2007 - 2021



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)

replace-fear-of-the-unknown-with-curiosityThe 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.
– Belloc

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.

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  1. This is a must read for all people living in Scotland

  2. Charles Patrick O'Brien says:

    Agreed this is a must read,fear is a very bad way to keep a people down,it can result in an extremely bad outcome as some awaken from the slumbering fear,but without change there can be no progress,and we must change that fear to anger it is the next step and cant be stopped once we have started and yes I think we have started.

  3. wanvote+ says:

    Control by fear has always been and still is a deliberate tactic used by people in power (and those who wish to be in power) worldwide. The lower down the pyramid of power you are the more obvious this is on a daily basis. Austerity is used deliberately to increase the fear factor rather than a serious attempt at “lowering the deficit” or whatever. I agree with everything you say and hope those who still look to the Labour Party for solutions (or pretend to), open their eyes and their minds very soon, for I believe it is this group of “professionals” mainly in the public sector that comprise the “don’t knows” group.

  4. Anne says:

    Great stuff! I love that “replace fear of the unknown with curiosity” thing.

    I’d like to read the Brecht original of the feat dug lines? How do I find it, please?

    1. Thom Cross says:

      Brechts piece was a tree that would not dare to bloom… I’ll find it and post it.

    2. thom cross says:

      The Plum Tree

      A plum tree in the courtyard stands
      so small no one believes it can.
      There is a fence surrounds
      so no one stomps it down.
      The little tree can’t grow
      although it wants to so!
      There is no talk thereon
      and much too little sun.

      No one believes in the tree
      because no plums do they see.
      But it’s a plum tree;
      you can tell by its leaf.
      Bertolt Brecht

      1. Anne says:

        Thank you for taking the trouble, Thom Cross! 🙂 Your “dug” version was terrific too, but I’m a bit addicted to procrastinating by lots of reading. I feel a Brecht fit comning on. Many thanks. 🙂

  5. David McCann says:

    Absolutely brilliant. I will share as widely as possible, as it encapsulates exactly what is at the heart of the independence debate

  6. wanvote says:

    Great post. Gets right to the heart of the current situation. My previous comment got lost as I got myself into a fankle with wordpress (not for the first time). Will circulate this as widely as possible.

  7. felibrilu says:

    I think it’s unwise to discount the value of fear. It’s an effective evolutionary response to jeopardy, intended to help us stay safe. Fear also sharpens the mind and the responses; people experiencing extreme fear often describe ‘ time slowing down’ as they assess their situation. I am fearful of the capacity for people to actually run headlong into a situation without really fully assessing the consequences. Though this purely anecdotal, and therefore not evidential, I have heard friends say on more than one ocassion, ‘well, it’ll be good to have a change’ as a reason for voting ‘yes’. Maybe they’re right and the emotional benefits of a change will be positive , so positive that the inevitable difficulties of transition and independence will be worth it. But making a decision for curiosity value is a no more rational proposition than basing it on fear.

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