This Thursday, voters in Britain will decide if their country should remain in the European Union. Even if the majority votes to remain with the EU, the underlying issues that led to this vote to begin with won't go away. A Brexit vote is a referendum on elites and the failed institutions they represent. As a movement, Brexit is the latest symbol of a widespread revolt by ordinary citizens in developed countries who are demonstrating their contempt for a collective institutional failure.
Whether in U.K., France, or in U.S., more and more people are losing faith and confidence in existing political, economical, and educational institutions. Who can blame them? Many of them did all the right things in life: got an education; went to work; paid nearly half of their hard-earned money to governments; gave a portion of the other half of their hard-earned money to religious institutions and charitable organizations.
What did they receive in return?
The political representatives they elected betrayed them as soon as an election was over and ordinary citizens were left with broken promises, ruinous government regulations, over-reaching yet ineffective and inefficient bureaucracies, unaccountable and incompetent institutional leaders, a total collapse of immigration system, and a stagnant economy. The value of their savings are shrinking due to zero or even negative interest rates, while their healthcare cost has skyrocketed. Their adult children are moving back home due to a high youth unemployment rate, and they're certain that their children will be financially worse off. Increasingly, they are also anxious for their love ones' physical safety due to a growing number of terror attacks. Their needs for order and security are not being addressed, or often even acknowledged. They feel elites and the institutions neither speak to them or speak for them.
When the discontent from ordinary citizens have reached a critical mass, they started revolting by either voting for fringe candidates (i.e. Trump, Sanders) or choosing to break ties with failed institutions (i.e. Brexit). In Bernie's words, a "revolution is coming." Brexit may be just a prelude.
But before starting a revolution, people ought to think about what they want to replace these failed institutions with? Remember the saying, "Be careful of what you wish for because you may get it." If history is any guide, past revolutions, other than the American Revolution, generally ended up replacing one despot with another despot and ordinary citizens lives didn't get better. Remember Russia in 1920s, Germany in 1930s and China in 1950s?
Brexit vote symbolizes a bigger problem that requires serious solutions. Whether Britain remains in the EU or not, ordinary British's lives won't magically improve. Similarly, no matter who will become the next U.S. president, ordinary Americans' lives won't magically improve. The only way ordinary people's lives will get better is when two things happen simultaneously. On the one hand, the elites who run these institutions need to realize that it's time to change. They can't continue business as usual and acting like far-removed rulers, but rather, they're representatives of the people. They need to start listening; speaking to and speaking for the people they represent; addressing people's hopes and fears. On the other hand, it is time for people to reaffirm confidence in themselves. We do not need to wait for any strongman to save us. We do not need to pin our hope for a better future on some wise leader who promises to finally do something about something. Each one of us has the power within ourselves to better our lives if we choose to. The only revolution we need is a revolution to declare independence from the institutions that failed us and be fully in charge of our own destiny.