Reclaiming Independence

I think Mhairi McAlpin and Paul Kingsnorth have done us a great service (see Mhairi’s previous post – Unite?) with the discussion they have provoked on independence as a route to (Mhairi) or a distraction from (Paul) the political, social and cultural changes we (all) need.

I don’t, however, think that – on the most crucial point – they disagree.

Mhairi’s fury is with the way the British State has been used in order to murder and dominate ‘abroad’, and to disempower and oppress at ‘home’.

Paul’s point is that the three mainstream parties in the UK “have, in their different way (and arguably Labour has been most successful at it) made their peace with the power of global capital”, and points out that one way of countering this is to address the root reasons for racism and fear of immigration, and one way might involve “re-rooting power in local communities in order to create a barrier to the power of rootless finance and big business”.

Like most here I look forward to independence from the United Kingdom happening (in effect) in 2014, and deeply hope that independence for Scotland will also mean the start of independence for England and for Wales too.

At the moment in Scotland, the resistance to the power of rootless capital, and resistance to a history of domination (at ‘home’ and ‘abroad’) by the British State, are both fruitfully connected.

My fear – to echo Paul’s point – is that once independence for Scotland happens it will indeed be independence-lite.

My fear is that Scotland will have all the structural forms of an independent state, but it will be independent in the way that the UK is currently independent. It will be independent to do anything as long as it is in keeping with the needs of global capital.

In that world, we might not engage in wars in Iraq and a hundred other criminal actions, but we would continue to rapidly destroying ecosystems and societies throughout the world, we would continue with a capitalism/ consumerism that excludes those who don’t have money and enslaves those who do (Caroline Lucas in her conference speech last week to the Green Party of England and Wales).

I am writing from Central Africa where I work to support ‘self determination’ for forest peoples. Indigenous people throughout the world are very rarely asking to be independent of the States they are in, they are asking to be allowed to live as they live and to develop as they wish to develop, rather than having their lands taken from them, their relationships destroyed, and their futures funnelled into feeding the machine of global capital that gives only a stark choice between being included in (and ‘benefiting from’) its destructive ways, or being excluded by it, standing in the way of it, and suffering the consequences.

Being for independence and self determination and autonomy need not be about drawing a boundary on a map and ignoring the rest of the world, it can be about asserting the right of people in a self-defined area to determine their own affairs in a way that enhances the independence, self determination and autonomy of others. People on Eigg worked to ensure it gained its ‘independence’ and inspired others to do likewise. People in the Transition initiative in Portobello are working to develop local resilience (to halt our destruction of the ecosystem, and to prepare for huge economic collapse) and have helped inspire other communities to do likewise.

Real independence, self determination and autonomy are not things you achieve, dates in history – they are born from a passionate desire that all people (all beings?) be free to develop and flourish. This is what Darwin meant by ‘survival of the fittest’: survival of those who fit best with their environment, who experience their environment not as a limiting form but as an enabling condition.

For me independence, self determination and autonomy are fundamentally rooted in ecology. Not in some supposedly biologically notion of racial or ethnic distinction, nor in some fabricated ‘cultural’ sense of self. But rooted in the impulse of all creatures to survive, and in the awareness that for our locality to survive we need to enable the survival and well-being of all others in their localities.

Independence is not a date in history; it is an opening to possibility – it is a process of regaining self determination and exercising autonomy: global capital not in my back yard and not in anybodies back yard.

When Paul called Svenja’s idea that ‘Scotland was never a colonial power’ “risible”, he is right to say that “Scots were up to their necks in the British (not English) Empire, just as the English were, and to pretend otherwise is very dishonest”, but he misses her point.

She actually said that “Scotland tried and failed to be a colonial power, which led to its absorption in the UK state”. To seek to dominate others leaves one at the mercy of all who seek to dominate. ‘Scotland’ was never a colonial power, though the resources and people of Scotland were used (by many in Scotland and by the British state) to build that British Empire, just as many are used to retain it still.

This is the key distinction we need to be making again and again: not a distinction between ‘my’ country and ‘yours’, but a distinction between when localities, bio-regions and peoples are able to act autonomously and when they are not – identifying when the structures we continually recreate need to be recreated differently in order to enable autonomy.

There is a hopelessness in those places and people that define themselves as the ‘UK” – and I’d include Paul Kingsnorth’s otherwise wonderful Dark Mountain project in that – about our ability to recreate these conditions in a transformative way.

There is a hopefulness in those places and people that define themselves as Scotland about our ability to recreate our conditions in a transformative way.

I believe that the SNP can and will help deliver a date for independence (2014, followed by some years to untangle state structures) but to deliver real independence, self determination and autonomy, we need to not be outward looking in the dominant SNP sense of welcoming global capital, but in the profoundly transformative sense of working with all who – in a multitude of places kept invisible by the mainstream media – are seeking to help us remember who we are.

We are not primarily Scottish or English or Welsh or Irish – those projects of self-definition can be used to fuel or to resist empires: they can be used to divide and rule, or to bridge and connect. We are primarily alive in a particular place and a particular time and needing to pay attention to caring for our localities and each other, pay attention to unhooking ourselves from the machine that is destroying the conditions for life.

Part of what can help this are the stories we tell about who we really are.

The story being told in those places and people that define themselves as Scotland are about our ability to transform our world, and an awareness of the need to shake off structures that disempower, partly through promising and entangling people in the power that comes from seeking to control others.

This belief in our ability to transform our world is rooted in a powerful sense that we wish to care for each other, to show hospitality, to not be determined by the colonising power and politics of an imperial state.

But if we are to become independent in a way that enables communities, families and individuals to exercise and so develop our self-determination and autonomy, then we need a far more powerful independence than a date in history.

History is what you get when you can no longer make your future.

The future is what you can make when you believe you are far more than being defined by your history.

Yet you can only make the future well and with care for others when you can see just how powerfully your actions and beliefs are shaped by your history.

In recognising our limitations, our localities – our histories of different, interweaving, sometimes conflicting struggles to be free – we can use them to restore our world.

If we simply seek to transcend our limitations, and resolve our contradictions – as people do in pursuing the ‘American dream’ for example – then in the process we destroy the very conditions that allow us to flourish.

Independence can be an inspiring reminder that we can reclaim our world, and it can help create far better conditions for restoring our world, but only if independence is not the goal, only if independence is a means to help people to flourish here, and a means to support people to flourish everywhere.

(p.s. There is a Scottish Green Party members meeting in Perth on 30th October, partly to think through how the Green Party negotiates the territory of who we are and where we are going. At the last count – which was admittedly a while ago – none of the elected representatives were coming, but we had to shift it to a much bigger venue to accommodate those who want to . . . see some of you there?!)

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  1. MryMac says:

    It would be good to see proportional representation of women, LGBT, disabled and ethnic groups among the MSPs so everyone feels they have a fair say in what happens in future in Scotland.

  2. This is fascinating, Justin, thanks.

    I don’t understand your point about DM, the UK and ‘hopelessness’ – perhaps you could expand on it.

    There are very wide issues around ‘independence’ in a globalised world. You could sever yourselves from the Uk but remain in the EU, and you would not be remotely independent. You would not control what happens to your farms, your finance, your banks, your exchequer, your borders or your social services. You would also, presumably, remain a signatory to the WTO and the UN, both of which will severely limit your freedom of movement. You might find, in fact, that Westminster was the least of your problems.

    Here’s what I found in South Africa a decade ago, which I wrote about in more detail in my first book. It’s relevant to a new state trying to do something radical in a unipolar capitalist world:

    http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-world/article_1228.jsp

    But I’m still sensing a discomfort in the tension between nationalism and universalism. I hope Mike will clear this up soon – if it’s possible to clear up, which i suspect it isn’t. But I was very interested in this idea:

    ‘For me independence, self determination and autonomy are fundamentally rooted in ecology. Not in some supposedly biologically notion of racial or ethnic distinction, nor in some fabricated ‘cultural’ sense of self. But rooted in the impulse of all creatures to survive, and in the awareness that for our locality to survive we need to enable the survival and well-being of all others in their localities.’

    What you’re talking about here seems to be bio-regionalism. I’d love to see this idea resurrected in the Uk context. But at the same time as you specifically reject “some fabricated ‘cultural’ sense of self”, you continue to talk about ‘ Scotlan’d and to call for it to be ‘independent’ of ‘Britain’.

    I don’t see how this follows. ‘Scotland’ is very clearly a (partly, at lest) fabricated cultural idea – just as any nation state is. If you wanted to pursue bioregional identifies, neither Scotland nor England, nor any historic counties or regions, would probably have much of a role to play. But of course, in the real world they do have a role to play because people feel an attachment and loyalty to historic human identities. This is the tension I see on the Scottish, and English, lefts all the time – a desire to reconcile what is, at root, an atavistic attachment to an ancient, pre-modern identity (‘Scottish’! ‘English’! ‘Cornish’! etc) with modern or post-modern approaches to ‘inclusiveness’, ‘diversity’ and the like.

    I’m increasingly concluding that these approaches are fundamentally at odds with one another, and the reason I am concluding that is simply that I have never seen an honest, searching example of how to reconcile them. I

    Maybe this doesn’t matter, unless people pretend otherwise. I see no reason, for example, why an independent Scotland (if you get one, which seems less than certain to me than toy ou – but good luck with it) should not try to follow a bioregional development model. I would love it if that happened and might even emigrate (with Mhairi’s open borders policy in place, this will be easy ;-)) But I don’t think you can continue to talk about ‘self-determination’ without addressing who the ‘self’ is. And if, as here, you specifically reject all possible definitions of that ‘self’, you need to explain why you’re even talking in these terms.

    Here are some thoughts of mine for a while back, relating to England:

    http://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/ourkingdom-theme/paul-kingsnorth-1/2009/05/07/response-to-a-jigsaw-state-breaking-up-britain

    Very interesting food for thought though. Thanks for it..

  3. Justin Kenrick says:

    Thanks for this Paul.

    There is a huge amount in what you have written, and I can only divert myself briefly from work on land rights here in Africa (so I can’t follow up your links, but look forward to doing so later).

    You describe the underlying tension as being between “nationalism and universalism”, between “what is, at root, an atavistic attachment to an ancient, pre-modern identity (‘Scottish’! ‘English’! ‘Cornish’! etc)” and “modern or post-modern approaches to ‘inclusiveness’, ‘diversity’ and the like”.

    However, I don’t accept either side of your equation. I don’t accept your understanding of tradition or of modernity.

    This equation is one that modernity (including post-modernity, ‘even more modern-modernity’) seeks to persuade us is true:
    We used to be traditional/ Now we’re modern;
    We used to belong to place/ Now we are free to choose our identities.

    It is a myth in the anthropological sense that it is used by the powers that be (within us and around us) to persuade us that our only hope lies in moving away from place, towards an “‘inclusiveness’, ‘diversity’ and the like”.

    It is also a myth in the more conventional sense that it is a lie.

    We do not move from being trapped in tradition and place and sameness towards modernity’s ‘diversity’ and inclusiveness, but from somewhere we can belong towards a conformity that destroys places and peoples across the globe: destroying the stories that arise from peoples sense of belonging to, and cherishing, place. (And, I can’t go into this here, but when I say “move from somewhere we can belong” I am referring to widespread egalitarian relations across the world, that were often and increasingly accompanied by more dominating forms, forms which told similar stories to the one that our ‘modernity’ tells).

    I am precisely not looking for “independence in a globalised world”, but independence as a route to helping to reclaim all places for all people from that globalising force of conformity and destruction. And, as you say “in the real world” (although it could be better described as “in the unreal world the modernity myth persuades us is real”) we have to start from where we are.

    Which is where?

    Different in different places, and here in Scotland I hope that there is the possibility of deepening the move to independence so that it really enables a form of self-determination that only draws lines on a map in order to create a space for those processes that connect us to surface and experiment with what society is like when we trust ourselves to make the future by learning from the past.

    You write:
    “I don’t think you can continue to talk about ‘self-determination’ without addressing who the ‘self’ is. And if, as here, you specifically reject all possible definitions of that ‘self’, you need to explain why you’re even talking in these terms.”

    This is the fundamental question: Who are we?

    We are not a self that is discrete, boxed, defined by certain characteristics. That is the measurable, analysable, manipulated creature modernity persuades us we are (the better to control us).

    We are relational beings. We come into existence out of and into relationships. We are sustained by air, water, food, warmth, soil under our feet, all these relationships; and we breath, piss, crap, talk, care for, get into conflict with, cry, laugh, and at some point die.

    That is why I follow indigenous peoples understanding of ‘self-determination’ that rejects “definitions of the self”, but encourages the recognition that we are entirely shaped by the relationships that sustain us, and through which we in turn shape others.

    If moving towards and through independence for Scotland, England, Wales, is part of a process of freeing ourselves from modernity’s lie, then it is well worth undertaking. If it is not then that is no big deal. Nothing lost, except the opportunity that there is everything to gain.

    And, to answer your first question . . .

    . . . this is why I get the sense that the Dark Mountain project (despite its wonderful creativity) is one of those places that embodies a “hopelessness” about our ability to recreate our conditions in a transformative way.

    Of course, that could easily change. There are great swirling currents of people and movements that have spun around the Dark Mountain and similar projects, and it wouldn’t take much for us all to recover the realisation that precisely because we are caught in the myth of all-powerful progress, this progress story is a lie that can only make itself true to the extent we accept it.

    Rejecting that lie, we can remake our world. Not in the abstract, not just in poetry and on the page, but through a whole range of actions that attend to and care for place, and care for the people and other species who make those places and are made through those places.

    Debbie Bird Rose, writing about Yarralin Aboriginal understandings of what this care (this ‘Law’) means, writes that the real choice is not between some fabricated ‘tradition’ where we supposedly never had choice, and some sort of modernity or post-modernity where each is free to make their choice with no reference to a larger truth:

    “It is implicit that all living beings have a choice in following Law. They can do what is necessary to maintain life or they can turn their backs on responsibility and, in so doing, allow destruction . . . All species have Law and culture, free will and choice” (Rose 2000: 57).

  4. svenja says:

    I’ve missed that stuff Justin 😉

    Hopefully independence will be more about practicing interdependence than anything else. A new beginning would be cathartic, an opportunity for having both: universalistic cultural renewal and deepening and learning from the stories we tell ourselves about the past, his and her stories.

    That’s why I love the Galgael project, which is doing that by practicing traditional skills, reclaiming urban places and developing psychological honesty. For the kind of relational interdependence that would help us avoid simply moving from one pattern of dominance to another, we can learn from projects like Galgael, forming ‘tribes’, manifesting communities – the most challenging stuff. We need these smaller huddles too because ‘Scotland’ is still too big a unit (and I agree – not the end in itself).

    I found the Dark Mountain gathering to have elements of that too. Perhaps not as obvious when focussing on the written stuff, but I found there to be a paradox – opening up the space to acknowledging the possibility of failure seemed to harness creativity (in the sense of creating alternative routes to being human). Many folk there were involved in transition initiatives, permaculture, DIY culture and so on, and DM provided a space for stimulating inquiries that can be embedded in practices – I don’t recall having met a single person there who wasn’t involved in some kind of practical solutions-type stuff.

    After all, it is quite a young project, and if it develops into some kind of elitist talking club (written word included) I don’t think it will last long. But I didn’t get the impression that this is where it’s headed.

    1. Justin Kenrick says:

      Great to hear that about the folk you met at the Dark Mountain gathering – I like your talk of the need for smaller huddles too, for the Galgaels and all the other places!

      Well done to Falkland for fighting off the developers today, by the way – a great victory after a long struggle! There are a thousand struggles, a thousand huddles, a thousand refusals to accept the status quo going on – now I wonder why the staus quo doesn’t want us to know?!

  5. Who are we?

    A large part of who I am is based on my cultural history, where I was born, brought up, my use of language and how I was educated and what I make it mean – in this I know who I am, a Scot.
    Does the fact I seek freedom from repression and opportunity for all and any human being stop making me a Scot? I have worked on humanitarian projects in Nepal for over eight years especially those changing attitudes, service availability and quality of care delivery in health care projects for the poorest in that poorest of nations. All done in a time of a vicious civil war, at times I was able to initiate actions simply because I was not Nepalese and partly because I was ‘Scottish’ in the disputing sides’ own perception.

    Now I have returned to Scotland and seek those freedoms for myself and others in my own country. The repression is not as extreme as is found in Nepal but it is present every time you listen to a BBC Scotland news or political program which seeks only to find wrong with our nation state, belittle our success at every turn and every time you read yet another Scotsman or Telegraph story belittling Scotland’s democratic choice of majority party and leader because as a Scot I see a better way for my nation (tribe) outside of an unequal and decaying political union and, more importantly, I see an opportunity to make and shape the Scot’s form of independence.

    Now if what you are talking about is creating opportunity then yes, that should have no boundaries and yet to take an opportunity requires an understanding of the impact of your action on others, whether it is beneficial or not to you and others then accepting the outcome will be what it will be – a result which you may like or you may not. That is the point where the vast majority of humans fail, the point when they get a result they did not foresee or do not like. They then try to ‘make it right’ and the only way to do that is to lie to themselves, blame others, project what should have been rather than just accept it is a result of the choices they made and that the answer is to make different choices next time when opportunity presents to aim towards the result they desire. The real secret is to understand each human being has the opportunity to create their own new opportunity at any time. The reality is most people wait for opportunity to happen and, in doing so, rarely get the result they hoped for, which they turn into: what is the point of ‘taking’ opportunities? This, for me, is the best explanation I can create to describe the actions of politicians in the UK over the last four decades and equally the inaction of the UK electorate.

    The difference for me is in Scotland, at present, there are more and more people who see the same opportunity and see the same benefit in leaving the Union. They accept the ‘risk’ because the opportunity has the probability to create a political structure, economy and community that better represents the deeply in-bedded Scottish cultural understanding of a society based on fairness, taking care of those around you and the creation of equal opportunity, often captured by the romantic expression, ‘We’re aa Jock Tamson’s bairns’.
    It is an opportunity denied us by the 1707 Union Parliament and the European Union by dint of their neo-liberal pursuit of greed at all costs. It appears that the once pro EU SNP are now swinging towards opting out of the EU precisely because of the control the EU experiment seeks to impose on members no matter their economic status. I consider that Scottish Independence will be good for the nation states of the United Kingdom and a chance to determine the future of their electorates actual wishes. Like any separation there will be numbness, anger, guilt but eventually a better relationship and inter-relationship if handled well. In doing so we will recapture Independence.

    1. Justin Kenrick says:

      Peter, I find this really helpful.

      Although I have some knee jerk reactions (where does structural power and the fact that some people have more opportunity than others fit in? etc) these reactions miss the point of what you are saying. If I’ve got it right, you are saying everyone everywhere has an opportunity to make a difference to their lives and the world around them, but we don’t necessarily take it out of fear that the consequence may not be to our liking. But the consequence of not being able to see opportunity and take that risk is to be caught in a self-fulfilling cycle of powerlessness. The more we can cope with knowing we cannot control the outcome, the more we are able to take risks. And are you also saying that the more we are comfortable with who we happen to be (the ways we have learnt to speak and think and relate), the more we are able to encourage others to be who they are? If so, is the impulse to universalism (to wanting everyone to be treated equally) rooted in a secure sense of our own particular time and place and self?

      1. Justin you read it about right.

        Empowerment for me is the ability to create an opportunity when I want. At the simplest of levels it is to choose to go for a pint in my local without guilt or anticipation. By taking this opportunity, in this way, I am open to ideas that I may then encounter in the pub and have the choice to act or not to act because it is an opportunity I chose to create.

        The reality is few people understand how to empower themselves in this way, it seems to obvious, to simple, to blatant, to narcissistic … and yet a friend I chose to create an opportunity to help children amongst the poorest communities in Nepal to have their cleft palates repaired, raised £25,000 in nine months (having been told it would be impossible), were approached by a NGO donor who put up another £100,000 and ended up project managing the building of a $4.8 million specialist hospital, instituting first world standards of hygiene, sterility, care, changing professional attitudes and training and their view of what can be achieved in Nepal. There are Nepali surgeons who started with us as house officers and registrars now working for Smiletrain and Transforming Faces Worldwide in Nepal. A spin off has been the involvement of plastic surgeons from the UK and Japan plus orthodontists from Australia and technicians from the USA who now run courses in Nepal. I chose when to walk away and did so with no regrets, no what ifs or sense I was letting myself or anyone down. I chose to ‘let go’.

        Having had a four year break I am now looking at creating my next opportunity in Nepal. I do not know what it is but I have started looking and when I choose I know that finance will choose to follow purpose and purpose will bring beneficial change and in the change I will benefit myself at some level. It is entrepreneurship but not as currently understood in the West in terms of £’s or $’s; it is a much healthier currency.

        Have a read of ‘Strategy of the Dolphin’ and if you want to find out more and practice the ideas chose to take the Landmark Forum course – I have done the lot with Landmark Education, after my time in Nepal, and am still learning more and more about the power my self empowerment gives others when genuinely and openly shared.

    2. Justin Kenrick says:

      Peter
      (There’s no reply button under your most recent input so I’m not sure if this is going to slot in under your reply about your raising money for work in Nepal, but that’s where it’s supposed to be!)

      That’s really interesting – I guess that beneath those senses of ‘opportunity’ and ’empowerment’ was just straightforward deep care for the well being of others – something that people swiftly responded to. I’m sure such training can help enable us to be open to opportunity and empowerment, but I’d be concerned it might somehow seek to appropriate and claim for itself that underlying nature, which is surely just who we all are? But I may well have misunderstood that part!

      1. Justin – If you move from openness and genuine sharing to self aggrandisement, focus on self and only on what you want, you will end up in the cycle of ‘trying to make it right’ and you will never get the outcome you expect. Humans start picking up on the ‘he’s in it for himself’ strand very quickly and equally quickly support melts away until you are just left with the people who are also ‘just in it for themselves’: as is epitomised by the Westminster political machine.

        I am not interested in fighting the semantics of what ‘training claims for itself’ because action and outcomes only occur when an individual chooses to make them happen. Training provides tools, it depends on the willingness of the individual to pick up those tools and skills then apply them create ‘best purpose’. I was trained to use a Nato SLR and a nine millimetre Browning pistol, yet it was always my choice to pull the trigger or not. This is very different from ‘cults’ or ‘indoctrination’ where if you do not do as you are told, to the letter of their law, you are deemed to have ‘failed’ or are doomed to some eternal damnation – its all about fear of failure to toe their line. In a weird way the 1948 Nuremberg Judgement was saying to all those found guilty before it: if you choose to join a ‘cult’ and you follow its rules unthinkingly, you still remain personally responsible for the result or results of your own actions to those outside your cult. In effect Nuremberg established in international law that rules are for guidance and not blind obedience.

        Maybe I should think about putting something together for Mike on this.

  6. ginganinja says:

    I find this article somewhat bemusing. It seems so abstract and rooted in theories such as “bio regions” that it has no relationship with modern Scotland or indeed economic reality. I can’t see how an independent Scotland could function without the revenue generated from oil exports. How then can you reconcile an independent Scotland with a strong belief in environmental issues and opposition to ‘global capital’?

    1. Justin Kenrick says:

      Fair enough ‘ginganinja’ (is that really your name?) about this being way too abstract and rooted in theories – on rereading I can see why you’d think that. For something far more to the point in terms of practical application in the world of policies have a read (I’m sure you already have) of Jim and Margaret Cuthbert brilliant ‘The importance of nation’ article below.

      But I’m not doing a piece on policy here. I am trying to think through experience, and how we make sense of experience, and trying to explore one way that we can get caught in a trap and suggest a way out of it.

      My guess is your way of experiencing the dominant trap is very different from, say, Paul Kingsnorth’s. Perhaps your way is to believe that meeting our material needs requires what you call “economic reality” (there, that ‘reality’ word again) by which you seem to mean revenues generated by oil. As we all know by now, the oil – all easily recoverable oil – is going to run out. A strong independent Scotland looks like it is going to be relying on hydro, tidal, wave and wind energy rather than oil – and so incidentally helping reduce carbon emissions: economic and environmental needs are only at odds if ‘global capital’ is allowed to get away with it.

      1. Fraser says:

        I agree that a gradual move towards renewables is inevitable and indeed desirable but in the short to medium term oil is going to be critically important. I have read the other articles you refer to (I read most of them on this blog) but frankly I don’t think these pretty radical leftist pieces will help Scotland move towards independence. Indeed I think miring the independence debate in radical politics of any kind will simply scare away the vast majority of the electorate. If ‘Ginganinja’ upsets you ‘Fraser’ will do. Don’t worry, I’m not really a ninja…

    2. Justin Kenrick says:

      Hi Fraser
      (I guess I just prefer to be using someone’s real name, so thanks for that!)

      I don’t think this stuff is as radical as you seem to think, I think its just common sense.

      Not in the sense of what everyone thinks as they read the Murdoch press or watch the Murdoch TV or listen to the Murdoch politicians, but in the sense of . . . when all that is switched off and we can think for ourselves, then it is what we really know to be the case.

      So I don’t think this is myring the independence debate in radical politics that will put people off independence.

      In fact I’d suggest that this debate can only be won by creating a far broader church of progressives that includes people for whom independence is a means to maintain and strengthen the progressive tradition . . . if we seek to keep the debate somehow neutral and free of a vision of the future, if we don’t broaden the debate, it will be far harder to win.

  7. dougie says:

    Frankly, I am in the SNP and I have no idea what Justin Kenrick or Paul Kingsnorth are talking about.

    Perhaps they could try to share their witterings at a level that folk could comprehend?

    And before they argue otherwise, I do, kind of, understand stuff like the lack of mass in the Universe, and issues about and around brains.

    Just saying this is all a bit theoretical…..

    1. Justin Kenrick says:

      Hi Dougie

      Are my ‘witterings’ worth sharing?

      Do you mean shut up because it’s enough to be for independence and we don’t need to think about any of this stuff, or do you mean don’t be so theoretical and explain what you mean in everyday language? I don’t mind doing either (I can happily have that conversation with Paul offline – if he sends me his email address!) but just want to know what you are asking for.

  8. Justin

    This is fascinating stuff, and I agree with almost all of what you say. The first two thirds of your reply, in fact, is very similar in tone and aim to much of what I wrote in my first two books – the first of which was specifically about this tug between rooted and rootless. It’s very much where I’m coming from, and it’s very much where my critique of the trad left comes from too – the cosmopolitan left is often as placeless and rootless as the neoliberal right (Mhairi’s piece on here is a good example of that tendency), and both can be part of the problem.

    I do think you underplay peoples’ links to history and deep culture though. We live in the past as much as the present, and our understanding of ‘we’ is a historical one. Scottishness has primal roots, as does Englishness. Not for nothing does the much-mentioned Alastair McIntosh refer to himself as a ‘pre-modern essentialist’!

    On Dark Mountain – as Svenja said, if you’d come to the festival this year you may have got a very different impression. DM is certainly about giving up hope in one sense – we give up on the hope that our systems can save us, or that the kind of standard-issue political campaigning we’ve been involved in will do the trick, or that we can turn the clock back and right the world again. But when you give up hoping for the impossible you begin to see what is possible instead. And of course DM is not a political project but an artistic and cultural one – we don’t aim for ‘answers’ but we are a space to ask big questions, and attempt to begin writing new narratives. You can’t do that, paradoxically, until you give up hope. Then you’re a blank slate.

    1. Justin Kenrick says:

      Ok, I think we need to talk – but have a sense (from the good man Dougie above) that the way we want to talk may not be appropriate here, because we are both taking a huge amount of common ground for granted (e.g. I spent years working with the wonderful Joanna Macy, and the parallels mean I probably have a good sense of what DM is seeking to do but would have strong challenges to that approach too; e.g. to say ‘pre-modern essentialist’ – however tongue in cheek – simply reinforces the dichotomy we need to step away from).

      If others here share that common ground (or, equally, if no one is reading this stuff!) then it would be good to continue discussing here in the open. If people don’t share that common ground then we need to either talk off line, or start really explaining what we are meaning by terms and assumptions, and giving clearer examples.

      Problem is that this theoretical stuff is a bit like physics: it looks completely irrelevant, just a bunch of equations being worked out and almost all of them failing to square with reality. But when one does square with reality then it can have a really substantial impact on the real world. And one of the quickest ways of moving through the process – both to see if the equation works, and to enable much more agile thinking – is to talk in this short hand (which tends to sound like gobbledigook to anyone else!)

  9. Ard Righ says:

    Good Article.

    Shame about the colonial troll plant.
    Some will never get it, first you have to view from the culture of context, which is impossible for a colonial, in the case of the english, there is no culture, the raison d’être of the concept of England has been to destroy all forms of culture and supplant it with administrative control (as a culture) with embellishments, these embellishments have typically fractious elements of earlier British Celtic culture but have little recourse to the oral longevity of the Celtic traditions that live today enshrined by language and land, these are what create longevity and stability when all else fails.

    “Historic human identities” said the obsolete alien backed up by his obsolete alien institutions. A projection of his own failure to understand.

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