In my brother’s garden is a dug.
It stays there awe day, everyday
This dug is feart o leaving
Feart that it micht no be fed
Feart it might no get water
Feart it might get beaten, again
Feart it would lose its collar and its chain.
So it sits thirled to its kennel. Aiways in the dark.
An it disnie even bark.
(After B Brecht)
The Labour Party in its several varieties is no longer the party of working people. It has become the party of the afraid. Vulnerable people in several social contexts vote Labour having been manipulated consciously by the politics of fear, dire warnings, feudalist –like threats that only the barons of Labour will/can ‘look after you’.
Labourism has grown fat on fear particularly in Scotland. Now Scottish Labour and its Tory/Lib Dem chums are playing the fear factor in another guise, contemptuously exploiting fear in Scotland and of Scotland itself through the NO campaign.
London-led politics know so well how to use fear as a psychological driver. Fear has been key a principle of their pernicious strategies for centuries: fear the anti-colonial natives, the’ reds’, the immigrants and now fear Scotland. Now they are deploying their fear mongering in a particularly nasty manner making us fear the face in the mirror. So that we might begin to doubt ourselves. The mirror image they wish to create is one that denies hope and installs dread, unease, apprehension even alarm. Exploiting that ancient psychology used by the powerful over the powerless; ‘you arnie able’; ‘you cannie, your no smart/clever/rich/educated powerful enough’.
Scotland has been staggering with some pain to resolve the quite extraordinary contradiction of being a nation yet not a state. Afraid of being; of being sovereign; of having the right to shape its own reality!
Yet we have a secure sense of cultural identity (but apparently not possessing the capacity to manage the means of realizing this identity through our arts bodies.) We have a genuine sense of shared values supported by viable economic future capable of meeting the material needs of our people, Yet we remain lost in a half-finished limbo world like some semi-colonial dependent region – and like so many ‘a pause, a semi-colon’ (Kamau Brathwaite) ruled with arrogant indifference from London.
So in the face of the very rational case for a democratic liberal sovereignty we receive in response from the No campaign the tawdry stink of fear mongering.
The emotional use of public fear is to create mass public denial of rational analysis; to undermine logical argument. Thus, goes the thinking of this Goebellesque campaign. No amount of rational facts, figures or material justifications should be able to penetrate the great wall of worried disquiet generated, manipulated and fed by No campaign and its supporting media.
So what response should we be receiving from the Yes campaign to this orchestrated ‘black-ops’ styled negative scare mongering of fear of failure, fear of losing ‘mother Westminster, fear of an uncertain future ?
… always keep a hold of nurse, for fear of finding something worse.
Scotland has suffered from what the American scholar Michael Hechter described as internal colonialism in which Scotland (and indeed other Celtic nations within the UK) were seen as periphery, geared ‘to complement’ the core, according to Neil Davidson.A characteristic of internal colonialism borrowed from its imperial cousin is the persistent disparaging of native cultural expression. Overtime and practice this inbred a debilitating almost anti- national consciousness of dependency. VS Naipaul declared infamously that the Caribbean has produced nothing of intellectual substance in the face of ‘Massa Day Done’. (I worked in the Caribbean for thirty years and heard and felt the call of liberation while simultaneously hearing the often authoritative voice of ‘inevitable failure if we leave London/Washington’.
Change is emotionally disruptive, with old beliefs and benefits being threatened with the possibility of uncertainty even confusion. Thus there is created a binary prognosis of its better to stay as you are rather than risk the uncertainty of change. So the Yes campaign tries to reassure by offering as little change of status as possible while desperately trying to project a calm rationale positive, reassuring, balance-sheet approach to the analysis of Scotland’s future. But this reductionist strategy will not succeed.
We need to remember Roosevelt’s fourth freedom; ‘Freedom from fear itself’. Sure we must fight fear with rationality and evidence of successful transformations. Tell us of the success of Scandinavia. Show us the benefits achieved from leaving Westminster by Australia, Canada, Singapore. Explain how small countries like New Zealand or Malaysia or the Bahamas and Barbados have been able to successfully create their own defence forces, pensions’ schemes, civil service, foreign policy etc etc etc. Bring out the intellectuals to explain the hows and the balance sheet benefits like our resource base in oil and renewables, water and land and people and….
But all that will not be enough. We are in age of saturation communication where so much information offers so little assurance. We need to engage with our people around the question of fear itself.
There can be no hope, ambition or development without doubt, uncertainty and yes some fear. That is the challenge of saying YES. YES requires the acknowledgment of the possibility of failure. Otherwise we become the dog in the garden.
The Yes campaign needs to fuse the rationality of facts with the emotional commitment found in faith, hope, cultural confidence, trust, belief, anticipation and courage. We CAN manage our Scotland successfully as we have the talent, determination, skills, and attributes, to make it happen. Above all we have the capacity, the resources and the courage to succeed. Who better to govern Scotland than those who live here of whatever ethnicity.
It this third subjective factor that needs to be part of the Yes campaign. Robert Burns relates significantly that the two books that he read early in life and which he used often as guides and inspiration were the Life of William Wallace and somewhat surprisingly Hannibal. A comprehensive cultural and political commentary on these two choices could tell us much on the life, work and vision of Burns. But apart from the obvious commentary that whereas Wallace offered Burns a heroic ,patriotic national model, Hannibal indicated Burns’ deep sense of internationalism and support for the determined oppressed over the mighty. Reflecting on these two great characters of history empowered Burns. They inspired Burns. To overcome fear we need courage and inspiration. We gain these sentiments when we become empowered. Courage, inspiration and empowerment in the face of fear is not bought in a
bottle or even on-line.
Paulo Freire (Brazilian educator) talks of conscientization as ‘The process of developing a critical awareness of one’s social reality through reflection and action.’ Note reflection AND action are fundamental because together they create the process of providing the cultural confidence necessary to help destroy these acquired debilitating social myths which have such a dominating tendency. – See more at: http://www.freire.org/conscientization
The YES campaign must find the source of these redeeming and enduring social activities so that we longer fear the face in the mirror.