A few years ago and I would have told you that David Cameron's manifesto pledge for an EU referendum was long overdue and one of the few reasons I respected the man. In a wilder moment, I may even have muttered something about it being undemocratic not to have a referendum.
And like the proverbial fable, I now have my wish and its nothing like what was promised. As Spiderman's uncle wisely said: “with great power comes great responsibility” and with the power of the referendum comes the responsibility of making the best possible decision. What appeared like a glittering unicorn of freedom is the glitter glue covered rhino of responsibility.
This is problematic, annoyingly so. As you may have picked up, opinions come naturally and easily to me. Even if I'm really struggling to make up my mind, I can always rely on my natural perversity and strongly disagree with the prevailing opinion.
But as the latest survey has shown, it's roughly neck and neck. There is no “perverse” side to take as the nation is largely divided along the lines of indecision. The EU has its flaws and benefits, there are strong arguments for remaining, there are strong arguments for staying.
People from all across the political spectrum are deciding different ways and the usual tribal boundaries (often so helpful for having a quick opinion) are irrelevant. Collectively, we face the biggest decision the UK will face for 50 years. The consequences of this decision could, quite easily, define the next 200 years of European history. And when is all said and done, we won't know which side was right for another 200 years after that.
Against this backdrop – how am I meant to decide? What criteria should I use to judge this situation? Do I prioritise the economic, political or diplomatic factors? Do I think of what benefits just the UK or what benefits Europe as a whole? Do I think of this generation or the next three? Is the EU an institution that brings peace and prosperity or a super-state idol trying hard to play god? Is it going down anyway and if so, do we stay with the sinking ship or bail out now?
What are the facts? Spurious. What are the figures? Specious. Project Fear is up against Project Blind Optimism and the rest of us watch on and wonder how on earth we should make up our minds.
My preferred option would be a third option on the referendum. An option which said: “Please can someone else make this decision for me?” This is why I vote in elections, so other people can make these hard decisions and I can moan about it later.
Optimistically, I do think that we can make the best of any result, although both involve more hard work than anyone seems willing to admit to. But this hope still leaves me decidedly undecided. It's like being in a relationship and asking “ do I want to really commit to this or not?” It's the kind of question which fact, logic and reason have almost no bearing on. It's a question of gut feelings, emotions and uncertainty. The kind you know you could regret for the rest of your life, whatever way you go.
Life can have so many of those crossroads. Choices between decisions which have equal weight and persuasiveness. They vex me enough, worrying away at them, trying to consider every possible angle, overthinking everything, getting somewhat useful advice, feeling every limitation of human wisdom, knowledge and power. And now I have to do it for a decision that will impact a continent?
The referendum is only 3 months away and the only firm and concrete decision I've come to is that June is much too soon for any proper debate to be had. Public discourse takes time and better by far to give it another year, although given how ridiculously hard this decision is, perhaps its best to get it out the way. See, even my decisiveness is indecisive!
Doing what I do with my own crossroad life decisions, I pray to God for guidance, for he is the Almighty, the Beginning and the End and he who raises kings and dethrones them must surely be able to guide. As it says in Proverbs: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths".
But I fear that my prayers will not be answered, not because of a lacking of understanding on God's part, not because he is sitting as Upholder of the Universe, unsure which way to go, but because we do not deserve his guidance. As a country, we have determined to follow our own path and have as little to do with God as possible. We don't “in all our ways acknowledge him”. Why then should he answer our cry for help in making this decision? Yet if this referendum proves anything, it shows us the finite limits of human understanding and our need for divine help.
Who knows? Perhaps God will be merciful, for he is “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” But oh, that this undecidable question would humble us all and turn our hearts to him.