Hope is the Rejection of the Status Quo
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!