Today, I posted my EU Referendum vote. I made a decision how I would vote months ago and have barely read or listened to the news since April. I have not engaged with ‘In’ or ‘Out’ campaign arguments. I have not followed any political rhetoric. I have, to be honest, completely separated myself from any political engagement since the Welsh Assembly elections. I have a good reason for this. As a household we are actively engaged in Welsh politics, ie. members of our family put their words into actions by exercising democratic muscle as it is designed. We are very involved in local politics at a grassroots level and national level. My husband lead our local AM’s campaign for re-election and it naturally took a toll on our family’s energy levels as he seems to be the one to set the general pace of our lives.
Any campaign is exhausting. It is that saturation of political engagement that has left me feeling exhausted and really not interested in any further campaigns. However, as always, I have some observations. I have been intrigued at how I have found it quite consistent that in a room of friends I could cut it in half and put those on who feel convinced ‘In’ is the way to go on one side and those who feel that ‘Out’ is the way to go. We are at an unprecedented junction in British history. I am intrigued by the strength of gut feeling some people have and also I am intrigued by the over-riding confusion. I see a lot of ‘confusion’ at work, if I might have permission to name that as an actual thing.
My own confusion is slightly different. I have ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ dyslexia. I don’t know if there is a proper term for such a condition, but I have a mental block about my left and right. This makes for interesting conversations when I am giving directions or out driving. I was driving and my brother said, “At the next junction turn left.” So I did. He said, “Why did you turn right?” I said “I didn’t! I turned left.” He said, “You didn’t.” I said…you get the picture. He was right. I was wrong. That said, I can never remember what ‘Left-wing’ politics represent and what ‘Right-wing’ politics represent. I understand fully the essence of both sides but cannot remember what ‘Right’ refers to, nor ‘Left’. So I have learnt to keep my mouth shut to save getting it wrong. I observe the extremes in both expressions of referendum campaign argument; in both those motivated by gut feeling and in the arguments of reason (and confusion). None of us really know the implications of this momentous, unprecedented decision. As I have this opportunity to make a choice, I vote with my conscience and an eye to the future. With all that I foresee happening, I want to be sure that on this day I cast my vote with my children’s future in mind. I have to live with my own conscience regardless of what happens in the political, national, global world.
On my way into town today, I posted my vote and my daughter said to me, “I don’t really understand what the EU referendum is.”
I explained it as best I could in terminology she might grasp. I said it is a bit like me asking everyone in the family if they want cheese toast or french toast (no EU pun intended there) for lunch. I said that’s a little bit like what the referendum itself is; me asking those who want cheese toast to raise their hands. So by taking a referendum we get a show of hands (almost) on what people want. Do people in Britain want to remain as part of the European Union, which Britain has been a part of since the 1970s or not? Being a part is like this, I said to her, “We are members of the British Driving Society and every year we pay a subscription to be a member. It costs us and with that we get several benefits. We get insurance, education and the opportunity to participate in events.” I then went on with my limited language and concepts to try to explain the economical implications of the EU and Britain being ‘In’ or ‘Out’. I wonder how cultural it is that we baulk at having to define divisive opinion? I know I avoid conflict and divisive opinions. I’d rather not talk about it. So please don’t talk to me about it. I just might add to your confusion with my ‘left and right’ dyslexia. I’ll keep my own conscience in the silence of a private ballot – oh yes! Democratic muscle is being exercised again.
We passed a gentleman on the street walking to the post box with his vote in hand.
I found myself teaching my daughter the meaning of the word ‘propaganda’.
Miss F: “So is it like when so-and-so gets cross with me because I won’t do what they want me to, and they start saying exaggerated things that I know are lies. So-and-so once said that if I didn’t play with her the way she wanted she would tell her mum not to invite me to her party.”
Me: “Well, that sounds like manipulation but perhaps we can use it as an illustration. Propaganda is like a very loud voice shouting out and elaborating the truth for its own purpose, to try and persuade you to think one way or another.”