Thought of the Week: 23 June 2016 (Rabbi Maurice Michaels)

Written by Writings & Sermons by others — 22 June 2016

One of the subjects that I have been lecturing on for many years in all three market sectors is Problem-Solving and Decision-Making. Included in it is a detailed format for making complex decisions and I have used it personally on several occasions. And so when I was required to vote in the referendum on whether we should remain in or leave the EU, I thought I would use this analytical tool to make a logical, realistic and long-term decision based on all available information. That is when I realised that despite all the information, we actually had very little fact. Virtually everything we were given by both sides of the argument was purely speculation. Actually, facts were impossible, because we were talking about an unknown. Attempting to use the information provided proved almost impossible because it varied so widely between the different parties and therefore, we could have very little confidence in any of it.

It is not my intention to offer any advice as to how you should be voting, assuming you haven’t already done so. Neither do I want to evaluate all of the economic, social, political, environmental or other arguments put forward by the opposing sides. Rather, I would like to consider the very necessary lessons to be learned from the events of the last few weeks whatever the outcome of the referendum. First there is a necessity to very quickly start a process of healing, between politicians and between ordinary members of the community.  On such an important decision, one that will have an impact on our economy and society for many years to come, it was inevitable that passion and demagoguery would sometimes go beyond what is normally acceptable, but now is the time to revert to more civilised behaviour and to create a more peaceful approach towards those with whom we disagree.

More specifically, politicians especially have to remember that they should be showing a lead, that they should be acting as role models for the rest of us in ensuring reasonable, respectful and truthful debate.  They must speedily find a modus vivendi, particularly in the two major political parties, to reintegrate those who supported the vanquished side.  This is not a time to gloat and we are not so blessed with competent politicians that we can afford to lose any out of a sense of revenge.  However the electorate voted, there is much to do in restoring equilibrium in the markets and confidence in the outside world that we can recover from this situation.

We generally also have to recognise the need to be more careful with what we say and how we say it, that we can hurt and humiliate without necessarily meaning to.  Immigration is a difficult subject, but both the indigenous population and immigrants themselves could do more to enable its success, combining integration with retaining their own culture.  We have to educate ourselves in the differences between economic migrants and refugees and have a different set of processes for dealing with these.  We have to create an environment in which respect for each other is vital.  Just as much as the local white Brit. has to be cognisant of the customs and dress and religious observances of the immigrants and their descendants, so the latter have to recognise British law and values and not attempt to subvert these.  Only by genuine debate and rapprochement can we ensure that the UK becomes a place of peace and contentment for all its citizens.