All of the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the Brexit by those opposed to it (as well as many who voted for it) provides a lesson for both the political elite which created the EU (and elites in all liberal democracies) and the ordinary folks who felt alienated or betrayed by it. An elite will almost always have the upper hand in managing social affairs but when it pushes the little people too hard by taking away their economic security, their belief in authority structures, and even disrespecting their values of family, community, and self worth those little people will become rageful and strike back in whatever ways they can.
What the little people really want is a new vision of society where there is a balance of private and public interests, where their humanity is part of the political economic equation, and they are respected and rewarded for doing the best they can.
Since there is no existing, feasible vision or plan for a new form of society, the little people use the only strategies they know and have – protests, irrational disruption of existing political processes, and spiteful activities which poke the elite even while causing significant harm to themselves and their society.
Rage and destructive behavior, from their perspective, at least satisfies emotional and psychological needs. It is better than accepting crushing disrespect.
For many thoughtful people, the EU represents the historical apex of governance, albeit flawed in ways. It is still a mighty achievement which has bridged archaic differences among nations, ethnic groups, and political systems. It has facilitated peace in a historically volatile region. It has elevated reason and professionalism in governance and balanced efficiencies in economics and finance.
Brexit, with its negative consequences and the precedent it has set for other populist movements, is a real setback for advanced governance suitable for 21st-Century societies.
Both the elites and the little people will suffer needlessly. (The elite, of course, will eventually adapt and reestablish the order which they like.)
An intelligent, fair-minded vision for a 21st-Century society bridges the interests of the elite and the little people. It will be a new paradigm of balancing of interests, insistence upon human meanings being part of the individualist/capitalist ideology which dominates nearly all liberal democracies, and provides new forms of respect for the little people living their small lives well relying upon a set of public values which can serve the collective good.
Our leadership and public intellectuals need to go well beyond mere critique and piecemeal adaptations to pluralist uprisings. Someone has to recognize a new vision and plan for a modernized society and ought to take a look at a new vision like the National Character Program, articulated in the book “An Action Manual.”