THOSE ballot papers are appearing, and it really is decision time.

Voting, in a democracy, is a privilege and a responsibility under any circumstances. In a referendum, the consequences are longer lasting and more fundamental than even in a general election. The trouble is, the issues are even more complex and unfathomable, too. It feels impossible to get good information – most of what we get is contradictory and clearly influenced by other people’s agendas.

Even when ‘facts’ are available, we know very well that most of us don’t make rational use of them. Most people hear ‘facts’ through a lens of personal prejudices. We make our decisions based on emotion, personal past experience and a set of fixed of ideas that we’ve acquired over years.

Quakers have a habit of using strange words for things. Mostly, we don’t talk about ‘making decisions’. We use the word discernment. This is a reminder that the process of coming to a conclusion about something is one of attempting to discover the will of God in relation to that something. In other words, of discerning what is right.

This kind of rightness is a very different thing from ‘what I think’, or even from ‘what is right for me’. What is right for all of us, or our country, may in reality be against our personal best interests in the short term.

To discern right we need open minds, to try to listen to what other people have to say in a spirit of ‘I might be wrong’, to try to see the issues from as many different angles as possible and hear and acknowledge our own prejudices. Above all, it requires a bit of quiet space around the buzz of all the spin.

We have a political process, democracy, which most of us say we believe in. We have to trust and pray that that process will mean that, between us all, we will discern what is right on June 23.

Floe Shakespeare

Voluntary Resident Friend, Airton Meeting House