I represent the one in every four young voters who read the articles, navigated the propaganda, watched the debates, laughed at and lamented each scaremongering soundbite that made its way to Facebook, weighed up the options, used my agency, exercised my rationality, considered, toiled, teetered, tweeted and decided to leave the European union. The alarming dearth of those willing to respect this basic exercising of my democratic rights is shameful. Apparently, it is my own future I have conspired to ruin.
Many devastated remainers harbour such contempt for my decision that the demographic of young Brexiters I represent isn’t even offered the insult of being a part of the sickly politics of identity. It was the old folks’ fault, the little-Englanders who looked out their windows wistfully, monitoring the streets of a changing Britain, readied to revolt at the immigration influx and sound sirens of sovereignty. Your regressive identity politics casts a net so small that I wasn’t even afforded the benefit of your derision. I want to feel your hate. Where’s the baseless contempt for me?
The young people who voted leave are a forgotten bunch in this post-referendum miasma of bitter opinions and liberally imbibed memes. I shouldn’t be offered such an easy and painless escape from your scorn. Because, apparently, all the young folk wanted to remain, the young did not succumb to the politics of fear, the young were educated, informed and readied to uphold EU fair-mindedness whilst reforming the spots of illiberal damp that had seeped in. The old wanted Britain back and would prefer it to be Great, they were prepared to be credulous robots for manipulative politicians to programme, dogma dustbins for demagogues to excrete into, all the while stirring up a perverse maelstrom of xenophobic hatred and antiquated patriotism. The young didn’t get to decide their future, the old ruined it for them. With this narrative, not only do you let me off the hook, but you iron over the agency of the older Brexiters with ageist rhetoric, offered with such self-deception that you fail to see the intolerance in your observations of intolerance. The old people have ruined your future? Sounds just like those old people who thought the immigrants were ruining there’s. Reductionism, hypocrisy and irony make for uneasy companions in this Brexit-bolstered landscape of incredulity and disappointment.
Suffice to say, not only was there a wealth of older voters who have full faith in the EU, but there are many more who voted to leave without recourse to fear of immigrants or bureaucrats. Treating the old with the perceived average properties of the group is distasteful intolerance, allied with bigotry and offered with contempt. Save some of your scorn for me, for the one in four of your peers who disagree with you; we’d like to see your divisiveness try to divide us too.
According to this caricature of leave voters, I was also too stupid to notice the lies, readily credulous, undiscerning, a victim of dogma and forgoer of reason. These haughty cries turn your own political opinions into fact, your penchants into cemented virtues, ideas up for debate into the indisputable. I am not xenophobic, a seething jingoist, scared of immigration or too stupid to know any better. I just came to a different conclusion when presented with the same information. Oh, and I think Farage is pretty poisonous too. When it came time to decide whether or not ‘to leave’, I voted for the motion, not the campaign.
But the idiots riot on, so you say, their victory an indictment of our manipulative politicians and the pleb’s imperviousness to facts. Why are you so completely unwilling to entertain the possibility that I am as politically educated as you are? That I had contemplated all the sordid motives of an empowered conservative party, that I am aware of the EU’s economic benefits, that I wasn’t entirely convinced by the ‘undemocratic’ argument, that I care about free movement, the right to work and the secular, liberal underpinnings of any tolerant, inclusive, caring and humanitarian society? That I knew all this and just chose a different path to the same ends? You can call me misguided, optimistic or even just a disastrous decision maker – but ignorant I am not.
We could be allies in the march forward for transparency in politics and to the age old idea that the political class should not rule the plebiscites but serve them. But such sanctimony from remainers is concerning in that it turns the profound array of pluralism on each side of the debate into a sectarian zero-sum game. You’re with us or against us. We were right you were wrong. You fucked it, we could’ve saved you. In another world, we could be allies. But sadly, in this world you would first have to respect my opinion instead of caricaturing it into the odious antithesis of your perfect worldview.
I too want to forge the fairest trade deals, provide a haven for the helpless, welcome refugees, integrate with the diverse people of the world, help immigrants to thrive here whilst I live, work, travel and explore Europe for myself. I first thought it was prudent to re-assert my right to be connected to those who govern me, to be able to hit the campaign trail and come face to face with the lawmakers that affect my livelihood. I chose to re-energise the greatest idea mankind ever had, Democracy, to add my voice to the chorus of those demanding accountability and to refuse to see the globally co-operative future you and I both want chalked out by the agenda-setting elite. It wasn’t an easy decision. Uncertainty and skepticism were my allies, sanctimony and arrogance my adversary. The badly lit road ahead will be uncomfortable for us all to navigate. It would be much better if the remainer’s default cries for integration, togetherness and collective prosperity were extended to the only people who could be their accessories in the revitalised fight for our voices to be heard. Sadly, this is a world where you must first accept my vote and respect it as the place the scales landed after a fulcrum balancing Euroskepticism and EU-philia finally tipped.
It is precisely because I care about free movement that I believe the most generous, liberal and internationalist policy on immigration can and should be forged outside of the EU. It is precisely because I have a deep mistrust of the self-serving political class that I made a choice to destabilise those who are the most despotically self-serving. It is precisely because I want a stronger economy that I am persuaded by the long-term goals of global trade deals, with those left off the table or discouraged from negotiating by the EU stronghold. It is for this same reason that I think meddling in the Chinese steel industry or taxing African agriculture exports so highly is not the way to forge a properly integrated, globalist and co-operative society. There was a truly liberal, internationalist and tolerant rationale for voting to leave the EU; alienating these voices instead of seeking their support might’ve been a comforting affirmation of your views, but measured, tactful, and cognisant of the fight ahead, it was not.