. AND ideas should always be free to change.
Those angry at being patronised and overruled by experts and bureaucrats would not be so full of blame if ideas did not attach so much to people. What if we all considered that ideas were not owned, even if they were dazzlingly originated and beautifully crafted by one mind? What if our education system was not geared around attainment by individuals to raise themselves up and have influence over others? What if people did not feel so belittled personally (and conversely then defensive) when their lack of intellectual agency is exposed? And, what if we had Universal Basic Income (UBI) so that all our decisions and interactions could be done without fear of losing the means to survive or thrive?
The divide in our society cannot neatly be drawn between Wealth+education versus Poverty+lack of education. There were working class areas that voted overwhelmingly to remain, and these were areas with a culture of civic debate such as Liverpool and Scotland. Conversely there are wealthy rural areas in the South West that voted overwhelmingly to Leave. A more subtle but profound divide is between people who have intellectual agency, information literacy, cultural confidence and liberal values, and people who don’t have enough of these to protect against being influenced by others.
Many will think I’m an intellectual snob for drawing this finer distinction. The term ‘intellectual agency’ looks snobbish, I know. But my values are strongly egalitarian. I believe that all human beings, and all non-human beings, are of equal worth. That’s why I argue for UBI and salary caps – because no set of skills or traits should be valued above any other. What CAN be placed on a scale of worth are ideas and their resulting actions. I believe that people have a civic duty to inform themselves as best they can (to the best of their abilities) if they want to have a voice in democratic processes and receive benefits from shared resources. And it’s the duty of all politicians, and all media, cultural and educational organisations to support people to carry out this civic duty – to help them be curious, to overcome barriers to access information, and to critically question all messages and to challenge authority. Any political campaign that does not use evidence, expertise and questions to discover and share the truth should, in any ethical democracy, be judged corrupt.
The Leave campaign was not based on ideas but on a manipulation of fears, using anchor concepts and inflammatory made-up facts. The way Leave voters have been duped is outrageous and I’m campaigning to stop Brexit because I care that all UK citizens (and many European ones too) will suffer from the deal. My support for the EU is not to protect myself, loved ones or my tribe. All the benefits promised by the Leave campaign were lies, and it seems that no Brexit deal is possible that will benefit anyone except the corporate elites. All the problematic losses of income, jobs or freedom that Brexiteers blame the EU for are caused by powerful corporations, excessive inequality and an antiquated democratic system here at home. For example, the UK exempted itself from the EU law that protects publicans from being tied to breweries, but the ‘beer tie’ is now causing pubs to shut down at an unprecedented rate. If the UK people are even more exposed to these home-grown negative influences and less protected by the EU (e.g. Human Rights Act and workers rights) they will feel even more disenfranchised and impoverished if Brexit goes ahead. Even if it gets delayed but we take years dithering over negotiations the fall-out of the plummeting pound and financial uncertainty will affect everyone in job losses, food prices and more. I’m not even mentioning the effects of climate change that we will be less able to mitigate or adapt to…
I marched for Europe today because, although we are being accused of denying democracy, this is not a democratic referendum. How can it be democracy when all the promises, such as saving £350m a week for the NHS, stopping immigration and increasing fish quotas, or taking back control from the EU, were revealed to be lies enflamed by Murdoch’s newspapers? It was a vote procured by systematic dishonesty.  How can it be democracy when 16-18 year olds in one of the four home nations have a say but the others don’t? How can it be democracy when such a momentous decision could be made by such a small number of votes past a post? This would be bad science if it were an opinion poll.
In fact it actually was an opinion poll, but nobody realised. They thought they were being asked to vote as if in Parliament. But then also some voters said ‘I thought it was a protest vote. I didn’t realise this would happen’. But at the same time, the BBC, commentariat and politicians are all speaking as if the Leave result means that we are ‘post-Brexit’, that it’s a done deal and that the will of the people cannot be overridden. Was it the will of the people? How can we define the will if they themselves are misled on facts and do not know the status of the referendum. Concealing and confusing its legal status is mendacious. Moreover, the referendum was called explicitly by Cameron to neutralise the Eurosceptics, to pacify them, because he did not think they would win. This opens it to accusation of corruption. And these are the statistics:
  • The total electorate for the referendum was 46 million
  • The total number who voted to leave the EU was around 17.5 million
  • The total number who did not vote to leave the EU was over 29 million
  • 37% of the electorate voted to leave.
  • 63% of the electorate did not vote to leave.
  • That doesn’t include the 14 million UK citizens, including those under 18, who were disenfranchised.
  • 1.2 million people regret voting Leave (poll by Opinium)

This is NOT democracy in law let alone in ideal.

And the situation is not hopeless. There is much that can be done to challenge this referendum. See for example this Six Point Plan from Caroline Lucas of the Green Party.

Here is a great list of actions from Red Jotter.

And here’s an easy link to Write to your MP to ask them to vote down Article 50.

If you want to share this post, the template of this blogpost is being resistant to being separated into paragraphs so here is a better version, reblogged on Medium. Please share this one.

Do any of these actions for the sake of our children (and here’s my daughter’s placard)

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