“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt
Waking up to the news that Britain is leaving the European Union has shocked me to the core.
Although it was half expected, I also didn’t expect it at all. Mostly because, despite reading, listening, researching and talking to people, I am not entirely sure of the overall impact that this exit is going to have on Britain, Europe and the rest of the world. It already feels strange writing “Britain” and describing them as a separate entity.
I now have more concerns than I ever did before about the system we have in place that allows us to vote on major world-changing proposals.
In fact, just writing the words “system we have in place” brings me to another level of thinking in that, when I think about it, we don’t even really have a current system set up.
We receive eligibility to vote, so we vote. Or we don’t. No questions asked.
This sounds like democracy, but really, it is lunacy, in my humble opinion.
I consider myself to be someone who seeks knowledge before making life-altering decisions. When I am moving house I research the area well, find out all I can about the structure of the house, the history, the outbuildings and I pretty much explore all nooks and crannies before making a decision. And with any other major change, whether career or otherwise, I gain as much factual information as I can before trying to rationally weigh everything up.
When it comes to politics I try, but mostly I fail—miserably. Not only do I find it very difficult to trust the information offered to me by the campaigning political parties (as the policies are often not upheld once a position is secured), I also find it impossible to place my faith in the news stories that are often biased and possibly have their own hidden agenda.
I usually assess all the information I have read before pretty much giving up. So much of it reads like jargon and can be difficult to comprehend or put into context in my own life and that of those around me, and I also don’t know if the information that I am reading is balanced or if it is trying to highlight only the aspects of the policies that the campaigning party believes the public will resonate with, while leaving out others that may not sound so appeasing.
My belief is that before voting everyone who wishes to vote should first have to gain a profound understanding.
I am not sure exactly how this could occur, but possibly through completing an informative mandatory question and answer session, whether online or in booklet form, to prove that at some level they have a basic understanding of who it is they are voting for, what the party is representing and for what reasons. To many this may seem extreme, however, so is allowing policies that greatly influence our lives, our country, and the world in general, to be put in place without taking great care, time, attention and consideration.
Not only would this ensure that those who are voting have a basic understanding of what they are voting for, it would also remove the requirement for multi-million dollars campaigns, as all the information would be available in one package and everyone would have to read through everything before placing a vote. I understand that there are people who will have one party set in their mind before reading and this could then cause them to accept or resist certain information, but at least it is available for those who genuinely and openly want to be informed.
For those who aren’t able to complete online forms or booklets there could be an event in each town or village where those who want to vote could attend to find out more.
I am not suggesting that everyone who votes does not already carry out in-depth research. However, I am suggesting that it is my belief that we should not take this risk when making decisions that have a huge ripple effect on so many aspects of our lives both at home and abroad.
When I was studying sociology I focused my dissertation on how media can affect voting. The findings at the time were that many people voted based on what newspaper they read, what television broadcast they had watched, or many voted in line with family traditions. Although this was just my own research, and would not hold weight or credibility so that it could be counted on a wider scale, it added to my personal belief that there are so many variables to take into consideration when concluding whether or not voting without any structure could be fully trusted when there is a risk that it hasn’t been balanced, informed or well thought out beforehand.
Too many times I have seen people say that whomever they voted for hasn’t lived up to what they expected from them and at least if we can all retain a booklet or online document that outlines the policies that we believed we were voting in, it would be far easier to attempt to hold that political party accountable if they weren’t met.
This whole thinking is not to suggest that people are not capable of carrying out their own research, but I am aware that it can be difficult to know if the information that either the internet returns, or that we receive through newsfeeds, newspapers, word of mouth, or live debates is unbiased and that it is covering all proposals and that they are detailed and in-depth.
I am not saying that this would work, but it may be a better option than voters voting with the freedom to carry out no research at all. Overall, I just think there has to be a better system than what we have now. And more than anything, I think the conversation needs to be started and I would be very interested to hear other people’s suggestions.
Based on what I have seen in recent months, I am not sure that the current way of concluding who and what gets voted in works. This is just my perception and I am not saying it is right or wrong, but I just don’t feel that currently the system is balanced, for so many reasons that extend far wider than what I have described here.
I genuinely believe a compassionate political reform is necessary. I have sat back and watched the few at the top manipulating and controlling with money and status while so many have sat back in exhausted, bewildered, frustrating dismay.
I believe it is time for the people to stand up and be counted, but we can only do that when we have knowledge so that the count is an informed and educated one.
“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” ~ Isaac Asimov
Our world and our lives are far too important to allow apathy or misinformation to lead, or not lead, the way. I haven’t got all the answers, or even any, but I am hoping that together we can find them. I am open to all opinions, including the perceptions and beliefs that what we have now works.
We are all different, we view things differently and although change isn’t always easy to come by, at least by understanding one another better we can far easier accept and come to terms with the changes that take place in our world.
I am nervous for our world when I see what is happening and I’m hoping that by hearing other people’s perceptions I can gain a wider understanding and maybe see that I am not alone in my thinking, and that there are no better options, or it may be that there are others considering this too.
There is no doubt about it that life, as many currently know it is about to dramatically change. I truly wonder how many of those who voted realize the full extent of what this Brexit means. Although many may have understood the outline of what it is they were voting for, were they fully aware of how the future will look when looking at the whole picture and from angles outside of their personal perception? How many voted for their own desires rather than looking at what was best for humanity as a whole?
The decision has been made. It is an irreversible one. All we can now do is sit back and hope that those who voted were fully informed and therefore were fully trustworthy to do so.
I do not know either way if this vote is for the better or the worse and at this point I am not sure that many others have the full foresight to see how dramatically this will change lives. I can only hope that everyone who voted sought out detailed, in-depth, unbiased, balanced, factual research beforehand. I have no other choice.
“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
Author: Alex Myles
Image: Salim Fadhley/Flickr
Editor: Katarina Tavčar; Sara Kärpänen