Exiting Disgracefully

I woke at 3am this morning, switched my phone on, and clumsily typed in the address of the BBC news website. Even at 3am the result of the European Union exit referendum was obvious – there were half a million more votes to leave than stay. As the next hour wore on, the gap grew to three quarters of a million people. Then I fell asleep.

I woke again at 6 this morning, looked at my phone again, and the gap had grown to nearly a million people, with the majority of the vote already counted. The people had spoken. Up and down the country, over 70% of the registered voters had turned out to make their choice known.

For the first time in ages I switched the television on instead of the radio at breakfast time, and watched the prime minister announce his intention to resign in October.

And then I went to work.

At work I looked in on Facebook a little while after arriving in the office, and was kind of stunned. People I thought I knew as intelligent, balanced, and thoughtful were filling their walls with hate, spite, accusations, and finger pointing. I was pretty disgusted with them, and wanted to respond to a number of messages, but managed to sit on my hands.

The great majority seemed to be claiming that anybody that had voted to leave Europe was racist, homophobic, bigoted, badly-educated, senile, prejudiced, or inferior in some way. I’m guessing they had presumed that the rest of the world shared their views, and had woken up to discover that actually, no, they don’t – and they didn’t like it one bit. The same people that usually pour scorn on anybody for voicing an opinion online were writing paragraph after hate filled paragraph for the world to see.

By mid morning I had the chance to take another look at the news, and saw that Boris Johnson had required an armed guard to get to work. A small army of wealthy hipsters surrounded his car, shouting obscenities, and making threats – looking for somebody to blame for half the country voting differently than they had presumed everybody would.

I started looking at the various graphs at lunchtime – to see if there were any patterns. London, the home counties, Ireland, and Scotland wanted to stay in Europe. You would have to be a fool not to draw conclusions about the kind of people that can afford to live in the Thames Valley, and their desire to stay in Europe, or the multi-national population of London. It’s worth noting however that although central London saw large majorities choosing to stay in Europe, the rest were within a few percent – it was very close almost everywhere.

I think perhaps the biggest surprise of the morning – that occurred immediately – was the wealthy minority suggesting that the constitution should be changed to stop the populance from interfering with the running of the country, or to make London into an independent city-state.

I guess in general I am just disgusted with people’s behaviour today. Disgusted that people cannot take on board the will of the majority (we live in a democracy, remember) without venting across social networks for hours on end to anybody that will listen.

When I was young, my parents taught me there are two things you should never talk about at work – politics and religion. So you can imagine my thoughts when a co-worker asked which way I voted.

I’m not going to tell anybody which way I voted. It’s not important. That we accept the will of the people is the most important thing. A great number of people were going to be disappointed whichever way the vote went, but we (quite proudly) live in a democracy – where the people have the chance to influence their collective future from time to time. We should be celebrating we have that chance, and accepting that some decisions might go against our opinion – not trying to re-build a class system in order to pull rank on each other.

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