When I was 17 and in my last semester of my last year of school I had very little to do throughout the day. I had completed most of the credits I needed to graduate high school and being burnt out of the education system after 12 years I had opted to have study halls instead of choosing more busy work. Literally every other 50 minute period was time for me to sit and do nothing, or read, or write at a desk in my study hall. These were the days before smart phones and I think I began by reading magazines and novels but that got boring for 4 hours a day. I literally had nothing else to do but the social studies project assigned to me. I had chosen a report on Megan’s Law. I can’t say I remember all the details about Megan’s Law anymore, it’s an American law that requires people convicted of sex crimes to register their name and address for the rest of their lives. The big lesson I learned that spring as I completed that project was that complex issues are always more complex than the public understand.
I remember coming away from that project thinking if people are so wrong about this then I bet this is repeated in issue after issue. What I have learned in the nearly 20 years since then is that I was absolutely, heartbreakingly right. Every single issue I have ever bothered to do even a modicum of research about has lead me to the same conclusion; the public is wrong, they don’t even understand enough to know how wrong they are. They don’t understand the extent of their ignorance.
The reason the Brexit vote crushes my soul is not the economic impact. It’s still 50/50 whether Boris will sign us up to be de-facto non-voting members of the EU and call it a day. We’ll have to pay and follow their rules to get access to the single market but we won’t have a vote and we won’t get any funding from them. But at least then we’re not entering V for Vendetta-land. No, the reason I feel crushed is that reason lost. I just keep thinking there are two types of people in the world, those who understand the extent of their intellectual capacity and leave voters. More than half of the electorate voted against the advice of every single expert of every type. History experts, economics experts, government experts, law experts, they all said we should really stay. And 52% of the electorate said “Nah! We know better. Why do you think you know more than me anyway?”
Well maybe because it’s their job to know everything that can be known on that particular subject. You know, maybe the fact that they spend 70 hours a week working with information you can’t even get your head around might mean they have a better idea than you do.
And I don’t know why I’m surprised. Marketing experts will tell you, no one makes a rational decision. I knew that. I knew it in a marketing capacity. I now understand, all the way through to my bones, you can’t get through to people with facts and information and rational discussion. It just never works. And this is where I start to feel so alone. Because I see it in every little cultural group I consider myself a part of. The breastfeeding groups, the gentle parenting groups, the feminist groups the leftist groups, none of them are made up mostly of evidence based people like myself. I have no home. I have people I am aligned with on certain issues, even some I am aligned with on most issues. But there are no evidence based living and philosophy groups.
I’m not sure what happens now. I feel both raw and numb. I had some self-indulgent dreams for my future; psychology degree, writing, opening a school some day. Now, I don’t see the point in any of it. In or out it doesn’t matter because bigotry wins every single time. If we can’t untangle ourselves with information in the information age, if people can’t see they are voting for shit being heaped upon themselves over and over again or even believe the experts who can, then what is the point in continuing to fight for what’s right?