trump_flicker_face_yessEven on the eve of the final Presidential Debate in this increasingly bizarre campaign, with, it seems, the Trump campaign finally imploding into a welter of conspiracy theories on late night twitter, the question, “Why Do They Like Trump?” remains, even if American women are about to save American Men from making utter arses of themselves. Actually, ‘liking Trump’ is secondary, more of a symptom than a cause of illness. After all, even if seventy percent of American women say they oppose Trump, that still means thirty percent of them support him. The primary question of this American election has been “”Why Do They Hate Hillary So Much that Otherwise Sane People Can Even Contemplate Voting in Large Numbers for an Egregiously Awful Person With Glaringly Dangerous Pathology…” who just happens to be a Second Rate Orange Berlusconi called Donald Trump. Trump will be gone soon, as an electoral factor, anyway.  But the malaise which afforded him the opportunity to stomp his revolting personality all over the airwaves will still be around.

He and his noisiest supporters, despite appearances, are little more than a handful of refugees from daytime television who have made it onto the News.  This in itself is as much a comment on what has happened to mainstream TV – that the medium has abandoned any pretense at being anything other than pornography that sells Viagra- as it is on the recent descent of the Republican Party into the status of The American Taliban raging impotently against the waning of the White Man’s testosterone and sperm count. An interesting blog by David Wong on his Cracked site put the question of Trumpland vs the Rest in an interesting context for me recently.

1371225004flag_faile.jpg=s750x1300Wong argues that the Culture War in the States, which has roots as old as the Civil War, has reconfigured under the pressure of globalisation from a simple question of race into a much more nuanced and yet classical dichotomy of “country” and “city”, the metropolis and the periphery.  The metropolis in connected to the world as much or even more than it is connected to the country in which it happens to sit.  It is fast moving, prosperous, exciting, multi-cultural, a bit lawless and Darwinian – everything there is in the present tense.  The periphery has been “left behind”, stripped of its employment and purpose, of any forward-looking energy.  Crucially, it has been stripped of anything like ‘hope’.  That word, which was so central to Obama’s election in 2008 was an alien concept, and not just because it was being spoken by a black man.  The schism of race that was opened up by Obama’s victory is again only secondarily a question of racism: primarily the resentment of all those angry men and women is fueled by their exclusion from the global party of self-congratulatory “good” people who flatter themselves constantly about how hip and smart they are.  Fuck You is a not entirely unintelligible response to the bland, careless and above all smug privilege that Hillary Clinton so charmlessly represents.

And it’s when this question is put in terms of ‘metropolis’ and ‘periphery’ that the dialectic expands to include not just what is happening in the US in this particular election, but what has been happening everywhere in the world for quite some time. The change in the world from nation state yes back to city states is the kind of thing that fans of the long view have been talking about for some time.  And within that dialectic it is indeed possible not just to link in Donald Trump and the Tea Party to Nigel Farage and UKIP, but ISIS and the SNP as well.

Now, in this age of Twitter, I realise that to put things in the same sentence is to appear to say “these things are the same…”  So no, everyone, I did not just make an equivalence between these phenomena, what I made was an argumentative connection between ‘responses to globalization’, or rather to the hegemony of the trans-national which was so radically challenged by the slow motion Wall Street/City of London/Hong Kong crash of 2008.  It is in the very nature of ‘localism’ that these responses take on ‘local’ character.

As it happens, the current tensions WITHIN our own particular localism, between Nationalist nationalists and Post-National nationalists, both of which were on display at the SNP conference last week is mirrored by the tensions, for example, within the Tory Party between those who have rather startlingly found themselves in the ascendency recently – the “Hang the Economy, (and a lot of other people) England for the English” brand of Tory on the one hand, and the Managerial Tendency (Market Rules) brand on the other.

Likewise, the ancient Bevan vs Gaitskell conflict informs the pre-history of the Labour Party’s current struggles between Management and Movement, but the pathology of what is happening to the British Progressive Tendency is as globally involved as its inflections are profoundly locally determined by the ‘metropolitan vs the peripheral’ model.

Within this way of looking at things, both Brexit and the surge of Scottish National politics are secondary assertions in response to a historical movement. Both are constitutional consequences of the Break Up of Britain which is itself consequential of the local concentration of all wealth and power in one corner of the islands within a wider, longer story of what we used to call “managed decline.”

Within this way of looking at things, both Brexit and the surge of Scottish National politics are secondary assertions in response to a historical movement. Both are constitutional consequences of the Break Up of Britain which is itself consequential of the local concentration of all wealth and power in one corner of the islands within a wider, longer story of what we used to call “managed decline.”

Indeed, Imperial Hubris has been sinking since the Titanic ran into that Iceberg…we’ve been frantically bailing ever since.

Two other conversations, one on Twitter and one in Real Life are informing my thinking on all this at the moment. The first is a bit of trolling I’m getting online as to why I think that the EU is more important to Scotland in terms of trade than is the UK.  Of course, I think no such thing and have never said or thought any such thing. Neither the vote on Brexit nor a vote for Independence in and of themselves have anything like those consequences. What is useful about the question is figuring out what is wrong with it: why is it the wrong question? The second was a taxi driver telling me he had voted “Leave” in June in order to bring Full Employment back to the Clyde. That is, he had voted for a Time Machine.

The magical instrumentalism of both perspectives, that a vote is the prime cause of things happening, is one of the illusions that democracy is shedding right now, to all of our costs. Donald Trump, for reasons of purely personal pathology – he is always right and always “the winner” therefore the only possible cause of his NOT being right or the winner is black magic – is calling the election a fraud before he even loses it with possibly dire consequences for American democracy.  That’s what elections are like in far less fortunate countries. To return local questions, the truth of what is happening in Scotland right now is that we are dealing with the consequences, over a prologed period, of the decline from Empire to which British Membership of the EU was itself a stop gap solution. According to Angela Leadsom the other day, the answer is now to sell Tea and Jam to Johnny Foreigner on board the Royal Yacht Britannia.

To return local questions, the truth of what is happening in Scotland right now is that we are dealing with the consequences, over a prologed period, of the decline from Empire to which British Membership of the EU was itself a stop gap solution. According to Angela Leadsom the other day, the answer is now to sell Tea and Jam to Johnny Foreigner on board the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Scotland ceased to be the Prime Maker of its own destiny at 10pm on September 18th a couple of years ago.  What we are doing now, just like everyone else, is attempting to stay afloat in very choppy water driven both by our cultural reaction against the crisis of globalism and in our wish to preserve the best of its values.  The Yes Movement, in that sense, was and remains a cake and eat it proposition. More than ever, we are looking into a crystal ball.  If the Tories make a fearful total hash of Brexit and Britain, , as seems more than likely at present, then the economic, political and cultural consequences for these weary islands will be incalculable.  If they make a slight less than total hash of Brexit while trying to SAVE the only bit of Britain they care about, if the City of London (for example) manages to negotiate its REMAINING a global city-state metropolis while leaving the rest of us to sink into the mid-Atlantic, that will be more a continuation than a schism in our recent history as an economy. But Britain as it was sold to us in 2014 will be profoundly damaged…but if anyone thinks that is unalloyed good news for the National cause they are already as damaged as Liam Fox.

CvHmWLHWgAAZp2aThe third option, whereby Brexit is used as the context for a properly reasoned re-alignment of local power and its relationship to the wider world, one of whose aspects is the EU, is of course devoutly to be wished. One can see an idealized federal solution to the “Scottish Problem” where a sovereign Scotland pools that sovereignty rationally with ALL of our neighbours while asserting itself as a small metropolitan centre of gravity and civilised values that is no longer dependent upon those neighbours and so can have a healthy relationship with them. True federalism has always meant mainly that power would be devolved in the other direction with a democratic mandate.  That, for me, was always the logical outcome of the ‘if wishes were horses’ element of the hope in which I participated in 2014.

Whether or not Brexit brings that consummation closer or pushes it further off is not entirely in my gift. Despite the magical thinking of the internet, life doesn’t really work like that. Indeed, those who took the Brexit vote as a signal of ‘job done’ on Independence are already disabused.  And despite being a Yes campaigner, I am no clearer on what ‘Independence for Scotland’ actually means in the 21st than I was two years ago.  What has fundamentally changed, other than the cultural shift that the referendum represented in making our future, at least in part, our choice, is that the alternative, Better Together, must surely look a lot less like a sure thing to its own supporters than it used to.

We have a choice, maybe, between chaos and chaos, and are more concerned about who the Captain is than exactly what we call the boat.  Which, to close the circle, is maybe why a lot of people on the other side of the pond, are looking for a Berlusconi and not a Prodi at the moment.

Still, with a bit of luck, in a couple of weeks we won’t have Donald Trump to kick around anymore, and we can get back to crossing our fingers over more local concerns – and hoping that we’ve got the right Captain, or at least the right second mate on the Titanic who will try to get as many of us as possible into the lifeboats.

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