Today is the day that the whole B-thing was supposed to wind up and whatever it is that nobody really understood in June 2016 when the nation agreed to it in a non-binding referendum was going to happen1...

Ho hum.

Anyway - not entirely coincidentally, what I've been putting out into my social media feeds and my website have pretty much dried up over the course of those two years, partly because of a deepening cynicism about what those platforms are doing and the influence they are having on society, and partly because I've been progressively less interested in that "public profile" stuff and increasingly concerned about the influence that it has on my state of mind and sense of happiness.

But having just got a couple of chunky pieces of work out of the way and found myself with a little bit of breathing space, I wanted to chew on an idea that I came across yesterday, while talking about a potential research project about "activism". You see, when you're writing a survey and asking people questions about a "thing", one of the first things you need to do is to make sure that you're providing a sensible definition of the thing that you're asking them about.2

Anyway...

When it comes to a definition of what "activism" means, one of the starting points is that you're pushing for a change in society. That is, you're setting out something about the status quo that you're not happy with, and want to push against.

I thought it was kind of interesting to consider that, right now, the status quo is that we are on our way out of the European Union one way or another. Which means that there isn't really a place for pro-Br**it activism any more - because it isn't "activism" any more. Its just flipped to "maintaining the status quo".

Which might explain why a recent petition to revoke Article 50 can manage to get 6 million signatures 3 when no other petition has come close. (There was one calling for a clearer rule on how the results of the EU referendum would be acted upon which got 4.1 million signatures, but the next closest was 1.8 million people asking for Donald Trump to be refused a State Vist. No other petition I can find has passed 1 million signitures).

But democracy doesn't - and shouldn't - work by online petitions, so onward we march towards the kind of departure from the EU that 400 MPs gave indicative votes against and only 160 were in favour of. Or to put it another way, what the democratically elected representatives of 28.4 million people - 61% of the electorate - have spoken out against.

So, you've got this weird situation where what was a relatively coherent group who was pushing for political upheaval and transformation in 2016 are now trying really hard to just keep things going the way that they are, because a whole bunch of different visions that came under the "Br**it" brand have turned out to not have any kind of majority backing at all, and any attempt to turn it into a workable course of action has completely failed to get any kind of majority backing. But they have momentum on their side, and apparently no strong leadership of any kind in a position to put forward a meaningful alternative to the current course.

Lets see how this plays out…

  1. Except its been delayed because our democratically elected representatives who we were supposed to be "giving back control" to have now taken control of the process from the arguably less democratically appointed Prime Minister (who has inherited a policy set out by the same previous leader who kick started the whole thing in the first place) who clearly didn't really have it under control, and now they have subsequently failed to demonstrate that they really have any kind of control over anything. But this isn't supposed to be a blog post about Br**it...

  2. For example, if you were to ask 45.5 million people "should the United Kingdom leave the European Union", it would be a really good idea to make sure that they are all working under the same idea of what that question actually means. For example, when you say "United Kingdom", does that actually mean ALL of the United Kingdom, or is there maybe a need to exclude Northern Ireland from the working definition because of the physical border with the Republic of Ireland with a really complicated history? And does "leave" mean "actually, totally, unconditionally leave"- as opposed to, say, "leave the Union, but only once an agreement has been properly negotiated that sets out the future relationship with that Union in terms of trade, movement of people, laws etc. because it is actually so complicated that people who spend their working lives dealing with it don't really understand it and the whole point of our political system is that we democratically appoint representatives who are supposed to understand this stuff because we have jobs to do, children to raise, friends and family to look after and lives to live.

  3. To 3 decimal places, at the time of writing

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