On Thursday 23rd June 2016 the UK Voting population will be invited to answer a simple question. Do you want the UK to remain a member of the EU or not?
Seems like a simple question on an emotional subject where feelings are running strong. To make a rational decision you need all of the available information, and the time (and desire) to weigh it up. I'm not sure I have enough of either of those things, but I shall give it a go for myself (I'm not trying to influence *you* - this was one argument for staying in, recommended by a friend-of-a-friend and I understand that Stephen Hawking - who has never knowingly lied to me - is also in favour of the status quo - possibly the pink floyd and T rex as well).
David Cameron (like him or loath him) has been all over Europe seeking concessions to some of the things which annoy the UK, and has certainly secured some movement - though I'd hazard a guess not as much as he, or we, wanted. On their part, the other countries in the UK have indicated they want the UK to stay, but that this is a one-time decision.
I am beginning to think that large swathes of the folk who'll be answering have no interest in making a rational decision. My money is (would be, if I had any) on an 'out' result, which I think is going to be largely driven by reptilian (or perhaps limbic) fear and loathing. In that respect, there seem to be many parallels with the Trump campaign in the US. The referendum result, more than any 'general election' has the power to change our country for many years - and I have no idea at present whether it will be for good or ill.
So why do I harbour this terrible fear?
Anyone connected via Facebook with a number of UK based friends is likely to already know the opinions of many of them - often in no uncertain terms. Just this morning a friend of mine 'shared' a post from one of his connections championing the leave cause - no names, but I doubt very much that my pal shares the same opinions as the bloke he quoted (remember how many good people were taken in by Britain First?). It was an interesting post - contained a number of serious grammatical errors, made a few unsubstantiated claims (for example "The EU needs us more than we need it") and reached a conclusion not supported by those same claims. I have to admit, I was fascinated, so I went to the Facebook page for the originator where I was greeted by a middle aged fellow gurning alongside a can of Stella Artois (an overpriced tasteless EU import, ironically) and ringed by the slogan "Proud Enemy of Islam". Now, I don't *like* Islam, in the same way that I don't like *any* religion - Id rather they didn't exist, but they do and I certainly don't think that all of the followers of those religions are evil. I have many of them amongst my friends - all of whom are most excellent individuals. Its impossible to tell how much of a person's Facebook life is locked down to their friends only - but a good guide is how much you can see if you are not one of them. In this case, that was rather a lot - of his and his pals opinions. I got about as far as "Refugees Fuck Off", closely followed by "Fuck Islam" and decided I'd had enough. This is not a man who's opinions or morality I respect.
There is most certainly scaremongering on both sides, and that's regrettable. Most of the 'in' arguments seem based on what we might lose - which could be more positively phrased as what we currently enjoy. A great number of the 'out' comments Im seeing from the great British public seem to focus on not being bossed about by Belgians or 'overrun' by East Europeans/Muslims. But let's remember, that a 'pure' English person is most likely part Celt, part Viking, part Saxon and, most recently, part French - and stronger for it. And the EU was, in part, created after we all so nearly became completely German - so the irony of folk fearing that its a pathway to invasion isn't lost on me.
I suspect (but I'm really not sure) that we are better off in. I don't think we can escape all of the 'bad' points of EU membership by flouncing off in a huff, and if we do that we're stuck with them as we have no seat at the table. We will have stuck two fingers up to our neighbours in a fashion I'm not sure Winston Churchill would have felt comfortable with.
I'm starting to think about the whole thing emotionally too - I wonder if NOT doing so is actually impossible. Regardless of the facts and a determination to make a sensible decision I fear I may end up voting IN just to dissociate myself as far as I can from the kind of narrow minded, racist, poorly educated and dangerously stupid person whose Facebook page so recently turned my stomach - not an easy thing to do when you consider the quantity and variety of shit I've shovelled from one place to another.