Exercise Or Exorcise Our Free Will?

The shambolic story of Brexit since the results of the referendum of 2016 posits to me the foolishness of leaving our fate to the free will of our voters. Democracy sounds quite sound, on the surface. It seems to make perfect sense that everyone is entitled to have their say in who governs their nation or in the case of Brexit, for the Brits to choose to leave or remain in the European Union. These are important matters for everyone to exercise their vote, right? For thousands of years, humans relied on the power of God or Gods to dictate our might or plight. Emperors, Tzars and their ilk taught us that their right to sit on the throne was God-given. Democracy may have been touted as a wonderful idea by the ancient Greeks, but it wasn’t until 1755 in the short lived Corsican Republic that men’s suffrage was won, and it is even later in the history of mankind that we see women at the ballot box. Why did God’s rights and authority pass to us? Did we think democracy would deliver a better result than our reliance on God’s and other deities’ super powers and unrivalled wisdom? If democracy were about rational decision-making, then it would make sense to leave it to those who are undeniably intelligent, highly knowledgeable and rational. Unfortunately, democracy doesn’t rely on only those qualified to impart their knowledge, intelligence and rational thinking. Democracy allows everyone past a certain age to exercise their rights, even if they possess no economic knowledge, no interest in the who and what the election is about, or any mental capacity to exercise their rights. Elections and referendums are not about what we think. Democracy is about allowing each and every voter to vote with their feelings. Brexit wasn’t about what you think are the benefits of leaving the EU. It was about what you feel about staying in the EU. On the 23 June 2016, over 30 million Brits, 51.9% of voters, felt it was better they left the EU. They wanted decisions about the UK to be made in the UK, and they wanted the UK to regain control over immigration and their own borders. So simple, this wasn’t meant to drag on and on with bludgeoned scalps tagged with the names David Cameron and Theresa May.

Democracy arose from the liberalism movement in the Age of Enlightenment. John Locke is often credited as being the founder of liberalism, asserting that everyone has a right to life, liberty and property. Liberalism encourages us to follow our heart. Our feelings are the biochemical algorithms embedded in our genetic code following millions of years of evolution, according to author, Yuval Harari. When animals hunt, mate or escape their predators, they decide using their feelings or biochemical mechanisms which compute the probability of success or failure. He went on to say that feelings aren’t the opposite of rationality, they embody evolutionary rationality. Accordingly, liberalism gave the nod to the importance of free will, the freedom to choose or vote with our feelings.

Looking at Donald Trump’s unwavering popularity, it is fair to say 40% of American voters are ignorant of or accept Trump as a pathological liar, a misogynist and a narcissist who has his finger on the nuclear button, invoking trade wars and economic sanctions on friend or foe.These are dangerous times delivered to the world by American voters who exercised their free will. Urghhlings, perhaps it is time to exorcise our feelings before we exercise our voting rights.