Friday, 17 June 2016

Voting For, Against, and Despite on 23 June 2016

When I vote to remain part of the European Union on 23 June 2016 it will not be out of a fear of change, nor for any imagined short-term benefit.

I'm a human being on a planet with over seven billion others, facing a host of challenges. I believe that those of us with the freedom to do so need to embrace and develop the most generous, imaginative political ideas.

I'll vote Remain hoping that the European project is informed by ideas other than self-interest, nationalism and neo-liberalism, even if its economics have been flawed.

If internationalist European structures are preserved, then they are open to improvement in the future, and MEPs we vote for can be involved in that process. If the structures collapse, it's much easier for opportunist power-grabbers to do what they want with everything from health and social care to energy and the environment. I want checks on such opportunism (and successive British governments have been ambiguous, at best, about those).

My vote will not be influenced by current economic arguments. It's ridiculous to suppose that economic circumstances should "naturally" serve someone well, just because they are a citizen of a particular country. Even if that were true, by what mechanisms, precisely, are poor Brits going to become much better off after Britain leaves European Union? The distribution of economic benefit depends on the will of those in power to steer things this way or that, and who among the Brexiters seems committed, specifically, to the wholesale redistribution of wealth among all citizens?

My vote will not be influenced by the pedlars of so-called sovereignty. National sovereignty (like economic growth) has never served everyone in Britain equally. What use a green and pleasant land in the Great-War mud; a new Jerusalem against lung-fulls of twentieth-century coal dust? British sovereignty today is a patronising trick, dressed up by all available means: from the culture of remembrance to Royal-Family tittle-tattle, and relentless nostalgia.

The qualities of Britishness that I value are those that make me sceptical of anyone whose desire for power seems stronger than their ideas. That would include most prominent Brexiters, and all those Remainers too guarded about their own political careers to say that Europe is a bigger idea than Britain.

We face critical, global circumstances: the systemic, diminishing availability of work; a planetary ecosystem under increasing strain; and the multiple crises of culture, democracy and basic resources that are prompting migration on a massive scale. All demand imagination, compassion and greater selflessness in our politics. Narrow-minded retreat would be shameful.

If we recognise that a secure future will require the emergence of some truly radical political thinking, we might ask what kind of culture will encourage it: one inspired by self-interest and nationalism, or a supra-national one? I think the latter.

I'll cast my vote in the direction the most promising, future-oriented cultural space I can discern, amid the campaign rhetoric and posturing.

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