Were we curious enough about voting in the recent referendum? By that there might be an underlying implication that if we had been more curious the results might have been different. From which you might infer my own position on the topic!
Being curious includes some inquisitive questioning. From the vox pops and panel interviews with members of the public over the period there is evidence that people were indeed asking lots of questions and as time went by the questioning did not cease.
On this level curiosity was rampant. But the answers to these searching questions invoked two sets of opposing answers and believing one set meant rejecting the other set. For many this continued to leave them undecided.
If we had been more curious might we have explored these sets of questions at another level?
Were we hearing facts or actualities?
Most of what we heard were predictions and possibilities. We all find making decisions far harder when we don’t have the facts, so even if we realised that both sides were peddling predictions and possibilities we would have probably needed to translate some of them into facts in order to decide.
What were the motives of those answering the questions?
We can do little more than guess the answers to this, and other questions. Maybe the public figures were out for their own ends; maybe we were simply being persuaded to join a side in a battle of personalities; maybe we were being asked to determine the future direction and prosperity of our country; maybe we were being asked if we wanted to be an independent nation free from ties or free to chose new ties of our own making; or maybe we were being asked to reveal our inner prejudices for the world to see. Maybe none of these or all of these.
Could we find answers to our questions from sources other than those who were clearly ‘pushing a line’?
The answer? Probably yes, or at least to some extent. However, it was hard to find those sources when so much attention was placed on the warring factions. The battle was so intense that other voices were drowned out or assumed to be on one side fighting, or the other.
To what extent does our past and current experience influence the way we interpret the whole Brexit question?
Is this bias helpful to us in making a decision? Invariably it does influence our thinking, feeling and behaviour and sometimes we are blind to those influences and we are incapable of distancing ourselves from them in order to be ‘more objective’.
But of course its all over now so maybe we can be curious around some bigger questions that might throw light on more fundamental and ultimately more important issues:
What is the nature of political leadership?
In the light of the disappearance of some of those that lead the debate on both sides and the current impasse in the Labour leadership fight, what sort of political leaders do we need in our current world?
What is the nature of democracy and does it impose limitations in the way it operates that have a negative impact on society as a whole? When everyone has a say and where the emotional component of position is so strong the dangers are that rationality and critical engagement go out of the window and the prevailing mood conquers.
Being curious, or more curious, does not guarantee any greater clarity. It does however take us on a deeper journey of discovery that might lead to more informed thinking and decisions.
The real problem with curiosity is that it slows down our thinking. Emotions on the other hand tend to speed up our thinking and there is plenty of evidence that emotions were running quite high for a large number of us in this campaign. High on both sides of the argument. I believe that when emotions are running high curiosity takes a back seat. We no longer seek questions to feed our need but seek a different sort of fuel to throw on our emotional furnaces. So it is possible that curiosity had no real chance in the Brexit Affair.
Having said that maybe now its all over we can ask ourselves another question: What was my emotional response to the Brexit question? and why did I feel that way?