So, the day we go to the polls to decide whether the UK stays or leaves the EU.
And tomorrow is another day, because the more things change, the more they stay the same. Or do they?
This is a deeply personal post and one that has been a long time coming perhaps. It is also one of deep gratitude.
A photo of the Puppy unimpressed by a 1971 book about going into the EU seemed as good as any to represent this referendum!
Three years ago I would have thought that tonight I’d be at the centre of the action, yet instead I will be fast asleep while the results are coming in. So what changed?
I am grateful that I have been blessed (yes blessed) with losing so much and starting my life anew away from politics because it has given me the clarity and the tools to work out why politics has had such a deep, enduring, and profound effect on my life. But also grateful because unlike so many up close to the action, I can see it with detachment and objectivity. Only with these can you get a real handle on things. Being ‘in it’ clouds your thoughts. Letting anything go is hard, but it is the key to finding what is missing in your life.
My whole life has been set against the unrelenting political backdrop of national Euroscepticism but in recent years by affiliation for the EU, against smug condescending Europhilia. Frustrated by both in equal measures. If I a political anorak, am bored I can only imagine what normal people feel like!
If nothing else, Britain will have to find a new national complaint. Or perhaps go to therapy. There they will learn it is not about blaming others or the world but looking inward at their own flaws and work on them. After the last few months, they will have plenty of issues to work through.
People were told in 1975 that if they went into the EU life would be better, and in 2016 told if they left, life would be better. Perhaps if people scrutinised their own lives more they would see that life is what we make it ourselves and is no more dependent on external remote events than anything else. It is better or worse of our own making.
One way or another so much of what I have been and done has been politics both in and out the bubble. It has also been about reaching out for distractions and crutches to ease the pain and frustration that the world of politics brought me. It is for this deeply personal reason I will not be watching any of the results coverage, nor to my friends’ surprise have I watched any debates, read any propaganda and have avoided most commentary. It’s quite a feat in this age, but throwing yourself into service for others and looking after yourself are quite time consuming and leave you no time for wasting on such things.
I wish I could show everyone the beauty, peace and calm that lack of attachment brings. You still know exactly the same amount of info or news, if not more, but it comes to you free of bias and subjective judgments. I do not wish anyone the pain of losing all the ones you love as I have, but I do wish you could share the bliss that is being alone with ones thoughts and working out just who you are and what ou really think, free of all the noise and influence from others. Free of tribes or labels I am free to be who and what I please.
Perhaps on the way to the polling station this morning the thoughts of how the ones I loved and lost would have voted is in my mind. Having the right to choose what I do, what I think and the freedom to do so is sometimes quite a shock. At the core of what humans are. Opto ergo sum.
The long queues to get to the ballot box to me hint at a sea change, but I am inclined to think not one done out of love but out of fear. Again I hope I am not right.
With the luxury of detachment, I can see now that politics has been the one constant in my life, and so it holds so much meaning.
I got into it young and so it formed my childhood in many ways. It was how I bonded with my father, who I lost at a young age. When I worked in Parliament my mother would visit for lunch sometimes and I’d tell her things that happened at work I would not share with others because I knew I could trust her. She also saw my pain at the helplessness so many feel at working within the system. When the Lib Dems went into coalition in 2010 it was her who encouraged me to get back involved as it seemed like things were changing. I did. They hadn’t. My boyfriend saw my frustration at not being involved in it and told me to return. Only once he had died did I follow that up. But I missed thrashing out the current affairs of the day over dinner with him. My dear friend Dodge who I had met whilst canvassing, while on entirely different pages, I missed the banter and connection. With his death I lost a lot of shared hazy memories of nonsensical conferences and events. Aubrey ,my dear friend I visited in the nursing home, he warned me at getting involved and we sat and talked for hours about the system. His death shook me hard and created yet another vacancy.
Apart from my beloved pets and a complicated longstanding love affair/friendship, there is no constant. Politics has been my one long standing friend and giving it up even with the aid of 12 steps of addiction recovery has uncovered some startling truths. Like any crutch or obsession, it masks something. In my case it was a constant in a world that changed so radically for me. But it also made me question why politics? At the heart, what its always been, is to empower others. Not to help them. But to help them help themselves. What all of us want. Which is why politics as a system broke my spirit. If we are all one, helping others helps us, but not helping others hinders our own lives.
George Sanders in his Memoirs of a Cad, suggests that Paris is nice for the soul. Reassuring. It is always constant and unchanging, even when you have changed. Maybe politics was like that for me. Never changing, stuck in its ways so reassuring, like a secuity blanket. Maybe that’s why I love sloping off to Paris so much too…..
Yet politics is changing. Slowly, painfully. But for the better.
So much has been said and done regarding the Referendum, yet at the same time, nothing at all has been said or done. What will really change?
This week there is no winner, no loser. No side can take credit. We all must share the pain of a broken UK, the latent unrest and sorrow, and work on mending that. The dissent and anger will not vanish with a Leave or a Stay vote. There is no line drawn.
The smug vitriol of the Remain groups, must not be rewarded if the UK remains. A vote for either side, is a vote for fear. That is not something anyone can be proud of.
The Tories who have inflicted this vote on the country, will still be split and hellbent on stabbing their leaders in the back. I was once mocked for a photo taken with Edward Heath not long before his death, because for diehard Tories he was a hate figure for his role in taking the UK into EU. Forty years on and the haters are still there. Because of them encouraging a disenfranchised group of people in Britain, they felt that you too could be part of the hate and spite.
But the pollsters, the media, and the public must share equal blame with politicians in what has happened.
A referendum is about the people of a nation. You should all be questioning why your government has done nothing in an organisation for forty years but bicker and complain instead of bringing leadership and mending what was broken. I’d call that a massive fail.
But why too have you not taken an interest in the world? Why are you listening to a few people in office who you criticise anyway? Why do you hang off the every tweet or photo of self absorbed celebrities yet pay no attention to your own thoughts? Why are you not listening to your own inner voice? Is it because no one taught you how?
We can all achieve so much more if we really wanted and made the effort. Not in the aftermath of a horrible event, or in the panic before a big vote, but all the time.
People tomorrow will feel disconnected from politics as they did before, if not more so.
Yet out of apparent crisis often are the seeds of opportunity and that is what I am taking from all this.
I once asked a pollster friend if he had given up trying to make the word a better place. As he ran from one tv analysis to another saying the exact same words on matters he knew nothing about, he replied that he hated all politicians equally. It was all just an amusing game to mock. Well, hate and contempt bring more hate and contempt, so if we just focussed on what we would like rather than analysing that which we don’t, it might be a whole lot more fun. Recognising that our own personal flaws shape our perceptions might also be a good idea because we see the world as we see it not as it really is.
I accidentally caught a headline on the news this week where Jon Snow used the words peace, love and unity in one sentence. We must all embrace this evolution. Yes, it is strange and unfamiliar but its evolution will be so much smoother if we all get behind it! Love is the direct opposite of fear in terms of our emotions and it is only with that can we shape any kind of society.
But we are gradually as a human race splitting into two very distinct tribes. The ones who want oneness and who shun subjective labels and judgements. Ones who respect the individual and are on a quest for a higher aim.
And the ones who want more labels, more divisions, and more isolation. To put people in boxes.
It is however both Remainers and Leavers who fit both these groups.
However, what we are seeing, and this is a cause of celebration, is the yearning for a philosophy. The call for it is as muddled as when a baby cries. For what we don’t know, so many things, but only by asking, looking, listening can we really find out and help.
The recurring theme that has shown up in this campaign is a severe lack of self awareness and self knowledge. How many times have you heard someone say, ‘I’m not voting I am confused’. The truth is you don’t need statistics or facts because you can find anything to back up anything. The real truth is inside us all, and it is that self empowerment which is needed. A philosophy of empowering the individual should be at the root of all education and all politics.
But I feel for the first time like I can breathe. It is the end if an era for me. I look over all the emails I can now delete from Vernon Bogdanor, Peter Mandelson, Kenneth Clarke and the list goes on. What did it all achieve? Fanning the flames of my ego that they were listening and asking for my opinion, only to ignore it and blame others for everything anyway. Sometimes the truth is not people want to hear. They prefer their version.
Am I disheartened? No.
I look back on these blog posts and see so much has come true from what I said.
Am I doing the ‘I Told You So Dance’? Definitely not. Being proved right is not such fun.
Without the deep despair and pain I experienced from it all however, I would never have turned my life around, found a higher meaning in life and met the people I have.
When asked if I would go to the Press many years ago to ‘out’ the Pro EU camp for their inefficiency and lack of cohesion, naturally I said no. Why cause more chaos and fan the flames of dissent. Talking about it all now seems pointless in many ways yet cathartic on a personal level.
Perhaps in hindsight I could have done more to help prevent this spiteful campaign. But I can feel no guilt or regrets. I had to take care of my own needs, and if the litany of inefficiencies brought out the worst traits and habits in me I could not be so disingenuous as to campaign or lend my help.
It might be this is all part of the necessary plan that needs to unfold for the UK to change and evolve. I have learnt very much to listen more and speak less. We have afterall two ears and one mouth, and social media certainly has not helped the cacophony of brutal politics. If we were constantly chatting about positive things and not negative then perhaps the effects would have been mindblowingly different. But we haven’t.
In the years since I walked away from the politics bubble, I have learnt to undo all my conditioning and realise something that few get to experience in life. Objectivity and detachment.
By living in what some call ‘the real world’ helping people get their lives back on track, helping them tackle mental illness, depression, old age loneliness, bereavement, bankruptcy have I seen politics in action.
Real politics is not something that happens in government buildings, it is in everyone of us everyday. If only people knew, they could save themselves so much stress.
It is only with this under my belt I can even bear to tackle this thorny and contentious topic which has for so long brought nothing but frustration and heartache into my life.
Three years ago I was getting over the passing of my partner and one day heard Cameron’s now infamous Bloomerg speech. Suddenly I knew I had fought so long to be away from politics but this was like a calling to my soul.
Why? Because I love the EU? As if!
Because I wanted a referendum? Hardly. Why would I wish people I’d never met or may not like to decide important matters of state when there are enough of those in office who should be deciding.
But because I listen to my inner voice, which we all can do if we choose. Sometimes in life this has led to what some may say as the wrong things, but there is no wrong or right, merely perception and hindsight.
I have known the pain and despair of isolation and where that leads. I have seen in others the sadness of not being part of something. The EU doesn’t interest me or make any difference to my life or yours. Yet by the same token, neither does it cause harm. It just is. What it represents is more important than the minutiae, and that is unity and co-operation made simple without hinderance which is what all humans require to exist.
David Campbell Bannerman, an ex-UKipper and disgruntled Conservative Eurosceptic MEP, said to me he thought he could turn me! I told him I thought I could turn him! After all, there is no right or wrong. Despite being in The European Movement I care little for the EU as an organisation. I joined because I thought they were going to do something to change the tide of how the EU had been portrayed. If we awake tomorrow to be outside the EU would it change my life much? Not really.
I will still get up and walk the dog, the sun will still rise, I will still help all my clients, pay my extortionate bills and carry on reading the excellent book I started, and the world most likely will not spin of its axis.
But I cannot deny that even without attachment I still lean one way rather than the other. Will I feel resentment towards those who vote to leave, or don’t vote at all, and who alter the status quo I actually do find a more attractive setup? I hope not, but cannot be sure. Because I am not tribal or stick with my own, many of those people are my own friends, how will I react to them now? Perhaps this is why I will leave off putting the radio on or looking at the internet or my phone until the last possible moment. So much change and so much trauma in my life, this doesn’t compare, but why add to it!
In any case the British government doesn’t even have to pay any attention to the referendum result! It’s all just made up as we go along. Nothing is permanent. The EU may well implode soon anyway. So many variables and none of which really impact your day to day wellbeing.
Campaigning to stay in the EU seemed like a good idea at the time, to reconnect with the world and what my boyfriend had called my first love. To do something principled. Politics.
That it was thankless, and a world inhabited by people who took but never gave gratitude, seemed unimportant as I felt part of something again. But that constant drip feed of poor ethics and poorer still manners slowly corrodes your belief system and spirit if you don’t have the tools to deal with it.
As is with the law of attraction, soon after I got involved with the European Movement I got recruited to British Influence. There I thought I could effect real change. I like to think my childlike optimism which they told me was enthusiasm and passion, is an asset, but it can in the wrong places be quite the source of pain. As it was there.
I drew up reports of how real people felt and might vote, campaign ideas based on comedy fundraising gigs, academic debates with dynamic speakers. Things to engage people. How we could work better with other pro EU organisations.
Above all else I said, this is a referendum for the people. It is not decided by the 650 MPs or faceless civil servants. It could be done with love and compassion. Unity, which afterall was the basis for the EU itself. They had it on a plate quite frankly.
When I saw that everything I had said was ignored, politicians were being courted day and night with lunches and meetings to find out ‘who was on side’, donors money was being frittered away and infighting was as bad on the Leave side as on the Remain, I felt compelled to resign.
But worse than all this was there was no plan. With a specifically wired brain for planning and organising, it caused great agony to see that a joke about them having three years to get going and leaving it until the last week has in fact been true.
Above all else in life, I like to see things done well. Sometimes it is more about the process of democracy than the outcome. I looked forward to a national high level intelligent and lighthearted debate that never emerged. I feel, like many, let down in that respect.
In a dumbed down hysterical ADHD society, it would have been nice to have seen some calm rational politics as an example of how things could be done.
But as I grew and evolved, I told myself, it’s okay. It’s not life or death.
Sadly after the death of Jo Cox it could no longer be seen as a harmless referendum.
Though interestingly the immediate reactions were ones of prayer, connections and solidarity. Cornerstones one might say in recovery. Yet sustaining these seems to pose a problem.
My own personal journey has been reflected in the machinations of this campaign.
Doubts I have had I am pleased to admit played a part and there was a moment whether I pondered not only would I vote at all but would I vote to leave. This is an important part of faith, to question to fear, to be confused. To be forever in the bubble of anything is not as life was intended.
A deeper understanding of others, the world and a growing spiritual foundation to my life means I now cannot view politics without the philosophy underpinning it.
I have been, to the surprise of peers, to only two political debates about the EU since the referendum was called. Naturally before hand I had spent my own money and time going to things. I’d become enthusiastic and have people handing me their cards eager to discuss more, and my ego taking off on full flight when MPs and journalists wanted me to help. But when it all came to nothing as always did, and I saw my ego had suddely matched theirs I felt shame and learnt the art of humility to quash it.
The two debates I went to, had one very important element in common. Philosophy.
At a meeting a few months after the 2015 General Election, some well-meaning speakers from across the political spectrum discussed the arguments for and against Britain being in the EU. Both audience and speakers were as always in their own bubbles, but when questions were opened to the floor, things became interesting.
An animated member of the audience had questioned the validity of the label ‘migrant’ being applied to human beings, and Natalie Bennett interrupted, ‘This has all got a bit philosophical, let’s get back to the main topic’.
Imagine, a political debate daring to openly debate ideas?
Philosophising politics? Alert the elders!
Yet without philosophy or a spiritual basis, there is no politics.
The internet has created a globalised world to share thoughts and aspirations, yet paradoxically we seem more disconnected and distracted than ever.
Political and religious philosophers once created new forms of governance and spurred on the pioneers of a new era. Some today argue that the very building of some nations rested upon the union between spiritual moral principles and the actions of government. We will always create the very things that seem to cause us problems. No sooner have we solved one apparent problem, another will take its place. The human race is adaptable and resilient, but the sooner we see the hidden opportunities in these crises, the less traumatic they will be.
At the second event, where mostly academics rather than politicians were speaking, I realised that having fought to mimic and fit in as a child I had as well as trying to find a political label, tried to assume national identity or patriotism. It had never worked and despite being born in the UK , I will never understand the English. Even my own parents told me on a regular basis I was the most unEnglish person they’d ever met!
A mini poll by Simon Glendinning, one of the speakers asked who put national identity before European. I couldn’t really admit to either but probably felt European as it is a wider label.
I can’t tell you how many times I am asked where I’m from when I put lemon in my tea. As child I was called German, though why I will never know, perhaps a love of punctuality is enough for stupid people to categorise. Most of my friends are not English born and when I watch sports matches I refer to England as they rather than we and feel no attachment. The monarchy leaves me cold and I think the British National Anthem lyrics are an embarrassment. For this I am treated as the outsider. The British still can be an insular island nation. So I feel great empathy for the poor souls who have had the immigration discussion centred on ostracising them.
What does any of it matter? Borders are manmade and therefore so is nationality. Friends who had Ukrainian passports one night woke up to find themselves Russian the next day. It’s all illusory.
Nationalism of any kind is an illusion and one sadly that is time and again proven to be divisive.
I am proud to live in a generation where borders are irrelevant, labels are fluid and while I disagree with the amount of labels being attributed to us all, the individual is slowly coming into being.
Justin Champion talked about the enlightenment, which was enlightening after a so called national debate centred on whether Polish people coming to do the menial jobs in Britain compromised sovereignty or not. Perhaps academics are more optimistic or naive than politicians but the debate was certainly steered in a different direction to the one I bet most people have been watching in the media.
At the debate above the stage was the maxim,
To Thine Own Self Be True
It was those words which brought a tear to my eye and rendered me silent. No questions, no mini speech when the audience was asked for opinions. My ego was asleep. I was in that moment, present, calm, and entirely without attachment. And it was wonderful!
We live in an age of petitions, consensus politics and digital media. Whether we vote by text or in person is irrelevant if it is still something remote and we are unconnected in spirit. Calling for the head of Paul Dacre because the Daily Mail has run stories of lies is almost laughable considering the pernicious effect it has had on weak minded people for decades. Life is about contrast, and opinions are just that. We are all entitled to whatever one we wish, but if more people knew their own they wouldn’t need to be told what to think by others. This is all about self awareness and taking control of your own heart and mind.
No system is perfect. No system will ever tick all the boxes for everyone.
It doesn’t need to. It just needs to provide equal opportunities for basic human rights and survival.
Equality is sameness, but it is contrast that encourages diversity, and diversity lies at the heart of the universe.
A system based on what is, and what can be, rather than what was, is necessary if we are to go forward and even exist as a species. The plights we all face cannot be broken down by race, nationality, politics, gender but affect all earth inhabitants.
A client I have been life coaching asked me’ How could you ever have worked in politics, you are so nice and so caring’. While deeply flattered I feel that we need to break down these barriers. There are no bad guys and no good guys.
Politics may once have been about them and us, but now in an interconnected world it is about all of us.
It is time to put the human back into politics, because that is common ground we all share.