Apparently that Greek referendum was "polarizing". Was it? when 60% voted no, and no single area voted otherwise? Seems more likely to be unifying than polarizing. Perhaps that's the problem. Turns out the consensus is not where you thought it was.
Any question which asks for yes or no is sort of likely to be “polarizing” anyway, isn’t it?
"Polarizing" in most of these repeated uses means that the mass of people have been asked to consider issues fundamental to their lives: these are difficult questions. It would be better if they didn’t task themselves with them and can’t understand them anyway, so “polarizing” equals, likely to cause thought, debate, dispute and subject them to the stresses of political agency. How dare a government go to the people with such pressing and complex questions, when its job is to shield them from the difficulty of thought via technocracy. Polarizing here just means profound questions, questions that touch and demand action on fundamental aspects of social organization.
But to be asked such questions and to debate or dispute them isn’t vexing, harrowing or painful, it’s essential and welcome. Political agency is not a burden, it’s its absence which weighs on you and its apparent “demands” are experienced instead as a euphoria, a lightening of the load, a lifting up. The powerful affective elements of mass participation are something Jeremy Gilbert gets at well in Common Ground, and the hunger and need for these kinds of intensities is palpable.
In his speech before the vote last night Tsipras observed, at least so the translation ran, “Democracy is joy”.