On June 23rd the UK will express its collective opinion on arguably, the question of the generation: Should we stay in the European Union or should we get out. Most people in the Country have never been asked this question before, and a large group of people have known nothing other than being part of the European club – I’m wondering whether to include myself in this, as I was 3 years old when we joined.
One group unable to express their opinion on EU Referendum Day will be those under 18. This blog isn’t intended as a place to consider the merits, or otherwise of lowering the voting age (something I’m very supportive of however). My concern rests with those of us, who are able to vote, and whether we take into account the views of our children before entering the polling place.
So I asked my two youngest step-daughters (14 and 16 yo) what they thought. Once we got through the ‘it’s boring’ & encouraged them to lift their heads from YouTube for 5 mins, their views were interesting. This is what they said:
“Europe is cool” – Barry isn’t a cosmopolitan place really, but both girls, mainly through social media channels, are very aware of the world beyond our shores. They find it interesting. They absorb the cultural diversity in a way, our generation just couldn’t. The ‘coolness’ they refer to relates to the differences they find between cultures – they want that world to be accessible to them, not in any way closed off. Europe is their gateway to the rest of the world.
Immigration – like most of us, they saw the tragic image of Aylan Kurdi being washed up on a Turkish holiday beach at the start of last summer. They saw it before we did – but neither brought it to our attention. When we spoke about it at the time, the eldest of the two asked if we could provide a home for refugees. She was earnest in her question, despite the fact that we struggle to fit ourselves into our house. They don’t see this refugee crisis as anything other than a humanitarian issue. They hate the way there press demonise refugees; they don’t accept (believe) the unhealthy links being made between terrorists and refugees; and they’re pretty accepting of those seeking a better life for their family and themselves via migration. They’re not scared – they’re disappointed that the previous generation (that’ll be us) have done such a poor job in allowing the problems that cause migration to exist in the first place (wars, inequality & famines).
Nationalism – we’ve all got our own passports. But neither the Great Britain part of it, or the purple EU cover mean anything to them. Unlike previous generations, their nationalism does not define them. Seeing the likes of Nigel Farage or even Boris extolling the virtues of a perfect, picket-fenced, St Marymead (Miss Marple lives here!) utopian dreamworld means absolutely nothing to them, and if anything, is associated with the more unpleasant side of nationalism that UKIP are trying to keep well out of sight. It’s an anathema. Most people of my generation know that time never existed, but for the girls, they couldn’t care less if it ever did.
Freedom & Safety – one thing schools do, is have a lesson called History. In years 7, 8 & 9 for the past few years, the girls have covered the 2nd World War. So when they reminded me that’s it’s surely better to be close friends to your closest neighbours, than enemies, and that in itself ensures that the world is a safer place, one of the key reasons we’re ‘in’ became apparent. The European Union was established in the aftermath of that war – lest we forget, eh?
In the final, direct question, I asked how would they vote if asked to remain or leave the EU. There wasn’t any extra thinking time needed. Both were unequivocal – both would, if they could, vote to remain a member of the European Union.
Whatever your personal persuasion on this most vexed of subjects, it is worth remembering that the decision you take in June, will have a greater impact on those members of your family who won’t have a say in this vote, than yourself. Try not to pre-judge what they are thinking – there’s a good chance, like my step-daughters, their opinions will be reasonably well formed, and well informed too. So before you vote, canvass their opinions – my hunch is, they’ll be much more likely to want to be part of the European Union than not. Whether you heed their message, is then up to you….