Money matters, or does it?

  Money can make us do strange things. Against its raw, tantalising power, convictions become subordinate distractions, and notions of right and wrong, truth and fiction are quietly subsumed within easily forgotten grey areas. Avarice is an unavoidable symptom of capitalism, and the above has become a quietly accepted truth – lamented, but accepted. 

But there are exceptions, which when witnessed serve to highlight the choice few things we do, in fact, raise above the importance of wealth. For many, Brexit was such an exception. Ignoring, for a moment, the argument that many voters dismissed economic warnings as political blathering, Britain’s choice to leave the EU (or vote to do so) represented a rare moment in which visions of the future were filled with something more than dollar signs. The result shocked not only the nation, but the world – it was a rare moment of defiance, and a break in the order of things. 

Let us argue that London’s voting patterns highlighted a concern for economics that trumped that of the rest of the UK. Whilst there were many other reasons people voted to remain – not least of which is the need for unity and cross-border collaboration within an increasingly fractured world – suffice to say that the economic argument mattered more to some. London has long been the main benefactor of the UK’s growing economy, and had more to lose. The money argument simply made more sense, and the whole vote could be likened to a decision of whether or not to self-mutilate our once-formidable form. London is an international city – a virtual microcosm of the world at large, which similarly found itself in a state of utter disbelief.  

For many Americans, even the notion that we’d wish to leave the EU was a tad absurd. In the weeks and months preceding June, the referendum itself had been mocked, and the likelihood of us leaving dismissed. The economic argument was all-consuming and all-distracting, to the point that it became the only visible argument for many gazing in from faraway lands. America’s political and social establishment is more obviously fuelled by the importance of wealth, which is readily explained by the nation’s privatisation, franchising and huge coffers. It’s a country that has beaten up socialism so many times that it no longer makes an appearance – the divide between the rich and the poor is very real as a result. 

We’re no angels in this regard, but perhaps our history makes us better prepared to view other factors above wealth. We’re old, after all, and even the promise of a prosperous euro couldn’t dissuade us from our iconic pound, nor could dire consequences stall us from enthusiastically pushing our rickety boat away from the European shore. 

Time will determine with what brush Britain’s choice is painted. It was either a laughable symphony of ignorance, with few realising they were writing away a large chunk of their futures, or a valiant demonstration of rare conviction. Conviction for sovereignty, for rights, for state, for individualism, and for all the other strange, nuisance factors that are only occasionally levitated above wealth. After all, when money is concerned, we’re often the puppet and hardly ever the puppeteer. On an individual basis, we allow money to control huge swathes of our lives and our decisions, so it’s nice if only for a brief moment we’re able to glimpse something more important, even if we’re the only ones that can see it.