Archive for September, 2014

‘Nationalism is an infantile thing; it is the measles of mankind.’ Albert Einstein


16 Sep

fergie

Confession time – I have a red lion rampant tattooed on my right deltoid (upper arm). My first tattoo, the lion that sits at the centre of the Rangers FC crest and is the emblem of Scotland.

Even now, 32 years since I last lived there, Scotland is what I mean when I speak of ‘home’. It continues to define me and shapes my world view. That’s why I care about the separation referendum and why I’d be devastated if Scotland’s electorate breaks up the union.

I got that tattoo when I lived and worked in the north west of England and since 1982 I’ve also lived in Ontario (briefly), in England’s second city, (inner city Ladywood and outer city Bearwood), sleepy Droitwich, the leafy Worcestershire village of Feckenham, a rented flat in Andover and now fimd myself in Witney, 12 miles west of Oxford. This is a very small island.

I’ve always been uncomfortable about nationalism too, as an ideology or a rationale for decision-making.

As the late, great Bill Hicks pointed out when asked about being proud and American ‘it wasn’t as if I had any say in the matter’.

George Bernard Shaw summed it up for me when he opined that nationalism ‘is the belief that your country is superior to all others simply because you were born in it’.

The aspect of Scottish nationalism I’ve always been uncomfortable with – the dark heart – is a core of base anti-English sentiment.

It is often dressed up as being anti-monarchy, a stated resentment of the Oxbridge elite or republicanism, but it is driven by an underlying antipathy towards ‘the other’, something which exists within all nationalisms I’ve encountered.

And in 2014, ‘Westminster’ has become a cipher for England. . .

It would, however be dishonest to portray the ‘Yes’ campaign as a xenophobic lynch mob.

21st Century nationalism is far more savvy than that.

Despite being led by a neo-liberal SNP, it is quite deliberately couched in the positive, aspirational language of the Left.

A ‘yes’ vote, we are told, is about hope, opportunity, building a better future, more equality, more social justice, getting the government Scotland wants, turning our backs on the corruption of Westminster, a thriving entrepreneurial culture, an end to the inequalities that scar the UK’s landscape……..no wonder it appeals to Scotland’s progressive heart, to it’s Labour voters and it’s younger people.

Trouble is, it can’t be all of those things.

Or even most of them.

A ‘yes’ vote can’t possibly deliver the same agenda for super-rich, anti-union homophobe Brian Souter and the convicted criminal and former Trotskyist Tommy Sheridan  -any more than it can deliver the aims of the Scottish Green Party by exploiting more fossil fuels.

Take the ‘better public services’ that Salmond and Co want to claim for themselves.

Ignore, if you will, the inconvenient fact that Holyrood already controls NHS block grant allocations and school budgets – Alex wants you to believe that an independent Scotland will be just like Norway, the analogy most favoured by the Guess campaign.

The same Norway with a personal income tax rate of, wait for it, 47.2%.

Mind you, this sort of economic idiocy comes from a First Minister who told ITV’s Martin Geissler – I watched this myself on Monday 15 September –the fall in stock value of a mere £2.4 BILLION pounds in Scots-based companies wasn’t, as anyone and everyone else thought, a consequence of the first poll showing Guess leading the No vote.

No, said the former economist, that was down to ‘the expected interest rate rise and a rise in gilt prices’.

A nationalist will say or do anything to achieve his aim. Salmond can’t very well turn round and say, ‘Martin, I think that shows we don’t have credible economic policies and can’t be trusted to govern’, can he?

And that takes me back to my starting point: nationalism.

I’ve heard a number of people tell me they’re not voting for Salmond, not voting for nationalism, not voting for the SNP.

But riddle me this: the SNP is a one-policy Party and their website (snp.org) refers to only one policy aim: ‘The SNP is a social democratic political party committed to Scottish independence’.

Explain how voting for that one stated policy – Scottish independence – isn’t a vote for the SNP?

It is, to quote Spock, highly illogical.

In his masterpiece ‘The Age of Extremes’, historian Eric Hobsbawm illustrated how in the 20th century, nationalism was the key driver in the forces of liberation and freedom across the globe, as countries threw off colonial shackles.

But in the last 2 decades it has been toxic, a coda for ethnic and tribal strife.

This debate in Scotland has not been characterised by a rich upsurge in democratic discourse, but by widespread cognitive dissonance – in other words, people deliberately ignoring evidence which negates their beliefs and choosing only to listen to voices and data which supports their pre-determined view.

So If we still choose to ignore the intimidation, barely concealed organised hooliganism, lying and most significantly of all the huge weight of economic evidence against separation, including interventions by such trivial figures as the governor of the Bank of England, the leaders of the three largest political parties, every trade union except the Scottish section of the RMT…..even if I ignore all of that, I am left with my own politics.

I’m an internationalist, a republican and a socialist.

Global problems, like poverty, preserving the biosphere, promoting equality and social justice, need to be solved globally.

They require thinking outside lines on maps, and a realisation that exploitation of workers in any part of the world reduces life chances, economic equality and justice for all of us.

Never trust a nationalist - they'll say or do anything

Never trust a nationalist – they’ll say or do anything

Killing the planet’s biosphere, to take just one micro-case, is a problem for all of us and I’ll cite just one hypothetical example: if there’s a nuclear accident at Sellafield, will the fall out stop at Carlisle? Will radioactive material respect Salmond’s brave new frontier?

My own politics leave me open mouthed at others on the Left supporting this nationalist candy floss.

And on that note, I’ll conclude by reminding people about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, known as TTIP.

You probably don’t know much about it but don’t be surprised – it has been quite deliberately kept away from the public eye.

TTIP is a backdoor, trans-national stitch up, a classic case of conspiracy made flesh.

In summary, multinational corporations and unelected European Union bureaucrats are currently sat down with their US counterparts deciding what can be defined, carved up and sold off to one another – including our Health Service. It will undermine national sovereignty, democracy and anyone positing an alternative to the neoliberal economic orthodoxy which is wreaking havoc on our societies.

And what does Scotland’s First Minister say about TTIP?

Salmond described it as “especially good news” for Scotland while his deputy, Nicola Sturgeon, describes it as “a reminder of the massive opportunities that European Union membership brings”.

And these 2 clowns are going to open the door to a better future?

Think on.

Stephen Smith: writer

Rants, rambles and other assorted thoughts


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