The UK is fractured by Brexit. The arguments, both for, and against, are largely tribal and intractable. And of one thing i am sure: whichever side ‘wins’, it will also lose. Unity is not something that can be imposed. And without unity, we simply remain divided.
A nation acts as a beacon: it can be a beacon of fairness, inclusion, and hope, or it can be a shadow for war, dissent, and oppression. Perhaps it is time that we reframed the debate to be about what type of beacon we wish to be. What do we stand for?
Much of our divisions sit upon a foundation of inequality: wealth, opportunity, and the rewards of the post industrial revolution, are not evenly distributed, and nor does power sit equally across the system. We are a country where opportunity is increasingly tied to wealth, and generational power, and you can be disenfranchised by birth, by geography, by status.
I am becoming increasingly convinced that the solution to these issues lies in our underlying models of representation and democracy itself: as pioneers of the art, we should also lead in evolving it. The Social Age is a time of radical connectivity, currently held in starkly opposing visions, but we may choose to engage in debate instead.
Disenfranchisement is best countered not by dogma or vision, but rather by engagement and opportunity. And unity is achieved not by colonisation, but often by listening.
We will not find a common space to agree, but we may be better able to understand our differences and, it’s quite possible, find the space to live with them. Even thrive by embracing them.
Perhaps part of our challenge is that so much of our experience of the UK is held in the currency of money, and yet the fabric of our culture is built out of so much more than that. Perhaps the fabric of our future will be woven from fairness, inclusion, and equal opportunity.
If we crash out of Europe, we will lose. But possibly if we remain within it, but divided, we also lose. When nether option A, nor option B, can bring us together, perhaps we should dispute the validity of the frame itself.
What kind of beacon do we want to be?
Brexit is not the end of a journey, it is the beginning of a new one. How will we evolve our politics, what kind of politicians do we need, to exist beyond partisan?
There is space in a nation for difference, but we have to find the edges of our dissent, and that will only come through engagement.
We are trapped in a battle that nobody can win, and it feels like time to reframe the narrative. By now it must be clear that no hero will emerge, because there simply is no unifying vision. There is no hill to climb, no flag to claim, that can give unity.
Instead, it is the process of debate itself, in the better understanding of our division, that can drive us. And part of the solution must be to address the underlying architecture of inequality.
A lack of fairness drives division, and it is only through finding fairness that we can unity: but we do not need to give much away.
Everyone can retain their views, their identity, and their pride and purpose. But on top of those things we must create spaces, and conditions, to welcome difference, and respect dissent.
A beacon throws light in every direction: it is not one focussed beam. We can be different, and yet still united. We can be a United Kingdom even in dissent. If we can reframe our cultural fragmentation as simply the start of a new journey.
Whichever side of the Brexit debate you sit on, perhaps now is the time to negate the division, and focus beyond. In victory, or in loss, how will you reach out, with humility, to find out what type of beacon we will be?
If we remain in opposition, we will be rich and comfortable, but disunited. If we can connect across our differences, we may find hope.