Young People: Democracy Is Only Fair When We Get the Result We Want

28/06/2016 14:12 | Updated 28 June 2016


What did we do to upset them? When I say 'we', I mean those 17 million people who exercised their democratic rights in the most engaging act of direct democracy in modern times, by voting to leave the European Union.

Within minutes of the result becoming clear, the Facebook statuses started. The opinions that were expressed could be split into a few categories. The largest of which was made up of those of the view that the above mentioned 17 million people had been duped by a 'xenophobic', and 'racist' campaign conducted by the 'right wing media' and cynical careerist politicians such as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

One Facebook status of someone I know talked of the referendum having been driven by the "hate vote of mainly the lower class..." It was dripping with arrogance and invective, concocted by someone who made little effort to hide their disdain for ordinary people.

Indeed, I dared to venture in one comment thread exchange that the mentality of some was that 'the plebs' - as they see them - hadn't voted the right way, because they were too stupid and deluded to know what's best.

Perhaps I was being unfair to the person I was engaging with, but they certainly didn't like it, and I was told in no uncertain terms that I was a "c*nt".

Another opinion was that young people, who overwhelmingly voted for 'Remain', had had their futures ruined by the miserable, deluded old people, who overwhelmingly voted to leave the EU.

What this boiled down to was the argument that old people won't be alive for much longer, so its not fair for them to impose their deeply held political opinions on those who have to live with the consequences.

One article, written by the derisory 'Sussex Tab', was simply titled 'Thanks, you dicks'. It cited statistics outlining the way in which the young and old had voted, and concluded that 'we got screwed over'.

Another talked of how young people had been 'shafted again', and pointed out that '61% of those over 65, the generation who this will affect the least, voted to leave'.

If either article had been written by anyone serious about journalism, they would have picked up on the fact that only 36% of young people - who make up a larger proportion of the population than old people do - voted in the referendum.

So if they had left the comfort of their bedrooms and their keyboards, and exercised their vote , they would have outnumbered the older generation, who were merely performing what many of them no doubt regard as a civic duty.

What I was also shocked by were the personal attacks from people who call themselves my friends. I was told by one that 'I don't think you understand how much damage you've done to this country', and as I sought to defend myself, the 'debate' was shut down with, 'I'm not engaging with this xenophobic bullshit'. I had said nothing whatsoever about migrants.

It seems that this referendum has brought out the small-minded, anti-democratic streak that apparently runs through certain sections of the young demographic.

One petition to have another referendum has been signed by more than three million people, but of course the mandate to leave the EU had the backing of 17 million. Many of those who signed it were no doubt those who hadn't bothered to vote in the first place, and now feel bad about their apathy.

The mentality that the call for another referendum expresses is essentially, 'we only like democracy when it gives us the result we want'. It was a viewpoint that was aptly satirised by the creator of a petition calling for the replay of the Euro 2016 England v Iceland game if we were to lose the match.

However, I am loath to admit that those complaining about the narrow result - 52% to 48% - are expressing a valid sentiment.

It's that democracy brings with it the risk of the tyranny of the majority, the rule of the 51% over the 49. Yet that is the price we pay for living in said democracy, and the alternatives - tried and tested with disastrous results elsewhere - are not worth considering.

No doubt the hypocritical cries for a referendum re-run would not have been squawked had there been a narrow victory for the remain camp, because of course that campaign relied purely on lucid unbiased points, presented with the utmost respect for its opponents.

I wrote a blog post a few months ago outlining how I was ashamed to be a part of this generation which is so fond of blocking out the noise of dissenting opinion and 'offensive' points of view.

I finish by saying that I'm ashamed to be a part of this generation which so happily ladles invective onto older people, which so lazily accuses 17 million of people of ignorance and stupidity, and which is happy to call for a re-run of the most engaging expression of direct democracy in a generation, simply because the vote didn't go the way they wanted.

Oh, and sign me up for a free bus pass, because I would much rather join my cohorts above the age of 60 than have to sit through more of the glutinous Facebook statuses proclaiming the end of civilisation as we know it.