BREXIT: Blame Game in a Divided Country

Yes, it happened.

Those who expected that a referendum would end with a sigh of relief were shocked to find out that rather, it ended with a gasp of shock. Now that some time and the initial shock of “EU without Britain” (or rather, “Britain without EU”) have passed, various media groups and journalists are trying find out why it happened. Of course, if we’re being truthful, it’s more about who than why; people are basically naming names, dividing Britain even further.

 

“If you’ve got money, you vote in. If you haven’t got money, you vote out.”[1]

The above statement has been a mantra for a majority of the British public; many believed that the Brexit campaign was a classic example of ‘class politics’, according to which your level of wealth would have either compelled you to vote leave or remain. It was mainly from this idea that your ‘class’ decides what you vote for rather than rational reasoning that caused the British society to be more divided than ever about a single issue. While a lot of working class people were vehement about the ‘elites’ based in London being the only ones benefitting from Britain’s relationship with EU, a majority of those ‘elites’ accused the working class people of being ignorant of economic consequences Britain’s exit from the EU will bring.

The Leave campaigners’ arguments were mostly based on the fact that the growth in the number of European migrants has sharply increased over the last three years, from 1.4 million to 2.1 million[2], and that they are ‘stealing’ the jobs that should have been originally taken by a British citizen. It is basically the idea that the immigration is so out of control that “Brits on low pay – and those out of work – are forced to compete with millions of people from abroad for jobs.”[3]

Of course, the extent to which this alleged ‘over-competition in the job market due to EU immigration’ phenomenon is actually true is debatable. After all, it is also true that these immigrants pay taxes; in fact, they pay more than they receive. According to HMRC figures, migrant workers in Britain paid £2.54bn more in income tax and national insurance than they received in tax credits or child benefit in 2013-14.[4]

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“Yes, it is much too easy for us to draw a line and build a wall dividing “us” and “them,” but division never solves any problems.”

However, what this article is trying to divine is not whether the claims made by either campaign was true or false; rather, it is trying to determine whether the divisive labels given to both sides of the Brexit issue is justifiable. Is it true that the ‘poor’ voted to ‘leave’ and the ‘rich’ voted to ‘remain’?

Well, the statistics tell us that it’s not that simple. The analysis of those who voted for Leave shows that 34% who opted out are in AB group (economically middle-high class). Furthermore, those who owned their homes voted to Leave by 55% to 45% while those with private rentals and with mortgages voted to Remain. (55% and 54%)[5] Therefore, it would be an oversimplification to simply state that just because 64% of C2DE category voted to Leave, all Leave voters are from a less fortunate economic background.

Yes, it is much too easy for us to draw a line and “build a wall” dividing “us” and “them,” but division never solves any problems. The need for vigorous campaign and name-calling has passed; now that the results are out and Britain has taken an irreversible step towards the exit door, it is crucial that we stop the blaming game. An intentionally pessimistic outlook due to bitterness will end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy. Britain needs to move on from the election campaign rhetoric and come to terms with reality; it is now time for them to focus on how to turn a crisis into an opportunity, rather than pointing fingers at each other as the ashes of the disaster slowly sets into cover Britain.

 

 

 

*Photo Credit: Maria Stiehler, provided by Unsplash.com, uploaded on October 28, 2014. Available at: https://unsplash.com/search/divide?photo=O0XaLIX51PQ

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/commentisfree/2016/jun/24/divided-britain-brexit-money-class-inequality-westminster

[2] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/may/20/reality-check-are-eu-migrants-really-taking-british-jobs

[3] Brexit campaigner Iain Duncan Smith

[4] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/tax-contribution-of-recently-arrived-eea-nationals-for-2013-to-2014

[5] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/who-voted-brexit-how-eu-8277077

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Why is it political ‘science’?

It sometimes comes as a surprise to some that study of politics is a social ‘science.’ The terminology is indeed misleading, as the word ‘science’ usually conjures up an image of white lab coat and test tubes with some complex liquid in it, or indeed blackboard full of equations and calculations. However, there is a reason why the subject is called ‘political science’ and not simply ‘politics’ or ‘political studies.’ Political science is a branch of a broader discipline called ‘social science.’ Now the obvious question is:

What is Social Science?

Social science uses scientific methods to model and analyse the real society, and thereby explain human behaviours in certain situations. The fundamental aim of social science is not simply to observe a social phenomenon but to generate new knowledge based on quantitative and qualitative data.society .jpg

“The fundamental aim of social science is not simply to observe a social phenomenon but to generate new knowledge”

Quantitative design is the kind of method you are probably the most familiar with; it uses quantifiable variables (such as age) through statistical research and analysis to support the validity of a theory. It’s kind of like the natural sciences in this respect, because it relies on solid ‘facts’ and ‘numbers.’* Basically, it’s seeing the world through a lens of mathematics- everything will be converted to numbers, according to their values or characteristics.

Qualitative design, on the other hand, is relatively subjective compared to quantitative design. It is complementary with quantitative design, as it emphasises explanation of society through “direct observation, communication with participants, or analysis of texts.” [1] Unlike quantitative design, qualitative design takes into account contexts and more individualised variables and so tries to avoid generalisation.

Mainly using these two designs, social scientists try to be objective observers of the society; it’s kind of like when you’re playing Sims and trying to observe and then analyse their society. Social scientists are careful (or at least should be careful) not to let personal views or prejudices influence their analysis, and tries to come up with a “descriptive or predictive model that explains the events observed.” [2]

 

What is Humanities?

Then do subjects like history, philosophy and literature also count as social science? After all, to a degree these subjects also give some new insights on human nature and the society we live in. This is true, but the answer is no: these subjects do not count as social sciences but are parts of another discipline called humanities.

The fundamental difference between social science and humanities lie in their approach and aim. While social scientists mainly uses empirical methods (statistics, observation, etc.) to support their model of the society, those studying humanities will use interpretative methodologies to support their ideas. It is essentially the scholar’s explanation, which uses logic and quotations from other texts, that counts as evidence for his/her thesis. So inevitably, humanities are ‘subjective’; humanities subjects allow bigger presence of the scholars in their analysis. The most important criteria therefore in humanities are not objectivity and accuracy but authenticity and trustworthiness.

Also, the aim of humanities is to “yield wisdom.” While social science focuses more on generating new knowledge of the society, humanities constantly strive to answer the BIG questions, like “Where did we come from?” “What is love?” or “Why am I thinking what I am thinking?” So in a way, humanities are more personal and accessible, because it seeks to enlighten the general people through its wisdoms.

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“the creativity of human minds will be severely limited, and our views of the world and of ourselves will be restricted to what is provable with numbers”

Why does it matter?

Well, that’s a very good question. It may seem a little pointless to distinguish such subtle differences, but it’s much more important than it seems. If political science was not social science but a part of humanities, it would mean that rather than basing the explanations on (relatively) objective figures and numbers, it will be a debating forum. Similarly, if literature or philosophy was a social science, the creativity of human minds will be severely limited, and our views of the world and of ourselves will be restricted to what is provable with numbers. Both disciplines are indispensable precisely due to these subtle yet crucial differences, and in order for one to truly immerse oneself in either of the two areas of studies, one needs to fully appreciate what each discipline requires.

 

 

Footnote

*Although it is true that facts and numbers from statistical analysis are fairly accurate, they are never 100% accurate or reliable. These numbers may have been affected by several factors that could not be sufficiently controlled, so it is important to consider whether the accuracy and reliability of the data is sufficiently high to make the theory valid

Bibliography

[1] University of Idaho Resource “The Humanities and the Social Sciences: Contrasting Approaches” (developed for ISEM Integrative Seminars)

Available at: https://www.uidaho.edu/~/media/UIdaho-Responsive/Files/class/departments/general-education/Faculty Resources/humanities-social-sciences-distinctions.ashx

[2] ibid. 

**I have referred to this particular resource throughout the article, and I clarify here that many of the explanations, phrases and terminologies used in this article are borrowed from the above mentioned article.

Photo Credit:

First photo)

Taken by Matthew Wiebe. Published on April 18, 2014. Dimensions: 5498 x 3615 Available at https://unsplash.com/photos/nOhUx3tiaQQ

Second photo)

Taken by Anastasia Zhenina. Published on February 16, 2016. Dimensions: 4608 x 3456 Available at: https://unsplash.com/photos/XOW1WqrWNKg

What is Politics?

Politics.

We probably hear this word far too often around us, and usually not in a very cheerful way. Over the course of history, politics became almost synonymous with words such as corruption, deception and hypocrisy. However, what many people often forget is that these words only describe what is essentially a negative side effects of politics; although it is true that many political events that occur today can be appropriately described by such vocabularies, politics itself is not a bad thing at all.

‘Politics’ is a very difficult word to define, and there are various definitions out there. However, for the sake of having some meaning in life, in this article politics will be defined as “activities that relate to influencing the actions and policies of a government or getting and keeping power in a government.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Well, the obvious response here would be: what is government? Although there will be a whole another article later to address this question, let’s just say for now that it refers to “the group of people who control and make decisions for a country, state, etc.” (Merriam-Webster)

Why is politics so important?

The definition seems to suggest that politics is all about making decisions. And to a large extent, it’s correct. Politics is about who has the power to make the decisions, how to make decisions and finally, what decisions to make. There have been numerous different opinions on all three questions, and history was written according to the answers the government gave to those three questions. But politics is not just about shaping the ‘world history.’ It’s about shaping individual lives- the decisions being made always have some form of influence on its citizen. Political changes bring about changes in principle values and the image of the ‘ideal world’ towards which a country must strive to become. In simple words, politics shape the most basic guidelines and values in almost every aspect of our lives. Is your life important? Then politics must be important.

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“In simple words, politics shape the most basic guidelines and values in almost every aspect of our lives.”

What is the difference between political science and politics?

Some people do get confused when talking about politics and political science. Long story made short, political science is all about political theories while politics is more about what is actually happening in real life. A good politician would not necessarily be a political scientist. Political science is in the end, strictly based on theories, but politics in real life don’t always go according to those theories. You could say that politics is in a way a bit more to do with practicality of governing, especially with obtaining power in government, rather than with analysing how the government actually works. Ironic, I know, but we all know that the world is simply packed with ironies.

Next time, we’ll have a closer look at political science, and reveal some myths about the subject as well as explore what questions can be answered with it.


Photo Credit: photo by Samuel Zeller. Published in Unsplash in December 10, 2014. 4028×2779. Available at: https://unsplash.com/photos/_es6l-aPDA0