Posts Tagged ‘indyref’

Oh no, not that tone again; anything but that tone.

I was prepared for Farage’s monstrous braying. I steadied myself for Boris burlesquing a bit of Horace or Plutarch. I was even ready to endure the sound of Gove’s voice. But I had forgotten how unbearable Scottish people are when they feel politically thwarted these days. Over the past 24 hours or so, the reality of the vote to leave the European Union has unleashed an onslaught of full-spectrum nationalist whining across social media the like of which I’ve never seen before.

The self-righteousness that clogged up the post-indyref atmosphere has descended once more. Across the country, heads shake gently in damp-eyed rebuke as disappointed Facebook posts are bashed out and furious tweets sent. And would you believe it, the SNP leadership has considered events through its single lens and concluded that another indyref is exactly what the country needs in a time of confusion and turmoil. It’s a good job the Scottish Government hasn’t been captured by constitutional obsessives like those UKIP guys, eh?

Now, I lost the run of myself completely during the 2014 referendum. I came to believe many more than six impossible things before breakfast on any given day during the campaign. This blog has essentially been a record of my trajectory from suggestible Yesser back to my general disposition as a skeptic, and I’ve left my early posts on this site as a permanent reminder to myself of the damage enthusiasm can do to rational thinking.

If we’re really going to flirt with having another independence referendum there are a few things we all need to get straight, whether we’re Yes or No or Not Again Please For The Love Of God Not Again. There were lessons to be learned back in 2014 about tone, respect for opponents and preparedness to scrutinise one’s own prejudices – I’m not sure they’ve even been acknowledged let alone assimilated. Well I’m here to help! Learn from my fail by asking yourself the following questions and answering honestly. It can even be our wee secret.  (more…)

I don’t have much of a track record as a tipster – the horse I backed in last weekend’s Grand National exceeded my expectations simply by not dying – but even I feel emboldened to hazard that the SNP might do quite well in next month’s General Election.

The polls suggest the SNP will win a majority of Scottish votes and almost all available seats. On the face of it this looks like a deep political consensus, but in reality I don’t remember our political culture ever feeling so divided.

In this post I explore post-referendum polarisation and unpick some of the myths that have come to be accepted as reality by large swathes of the electorate.  (more…)

Indyref psychology

Posted: December 29, 2014 in indyref, politics and ideas
Tags: , ,

We’re into a reflective phase of the indyref process. Senior figures from the campaign have shared their recollections in two excellent broadsheet longreads (Guardian part one and part two; and the Telegraph) while the first few books emerged in time for Christmas. I’ll be buying the Peter Geoghegan and David Torrance tomes with my Christmas money, and so should you.

I keep returning to the referendum too; there’s always more to say, always another angle. And this month I’ve been thinking more and more about the startling sense of adventure that a huge chunk of the electorate showed on the day of the vote. To frame this, I’m going to consider the ideas of the great 20th century political philosopher John Rawls, particularly his view of human motivation. You’ll like Rawls, he’s brilliant. And to me, Rawls’s theory provides an interesting perspective on what the Yes and No votes symbolised at the individual and collective levels. Read on. (more…)

It all seemed so positive at the time.

In the run-up to the referendum, many, many thousands of people took the time to educate themselves, and each other, about how we in Scotland are governed. Information came to light about taxation flows, media coverage, oil revenues, voting records, expenses payments. Everywhere, people were interested in politics.

I always wanted that to happen, so the last few tumultuous months before the vote were quite dizzying to live through.

I voted Yes. I was sure it was the right thing to do.

It was an article of faith on the Yes side that lots of citizens had journeyed from No to Yes, but no one ever headed in the opposite direction.

Well, more than two months after September 18th, I look around me at what the Yes movement has become. And I think I want out.

It all seemed so positive at the time. But last week the Yes movement entered its imperial phase, signalled in particular by the massive SNP celebration event at the Hydro in Glasgow. And the jubilant tone of the thousands of Yes voters glorying in that event and others finally tipped me over the edge.

It’s that tone that makes me suspect the movement was built on a fundamentally flawed conception of power all along. It’s that tone that makes me question the credibility of the leaders who have emerged from the Yes movement, and the cheerleaders who hero-worship them. And it’s that tone that makes me doubt the progressive credentials of the entire enterprise.

It all seemed so positive at the time. But I’m increasingly concerned that the Scottish public sphere faces a serious threat from authoritarian, sanctimonious Yes fundamentalists.

And that’s the very opposite of what I thought I was voting for.

Allow me to explain.

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In Scotland, and across the world, we’ve never had access to so much information. There’s never been so much news; so much analysis; so much stuff to keep up with.

And yet our unprecedented access to data has coincided with something deeply troubling: a profound and growing sense of powerlessness.

Karl Marx wrote that previous philosophers had interpreted the world, when the point was to change it. Whereas these days it often feels like we, as citizens, read about the world, but cannot influence any of the big decisions that affect us.

In this post I will explain how this malaise has infected the body politic, and consider some of the prescriptions drawn up by political parties and social movements to cure it. I will then point, tentatively, to some possible routes out of our present impasse.

In the process I will discuss Russell Brand, Bertold Brecht, and the Scottish Labour Party’s present travails. I will play devil’s advocate on the topics of the European Union and the Yes campaign. And I will look at some very interesting developments on the Tory backbenches, dropping in some Manchester United references along the way. Enjoy!

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I’ve never been able to bring myself to join a political party.

All of the mental gymnastics involved in party-membership – subscribing to a platform, holding the party line, keeping the faith, traducing opponents – struck me as far more effort than I would be capable of. The closest I’ve come to political commitment is my enduring support for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

By contrast, the Yes movement was exciting for me because I didn’t have to sign up to anything. The movement was broad, diverse, and comfortable with people coming to the same answer by different working.

Sadly, I’m not sure that openness has survived the referendum defeat.

In this post I want to discuss the nature of solidarity in politics and the way the concept of solidarity could inhibit imaginative responses to the referendum defeat. In the process I will offer a warning about the dangers of sliding from enlightenment to romanticism. This argument will be developed by analogy to the legacy of the 1968 Paris riots.

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Hello friends!

Well, if I had known my 1979 | 1997 | 2014 piece was going to attract so much attention I might have done another draft!

I’ve been enormously flattered by the attention the essay has received. I want to begin this follow-up piece by thanking sincerely everyone who read, shared and/ or commented upon it. I extend particular gratitude to David Torrance for sharing the article with his Twitter followers. He began the social media chain reaction that allowed the piece to find an audience.

I have received some fascinating responses, which frankly out-do the original piece in eloquence and imagination by some distance. In this post I want to gather together the key points from my postbag and offer some measure of response to them, to highlight the interesting counter-arguments as much as anything. (more…)