I’m trying to get my head around the weariness and antagonism of the referendum campaign. Lots of people (on all sides and none) are bored and angry: saltired. Not a good combination. The Susan Calman issue – perhaps overblown and over-hyped by those seeking to benefit from it – was nevertheless hugely depressing.
You’re going to threaten Susan Calman? Really? Are you? Susan Calman? Then you’re going to defend it or explain it? Really? Count me out of that brigade. What’s the Goldman quote? “If I can’t dance to it, it’s not my revolution” should be turned to “If I can’t laugh, it’s not my revolution”.
It doesn’t matter that it’s asymmetrical (you wouldn’t ever get a show calling English people tramps), nor does it matter that many Scots comics seem lost in a fog of their own cultural self-hatred or hapless need for ingratiation – a phenomenon of which there’s a long and inglorious tradition. Nor does it matter that the uniformly hostile press and broadcast media churns out semi-racist and abusive anti-Scottish material with dreary regularity (the Any Questions? clip here’s a beaut)
It’s time for the independence movement to move on and stop the push-button responses to infantile unionist baiting. Let’s have a lightness of spirit and re-set the agenda onto what we can do, what we will do and what we hope for. This is difficult in a context when everyday you wake up to a diet of – as one person put it on twitter: “I wonder what we’ll be incapable of today?”
And that’s a problem. But the alternative forums and spaces that are being created need to be ones where creativity and positive ideas flourish not backwaters of resentment.
It’s no wonder people are angry. Austerity Unionism isn’t working. That’s not the point.
We need a massive blood transfusion of humour and empathy into the Yes campaign at all levels. Because ‘attacking’ the No campaign doesn’t work, what will work is engaging with the people who genuinely don’t know, are unsure or who are feeling confused. It’s okay to not-know yet. This is a big decision and we have to reckon with a history of self-doubt and a daily diet of doubt-mongering.
How do you engage with people? You have a conversation, not a broadcast of your own views and you try and think and feel what it is in them that you feel provoked by.
Jamie Heckert has written:
If you aren’t willing to listen to the Other, the one who is different from you—because you fear that person or what she or he represents, you’ll pay for it. The monster that you’re projecting onto the other person will get bigger and more terrifying, because your fear will feed it. If you turn away at a stage when you could have listened and spoken in a responsible and nonviolent way, there’ll be a violent explosion that will harm you and the other person. The monster you’ve created isn’t going to go away—it’s going to go on tripping you up until you deal with it.
Psychobabble? Not really. It could be a winning political strategy. Means and ends are essential. Another Emma Goldman quote springs too mind:
“I don’t care if a man’s theory for tomorrow is correct,” she once wrote. “I care if his spirit of today is correct.”