Tuesday, July 05, 2016


Following the Brexit vote last week, there's been a lot of media coverage. All of the stories have included a line somewhere along the lines of, "most educated Britons voted remain," or "Cameron, like other upper-class Brits, campaigned to stay." There's a real implication - even to me as a well-educated pseudo-intellectual - of some derision towards the working class or less educated among the electorate.

Now, there's been a lot of regret expressed by just such people who believe they were, in fact, ill-informed and not entirely thinking things through. That being said, it's still an interesting through experiment, a la the chicken and the egg, to ask exactly how society arrives at such a predicament.

On the one hand you could say the well-educated elites are in control of the system because they best understand how the world works and have mastered governance. On the other hand you might say that the system is the system precisely because of who's in charge; those things we take for granted as "common sense" might be quite different if, say, less-educated, working-class folks had crafted it in the first place. I've just always found it fascinating what things we consider inevitable and for what reasons.

In the case of Brexit, the people who make money and depend on strong economics clearly had incentive to stay in the EU - but that system these elites work so hard to build and maintain isn't exactly working for most of those 17 million people who voted to leave. One might argue those people bear much of the blame for being left out, but that again assumes the system we've got is the best, if not the only, way to organize things.

It's a similar phenomenon in the US. I've written about before how we conceptualize punctuality. It's just something you do. I was taught to be on time - and had that lesson reinforced through repeated embarrassment being the some of a man who was (and remains) perpetually late (I have literally no memories of homeroom junior year; my Dad left a standing note in the school office - "Whenever Ryan is late, it's my fault"). Poor people tend to be less punctual - some might call that a stereotype but my experience has been its more of a cultural particularity; time is just less important than relationships. For people who don't have or make much money, time just doesn't cost as much as it does for the "respectable" up-and-comers.

I'm just always curious how we get the systems we have and it makes me wonder about what other values I might have that seem concrete, but merely reflect my privileged position in society.

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