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What does Brexit tell us?

June 24, 2016

Our globally networked societies and economies have transformed the environment in which we live, yet our political direction, organization and visions have not yet adjusted. Brexit is an indication of the frustrations that many feel in a world they no longer understand, with leaders who lack power and fail to offer a coherent and inclusive sense of direction.

Recent research has shown that those with no history of democracy and who live in relative poverty feel like they are today ‘global citizens’. Those who live in established democracies generally feel less empowered and that their opinions and opportunities are being subsumed; they, increasingly, do not see themselves as ‘global citizens’.

This environment creates openings for populists to peddle policies that are inherently negative, protectionist and divisive. Yet rather than causing despair, this should operate as a wake-up call for those who are educated and economically privileged. It is surely they who must demonstrate a readiness to create a positive vision for the future and engage politically, rather than complain about their fellow citizens democratic choice.

At times of great change, there is typically great turmoil. For those who benefit from any new world order, there is a tendency to drift. Such was true in the 17th century, when a fast-changing society led the British people to rise against the threat of absolutism from their monarch. It is worthy of note that the dividing lines at that time were almost identical to those of the Brexit vote – London and Scotland moving in one direction, the rest of the country supporting tradition and the monarch. On that occasion, it was the agents of change who led the way and created the foundations for modern parliamentary government.

Today, whether in business or society as a whole, we similarly need leadership and vision which is relevant, inclusive and inspires a sense of hope.

From → Organization

3 Comments
  1. Eugene P. Grace permalink

    It seems to mean that your language shows your leaning, “…populists to peddle policies…” Nice alliteration but misses the point of the vote. The British people were saying, “Enough is enough,” pay attention to us. That’s all. Wake-up call for the elites who control the status quo. The people are saying they are being ignored, and decided that it was a time for a change. Quite rational, wouldn’t you say.

  2. Eugene, quite the opposite. As my article says, I believe that Brexit represents an understandable demand for change, for answers that are more inclusive and democratic than the mega-state structure offered by the EU. Far from being negative, Brexit provides a chance for true leadership. However, that leadership cannot be based on the negative principles that tend to underpin populism – we must take this chance to create a vision that inspires hope and unity of purpose – something that was sadly lacking in the Brexit campaign.

    • Eugene P. Grace permalink

      I believe Brexit was about moving the power back to the people of Great Britain. Populism is the idea of paying attention to the priorities of your constituents. Trump and Sanders are populists based on that formulation. Populism embraces the idea that the people know what is best for them. Not the elites in their respective capital cities, which are little more than political bubbles. I was disagreeing with your negative connotation of the term populism. In representative democracies, the people from time to time have to cry out, “pay attention to us.” After all the people pay society’s bills and play by society’s rules. They deserve a serious hearing. If the bills you pay, you get the say. I actually think we agree more than we disagree. However, I believe the term, “populism,” is being misused by the pundit class. US politicians have lost sight of the people who put them in office. Pay attention to the people.

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