The last few days have been depressing and confusing. My social media timelines are full of friends feeling betrayed, frightened, angry about the outcome of the Referendum. Shared petitions, reports of awful racism flaring up, political parties in turmoil, uncertain economy, and shaky exchange rates. I’m trying to be level headed, trying to hold my nerve. One of the benefits of having lived a few decades is that you remember it’s possible to come through difficult times. You remember that the world doesn’t end. But this is serious.
I’ve kept out of discussions about the Referendum results. It’s definitely not because I don’t care. I’ve just been struggling to know what to say, and to be honest, I’m not sure I can add anything to what’s already been said. But now I’m being told I have to accept a result I don’t like because that’s democracy, democracy has spoken. And it’s time I said something.
Democracy does not start and end with a vote. If democracy was just about a vote, well, we wouldn’t have a vote. Democracy is civil society. It’s the involvement we have outside of parliament, in changing attitudes, in campaigning for change, in shouting out about things that matter. Without that we’d have never got the vote. Without it, nothing would change.
We won the right to vote (all of us) by fighting for it. Some of us more recently than others. Change doesn’t come from above, by a few people telling us what we can vote on. It comes from below, from refusing to accept oppression, from fighting against poverty, from changing attitudes, from solidarity.
Democracy is being listened to, consulted, it’s sharing power, giving people equal voice and opportunities. Democracy is letting go of power, it’s sharing wealth, respecting rights, respecting every individual’s legitimacy. That’s democracy. A vote is only the end point. Or a starting point. Or a reminder that actually, the work of democracy is never done. If we think we just have to accept a vote, then everything we and our forebears have ever fought for will disappear before our eyes.
I do not accept that it’s over.