Brexit (and the mass illiteracy, irrationality, and ignorance of us all)

 

WARNING: This essay is not about Brexit. It is not for Leave or Remain. It is about the ludicrous referendum campaigning, which was fueled by lies and conjecture on both sides, and how NO ONE made an informed decision on a society-changing vote.

 

Many condemn the millions who voted Leave as racists, ignorant, sheep etc. But the reality is: all humans (including you, dear reader) are deeply susceptible to bias and other subconscious forces. Can you honestly say that you are often expertly informed about ANY issue (never mind international law and trade) and have not been led astray by other's vested interests and biases in the process of your research? We like to think of ourselves as more than averagely intelligent; more than averagely rational. We are not.

 

I mean, how rational are your own big decisions? About who you love? About what your interests are? About who you 'are'?

 

How rational are your circumstances?

 

The fact is human beings are not rational - rationality is more like a tool that we can choose to use, much like mathematics. You wouldn't say human beings are 'mathematical' in their opinion-making.

 

This is what those in power understand better than anyone. It is how corporate capitalism took hold of the psyche of the world. No advert plays to a human being's rationality. Adverts prey on our emotions, our sense of self, our subconscious desires. And it works. They make millions.

 

This is also what the political right have realised. How else can they get people to vote against their own interests? They utilise the same marketing forces as big business and work on people's unconscious. And it works. They get voted in by the millions.

 

They are advised by the same marketing gurus as big business. They reap the reward while the 'Left' scratches its furrowed brow. You don't win the so-called 'will of the people' by giving them what they need. You win them by making them feel that you have what they desire. As Homer Simpson once told Lisa - you don't make friends with salad.

 

I think it is generally underestimated by us “kind-hearted bleeding hearts” is how illiterate and irrational almost everybody is. Take it from an English teacher - most people leave school with a very low degree of literacy (the reading age of The Sun - 8yearsold - only proves this). I reckon less than a quarter of Scots have a B or above at Higher English, which is the level that to me suggests you are capable of analysing an argument at a fairly basic level (I know many can do this even though they never got the qualification, but that won't change the overall percentage much, as some people with the qualification don’t deserve it - but that’s another story). Without an ability to think abstractly, which developed literacy provides, people are left to their emotions and their 'fight or flight' response. These are not good ways of making decisions. The reality is that democracy doesn't really make sense with an illiterate populace as, obviously, illiterate people are very easily led by demagoguery, scare tactics, and sound bites.

 

The cynical right despise the 'mob' and know how to herd it. The cynical left despise the 'mob' because they don't know how to herd it.

 

The fact is that most people ARE ignorant sheep (I was going to add racist, because it is a naturally occurring bias to fear the 'other', but I think that generally in our society, through exposure to other races in our communities and culture over many years, the more violent aspects of racism have been dulled, somewhat… for now). That sounds offensive but I am not a misanthrope. All the evidence is there to prove that this is a fact.

 

The reality is I won't call the Leave voters ignorant tub-thumpers. As it is us all. It was impossible to make an informed rational decision on this referendum - the info doesn't exist. Economic experts have plainly stated that they DON'T KNOW what the long-term fall-out will be. Therefore, the Remain voters were equally left to their own biases in their decision making.

 

I still believe we have to have faith (faith is not rational, I know) in democracy. The alternative is always dictatorship. The nature of power is that it corrupts even the best of us. Dictatorship can never be benign. It always ends in tyranny. We need to reinvent democracy so that it cannot be hijacked by the masters of our minds. When democracy came into being in the UK, reformers realised that loads of things messed it up. For example, people could be intimidated by employers and gangsters on who to vote for - they passed legislation to instigate the Secret Ballot to protect from this. Eventually, they even gave half the population a vote when women were declared worthy. We need more reforms to respond to our media and marketing dominated psyches. However, it's not obvious how this can be done without impinging on Freedom of Speech (another democratic reform). A tyranny of the literate? A totalitarianism of experts? Philosopher kings? Obviously, not. Free literacy classes for adults? Prison terms for going back on election promises? Huge fines for misleading the public with unfactual propaganda? Political exile for lying on a democratic platform? Ostracism?

 

Perhaps, an independent legal body could be set up, which researches expert opinion and presents both sides of the findings on a particular issue free and available to all with unemotive language? Perhaps this too would be inevitably open to corruption?

 

I’m thinking out loud, but don't think any of these proposals are controversial regardless of your political persuasion (aka political bias).

 

I believe progressive people should be fighting for democratic reform rather than a confused sense of socialism. Then we can work on the big stuff. Otherwise, "they" will always win.