The official ‘Yes Orkney’ inaugural meeting took place in Kirkwall recently after several months building a twitter and facebook presence. The facebook page has grown to over 250 ‘likes’ from the local area and further afield. Similar to other fb pages it has given supporters a collective lift and somewhere to post and share serious and not so serious material. Posts have attracted comment also from the local dugout of the Better Together Campaign holed up with their infinite list of negative jibes and questioning. The positive event of a meeting on a dark and windy Orkney night which produced 40 committed Yes souls was indeed something to write home about, and as someone who has to frequently dragoon committee members to bodily attend meetings rather than simply approve by email, it is something to which I feel I can professionally endorse as a ‘success’. No-one was in fact frog-marched, bribed or tricked into attending the hall.
Yes Orkney attempts to meet negativity with positivity and so it should have come as no surprise that our happy post on our well attended meeting was immediately pounced upon by the grumbling Better Together pedants who laughed out our attendance figures and supplemented their playground derision with the tactic of a lengthy list of economic, monetary and constitutional questions for us to answer.
One of the topics raised at the Yes meeting was the issue of how in fact you persuade an individual towards any new point of view, and this has caused me some thought as I hovered between researching the entire constitutional structure of the EU in preparation for a face book post or whether this indeed would be energy well spent.
Persuasion takes many forms and I am often reminded about a picture in an old childhood story book about the battle between the aggressive wind and the gentle sun in the battle to get a man to remove his coat – the sun won of course because the more the wind blew and raged the more the man pulled his coat tighter. The sun’s gentle warmth persuaded him to remove his coat voluntarily!
There are those who resist persuasion because they themselves fear the possibility of persuasion. It is a personality trait that goes deeper than the arguments of Yes or No in this instance and has more to do with finding personal psychological security in a framework of beliefs which once set are part of the immovable identity of that individual. The perception of that individual’s own identity is something that can be moved, but their own fear of stepping outwith that security blanket is colossal. Those personality traits appear in other spheres where people are closeted through societal taboos which cause personal frustration and unhappiness. These type of No-men and women, (though men seem to hold to this more stringently) armour and protect their identity position by stacking suitable facts and figures around themselves like sandbags and throw out countless questions on yet more and more detail, far flung, distant scenarios and hypotheses to ensure that even if every question was answered there would still be an, ‘Ah but…..you will have to tell me the chemical combination of the blue dye in the Scottish flag in 2016 before you can convince me….’ kind of question.
My answer to the impossible list of questions and the constant supply of boulders the No camp want the Yes camp to roll to the top of mountains is this:
No I do not have an answer as to whether Scotland will keep the pound/be in Europe/ have an army/be in NATO/make the wearing of blue socks compulsory da di dah. BUT, if called upon I believe in the ability of not only myself and others but indeed you the unsure and doubting person who is asking this question to become very quickly knowledgeable on how best to look at the options, evaluate the pros and cons and make a positive decision in line with whatever your political values may be.
Simply, if the managing director of a ski-lift can do it for the UK then I am not in doubt there exists several similar brains in Scotland than can adapt to the big needs of running a country. The question is really asking do we collectively have the brain ability to apply ourselves to economics, fiscal issues, tax and constitution? The brain is plastic, adaptable and capable of infinite possibility in terms of new learning. The individual uncertainties that we all face every day in our lives provide the skills for problem solving which is where the future direction of Scotland will inevitably go be there a Yes or a No in 2014. These skills are truly transferable from the scale of the home to the scale of a country. The Scottish future will need the kinds of brains that are not phased by shifting scenarios and do not suffer meltdown if a t is not crossed or an i left un-dotted. The prospect of an immovable and intransigent future mapped out in advance in all matters affecting Scotland or the rUK could at best only be a guess and in truth an impossibility because such certainty can never be guaranteed from Lehman Brothers to volcanic eruptions. Certainty itself is a myth if not a convenient untruth.
As I look up and down my street in a community where I know roughly the traditional political fault lines of the population but not where the new Yes sympathies lie, it is indeed heartening when unexpected faces appear at meetings or ‘like’ the fb page. It emphasizes the huge difference in tenor the Yes campaign already has and if Orkney is a traditionally cautious barometer, it is already showing a quietly solid swing demonstrated by inclusion across many camps. Those who cross the divide do so for good and beyond that there are those waiting and even wanting persuasion.
I have learnt over time that haranguing and street cornering rarely change minds. Persuasion is a long game and not won on point scoring. Argument for ‘arguers’ is a sport which can be entertaining or bloody but isolates those for whom the question is already too obtuse. Persuasion takes place through example, through normalisation of that thought, and an osmosis of inclusive confidence not arrogant paternalism and then finally the desire to identify with the positivity of the can-do group as it becomes the critical mass of accepted opinion.
The simple fact is that running a country is not rocket science, it is perfectly do-able and there will be a place for the obsessive and incisive questioners of the Better Togetherers when it comes to reading through the small print of treaties and negotiating the corporate trip wires of the future. That is where their questioning will best be put to use and where those skills will be roundly welcomed. In the meantime I will swot up on my cache of idiots guide replies to obsessive FB posters adding an emotion of a smiley face in hope that the persistent warmth of the sun will help them to gently unbutton…