Shakespeare wrote in Julius Caesar:
"There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures."
Afloat, we are, so let us not lose our ventures. There is no doubt about the urgency of the times, crucial decisions being made on both sides of the Atlantic and around the world. Dan Jarvis,MP, wrote recently: "Britain faces its most important week since the end of the Second World War". We get that; we are trying not to sleepwalk through it. But even at this eleventh hour, who has all the facts and who can we believe?
At a recent referendum debate in a small church in West London, the frustrations of the audience were summed up in a final comment from one questioner: "Why have we been left with this complex decision, anyway?" Emma Reynolds, MP for Wolverhampton North East, explained in her clear, calm and logical presentation of the case for Remain, that the reasons behind the referendum were more to do with solving Tory fractures within the party than any 'great' move towards democratic participation. David Harley, former Deputy Secretary General of the European Parliament, spoke reasonably about the EU as a community of values, not just interests, "founded after the dark days of the War". He presented a sensible, unemotional argument in favour of an EU that needs to and can be reformed, of a UK government that needs reform, and of the fractures in our society that this issue has unveiled, and the urgency to restore equality and to heal. "It's a very frightening period for Europe; never have there been so many populist movements; do we ally to prevent the escalation of unrest, or not?"
As for this referendum upon whose sea we are now afloat: Margaret Thatcher once quoted Lord Atlee as saying, "Perhaps the referendum is a device of dictators and demagogues", and, that Edward Heath considered the idea "abhorrent". And yet here we sit, a nation of 64 million, voting next week in "the most crucial poll of our lives". Have we been snafued in our decision-making by a kind of demagoguery appealing to people's emotions, fears and biases? Is this how the decision for the future will be made?
We have heard so much about the "Super State" soon to be led by the Germans if our EU membership continues; the need to 'take back' sovereignty", "take back our country", "take back control"- control of borders, control of laws, control of businesses.
Before we vote to "take back control" we need to think long and hard who exactly will be in control, the audience in West London asked, and who do you trust with that control? Will Britain take back control from the 1%? Will Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson protect Britain's most important baby, the NHS? Or will that baby be thrown out with the bathwater too, along with businesses, security and allies? Are we the people going to have control, like we have now?
There are holes in every argument. Sometimes the good guys look like the bad guys, so we need to be very clear on one thing: "Europe is an incredible dream: to see nations that murdered each other just two generations ago, working together in peace and unity ....let's not lose this dream now"(Avaaz).
Before we build a Trump-like wall, make a decision from whence there is no turning back, before we pull the plug on Unity in Europe, pull up the drawbridges and fill up the moat, as Robert Frost wrote:
"Before I built a wall... I'd ask to know.
What I was walling in or walling out".
Who will have control, on June 24th?
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