Thoughts on the Week 23 June 2016

Friday morning, the British electorate is going to wake with a terrible hangover.

Months ago when it was first announced, there seemed to be a healthy excitement over the European Union In/Out Referendum. And, while undoubtedly it’s good the country has gone through the exercise of defining and examining its priorities, we were naïve not to anticipate how fractiously intolerable the discussions would become.

For the past weeks, other than the 2016 European Champions Cup, the main subject of media focus, in the UK (and briefly around the globe), seemed to be which side was Right. Swings in financial markets were attributed to the uncertain result, and even the Queen was alleged to have shown a subtle interest. It’s almost to the point that one can’t be sure if any other work in this country was being done. Finally, today historically, all that effort will come to a head.

But putting aside what the successful outcome of today’s vote will be, tomorrow and going forward, some will look back in disgust at what we’ve become – a country polarised nearly to the breaking point. Tragically, at the extremes, Member of Parliament Jo Cox, was murdered by a white, middle-aged, mentally-deranged, killer shouting nationalistic slogans. So, the bigger question should be, not ‘who won?’, but ‘what comes next?’!

And, to be fair, this polarising politic is not limited to the UK. In the USA there’s an equally growing division unfolding. Regardless of how one defines the policies & personalities of the designated US presidential candidates, a troubling trend among leading democratic nations is an unbending, inflexible struggle for power, combined with an unwillingness to engage the disenfranchised opposition. This may eventually be linked to an increased class divide in the West.

‘Winner takes all and let the rest be damned’ was never Democracy’s intention. Giving a voice to and representing the needs of the widest public was as much the basis of those cherished late-18th century revolutions as was the desire to escape the tyranny of kings.

Sadly, we may be witnessing in our generation a teetering on-the-verge-of-collapse of a system that’s lasted several hundred years but has now become so fractious that it can’t correct its own faults. Efforts to look more at what we have in common than what separates us are being made at the grassroots level. And the public is in wide support. Proof is in how quickly the charities connected with Jo Cox’s death have drawn in over £1 million – in contribution amounts of £5 each.

The British electorate on Friday morning will wake to hear the results of their historic vote, but to face ourselves in the mirror after the past months of political infighting, name calling, misinformation, abusive behaviour and immigrant intolerance will require a much greater concentration on our shared humanity – the values-in-common we must protect and celebrate rather than those which divide us.

It is hoped we’ll recognise in revulsion that it wasn’t worth the tragic loss of a young woman who dedicated herself to making life better for people in this country and beyond. There’s no turning back time to return an energetic wife and mother to her family nor words that can lift the grievous feelings of bereavement many of us felt.

We learned last week that Kedusha (sanctity) can only exist where there’s an absence of Tumah (ritual impurity). Perhaps this idea can also be extended to mean that Love and Tolerance can only exist where there’s an absence of Hatred and Resentment.

The clever politicians who survive the fallout of an agitated populace (nearly 50% of whom will be disappointed) will need to begin focusing on healing-the-hurt rather than gloating over their victory.

Referendums – really not my cup of tea.