There is no getting away from it. The Leave vote took us all by surprise, even the people who voted for it.
There has certainly been drama to accompany it; lots of hand wringing, political manoeuvring and a massive desire to find someone to blame.
There’s been a focus on the differences in the voters and their attitudes – stereotyping them into urban and global versus patriotic and community minded (that’s the nice version, some of the name calling has been nasty.)
The rehash, London protests and so called experts saying we don’t have to leave, isn’t helping anyone.
It just highlights that the Remain group have the attitude “You are different from me so you are a threat.” This is the same attitude that drove the Leave camp to want to pull out of Europe
I voted to remain because, selfishly, I am worried about the toll this will take on my small business. But now, it is time to put the values we espouse into action.
This is bigger than any individual, bigger than my job. If I fight to protect what I’ve got, at the expense of everyone else, then how am I any different from the people who felt threated by the free movement of Europeans into our job market and our culture?
Some of the best advice I’ve been given is that your sphere of worry should be equal to your sphere of influence. It’s time to regroup and think about what we can influence.
We can start by trying to understand what people on both sides of the equation really want. We need to put our energy and ingenuity into creating a culture that rewards new thinking. A culture that stops pointing fingers and instead beckons to the other side, asking their help to shape what this island of people will become.
We need to shift our sails in the wind of change, and use the momentum to propel us to our new direction.
What everyone seems to want:
1. We want work that allows our knowledge, creativity and expertise to be used and appreciated. We want the opportunity to work with other countries when they have a need and don’t have the strong talent that we nurture in the UK.
We want the opportunity to balance demand for employees with the supply of people we have. Both sides want to make jobs available to the people in Britain who are willing to work, but not hinder our growth because we don’t have enough people to keep our industries, shops, restaurants and farms running.
2. We all want the NHS to be well funded, with doctors and nurses feeling supported. We want to progress medicine in the UK, so we are admired for our ability to find ways of helping sick people get well; all our sick, not just some.
3. We want an education system that works for everyone, not just the ones that are academically inclined. We need to train and encourage our plumbers, firemen, builders, chefs, artists and athletes. We also want to maintain the academic excellence we are renowned for world wide. Our students should all have the opportunity to go to university if they have the interest and the motivation.
4. We want to feel safe. Our police and justice system need to be supported and need to find creative ways to help us eliminate crimes of hate and violence.
5. We want to feel connected. Whether we seek local neighbourhood connections or far flung connections to other parts of the world, we want to be part of a community. We want to belong, explore who we are and what we have the potential to become.
The only way to cope with change is to adapt, each of us. We can choose to focus on our sphere of influence. What can each of us do to help the company we work for map the future and build on what we have? How can we help our MPs and our own community shape the future? We’ve got the ability to figure this out.
I’m turning to clichés about the British to end this post. This country has faced far, far worse. Together the British faced a war where every family lost love ones and there wasn’t enough to eat.
The phrase “stiff upper lip” didn’t come from a sneer. It staunched a tremor that might give way to the fear that would make us fail. We need to fight our fear of change.
“Keep calm and carry on” embodied the idea that you could contribute to society, you could do what was needed and help us all continue to survive. It certainly didn’t mean shun your neighbour, have a temper tantrum or run around trying to blame someone because things didn’t go the way you thought they should.
Put your energy, your excitement, your experience to good use. Help your business and your industry find solutions. Write to your MP about what you want the future to hold.
Focus your friends on the possibility of what could be. Actively look for our opportunities to do things differently that will lead to an outcome that gives all of us the opportunities and the quality of life we want.
I didn’t vote to leave, but if I stand in the river and try to hold still I get battered. If I get on the boat and choose my destination, I can use that momentum to get me there.