Some general observations first …
The turnout for the referendum (72%) demonstrated massive dissatisfaction with the status quo – and, in particular, with the complex political-economic structure of institutional frameworks and organizational practices.
In retrospect, Leave/Remain may have been the question but the answer wasn't really about the EU as an organization – or about immigration policy, whether generated by the EU or the Home Office. Instead, it held up a looking glass to the British population and the resulting reflection clearly shows a fractured society splintering into a classic Left/Right orientation not seen for a long time - perhaps since the time that all the main political parties accepted the logic of neoliberalism and moved away from more traditional class-based politics.
Both the Conservative and Labour Parties are increasingly irrelevant in this fractured culture because the policies and actions of their elected representatives to Westminster have for over 30 years become divorced from, rather than based on, the lives of the electorate.
One of the prime factors in this ‘fracturing’ is a loss of faith in the expertise of those who proclaim they have the answers to social and economic questions - politicians in particular. The majority of Right-leaning Parliamentarians are driven by, or have relatively high degrees of need for, power – defined as a desire for others to do what they want them to do. Even a cursory glance at the CDSM Values Map show quite clearly that this desire for power is closely related to other factors that are considerably, and arguably more dangerously, darker than simply the desire for power. In the hot-house environment of Westminster, accommodating the needs of 24/7 media, this particular aspect of the human values system – the Dark Triad – can become amplified and distorted compared to the values and everyday concerns of MPs’ constituents.
The culture of 'power for the sake of power' has always been part of the Westminster process. But the inability of Westminster to manage the process of fulfilling electorate desires in our representative democracy through the use of market forces is now starkly revealed. The acceptance of a neoliberal paradigm, something that is dogma to both major parties has led to increasing public cynicism about the ability of 'politicians/experts', British or European, to consistently deliver policies and actions that concern, let alone positively impact, the person in the street. These ‘everyday concerns’ have at their root the satisfaction of many of the Settler needs; job availability and security, the expectation of being able to provide a place for their family to live, the ability to maintain standards of living after retirement – in other words, the basic survival needs - in many people in the UK today.
In this desire to gain a sense of security the Punch and Judy show of Westminster politics - with its own TV channel and extensive day-by-day coverage in all forms of old and new media (with double lashings on Sunday) is both irrelevant and a supreme source of derision in the everyday conversations of the average member of the electorate. As our research has demonstrated, only 2% of the British population tell us that their politics is an important part of their self-definition.
This is a not a good time for a representative democracy which purports to be based on notions of public service and expertise which it cannot no longer embody. Instead, the public have become bystanders watching public schoolboy games of egoistic ‘one-upmanship’ and a culture of ‘winner takes all’ no matter what the cost. Research has consistently shown Pioneers are looking for integrity in their MPs and pragmatic Prospectors are looking for expert managers of the complex systems of modern life. Both of these values groups are disappointed and dismissive of the MPs offered to them by the major parties.
The Leave Campaign won – How does this affect Prospectors?
Polling right up to the day of the referendum showed that no one- not the polling experts, the remain camp of campaigners or eventual voters, or even the leave campaigners and eventual voters expected the result that is now sending shockwaves around the world and into the homes of everyone in the UK.
The result has presented a genuine conundrum to the political establishment – those responsible for unwinding the thousands and thousands of treaties directly based on EU negotiations and the tens of thousands of treaties that need to be renegotiate, in which the EU negotiated with other countries but which the UK will no longer be party to, once the separation from the EU is complete.
So what happens after Brexit - back to the basic question - when Prospectors are faced with the perceived reality of their hopes and dreams being derailed or curtailed? The answer is they do not continue their trajectory towards a normal and healthy transition from pragmatic Prospector to ethical Pioneer.
One likely response to their shattered dreams is to become dissatisfied Prospectors. This can lead to short term erratic behaviours that can be dissonant with their long term desires – for example, acting against their own self-interest.
Another response - and one that we have seen in other times of social and economic crisis, most significantly in the run up to the 2008 Crash - is the abandonment of Prospector values and reversion to a Settler-driven set of priorities. This is known as returning to a locus of control - to a previously satisfied state where the person can feel safe and have a sense of belonging.
The result of this reversion is that these former Prospectors become angry Settlers who will fight tooth and nail to get back what they think is rightfully theirs.
Brexit has opened a Pandora's Box of frustrated Prospector and Settler driven anger, both from the those at the bottom of the socio-economic pile who have been hit hardest by Westminster austerity - their safety nets destroyed by deliberate policies not incompetence - and by those in the employed mainstream who have seen their dreams shattered as their representatives continue to allow the worst of excesses for the privileged few to flourish while pulling up of the ladder of opportunity for them and, more significantly, their children. ‘Working hard’ does not come with the same rewards as it did for previous generations.
Both Settlers and Prospectors believe there is 'the answer' – the silver bullet - that will fulfill their needs. When people run for national office with the promise that they will help them to achieve their dreams they are given trust - until the promise fails to materialize. Then, rather than accept that institutional and organizational structures are most likely the reason for failing to fulfill the promise, the blame game starts and finger pointing and rhetoric takes the place of reasoned debate. This disappointment – of ‘experts’ doing a poor job but still remaining in their jobs - is not just a minor annoyance, it is a major source of distrust and lack of faith in democratic organizations, be they EU, UK or local.
This ineptitude isn’t the core of the issue of trust. The core issue is loss of trust when politicians of all parties obfuscate and outright lie about the issues and backtrack on statements the electorate perceived as promises.
That loss of trust turns to a genuine feeling, by large sections of the electorate, that they no longer have the ability to communicate or place controls on the power of the Westminster establishment and that their representatives are not sympathetic to their deep fears and concerns. They come to believe that representative democracy is not working for them.
This perceived ‘lack of control’ provides the lens through which social concerns, defined as broken promises, are judged. Researchers have discovered these issues and the various forms of media have hung headline after headline on them.
Issues like control of immigration, control of borders, control of the economy, control over who gets a job, control over access to health, education and social support are at the heart of the Settler/Prospector revolt.
The Leave campaign understood the sense of betrayal felt by Settlers and Prospectors and successfully played on this fear and anger to win the referendum.
For millions who voted for Brexit the choice was based on a seemingly rational explanation - of broken promises, loss of trust and thus loss of control of their own lives – but the vote was really driven by a deeply emotional sense of anger with the status quo.
For the first time in the memory of many, there was no ‘party’ telling them what to think, no tribal allegiance on offer. Tribalism/’loyalty’ is what party supporters had come to expect - a quick way to understand complex political and socio-economic issues. The Conservative Party was publicly split on the referendum issue and the Labour party was less than coherent in its support for either side. The ‘old ways’ of deciding which side to take were gone.
The 17 million votes for Brexit were the result of a complex set of factors which were reduced to a set of three or four key memes better understood by the Leave campaign than by Remain. As a result, the UK is likely to continue in a state of turmoil. This turmoil is just beginning, we suspect, as there is currently no mechanism for Settlers and Prospectors to be heard in the process of reconfiguring peoples’ hopes and expectations in a Brexited United Kingdom.
This chaos is not a situation in which Prospectors will thrive and not a place where Settlers can expect their needs for safety and security to be met at any time in the foreseeable future. Given that the country has just recovered, in terms of values orientations, from the lead-up to the Crash of 2007-08, this is not good news for socially ethical activists - or at least the types of programmes and campaigns that worked in less openly divided times.
Instead, this may be the time to focus constructively on creating multitudes of small initiatives, to satisfy local needs, not national or international ones, and that can be effectively and actually implemented by the local communities affected. A loss in faith of Westminster should not necessarily be a loss in faith in democracy as a project.
These 'people and community' initiatives might be led by Pioneers (the most likely group to maintain optimism in the face of dissonance) but to do so successfully Pioneers must now take on the evidence that they too often talk to people in their largely Pioneer language of ethics, instead of the more pragmatic and moralistic vocabularies of the Prospectors and Settlers. In political terms this roughly translates as ‘liberals’ learning to speak in the vocabulary of pragmatism and morality while still maintaining a personal sense of ethics in themselves.
Being ‘true to yourself’ as a Pioneer doesn't meaning losing ethical integrity when engaging with others in ways they can understand.
Brexit is the beginning of many new things - from the breaking of the Westminster consensus on how the economy should be run; to an open questioning of the role of the elites and expertise in meritocracy; to a much more robust perception of the fears of the 'other' on immigration issues(this is far from just a UKIP issue) and the exposure of widespread anger at the status quo of institutionalized incompetence and deception by elected representatives and others.
The unleashing of popular anger on the political classes creates an opportunity for change. Now is the time for new energies and processes to emerge. Some of the alternatives are already here, waiting to be activated; some are here already but just need some focusing; some are not even thought of yet, but will emerge to fill the political vacuum created by Brexit.
The Prospector values set cannot be satisfied in the conditions of turmoil we are moving through at the moment. Only when social and market conditions gain some stability in the future – which will be stability in the ‘post-Brexit’ world – will they begin to grow again. This new world may demand reduced expectations, or it may demand a set of different expectations. Whatever emerges, the Prospectors can be almost guaranteed to change the way they channel their energy in the new conditions, from anger to ‘being the best’ again - and thus creating the conditions for the expansion of the ‘new’ Prospectors.