As the votes are counted, Claire Muscat shares her thoughts on the increasingly pessimistic discourse that has come to characterise the Brexit debate.
Brexit has become politically synonymous with Groundhog Day. Subsequently, “I’m sick of hearing about Brexit” has become synonymous with “my status in the U.K. is not under threat.” The [not-so-united] United Kingdom’s inability to meaningfully reconcile with a history of colonisation shatters any hope for global remorse in the wake of cyclical failed Brexit resolutions.
Democracy, or what remains of it, is under threat but not from the culprits our politicians are coaxing us to believe. Political disenfranchisement is a result of zero accountability for politicians. Political dissatisfaction is a result of centralised power in Westminster. Political polarisation is a result of “othering” discourse. It is not the result of “lefty lunatics” or immigration.
The details and discourse which surround Brexit are rarely understood by those without constitutional knowledge, which arguably, is not the general public. This is no oversight or disconnect between the public and parliament; this is a malicious tactic of so-called “Brexiteers” to wane awareness of the consequences for those on an income lower than £100k, which arguably, is the general public.
A referendum is a fundamental function of successful democracies. It’s a uniting function which shields us from dictatorial regimes. The people are given a say over proposals which will change society. This is a privilege, not a universal experience. We are fortunate to be able vote for who will govern and to hold our government accountable… at least in theory for working democracies.
Democracy is not under threat when a second referendum is proposed to solve political deadlock. Democracy is not under threat when a second referendum is proposed to heal a divided nation. Democracy is not under threat when a second referendum is proposed to ensure that the information provided to the public is not lies and fictional promises. Democracy is not under threat when a second referendum is proposed if the first was fundamentally flawed without sufficient planning in place.
Democracy is under threat when our politicians lie. Democracy is under threat when there is no trust in parliament to create policy which will benefit society instead of multinational corporations. Democracy is under threat when our tax-funded members of parliament are not held accountable for misinformation and fear mongering.
The illusion that it is undemocratic to hold a second referendum – after three years of chaos which is yet to be resolved – undermines the public’s right to the truth and excuses politicians from their legal obligations and accountability. In a time of political disarray, divided citizens and intensified uncertainty, we need to see more humanity.
The privilege it is to live in a liberal democracy with ensured freedoms is under threat. Not from Brexit, not from the EU, but because facts and the truth have become malleable to those in power. Abusing this has resulted in zero accountability for the likes of Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mug. When the behaviour of citizens is held to a higher standard than that of politicians and the political elite, then moral standards within society begin to rot and become obsolete.
There is a cloud of disillusionment smothering the truth and the harsh reality we are faced with. The constitutional crisis which is the direct result of fear-mongering leaves “Great” Britain exposed to domestic turbulence and endangers unity. Multiculturalism should only be understood as an achievement of globalisation – not a consequence.
If you were born in the U.K, the prospect of Brexit is not an existential threat to your future in this country. To exploit such privilege is not only morally questionable, but direct discrimination to those who have contributed to our communities, economy and harmony – many of whom have lived here their whole lives. When you naively proclaim that you are “sick of Brexit” you directly demoralise those who already battle uncertainty and the distressing reality that your own neighbours perceive your existence as a threat.
So what next? The easiest change we can make as citizens without a seat in Westminster is to control the discourse surrounding Brexit. We cannot let those around us use language of exclusion. When our complacency and indifference prevail over our moral obligations and humanity, we allow members of our own community to become vulnerable and exposed to racism and discrimination.
Blood may be on the hands of those responsible for spreading disinformation publicised during the Leave Campaign, but, if we become more apathetic, spots of blood on our hands will soon appear. Humanising language. Inclusion. Not being “sick of Brexit”. This is what we should be doing. This is what we need.
Artwork by Nia Jones.