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Actually, Brexiteers, Fighting Against You Is The Very Definition Of Democracy

08/11/2016 12:07

What is a democracy?

The definition is more disagreed on than you'd think, but the oft-used epithet "power to the people" makes a decent stab at encapsulating it. Democracy is about empowering everyone with the right to believe, argue and vote for whatever they want. It remains distinct from communism (another concept laying claim to people power) because it does not pretend that all decisions must benefit all equally. There are winners and losers in democracy.

Democracies establish hierarchies, but they are different from dictatorships and oligarchies because their leaders must listen to the wishes of the people. To ensure they do, democracies allow everyone - even individuals or small groups- the right to recall their leaders, to lobby them and to criticise them. Democracies enshrine a right to individual freedom; and, most sacred of all, the freedom to disagree.

Democracy is not just about universal suffrage. A democracy has free speech, free press, and a free and independent legislature. Most Brits still at least pay lip service to the importance of these freedoms. But the Brexit camp is showing increasingly dictatorial leanings in its selective opposition to them. Some vocal Brexiteers seem to be beholden to a bizarre notion that winning a majority in the EU Referendum means everyone else should be forced to kowtow to their opinion, and validate this belief by invoking the mantle of democracy. To this end they berate Remainers who continue to voice their disgruntlement as "unpatriotic" traitors who should be "silenced". They slander the liberal press as "sneering" elitists. And they call judges who uphold the law biased and "enemies of the people".

How dare they.

Never mind that Brexiteers don't actually constitute a majority of the British public. Never mind that a vote on an unspecified version of leaving the EU is not the same as a majority mandate for a "hard" Brexit. Even if 99% of the entire population had voted to build an impassable 99-foot wall around the whole country, an individual like me would still have a right to oppose it. That is democracy: the freedom to oppose whatever and whoever I like, as loud as I like, for as long as I like. It is perfectly democratic to oppose Brexit. It is perfectly democratic to fight to have it stopped.

I have no doubt that somewhere or other some agitated commentator is clawing at their keyboard in their hurry to call me a hypocrite, a dictator in liberal clothing, because I would impose my own views upon the dissenting masses. No. I am not saying that because my opinion is right I should fight Brexit. I'm saying that because I believe my opinion is right I should fight Brexit. Your majority is not as democratic as my freedom to dissent.

Disagree? You would do well to cast your eyes out into the world around you. Look to Turkey, where the AK party won a majority with 50% of the vote. Turkey is the world's leading jailer of journalists and has recently purged 60,000 people with dubious ties to an opposition movement. Look to the Philippines, where Rodrigo Duterte won a landslide majority of 38% of the vote. He has sanctioned thousands of extra-judicial murders and threatened to impose martial law. Look to South Africa, where the ANC headed by Jacob Zuma was re-elected with 62% of the vote. Zuma has stolen £13 million of taxpayer money to refurbish his private home with luxuries like a swimming pool, and he has been charged with 783 counts of corruption, fraud, money-laundering and tax evasion.

Shall I continue?

These were valid results, and genuine majority mandates. So should none of these policies be protested against, stopped, changed? I doubt most Brexiteers are morally twisted enough to argue that shooting people in the street is 'right' as long as enough people voted for it. Being part of a majority doesn't make you infallible. Being part of a majority doesn't make you right.

For me, stopping Brexit is not about throwing my dummy out the pram because I didn't win a vote. For me, stopping Brexit is about stopping an economic and social catastrophe that will fundamentally and permanently alter the world I live in for the worse. You don't have to agree with my premise; this is not an argument about the rights and wrongs of Brexit. This is an argument about the right to choose, the right to freedom of belief, the right of independence. These are the same rights you claimed for your Out vote, so to attempt to deny them to me is to undermine your own credibility.

You have the right to force a world I do not want upon me. I have the right to fight it. And I shall. Not with violence, but with debate. Not with coercion, but with facts. I will criticise you, but never try to silence you. I will accept the vote as valid but disagree entirely with the result. I recognise your majority but will declare you fundamentally, horribly mistaken.

Such actions don't make me right, and they don't make me wrong. But they do make me a democrat.

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