37lt_lrContinuing our series #bellasbigreview – Michael Greenwell reflects on the year in politics, asking: are we a society addicted to a failed economy?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Internationally, the most conspicuous thing in 2012, as in many previous years, has been the determination of the political classes in almost every country, to continue to push on in the same direction in the total absence of any evidence that it is doing any good. In fact, they’ve been doing so with a whole lot of evidence that says that it isn’t. “The economic figures are bad?” “Ok, cuts.” “They got worse?” “Ok, more cuts.” Ad infinitum.

Further to that, the continuing willingness of large parts of the public to buy the “There is no alternative” narrative is remarkable. Particularly if you consider the frequency of rights and benefits being robbed from us during the night, and some in the full light of the day. There is a general desire for change but when the opportunity is given, people seem to settle for some well-presented tinkering around the edges of the politics and economics that got us into this mess.

Now you might say that these policies are doing very well for a small section of society and are in fact designed to do so, and I’d agree with you to a point. You may also say that there is an enormous propaganda system designed to cover up or otherwise diminish the gravity of it all and I’d agree with you there as well.

There were some notable exceptions to all of this in 2012. Occupy continued. The protests in Greece and Spain were widespread, and at times, massive in scale, the 5 Stars movement of Beppe Grillo in Italy did rather well in elections.

The worldwide background, it seems though, is that people want change but aren’t sure where to go with it.

In Scotland people are obviously well-aware that all of this is going on and also suffer the consequences of economic/political madness like anyone else. Therefore, I’d refer you back to the quote at the start of this article. There is something in there for those of us who want a Yes vote.

This year we got our unique opportunity to break the cycle. It arrived! It’s here! We knew it was coming but this single fact is undoubtedly our biggest story of the year.

To go back to the quote for a moment – it is variously attributed to Einstein, Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin even though it seems the first time it appeared in any text was in 1981, in something by Narcotics Anonymous.

Why should this be? Well, perhaps people attribute the quote to other people because they like it and wish to give it more gravity by giving it to one or another political or intellectual heavyweight, and it makes it easier to go along with if you know someone of such import said it. When you are quoting someone it makes you feel like you are on safer ground, especially if you use a quote by someone who is universally respected.

This is called the argumentum ad verecundiam, (argument from authority or appeal to authority). It is often used by those in positions of power and in fact it was the favourite tactic of the No campaign in 2012 (all the mud-slinging and negativity was entirely to be expected).

An endless string of people were paraded in front of our eyes. Blair, Barroso, Jack Straw, Gordon Brown and other supposed heavyweights showed up to tell us why we can’t/shouldn’t/couldn’t/won’t be able or allowed to behave like everyone else.

Now for every supposed heavyweight the No campaign pulls out, the Yes campaign can pull one out too, and whilst these people are arguing among themselves about whether or not we are capable of being the same as everyone else, referendum voters will switch off. They will only see the debate as a distant thing, conducted by people who aren’t really interested in them.

We won’t win this by pitting authority figures who like indy against authority figures who don’t. We need to be explaining to people that this is not only the chance to be better-off, it is the chance to be the example of how to be better off and the person that chooses how, is you.

Big ideas, not tinkering.

And these conversations need to be happening in the streets and in the pubs. Many people are well aware of this and good work is being done, but against the constant media barrage, there is more to do.

We don’t want to behave like everyone else is the narrative we are looking for. That would be doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Everyone else is in the shit. Do we want to keep tinkering in the same system in the same nation with the same authority figures that have caused these current problems? Do we want to still be in the same shit 5 years from now, 10 years, 50 years – or even 307 if that is the frequency we are allowed in making these decisions?

Or do we want to make a break?

It is a tough task I know, but remember, it is when we are the underdogs and supposed to submit to some or other authority that we usually take the opportunity to get it right up them.

Happy New Year and I hope you all have a busy one in 2013.