Love and Hope in London

The march was an outpouring of love and hope. We showed our love for our country and its people, and our hope, that institutions might allow people to work together democratically, rather than through the unlimited power of corporations. We showed our trust in individuals, and will for their freedom, moving across the continent. We showed our belief that diversity is a strength, and that hearing other voices and different perspectives blesses and teaches us.

A million people must have an effect, to strengthen and encourage those working for a good outcome from this torturous process, and dismay those working for a bad. As citizens with votes, we have a voice, we matter, and we showed where we stand. Others will make the decisions, mainly in Parliament, but they cannot simply ignore us, or the 5.7m who have signed the Revoke Article 50 petition.

Lucy asked me about the moral basis for the march. Why should you get what you want? I could not articulate it, and it has led me to think through my rights as an individual in the polity and what I think elected politicians should or should not do. This is a rough stab at a political philosophy:

The Referendum, in which 17.4m voted to Leave and 16.1m voted to Remain, is not binding. Certain people will play up its moral force, but there are many attacks to be made on it, including that the Leave campaigns breached electoral law, and made false promises, and that many Leave-voters voted for a closer, more supportive society in the UK which Brexit could only make less likely. It does not relieve Parliament of its responsibility to act in the interests of the country.

I have a voice, and this platform where I can say what I want to a tiny audience, and other platforms where more will see what I say: 470 upvotes for a comment on the Guardian website shows a considerably larger audience. All these different voices influence voters and politicians. Of course money will have an effect, but law should limit that, in preventing the monopoly of the Murdoch empire over British and other news media, in making the sources of the money transparent, and possibly preventing foreigners from influencing the political process.

Politicians seek votes and gain influence. The two party British system where one party has a majority and can command the assent of Parliament limits our democracy. In 2015 the Green Party had a million votes, spread across the country, and only elected one MP.

Emotion and stories make a larger part of the foundation of political power than rational predictions of likely arguments. “What do you want?” is a question answered emotionally. I want that closer, more supportive society- greater equality, more money for the NHS, more control for people over their own lives. The poison of the far right, now in the Tory party, is to channel that emotion into unreality. We wave the flag and feel good about ourselves while public services crumble and publicly owned assets are stripped away. The 4chan troll still living with his parents wants to “Own the Libs”, to feel powerful, even though the policies he supports make it even less likely that he will have a productive life. Our hope and solidarity should be used for the good of all.

There are legitimate differences in politics. There is tension between the freedom of the few and that of the many, of the few like James Dyson to build great corporations on the strength of their creativity and of the many to have enough to live a good life. I have a vague idea Nietzsche would not like my opposition to oppression of the many for the good of the few, and beliefs may vary about the percentage of GDP which should go to public spending, what we want as a society, and how that is raised.

There are tactics and strategies in politics which I condemn. It is wrong to lie. It is wrong to pretend to seek a Good- eg, “take back control”- when that means something else, control for the corporations rather than the elected government. Politicians should engage the hope and love of people, our wish for a better life and a better world and our belief that these things are possible, rather than our fear or resentment.

I marched because I believe the EU is a force for good in the world, and that Britain can have a voice in it. I marched for diversity, for my friends from other countries who have made Britain their home, for regulations in the interests of consumers, workers and the environment, for common action to mitigate the coming mass extinction. I marched for solidarity. The EU is not perfect and we can make it better from within.

This is a blog. It is a sketch. I have not thought this through and expressed it all in coherent words, I have put down my initial thoughts. Please comment. Let us make our ideas better, together.

5 thoughts on “Love and Hope in London

  1. So many things I could say. Including, I can sit and watch the numbers rise on that Petition in five-second increments. Never seen anything like it. What if we get to eight million? What chunk of the electorate does that represent? In itself it could be the referendum that answers the question, “Where to now, folks?” just as MPs “take back control” of the mothership. We all wait and watch. And hope. ((xxx))

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  2. The process of Brexit is showing how outdated our system of democracy is, where we vote for a party and the individual elected (who most of us know very little about) has the opportunity to progress his or her opinions and interests. I’m in favour of people having real say on lots of issues – a direct democracy (Swiss style, perhaps). What use is the chance now and again to vote for one of two packages of alternatives we have not determined, each of them including things we do not like?

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    • A lot of people don’t really care. We care enough to go to the polling station, and have ease of voting- I have usually walked less than a mile to a station where I queued less than a minute- but many don’t care enough for that. I like the Citizens’ Assemblies which the Irish used in their equal marriage and pro-choice referenda. We need to be clear what the relative standing of a referendum result is. With Edmund Burke I value professional politicians- Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion– but the assemblies would have time to listen and to understand.

      Being in a marginal constituency I will vote Labour and work for the Labour party, motivated more by dislike of the Tory member. In a safe seat I might not even do that.

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      • If by engaging you can make kinder, more socially responsible policies happen, that is a wonderful thing.

        Edmund Burke’s judgement may have been better than mine would be in the same circumstances, but we can all see politicians wielding power and influence whose judgement is dire.

        We live in an age where popular opinion is led by the nose like a bull which is scary, no matter how you vote or how often or rarely.

        Ordinary people have got the skills to decide, but over-simplification of the issues (and downright lies, as you say) makes it much harder to make the wise choice. ‘We must educate our future masters’ – where did that idea go?

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