Pantelis Boukalas PANTELIS BOUKALAS

The allure of saying No

COMMENT

TAGS: EU, Referendum

For reasons relating to the history of nations, perhaps even to individual or mass psychology, saying No (or its synonyms) seems more attractive than saying Yes. At times No appears to be more heroic, while on a political level it brings together more people with different points of view. If Yes is about consent and adopting mild positions, No has to do with opposition and resistance, with a kind of behavior which is, rightly or wrongly, surrounded by a more impressive aura. No’s more inclusive character was confirmed by the British referendum. While the position of voters was determined by deeply rooted class elements (the majority of society’s poorer strata were in favor of Brexit), at the same time there was a temporary bridging of the chasm, given that the same decision was reached by Britain’s absolute conservative elites. “Out” was favored by the victims of Cameron-era austerity, people who are afraid of migrants, but also those who were born into money and sing “Rule, Britannia!” while recalling their imperial laurels.

Just like Vespasian coins, votes don’t smell. They may have colors depending on the ideology of each – red, black, green, light blue and so on. At the ballot box, however, they are all equal, they carry the same weight and are added up no matter what their hue. The process of equal weighting is terribly upsetting to all those who would rather see the fate of national and supranational entities, like the European Union, in the hands of specialists. Britain’s “Leave” victory was made possible by various Euroskeptic voters from the left, right and center: first and foremost all those who fanatically oppose the European idea – nationalists and isolationists such as Nigel Farage, but also supporters of the European concept who refuse its realization in its current form, in other words in a blatantly anti-democratic spirit and with a barely hidden anti-parliamentary appetite (which resulted in the appointment of non-elected governments in European countries with the blessing or on the orders of Brussels and Berlin).

The reactions of EU leaders following the referendum – which essentially canceled the first word in “United Kingdom” (thus the intention of Scotland and Northern Ireland to claim their right to stay in the EU, if not their independence) – could hardly be defined as comforting or hopeful. They fail to realize that, similarly to all other votes carried out in EU member-states where the question involved Europe, the result proved to be against today’s European model. The EU is not attractive in its current state. Its chiefs, however, believe that it is not their creation that is problematic, but rather that those who criticize it – including at the ballot – suffer from shortsightedness and bad judgment.

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