Friday, 17 June 2016


This referendum needs thought. Here's mine.

The argument I want to advance is barely political, though it finds itself in a political context.

All human conflict has at its heart a notion of “us” and “them”.

Without an idea of “us” and of “them”, there would be no conflicts.

We are at our best as humans when we seek to build community, understanding and a shared sense of identity. The more we understand our commonality, the more humanity advances, and the more humane the advance.

There are those who worry about the EU’s enlargement as swallowing, diminishing “us”. Yet the more we advance together in wider definition of what that “us” is, the more humanely we are likely to go and grow. The bigger the scope of “us” we draw, the more compassion.

In contrast, drawing smaller circles of the set called “us” reduces our empathy and compassion, and, at worst, leads us to inhumane dismissal of “them”.

The EU isn’t perfect. Nor, sadly, is it an “us” without a “them”. It is puzzling there is still so much “us” and “them”.  It is puzzling that we have at present so few institutions which are genuinely universal. The more of these we had, the more we lived as one world, sharing this precious planet of “ours”, the more we would recognise that there is ultimately only one “us”, the whole of humanity.

The EU isn’t this. But maybe it is an important start. Its urges for peaceful community are the same urges which may one day take us to the proper conclusion of that journey. It encourages wide and widening community, and the peaceful solution of differences within it. If its expansion widens “us”, so much the better. If that habit eventually leads “us” to the sane conclusion there is no “them”, how wonderful that would be, and how many of the world’s most fundamental problems would be on their way to being solved? Perhaps it will not, but the habit and practice of finding commonality brings that hope closer to realization than not.

I hope ultimately for a peaceful world, where “we” can share “our” planet as one. Perhaps I won’t see it in my lifetime. Hopelessly idealistic, you may say. But if nobody ever hopes for it, there is no hope of it ever being achieved. So I don’t mind giving my hope to it, even if I’m alone. Perhaps it will help. That hope is tempered by the sure knowledge that there are many in the world today who do not yet want that. But there are also plenty who do.

It is with that hope that I shall vote in the referendum, placing my vote for the habits of community, for the expansion of “us” and for participation in an institution which, however flawed, moves us further on that path of understanding  and cooperation with “our” fellow humans - wider, ever wider.