Yesterday, the UK voted to leave the EU. I’m sure you heard about it….did you have any thoughts or feelings about this?

I suspect that before the vote, most Americans paid little attention to this referendum. After all, it was “over in Europe” and didn’t really have much to do with our day to day lives. Many folks here in the “states” probably didn’t know what the term “Brexit” meant.

Beyond apathy, those who did have an opinion probably ranged from those who thought it was good for jolly old England to get out of the union (“take back control”, “protect your borders”, “be your own country”, etc.) and those who thought they should stay (“it’s better financially”, “you’re part of a world market anyway”, “it’s the future”, etc.). I tended to be in the latter camp.

Mixed Feelings

However, I have to confess that I had a bit of mixed emotions upon learning about the vote. I was surprised and shocked…yet I understood the sense of dissatisfaction brewing in the UK. It’s obviously brewing here in the US. My buddy, Egberto Willies, indicated as much via this Facebook post:

“I have mixed feelings about the British leaving the European Union. In a macabre kinda way, it is sort of empowering. The plutocracies of the world told the working classes they must vote to stay. But when the working classes feel they have little to lose, they don’t care. Yes, many in the lower classes will get hurt, but the delta loss will be greater for the upper classes who will be a lot poorer (but still rich). Brexit may be a catalyst for other countries to listen and do right by the working classes. BTW, this is the same reason why irrespective of the polls today, Donald Trump stands a very good chance of being President Trump. Many simply are not seeing the pain of the masses. They are unable to empathize.”

I agree with a lot of what Egberto is saying, and I know he hopes he is wrong about Trump. The Daily Kos website doesn’t believe this vote equates to our issues and the rise of Trump in the states, saying “the primary reason [Brexit won] is the economic turmoil wrought by the greed and at times open cruelty of British austerity, as imposed by David Cameron and George Osborne. Labour didn’t run against austerity in the last British election, and was punished for it. The British people were punished with more austerity. A brutal economy always feeds extremism, and that is how Britain got Brexit.” They point out that the US has not had the austerity measures the UK has. I hope they are right, but even without such measures, there is obviously something going on here in the states. People are feeling disempowered.

As stated, I would have liked to see the UK stay. I really believe that we are moving towards higher degrees of interconnectivity and global communities and that a retreat out of the EU was a step backwards. However, I also feel the same issues with a sense of disempowerment of the people as our governments move to higher degrees of becoming a plutocracy. Sometimes frustrated people who feel that they are not being heard also feel that they have to take desperate measures to be heard, as Egberto pointed out.

When evolution is not working, revolution seems reasonable. The popularity of both Trump and Sanders, in my opinion, have been tied to our sense of disempowerment with the current political status quo. Both groups of followers want to change things up. It’s just that their approaches and goals differ vastly.

My friend, author Jon Freeman, (who I interviewed for Conscious Bridge Radio recently) lives in the UK and posted this question on his Facebook feed in regards to the Brexit vote:

“What’s right about this that we’re not getting? What will it take to turn this divisiveness into a better future? Maybe both Britain and Europe needed a wake-up call. What should we be doing now?”

Good questions.

I’m not sure I have a specific actionable answer for Jon. Maybe the best action is always to listen (really listen) to the reasons that people are frustrated and seek solutions that will address their needs (I made the same point recently in regards to Hillary listening to the needs of Trump followers). Yet, I do tend to have a general positive outlook and see that this can be a wakeup call…..not only in Britain and Europe….but also in the United States.

Evolutionary Tension

Although we like to think and decide in binary terms, we should recognize that our entire human journey and all of evolution is filled with a dynamic tension between two opposing forces. This is the natural way of the universe.

We have a natural tendency towards growth and change….all while we seek to expend little energy and keep things static. We want to cling to the security of the past… while we embrace the possibilities of the future. We want to see the world as one giant global community with freedom and prosperity for all….while we seek to protect our families, our country, our traditions, our local sense of control.

At the largest evolutionary terms, everything in this world is in a constant tug o war between maintaining our sense of independence versus our desire to connect with something greater. This is the ever present tension between autonomy and communion of which I have written before. We all feel this individually….even though at the level of the individual we may lean more one way than the other. Some want higher degrees of independence (and tend to support Trump), while others lean more towards a sense of interdependence (and favor Sanders).

Part of what we are experiencing in the world right now via Brexit and Trump and other revolutionary type push backs is that the dynamic tensions are out of balance. Whenever we swing one way too much (either in our individual lives or our collective lives in the world), natural forces tend to self correct us back to a greater degree of equilibrium. We swing back and forth.

Thom Hartmann in his recent book The Crash of 2016 describes these natural swings within the United States over a roughly 80 year period.  These cycles relate to the ongoing struggle between the flow of wealth and power to a few versus the sharing of the world’s wealth and power among the many. Wealth and power accumulate, things get out of balance, breakdowns occur, we swing back. It is all part of a larger system at play as we evolve. (Link to my recent interview with Thom about his book.)

On the one hand, it can seem disconcerting when we are going into the time when self correcting evolutionary measures are occurring…they are rarely fun. However, we can take some small amount of solace in the fact that the general direction of evolution is upward towards a better and more positive future. Breakdowns lead to breakthroughs. Wake up calls tend to wake us up….and call us to better choices.

And what are some of the things that we need to take a look at? Here are some that come to mind:

Money and Wealth — Income inequality is reaching a breaking point.

Political power — the masses feel that they have no power, that it all aggregated in the hands of the corporations and the wealthy.

Globalization vs local self determination –although I personally am not sure this is out of balance, many who are feeling disempowered based on money and political power tend to “withdraw” to the safety of their own borders and communities and see that things have swung too far towards globalization.

Polarization — the above and other factors have led us into focusing on our differences than our similarities. We self select ourselves into comfort zones (bubbles) of like minded people. This is out of balance.

What would you add to this list?

Optimistic Conclusion

These are definitely interesting times. Challenging times. But what we need to keep in mind when we look at it from a higher vantage point is that all of what we are experiencing is part of a great and grand evolutionary system full of dynamic tensions that push and pull us in different directions simultaneously. These are the forces of growth….and our growth tends to have an overall positive arc when seen from longer timeframes. This too will pass and in the future, we will see that it supported our taking the next steps of our becoming what is truly possible for a greater humanity.

Mark Gilbert

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Photo credit: Theophilos via Source / CC BY-NC-ND