With eyes peeled open to the realities of what politics really involve, over three million people took to the voting booth last week to decide on the future of their country. In the run up to this vote being cast we in Scotland were bombarded with such a swathe of information from both sides, and in a host of mediums, that for the last few weeks those who were taking their vote seriously (and I think that was a very, very large majority of the Scottish electorate) became fully active philosophers.
For me the term ‘philosopher’ refers to a certain type of individual; open-minded, yet sure of their own stance, critical of information sources, yet humble enough to recognise the limits of their own investigative powers, and most importantly a person who actively engages with the world around them and sees how things connect and how varied human interpretation of the way the world works/should work can be. I spent nearly ten years studying the subject and working in the field and this is what I gleaned from it.
Keeping this in mind we can (and should) of course celebrate the sheer magnitude of democratic action we saw when over 80% of a nation voted on something. However, the more interesting thing is what this referendum has done to all of us, it has changed us, made us more accepting of difference whilst making us more aware of our own traits. On top of this we have come to see the fallibility of once trusted institutions like the BBC and various different news outlets but at the same time we’ve come to recognise that our view of the world is not the only view of the world.
We have always been a fairly cynical lot but our new-found critical edge is very distant from the flat, tired, almost unthinking cynicism we used to have about things like political promises and the behaviour of our media outlets. We’re waking up as a nation, whether a yes or a no voter people in this country are no longer willing, or even able, to simply accept what they’re told or what is done to them. We have become active, engaged and interested in defining and understanding the nature of our nation and in deciding what might be best for all of us.
The critical eye is open and tired cynicism is on the way out, we don’t simply find problems and exclaim mistrust any more, we are becoming a nation who wants to work at solutions and one that demands that those who seem to expect our trust must first demonstrate that they deserve it. I have not been interested in politics since I was at high school but right now in Scotland the nature of politics is about to get very interesting indeed because a nation of philosophers has opened their eyes and they want to see things change.