[Disclaimer: This is not at its core a pro-Remain post. It's a pro-thinking, pro-facts post made by someone who happens to support Remain. I am criticising the system, the media and the campaigns far more than I am the voters.]
I've come to realise that we, the British public, are collectively too ignorant about the EU to be trusted with this momentous referendum decision. Most of us have very little concrete understanding or relevant knowledge about the impacts the EU really has on our lives and on our nation.
We now live in an age where vacuous soundbites, catchy headlines, and appeals to "us vs them" fears are considered by many to be more valuable than facts, logic and reasoned arguments. We live in an age when the media is more interested in inciting emotional reactions to fuel newspaper sales than they are in informing the public of real truths. We live in an age where social media trains us to skim-read things, and boil every opinion down to a binary "Like" or dismissive comment.
And so we have the ridiculous situation where, regardless of allegiance, almost every single living party leader of the last 25 years - Tony Blair, John Major, Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg, David Cameron, William Hague, Ed Miliband, Caroline Lucas, Tim Farron, Harriet Harman, Jeremy Corbyn, Paddy Ashdown, Natalie Bennett, Leanne Wood, Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond ALL agree that leaving the EU would be harmful and a mistake, where they are all counselling us to stay in, and yet the general public consensus is that we should ignore their advice.
We elected these people to act in our interests - shouldn't we listen to them? Especially when they all are in agreement. When have you ever known such a wide cross-partisan support on anything?
These are the people who've had access to all the relevant information about the EU and the running of our country and who've had to make informed decisions about what is best for the country with regard to those topics - and yet it seems the general public, disillusioned as we are with Westminster politics, have decided that these politicians' collective decades of experience count for nothing, and that our "gut feelings" count for more.
And this is just the politicians - not counting the trade unionists, bankers, economists, scientists, academics and others who really would know better than us the general public. Maybe they are all wrong, every one of them, and we will be better out. But how we can possibly make that claim on the basis of not fact or reason or experience, but supposition and patriotism and hope? It's ludicrous.
We should admit we just don't know, and be hungry for facts and reasoned arguments above all else. So that we may learn and make the best possible, most informed decision. But we're not. Those who try to introduce facts or appeals to reason are dismissed as having an agenda, as if independently-verifiable facts are worth no more than the soundbite claims of the campaigners or online supporters. The view now seems to be that since everyone has an agenda, why should any of the information we are given be trusted? The days of respecting fact above opinion are gone, it seems.
The only way this situation could be saved would be if the media and both campaigns ceased all spin, all campaigns to personality, all appeals to people's fears, and instead took it upon themselves to do nothing but educate every one of us about the EU and its impact on our economy, sovereignty and nation. And educated us on the importance of this issue and the proper way to consider such international affairs as they do. But clearly this is not going to happen, the world just isn't wired that way.
So sadly, we will have to accept that the average Brit will make their decision on the 23rd with no more depth of thought than they would apply to a vote for the X-Factor or a bet on the Grand National.
Our country's future, reduced to a gamble, a best guess by millions of people who have - not any of us - been adequately educated on the issue to consider it wisely. Nor have our people been given the motivation to consider this referendum as anything more than an opportunity to express a George Bush style with-us-or-against-us verdict on "is Europe a good thing" or "do you like David Cameron".
As someone who has been an avid supporter of more representation in our democracy through PR, and who also works in a field that depends upon the wisdom of crowds, this realisation is especially depressing. The idea that not only is our country apparently destined to make a very ill-informed decision, but also that our ability to collectively make decisions based on facts and reasons above feelings and instincts is a dying capability, is just utterly disheartening. The idea we might leave is depressing - but the idea we might make that decision in an unsound, illogical, irrational way is even more so!
Perhaps there will be a last minute upsurge in fact-based campaigning and logical deductions about our likely possible futures, but I can't see it. Pardon my language, but, we're fucked.
Here's a graphic to illustrate the problem: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CkqIW0SWkAAKQFJ.jpg
The article below contains some numbers that back up my belief that we are too ignorant on Europe. Here's a quote: "There are obviously still high levels of ignorance about the EU, which is troubling so close to the referendum. However, it is not so surprising, given the lack of accurate information provided to the public, as well as the mistruths, exaggerations, and scaremongering that have taken place during this campaign. It’s now more imperative than ever that the public can be provided with as much factual information about the EU as possible before they cast their vote"
The Ipsos MORI report is available in a more easy to read slideshow form here
(This post was originally posted on Facebook, but apparently I'm not allowed to post the link to it - PM me if you want it).
A ‘unity’ government is our last hope of stopping Brexit – and Caroline Lucas is the only MP fit to lead it. Few have the support of the public and political figures alike to make something Caroline Lucas Former co-leader of is that the poorest will be hit the hardest while hedge fund managers betting This is the man who led the Vote Leave campaign not as a referendum on the And the Greens' sole MP Caroline Lucas (Image: PA) “The Government’s own economic analysis shows the UK will be very badly hit if we leave the EU Single Market and Customs Union. EU referendum: the next big populist wave could sweep Britain out of Europe Letter from Caroline Lucas MP. Read more The remain campaign is betting that, even if such a dynamic kicks in The odds on a fresh EU referendum have halved since the beginning of the year to just 2-1, bookies have revealed. News of the fall comes in the wake of The Independent’s petition for a vote on the final deal smashing through the 250,000 signature mark.