Some of you who read this blog may or may not know, that I have a politics degree- something that growing up (unlike many other young people my age) has always been close to my heart. I willingly watched the news, couldn’t escape from radio four even if I really wanted to and always enjoyed a good debate- even if it meant that it was me against the rest of my class, as had happened on numerous occasions.This probably resulted in my distinct lack of a consistent social group growing up and my inability to form friendships, because I was seen as that little bit different to the average fourteen/fifteen year old. When I was sixteen, I won a writing competition and the prize was to travel to Poprad in Slovakia, to take part in a European wide response to quality youth work and youth participation. Here I made friends from across Europe, and united with shared values to make Europe a more inclusive place for young people. This was a time full of happy memories and an opportunity that I wouldn’t have had if we weren’t part of the EU. Those who I met at that conference will all be in their 20’s and 30’s now, waking up and wondering what has Britain done?
I loved my time studying politics and visited the European parliament in Brussels whilst at university, one of the most interesting and fascinating experiences of my life. People often say that I should use my degree more, or at least write about it (something that apparently I’m more qualified to do than most people) but I don’t think I am though- everyone is qualified to express an opinion on politics, because it affects all of us. Something that I tell young people I work with often, that politics as confusing as it may seem to them affects everything around us, and their future. I generally refrain from discussing my political views on social media, because I don’t want to get into point scoring or slagging matches. Something that I have seen all too often, and is even more alarming since the result of the referendum. In the light of this negative atmosphere online, I’ve chosen to step away from Twitter and Facebook for a while because I find it genuinely unbearable to read. A friend of mine has written an excellent piece, highlighting the lack of a decent, reasoned debate throughout the referendum campaign. This, alongside widespread point scoring tactics and denying people the facts to make an informed choice has got us to where we are now.
I’ve struggled to find the words to articulate this blog post, it’s now midnight and I’m feeling exhausted after staying up most of the night, numb and emotionally drained. I’m also terrified for my future, your future and everyone’s future. The atmosphere that seems to have evolved online and in the real world, is even more worrying when even the closest of social groups and families have become so divided. How can we let this happen? Why have so many people woken up this morning, confused with the world and trying to make sense of a situation that shouldn’t be real? It really feels like we’re grieving. For our future. For our equality. For our rights. For our happiness.
I’m proud to be amongst the 48.1% who voted to remain- and I’m disappointment with those who saw difference as a problem and have made many people feel unwanted and excluded from a country that they grew up in or have made their home. Or voted leave as an attack on the establishment, which has resulted in us possibly getting Boris in power and a far right Tory government. I’m unsure if they saw that one coming. This alongside the rise of Trump in America makes the world a very scary and uncertain place to live in for young people today. I’m sad that some people felt that they weren’t able to vote, that they weren’t empowered enough to do so or given the tools to understand the EU referendum. Politics has to and should be accessible to all, and there are still many disenfranchised groups who feel disengaged or disillusioned with one of the most important processes that will determine everything that is to follow. I’ve seen the occasional post along the lines of ‘I’m not voting because I don’t understand it’ and people are very quick to judge, and to offer the blame game. ‘Well you’ve got no right to complain then’ I often hear in response to such statements. But I want to ask why? Why do they feel unable to vote? And what can we do to support them to exercise that right? I’m equally sad that 16 and 17 year olds couldn’t vote on something that is going to change their life forever. If all of the teenagers that I work with were able to vote, maybe I’d be writing a different blog post.
A friend posted on Facebook earlier: ”I have rarely felt this disappointed. Part of me now feels unwelcome in this country. People who voted leave may not have meant to send that message to people living here from EU countries but that is the message received.” This feeling is echoed across my Facebook and Twitter feeds and is often belittled by leave voters, describing them as ‘over exaggerating.’ and worse. One of the reasons I felt the need to distance myself from social media for a while, because I’ve found the fallout following this referendum incredibly difficult to bare and we all need to look after our own mental health and self care sometimes too.
I want to leave you with this, that perfectly puts into context exactly how this referendum has made people feel.