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Brexit: Through the Darkness Shines a Leadership Ray of Light

Lori West 26 Jun 2016
“In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” Albert Einstein

This is never been truer given that the people living in the UK are experiencing a seemingly catastrophic situation like Brexit. We are facing very difficult times ahead.

However, we are also being presented with enormous opportuinity, as Einstein and any person of great accomplishment knows. It’s the adversity that presents the opportunity. In this case, destruction is making way for creation.

I have observed this Brexit situation as a dual Irish/American citizen married to a British man and living in the UK since 1991. One of the things that struck me most when I arrived on these shores and that I have always appreciated about the United Kingdom was the tolerance and the appreciation of difference. This sentiment starkly contrasted to most Americans I had met at the time. Having grown up in the Deep South where bigotry, racism, homophobia and religious fundamentalism openly exist as an acceptable way of life, I found living in the United Kingdom a freeing experience.

It’s interesting that, 25 years later, I’m witnessing a vastly different Kingdom, one that’s certainly NOT United, and in fact is in danger of splintering in several directions. Londoners have joined the Scots in petitioning to secede from the Union. The Union Jack, once a symbol of all that’s cool about this fair island, could go the way of the US Confederate flag, a remnant of the good old days, when slavery was legal.

In some respects, it’s not that different to the US Civil War. On one side of the argument, we have people who recognise the essential truth that beyond our differences, we are all human beings who share more similarities than we possess differences. On the other side of the argument, we have a group of people who fear difference and compensate for that fear by adopting a false sense of superiorty and a desire to separate themselves from others.

The post-result figures have been very enlightening. In the hours before the result, people queried Google to find out what Brexit was. On Friday once the result was announced, Google reported “What is the EU?” as the second-highest search query. The distribution of the votes suggests that Britain is divided along economic and educational lines, given that voters in economically deprived and rural areas chose to leave the EU, while voters in areas of greater economic prosperity and education voted to remain.

What does this tell you? It tells me that a HUGE number of people cast their vote on an issue about which they knew next to nothing. They based their decisions on fear-inducing inaccuracies propagated by the Leave campaigners.

Yes, there are intellectual, economic and social arguments both for and against Britain remaining in the EU. The problem is, this battle was not fought on the level of rational thinking. Instead, it was won based on one side's willful deception, making promises for which they are now backtracking and fabricating stories with the intention of appealling to the lowest common denominator of fear.

What's more worrying is that, despite the ready access to infomation, people still fall for this age-old trick and blindly follow slippery characters like Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson. Their type of rhetoric gives rise to extreme Fascist ideology (if you can credit is as being an ideology), exemplified by the men near Solihull who this weekend held banners outside refugee camps with the slogans, "Rapefugees not welcome."

Who actually believes that this type of behaviour is acceptable? Do you think it's OK?

There's one thing I've got to admit about the Brexit campaigners. They know how to manipulate. They know how to strike fear into the hearts of people who not only lack education but lack the motivation to educate themselves about the implications of their decision. They saw an opportunity to prey upon this so that they swing the vote in their direction. It worked.

The trouble is, people woke up not only to the news, but to the ramifications. There are reports of people openly admitting that they didn’t think their vote would matter. Cornwall, one of the poorest counties in the country, is now having to contend with the reality that they stand to lose £60 million of annual EU funding. Cornwall is one of many counties that stand to lose out on EU funding, having exercised their choice to Leave. It's a case of proverbial shooting oneself in the foot, but it's a little late to backtrack.

Hello?? Isn’t this a wake-up call to people around the world? Haven't you learned that your actions have consequences?

It’s times like these when we get the true measure of public sentiment, but also the emotional maturity of the British people. It doesn't paint a pretty picture. The result shows that vast swathes of British people prefer to base their decisions on arguments that promote divisiveness and are driven by hysteria. The majority of voters never once investigated the issue beyond the yellow journalism of rags like The Daily Mail and The Sun.

Here’s the question, though. Do you want to continue to put your future in the hands of this level of ignorance? Do you want to wipe the backsides of people who haven’t yet learned how to clean up after themselves? Can British voters be trusted to cast an informed vote?

You see, I don't care about your opinions. Your opinions are meaningless if you can't back them up with fact. Sometimes it takes a situation like this for all of us to wake up to reality. And here's what we've learned. We as a nation are being led by people who work at the the level of the chimp brain and not at the level of human being. (For more information on this topic, click here to read my review of Dr Peters’s book The Chimp Paradox.)

Even the Leave campaigners were surprised by the result. David Cameron did the right thing by handing the baby over to the Brexit camp. You got us into the mess. Now get us out of it.

I, for one, find the lack of educated voting unsettling but not surprising. Why? Even the educated are, to a large degree, ignorant about how to be emotionally and mentally responsible for themselves. It is clear to me that the population sorely lacks emotional intelligence and the motivation to act from personal responsibility.

Isn't it ironic that my 12-year-old son and his friends are able to see beyond the veil of the misinformation, understanding that their actions have consequences, and yet the majority of the voting population in the UK can’t? In fact, when I asked my son on Friday morning what he thought the result meant, his words were plain, simple and clear as a bell.

“British people are racist.”

Personally, I acknowledge that there are sound arguments for and against the Brexit vote. I do believe that the EU needs reform. I do think that intellectual arrogance alienates people, as this vote has shown.

At the same time, the Brexit vote has done us a favour by dredging up the darkness that has been lurking in the collective unconscious of the British psyche.

Consider that the vast majority of British people are great con artists, covering up inherent racism for years. The British Empire worked because of its subjugation of non-British people, and that mentality still lurks in the mental recesses of the consciousness. It's all out in the open, clear as day. Perhaps it's a case of karma bouncing back to bite the arses of the Establishment. They had it coming.

Whatever the cause, you could choose to see this as a sad reality from which we cannot escape. Right now, this is the reality we face, that British voters have descended to new lows, not just in the minds of its own people but in the minds of people around the world.

However, I want to challenge you to lift yourself out of the belief that you’re powerless to do anything about it. I want you to recognise that, if you want a Britain that truly celebrates diversity, you have got to accept that, at this stage, you are in a minority, and you’ve got work to do to turn things around. It's as if a collective boil has been burst, and now we can work towards healing it.

While the British public has voted against inclusion and diversity in favour of separation, the opportunity is to wake up to the reality of public sentiment and be an active participant in changing the direction of this fearful juggernaut towards a bright future. Ask yourself three very important questions:

  1. Is this the sort of Britain I want to build going forward?
  2. If not, what do I want?
  3. What actions am I prepared to take to create the Britain that truly is “Great”?

I also want you to recognise that, despite the result, there are very encouraging outcomes. One of the most encouraging statistics that has arisen from the ballot papers is the number of young people who voted to remain. 75 per cent compared to 39 per cent of people over the age of 65.

While the vote produces a short-term victory for separation, the stats demonstrate that the youth of the country overwhelmingly value co-operation, collaboration, diversity and inclusion. It gives my mission to cultivate inspiring leaders of the future a whole new level of meaning, purpose and excitement, and I feel more motivated than ever to make emotional intelligence a leadership pre-requisite.

Our youth are demanding diversity, and I love them for it. That, in itself, is a victory of hope for the human race.

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