Hope is the Rejection of the Status Quo

By Mike Small

Here’s the text from Saturday’s Radical Independence Conference #RIC2012 with some of the follow-up responses.

I want to talk briefly about how we shift from thinking and acting like a campaign to thinking and acting like a movement. I want to talk about the subversive quality of hope and aspiration and possibility. I want to share and explore some specific practical ideas about strategies for independence.

Sometimes ‘hope’ is derided as a cheesy/liberal/fluffy concept with faintly embarrassing Blairite connotations, or ‘oh god not that wafer-thin cynical Obama changey-hopey stuff’. But in this context talking about hope we can re-frame the constitutional debate onto the ground we want to be on: the ground of possibility.

As the Scottish Independence Convention’s strategy paper has it:

The No campaign cannot win by using hope: hope is linked to permission to believe something different and better is possible. Hope is a rejection of the status quo…

In a land of the hereditary principle, in a land of elite rule, Bullingdon Club governance, in a land of industrial scale tax-evasion there is no room for hope because relations are fixed. ‘Know your place’ is the patented slogan of British society. It’s in the DNA of our constitution, our semi-feudal structures, our economics, our social relations (‘plebs!’). We need to contrast this land of fixed privilege with a free Scotland as a place of possibility, suggested slogan: “Vote Yes. It’s Your Scotland. Forever.”

The challenge is – in a country where people are discouraged to think for themselves and where exclusion from the political process is what allows the political process itself to function – to turn this around and ask people to open their minds to possibility, to shed cynicism.

So these ideas are really about making a movement come together and they are intended to kick-start a creative process. What these ideas have in common is that they are viral, participatory and alive.

Here’s three simple ideas …

1. Take Down the Union Jack.

We’ve had a year of visual saturation with unionist imagery and it’s time to respond. During the Poll Tax struggle you couldn’t turn your head in central Scotland without coming across a ‘Can’t Pay Won’t Pay’ slogan, a huge daubed sign or a hand-made graffiti art declaring the movement.  We need the same now and over the next two years. Bella will be working with the National Collective and others to host a Culture Jamming the Union day to create posters, postcards, slogans and invites anyone who wants to take part to join us. Details before Christmas.

We can learn too from Venezuela. This is the Otro Beta campaign:

2. Learning from Missouri

We know a crucial demographic is young people. We need to think as much about platforms as about content. This is an inspiring mobile phone message that went viral after it came from unemployed manufacturing workers in Missouri when the Obama- McCain vote was absolutely on a knife-edge. It references Rosa Parkes and Martin Luther King and adds a lyricism to a campaign that is inspiring. But the crucial thing about the message was it was a TEXT. Here it is…

Rosa sat so Martin could walk…

Martin walked, so Barack could run…

 Barack is running so our children can fly!

The quote is credited by some to Jay-Z (see this video at about 1: 53 in) .

The challenge is – can we imagine a Scottish equivalent of Rosa Parkes, or a similarly captivating message? The ideas is that you create a message and send it to ten friends and ask them to send it on to ten more.

3. Pots and Pans

The third is to steal from Le Casseroles, from Montreal, originally a student protest about cuts on living expenses that got a huge response. I’m imagining this in 5 cities simultaneously.

These ideas will be quickly overtaken by better ones and new ones, the important point is to share and to get practical but also to not be ashamed of aspiration for a better society. The Unionist case rests for being grateful for what we have here and now. The Yes movement rests on knowing that A Better Scotland is Possible!



Categories: Anti-Capitalism, Antifascism, Arts & Culture, Autonomism, Events

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12 replies

  1. Bike runs through the cycle streets of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen etc. The bicycle was amongst MANY of Scottish inventions (Kirkpatrick MacMillan), it’s eco friendly, most people can ride one, lots of noise from horns and bells… filmed and uploaded to youtube with Paolo Nutini singing ‘High Hopes’ :-)

  2. Well done Mike for a timely, though-provoking article. Yes we do need to get the message out that we CAN think for ourselves but actually getting our views into the public domain has proved anything but easy.
    I have just sent an e-mail to the Daily Record letters page in reply to someone who won the “Letter of the Day” by simply parroting unionist scaremongering about shipbuilding jobs. My points are that the immediate threat to BAE jobs is not independence but UK defence cuts and that in an independent, innovative Scotland we could possibly safeguard jobs by diversifying the skills and expertise into renewable energy construction and anyway there is no guarantee of future UK governments keeping jobs on the Clyde (remember their destruction of our coal and steel sectors).
    Don’t hold your breath that it will be printed, or if it is it will be so edited that the main points will be deliberately lost/diluted. Frustratingly this has often been my experience in the past with our predominantly unionist print media in Scotland!
    That said I intend to persevere in trying to get the message into the mainstream print media and wish others success in devising more effective strategies.

  3. Hi Billfaedenny, thanks, good point. Reliance on BAE-arms industry jobs is so depressing – as you say when alternatives in other necessary jobs are obvious. In this scenario have they not shot themselves in the foot in that the jobs cuts if they come will come under the prescious union?

    • Thanks Duncan, I totally agree with you about the issue of participation – I think the organisers need to learn from the new emerging forms – the innovation of Occupy and the (largely anarchist) forms of organisation that have come to the fore in recent years.

  4. Perhaps actually having some contact details for Bella Caledonia would be a start. I’m sensing a real closed shop here in terms of contributions – that is very self defeating in terms of the internet.

    Your conference should have been recorded, youtubed, tweeted and have been good to go on friday night – you’ll resent that but there it is.

  5. OK Bella C, give me a coupla days to get some weans the gither an’ I’ll get back to you :-)

    http://scotland.cyclestreets.net/

  6. Loved this post and there is a real danger that we are not engaging with real people. Talking over the weekend to workmates, locals, friends people really are frightened of losing the monarchy, the pound, defence, jobs while being generally accepting that independence is a good “idea.” I saw something from a member of the YES camp recently saying that people need to seek out information, for me that is not a reality, we have to go to them. And not just stalls in shopping centre and conferences in nice hotels but into workplaces, schools, community centres. We need to SHOUT about how amazing Scotland can be for everyone, even those of a unionist persuasion at this time, once we are independent. Thats why some of the ideas in this blog are so important.
    The biggest disappointment for me has been some within the YES camp having potshots at collegues policies. This is not the time for attacking each other, diagree, debate is great but, my goodness there is more than enough to attack in the unionist policies if some people are so desperate to use the campaign/movement as a vanity project. There will be plenty time 2014-2016 for party political posturing and jockeying for position.
    I am not as clever as the rest of you guys, I’m just an average guy passionate about making Scotland better for us all and hopefully I can help the campaign somehow.
    On the BAE issues, I’m the first in my family NOT to work in shipyards and my family had just as much uncertainty under Labour/Tory government and supposed protection from Unions. These guys really believe, however, that “It’s all they’re skilled in” to quote Costello and the Yes camp would be well advised to go directly to them and assure them that they have a future in an independent Scotland because at rthe moment from speaking to my father who works there they do not and he has real fears for the younger guys.

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