As I write this, the date is the 6th February 2019. We are just over a month away from the largest decision this nation has ever taken, taking it’s toll with long term effects that we can only imagine. Seriously. We can literally only imagine them because nobody knows what’s going to happen.
Jack, you’re approaching your second year as a teenager in a few months. Joe you’ve just turned 10. You may never read this, or maybe you will at some point in the future. Before I truly begin, I want you to know how incredibly proud of you both I am. More than my body, soul and heart can ever truly express. When we spend time together, which is never really long enough but that’s another conversation, I see the joy and happiness in your eyes that only youth can bring. Carefree, unaware of the world around you. I wouldn’t change that for a second. You are both the greatest achievement in my life, and I doubt anything else will ever come close.
I’m writing you this letter because I’m concerned. I’m concerned about the way the world is heading, and more importantly I’m concerned about what world you will be left with when in the (hopefully) distant future I’m no longer on this earth. My belief as I’ve grown up, and as I’ve explored the world has been that we are better as a species when we can talk about our differences, share our similarities and celebrate the fact that we are all fundamentally human. We all reside on this rock, hurtling through space and time with a very limited lifespan. Your life right now feels like it will stretch forever. I am here to tell you quite categorically I’m afraid, that opinion will change. Probably not until like me you are in your 30’s and you’re pondering the bigger things in life … but sure enough, it will come to an end at some point.
I’m just old enough to remember the stories of those who were alive during our last truly global conflict, World War 2. Nowadays you see these stories romanticized in video games and movies, but I remember listening to the stories from the people who were actually there. There is no glamour, nothing about it is cool. The stories are raw, visceral, filled with sadness and pain. Which is why I’m so concerned about our future. I, and you at this point, have been lucky enough to live in relative peace and harmony with our friends in Europe. You aren’t forced into military service. We have food and water aplenty. We have warmth and a roof above our head with minimal risk of losing it. We can travel freely, as we have done together to France and Italy. We can trade goods freely. We can treat our European friends land as if it’s our own for periods of time before returning home. Increasingly we share a common language as more and more of them learn English (and we should never stop trying to learn theirs!). Some of their hardest workers come to these shores to do jobs which many of those who reside on this island would turn their nose up at. You are free from shackles your great grandparents and great great grandparents would have bitten your arm off to escape. You are free to make your life what you will.
We co-exist in peace and prosperity.
And yet, despite all of that, there are those in this country who feel they have somehow been wronged by these freedoms. By this unprecedented stretch of time where we have not raised arms against one another. Life isn’t always easy for people, and I’m not here to tell you that those people are wrong to feel how they feel. One of the most important things I hope you learn as you grow older is that your viewpoint is not the only viewpoint. However you must ensure your viewpoints are led wherever possible, by facts, over emotion. Emotion is a powerful thing and has the ability to be a great force for good – but equally, it can be hurtful and will shade your view of the facts more often than not. Seek facts over all else wherever you can boys because I promise you – they will help shape your viewpoints far better than doing without.
The world is changing fast, and a date is approaching which right now you have little knowledge of. It’s the date that we are scheduled to depart the EU and I’m afraid of it. I’m afraid of the impact that it could have on our economy. I’m afraid of the impact it could have on our social stability. Our way of life. I don’t know how this will play out, and from my current viewpoint I’m not sure any of the main decision makers truly know either. It feels like a roll of the dice, where the odds are stacked against us – and irrespective of our nations ability and strength and grand history, we will struggle to come out the other side in better shape.
I could be wrong.
Another important lesson to remember. You will be wrong more than you will be right, during large swathes of your life. Those on the other side of this argument may well be right this time. There are people I love dearly with opposing viewpoints to my own, and it doesn’t make me love them any less. We may prosper, we may grow into a Utopian destination of the worlds dreams … although I’d bet that 80% of the worlds population who live on less than $10 US would already consider us the peak of that Utopia already. That’s what’s so infuriating about all of this boys. We live in one of the best countries in the world bar none. In an ecosystem where all of the good things I mentioned come naturally. Where if you work hard, you will truly be rewarded with a greater quality of life than any of my forebears could have hoped for.
I voted against it.
I needed you to know that. Regardless of which way the pendulum swings this year. I needed you to know that’s what I thought. I voted against leaving the EU – not because I thought the arrangement was perfect, but because I thought what was being promised wasn’t worth the risk of losing what we have. I suspect as you grow older you will come to see me as a cautious old fool. I am cautious. I generally dislike the taking of risks – I’ve watched you pair fall on your faces enough to know that risks can be painful! But. I’m willing to accept that on the flipside, taking risks can be wonderful. I’ve taken many in my time and a lot of the time they’ve worked out great. However those have been calculated risks. Where I’ve known, loosely, the odds of success. Right now boys, I don’t think anyone could accurately describe our odds of success if we crash out of the European Union.
It feels like such a large swathe of our country wants this based on emotion and rhetoric that any form of factual assessment is thrown to the wind.
So, I’m sorry.
I’m sorry that my voice thus far hasn’t been enough to dissuade us from this course of action. I’ve done what I can, in the time that I have. I’ve written to my MP. I’ve lobbied vociferously at times with friends and family who’s viewpoints are different to mine. I’ve engaged in social media repeatedly to try and make people see the risks that we are placing at your feet. Not ours. Not my parents. These risks are placed squarely at your feet. By the time the true effects of what may come are felt, the chances are you will be my age and you will be wondering: “What did you do to us Dad?” – and that question rips apart my soul like no other.
I love you both dearly, I hope – with every ounce of my soul – that we do not ruin your future. I’m confident you will make the most of your lives irrespective of the decisions of my time. Embrace others. Travel. See the world. Understand other cultures. Understand other ways of thinking. Realise that your views are not the only ones that matter. Reason. Debate. Fight emotion with logic. Inspire yourself to do wonderful things. Look back on this point in time, and if it goes horribly wrong, use it with a determination to ensure that your generation doesn’t make the same mistakes.