Saturday, 18 June 2016

Unintended Consequences

There are just six days left till the UK population casts its vote and answers the big question of 2016. To Brexit? Or not to Brexit? Everyone has had a lot to say on the issue. Each side have made threats as to what the future holds. On the Remain side, these have been thinly veiled threats. On the Leave side, these have been largely made up threats. But it’s all a matter of perspective, I guess.

It’s going to be a close vote. Very close. Even the bookies have narrowed the odds considerably. If the decision came down to the people I speak to on a regular basis, I rather think the vote would be to leave. But as informed as people think they are, I feel that they are missing the point. Some of the most key issues have not been discussed. There will be unintended consequences to our departing the European Union.
Who will man the Starbucks counters? Who will pick the strawberries for Wimbledon? Who will sell copies of Big Issue magazines? There will be riots on the London Underground caused by caffeine deprivation, angry tennis punters will hurl half filled cups of cream at each other and drug addicts will no longer have anyone to highlight the plight of the homeless.


But there is another more sinister side to Brexit. The Leave campaigners want to see an end to political correctness. That might sound an ok thing. But that’s only because most people don’t really understand what political correctness is. Allow me to provide the definition:
The avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.
What Leave campaigners really mean, is they’d rather like to see the reintroduction of permissible racism, homophobia, sectarianism and prejudice in general. That, in a nutshell, is what the abolition of political correctness is about. They just want to inject some casual racism into everyday life. It’s another step towards turning the United Kingdom into the 51st state of the USA.

Americans are very proud of, and defensive of, their right to free expression. It’s often promoted as an absolute right. Of course, there is no such thing. There are no absolutes. There are and always have been consequences to speech. Even in the US. Libel laws for example. And besides, an excess of any type of freedom simply impinges on competing freedoms.

A friend of mine has suggested that a mature society does not fear conflicting opinions. This has a large degree of truth to it. But it is, again, not an absolute truth. The implication is that a society that decides to self regulate what is and is not socially acceptable, is a society that lacks freedom. And that implication is  not true.

Political correctness is not something that needs to even be legislated. It’s simply a means of social convention to ensure that  extremist views are seen for what they are. Wrong and unacceptable. Get that right, and you are as close to a mature society as one could possibly be.

But you can vote Leave on June 23rd. You can vote to legitimize people like Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and others of their ilk. You can vote for racism. You have the freedom to cast your ballot in deciding the direction of the country. But your vote will be one that stifles more freedoms than it liberates. I’m hoping that we are better than that.