Some British and American voters tear up 60 years of mostly increasing peace and prosperity for Britain and North America. A small majority of voters, and non-voters, have put at risk what have been years of peace (mostly) and prosperity – punctuated by several bad recessions – that have improved living standards and quality of life increasingly for all of Western and then many Eastern Europe people and many people in North America. Worse, these voters and their leaders and non-voters have decided to strike at the European Union that has been the greatest peaceful instrument of international cooperation, economic and social and cultural development between nations that has existed in the northern hemisphere. They have played into the hands of Vladimir Putin, giving him his Christmas presents early. In weakening peaceful democratic social and economic cooperation, have they emboldened Putin to launch his next invasion? A man who thinks nothing of unleashing wholesale, indiscriminate death and destruction on civilians to provide his Russian audience of adoring fans with their bread and circuses while the rulers enrich themselves.
The peaceful rebellion of ordinary citizens of the UK, the USA and increasingly across Europe against those in political power and authorities of any kind does give politicians, officials and intellectuals much reason to consider how they have failed – when they have – and an obligation, on those in official positions and public life, to appreciate, understand and act to deal with real and answer imaginary concerns. The obligation on voters who have decided to smash a system that has achieved so much good in Europe, and to elect a man who is so erratic and irresponsible in the US, must to be take responsibility for their own actions and their own moral obligation to work to improve their localities and societies and our wider world. This is a time for statesmen to tell people the truth even when we know they don’t want to hear it and don’t want to listen. And for people to speak truthfully and honestly to those in power. All of us have to listen to each other – peacefully without discrimination, irrational prejudice or violence. Now is a time to promote values of tolerance, inclusion, international cooperation and rule of law, not to pander to those who will undermine them. The enlightenment does not end in 2016.