Sunday, 15 December 2019

Time To Travel Hopefully

So that’s it. It’s over. A general election – effectively a second referendum without actually naming the “R” word – and Brexit, whether we like it or not.

I’m not going to talk about that last part; opinion is probably still sharply divided. What I am going to say is I’m glad a democratic decision has at last been made. 

My relief is based on mental health grounds alone. The UK has had more than three years of anxiety around the subject and wondering what happens next and it’s not been good for most of us.

A study published in the BMJ of US trainee doctors has found they are not only stressed out by their training but also by what’s going on politically. As the shenanigans of their political masters are aired more publicly than they used to be, the fallout spreads further, across and down. 

I’m relieved a long-term study has found this because it’s always good to have evidential backup to what starts off as a gut feeling.

Here in the UK, until the recent past, we were used to grumbling politely about whatever was bothering us but for a short time and within a very confined space. We weren’t constant protesters – remember the march against the war in Iraq and how astonished everyone was that up to a million people had taken to the streets to express their views – and, mostly, we got on with our lives. That, I would suggest, is “normal” behaviour which allows us to live a reasonably healthy life.

How different we are now! Politically engaged, ranting on Twitter, not speaking to friends and families who disagree with us and generally behaving in a very un-British way. We surprised everyone – even our European friends and neighbours who thought we were stiff upper-lipped, pragmatic and not inclined to public argument. How we shocked them and how, probably, we shocked ourselves!

I don’t think it was the decision that caused the problem, it was what happened afterwards and that is what we have been left with for more than three years. 

And that is what changed on Thursday.

Again, this is not a personal political view. It is my professional observation on what happened.

Those who had changed their voting habits to enable such a huge change in the voting demographics were interviewed after they voted. They explained why they had done.

They sounded thoughtful, considerate and concerned. Some sounded pained and hurt, acknowledging that their own family values were being questioned at a fundamental level. I heard men and women saying how their father and/or grandfather “would be turning in their grave at what I’ve done”. None took his or her decision lightly.

The victor, PM Boris Johnson, acknowledged that when he spoke of voters “lending” him their votes. He knows he has to persuade them they did the right thing; otherwise, they’ll take their votes back again. 

So I suggest now is the time to celebrate the end of indecision. I remember being given advice by a doctor when I had no idea what to do with a particularly important decision I needed to consider in my personal life. “Do nothing,” he said. “And something will happen to make up your mind.”

When I wailed that I didn’t like uncertainly, he was kindly amused. “Nobody does. That’s the problem with humans. And that’s why we so often make an impetuous decision that is not right for us in the long term. We can’t bear to live with uncertainty.”

My uncertainty caused me enough grief. But it was my own problem. These past three years of uncertainty over our future as UK citizens have, however, been an enormous collective strain. The stress, seeming to stretch never endingly in front of us, became unbearable. 

We look to leaders to bear our anxiety for us, feeling we have chosen the right people to make the right choices for us as a collective group. Leaders are chosen to bear our burden and, for right or wrong reasons, they haven’t been in a position to do so. And it’s caused nationwide stress, discontent and unhappiness for much of the population.

And now it’s over. Now perhaps we can get back to enjoying the dullness of a mundane life. 

That’s what I’m looking for at any rate. I have no idea how it’s going to pan out but I’m hoping there’ll be someone out there among our political leaders with enough intelligence and skill to get us out of this mess. I’m an optimist and still believe politicians of all persuasions are trying their best on our behalf, even if we sometimes consider they are failing, or their views don’t fit with ours. 

I’m making my own decision. I’m going to free my mind from its post-2016 angst and hand back the reins of national decision-making to the newly elected politicians. Let’s hope they take care of me.



Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash






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