I will not claim to be informed enough to make any specific conclusions about what people and countries should do. However, there are a few things that must be said and taken into account by those who do know the intricacies of (or are in a position to make changes to ) our political systems and governments. This is an opinion, and I would accept other views on the matter, but I feel very strongly about this. Any criticism or other information would be welcome in the comments or elsewhere.
The European Union
All historical statements I make in this essay are to the best of my knowledge. What is perhaps more important are the risks and moral imperatives.
After World War II Germany was split into two to avoid them being a major power in (or starting) another World War, or any war for that matter. This was in a time of several wars, colonialism, and communism though, so the political landscape was quite different compared to today. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany, it was brought into the EU, arguably, to give it and all the other (admittedly weaker than in past centuries) countries in Europe. The major powers, France, Germany, the UK, Italy, and Spain were now part of something greater. One could argue that simply by being in a union with other countries, linked politically, militarily, and economically with them, made Europe closer to a singular state and ensuring peace within the union. This is arguably what the UN is also for, but with so many member states and lacking the interconnectedness of Europe, it is harder to say the UN really provides what Europe does.
I’m not saying that the EU is the only thing keeping Europe from starting another war. Travelling around Europe shows how peaceful it is and how the people don’t show any signs of wanting to fight. Even the fact that there is so much travel around Europe is indicative of how united and peaceful it is. The issue is not based on the current landscape. The issue is what happens in the future.
I don’t know how efficient the EU is, or what problems it has. I don’t know if it needs major reforms or it it’s causing damage. What I do believe though is that we -all- need economic and international unity. I like the idea of the EU. That doesn’t mean I promote it’s charters or founding principles, whatever those are. What this means is that I want at least Europe to have a union of some kind. I want the union to promote peace, prevent military attacks on others and on their member states, help each country out economically and otherwise, promote and safeguard human rights in and outside its borders, protect its citizens from harm and legal action, and just generally improve the quality of life of everyone.
What I don’t want is a militaristic, expansionist, aggressive, corrupt, harmful, and otherwise amoral union. I’ve heard some people saying that the EU has become a bureaucracy, and “grey”. Whatever the issues are with the EU, I haven’t heard of anything substantial and reasonable. What I have heard is that the right wing and the old are voting the leave the EU because of selfish and irrational reasons. I’ve repeatedly heard that the EU protects workers’, immigrants’ and foreign citizens’ rights. That includes students and tourists in the UK. I have also heard that this will hurt the UK’s economy, trade, and funding for healthcare, which apparently some of the right wing want to eliminate altogether. That does not mean there are no such good reasons for leaving, but regardless of the reasons, one should not leave something just because it isn’t working properly. This applies to relationships with friends, family, and romantic relationships as well. It is irrational to simply leave a relationship just because it isn’t perfect or has major issues. One must attempt to fix whatever issues there are, instead of simply leaving all these problems without resolution and just walking away ignoring them. Walking away from a problem does not make any sense because it avoids the best situation in which you can fix the problem and still be part of the relationship. Instead, it avoids the work of trying to fix things and simply pretends none of it exists or matters. This is ignoring reality and simply abandoning any responsibility or effort that may have been harder, but yielded better results. Leaving is a last resort that should only be done when one is absolutely sure that fixing the problems would be more costly (in the short AND long term) than simply leaving. To the best of my knowledge, there are no major issues large enough for the UK to leave the EU.
One problem is that only less than 52% of the voters decided to vote for leaving the EU. The decision was so split that only half of them got what they wanted. A huge decision is being made based on only half the voters. The other half of the voters are not getting what they want. This is not even half the population, but 17 million out of the 64 million total population, about a quarter. 72% of the registered voters turned up, giving substantial margin of error with so many people not voting. It does not make sense to make a decision that so many people do not agree with, even just considering the half of the voters who voted to remain.
Another concern that has been expressed is that many of the people who voted to leave did not do so for rational reasons, but instead did so out of populist influence. Much like Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler, they took advantage of the issues at hand and promoted anger and hatred towards immigrants and the establishment. These are not good reasons to leave the EU, these are heated excuses to vent your anger at things going wrong, and finding someone to blame it on. The UK was still an independent nation (who refused to accept the Euro) and could have made decisions about immigrants without leaving the EU.
There are other anti-EU parties in Europe. I hope that the populace will not be swayed by the momentum this vote might cause, and foolishly vote to leave the EU. I especially hope this is not because of cynical doubts of the future of the EU, because that would just be a self fulfilling prophecy fallacy. If everyone believes that the EU will fall apart, then they will be the ones who will cause it to happen by voting to leave the EU. They’ll believe it was inevitable, but it certainly wasn’t. It would be caused by their cynicism, as if they hadn’t been cynical the EU would still be intact. It is the fault of those who fall prey to cynicism, and those gullible enough to believe them. It’s always more edgy and “cool” to say that a film is bad (especially despite others saying it’s good), or that the EU will never last.
I have also heard that the “Remain” voters were complacent. They didn’t expect it to go this way, because quite frankly, I didn’t either. I didn’t think people would really do something so seemingly stupid with no apparent reason or foreseeable good results. Someone said “sanity -eventually- prevails”, referring to how this would eventually fix itself. I think this is a mistake. I think it’s a mistake to depend on thinking that people will eventually do the right thing, or that the hateful and the racist are a minority who won’t win. The masses can be swayed, we’ve seen it with communist and fascist revolutions, the problem is populism. The problem are the people promoting extreme policies that sound appealing because they promise fast results and don’t mention all the problems it will cause that generally make extreme choices not worth it. We cannot just keep watching The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight and the Phillip Defranco Show and think that these people are spreading reason and hope to the people. These kinds of messages are mostly seen by the crowd that already agrees with them. We can’t dehumanise and antagonise those who disagree with us, no matter how racist or irrational they are. We cannot depend on reason winning out, we must act and make sure of it.
In this spirit, I don’t think we should even let this vote pass. Some might say that this is disrespecting the vote of the people, but I don’t think that a quarter of the population of the UK, most of whom reside in central England, is enough to make such a colossal mistake over. I know this is how voting works, but to be quite honest I think you need far more than 50% of a vote to win. And I also kow, a lot of votes will never have a decisive vote if you do things that way, but many parliaments and senates around the world require far more than just half of the votes. Leaving half of the people who have a say to lose is not democracy. The solution isn’t a better voting system, because that doesn’t fix the problem. The problem is that the UK is so divided on leaving. It doesn’t make sense to make such a choice, especially when there is no particular rush, when the people cannot even agree on what they want. Some of us are so dogmatic about democracy, especially when confronted with the alternatives to it, that we blindly accept all of it the way it is now and never question is we can perhaps make democracy work better. Of the 100% of people who were registered to vote (and the ones who could have but didn’t register to vote), only 72% of them even voted at all. If all 100% had voted, we’d have almost 50% more votes to count, which is about 15 million people. It is utterly irrational to me to make a decision based on so little input, when the point of a referendum is to get public input. I know it is inconvenient and even impossible for some people to vote multiple times if another vote were called for until the population even roughly agreed on a single course of action, but if multiple votes cannot be reliably cast, at least postpone the decision or consider other options. While I definitely believe the people should have a say, people often don’t know enough to make an educated vote. A vote cast without proper information is hardly worth considering because the person who voted does not necessarily know what they want. Given more information they may have voted differently.
It might be difficult for the UK to return to the EU if they ever want to, especially since they are only a small island nation, now isolated even through the one ground transport they had to the mainland by leaving the Schengen Zone. Regardless of how easy or hard it might be to return to the EU, I just don’t see enough reason to leave it. This sounds like a terrible idea with little benefit other than satisfying the hatred of some old people. Maybe there are just reasons I don’t know about, but it sounds like this is a far worse decision that will cause more damage than good.
This result worries me. I think this was a terrible mistake and that the UK should not go through with it.