For the past couple of weeks the entire United Kingdom seems to have been stuck in a national anxiety complex. The uncertainty that Brexit has brought about has generated an unease of a kind that I certainly haven’t experienced before and it’s difficult to adjust to. Brexit, by its nature, broke the status quo and flipped our lives as we knew it upside down. I accept that for many people the way the country worked before Brexit did not work for them. However, was a stab in the dark the best way of resolving the problems that they were (and still are) facing? For me, one of the worst things Brexit has done is prevent, or at least make far more difficult, being able to plan for the future in a meaningful way. The world seems to have been flipped on its head.
There remains an apparent general uneasiness which seems to have infected even the most optimistic of my friends and acquaintances and it has now got to the stage when I ask for the subject to be changed if a conversation turns towards the Europe question. The difficulty is that the Brexit question challenged the very heart of who we are, what we do, how we see ourselves and how we live our lives. As a democrat I fully accept the result of the referendum even though it took well over a week for the news to fully sink in, to pass through the stage of anger, disappointment and to reflect on how the decision might affect me personally. From the nature of this post you might infer that the issue still shakes me. The thing that concerns me most is what has happened to the social magnet of the country. The magnet that once seemed to hold us together seems to have repelled people, divided the country and created tensions between friends and family. These wounds will take a while to heal. Now more than ever there is a need for optimism, strong leadership and a guiding hand to convince everyone that ‘everything is going to be all right’! It was good to hear Conservative Party leadership candidate Andrea Leadsom talk earlier today of the need for a new optimism and to create a country where ‘prosperity, not austerity‘ rules the roost. However, it is one thing saying this, another actually doing it. Whoever takes the role of Prime Minister on, standing at the helm of the country as we navigate through an uncertain few years, will have an incredibly difficult job to do.
Such national uncertainty usually draws our attention to our own problems, stresses and concerns and can either place them in perspective or seem to magnify them. Conversations with others these past couple of weeks certainly seem to account for the latter having happened. This is of course merely anecdotal evidence among my own personal friendship and professional network groups but in this case I can report a wholehearted pessimism in the way we are seeing the world. Brexit seems to have created a nationwide anxiety disorder. We need to turn this around. We face too many problems in the world to not be optimistic about the future. It is here that we can perhaps learn a lesson from conservationists. Despite the numerous pressures and negative stories one hears about the natural world, I find that most conservationists tend to be reasonably positive about the future. Any small step forwards – another campaign to protect or boost population of an endangered species, a new piece of statutory legislation to protect wildlife for the future, a child inspired to take a keen interest in the natural world – all of these things are positive moves. If we could transfer this optimism to the way that we all perceive the world life might just become that little bit easier. Even in the face of tremendous adversity it is possible to be optimistic about the future. It is all about the way we frame our world. I argue that we are better off framing our lives and society positively if we can, otherwise we risk driving a large scale negativity that can only make life more difficult and will invigorate tensions moving into the future.
Last month many people got involved in the Wildlife Trusts’ ‘30 Days Wild‘ Campaign which encouraged us all, young and old, no matter where we live in the country or the sort of community we come from, to get outside and do something ‘wild’. The natural world has a wonderful capacity to humble us, to relax us and to put things in perspective. Take a look at this link to explore the numerous ways why we feel better when outdoors in nature. I am guilty like most of us of spending too much time in front of a screen, both at work and during my time off. However, when I spend time in the outdoors I find there is nothing like it to relieve the stress from my life and to put present problems in perspective. Right now, the whole country needs to take a symbolic walk in the great outdoors. It would do us the world of good. I am beginning to see a flicker of optimism for the future, indeed writing this post has been quite cathartic, but the optimism remains distant. It is up to all of us to climb the mountain, support each other and together remember the cohesive society we really are. We should not forget the brilliant ethos and opportunities that Britain stands for. Division doesn’t work here. It feels like a foreign place when it becomes visible. The hand of cooperation and friendship must return as we take a positive step in to the future. I have every belief that we can do it and return to our proper national identity as a tolerant, open, cohesive, entrepreneurial, conservationist and caring society.