You might remember the children’s story, the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The story goes: there was once a town in ancient times riddled with mice. One day a piper showed up in town. He claimed he could save the town and get rid of all the mice, only if the town delivered him such and such. He did deliver his part, and the mice mysteriously followed him round and around, out of the town, and into the water to drown. He then came back for his payment. But by now the payment seemed too dear to the town, and they would not pay. So the piper took out his pipe once more, only this time to drag all the children out of their beds, out into the wild with him, never to be seen again. And so it goes now, in our present time, the unified future we long envisioned is being dragged away by some colourful pipers.
On June 23, with a 72% voter turnout and a 52:48 Leave to Remain ratio, people of Great Britain eligible to vote expressed their desire to leave the European Union. In this post I offer my views as a Turkish immigrant living in London, and suggest some questions to explore.
There is a very visible divide in this country: and it is no longer possible to envision a future where this is not addressed. The leaders and the more fortunate people of this country have a duty to engage with and listen to those they have long ignored, despised, or looked down on. For in the communication gap left by these voices, the Leave voters were abused and misused and misdirected by the very people who were claiming to be their saviours in the days leading to this voting.
The ‘saviours’ showed up with colourful words, easy to digest propagandas, and populist premises feeding into the fear of the masses, and showing them a twisted way out. They pointed the finger out to and scapegoated the influx of strangers who do not look like us, talk like us, move like us, and they condemned the elite to be the source of all woes. Ignorance was crowned, studied voices were deemed dishonest.
Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage’s words fed into the already existing climate of fear, hatred, nostalgia of an isolated simple past, and suspicion of the ‘other’. Many of us are in over our heads at the present, and Johnson and Farage fed on this feeling of powerlessness and lack of control people feel. They shouted over and over again ‘Take back CONTROL!’ And slowly but surely it all turned into a protest vote, a vote of no confidence, a vote to express distrust of the ruling government and the foreigners now living next door.
So, for all the bitterness and resentment, some found consolation in the calls for control and getting back at others who have supposedly long deceived them. And while no vote could soothe this core yearning for getting back, the young generation looked on, and will now be made to suffer the consequences for the decades to come, of the decision made by those hurt by real or imagined slights.
Although Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage are acting only to guard their selfish political interests, they do have a very simple recurring message which reflects their clear understanding of their demographics. “Brexit - take back CONTROL!” Boris volunteers in an interview:
“So much of politics is really about explaining, engaging, and showing that you understand.. you’ve got to take people with you.”
And people are being taken out on a ride on far out lies and premises. You only have to see Farage’s changing remarks on the NHS funding, to realise they have been preaching a lie they themselves did not believe in. This particular ‘correcting’ remark on NHS came only a day after the voting. Only time will reveal how much fact manipulation Mr. Farage and Johnson dwelled in over the last few months at our cost.
When we don’t engage with each other and when we isolate the voices we don’t agree with, we leave people out to be rallied and deceived by pipers and jesters. Some of the questions we now need to sit with are:
How can we let go of our need to CONTROL how our future together must look like, while still shaping that future?
How do we envision a different future together now?
How do we connect with those we deem ‘others’?
How do we avoid patronising each other?
How do we engage with each other to truly understand?
How do we empower all so we feel heard and listened to, without needing to revert to violence and destruction of any sort?
What are the systems we need to create? What are the conversations we need to have? And with whom?
How do we influence each other, but also allow ourselves to be influenced?
The future will be determined by our willingness to remain curious, listen and change, to move and to be moved.
Ceylan Sepil Alexander is an organisational coach with a passion for wholeness at work and beyond. In 2012 she left her well paid banking job to follow her passion in systems work, and tell stories using tarot cards. She drinks and sings (privately) in her spare time. Follow her on Twitter @vagabond_coach
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