It’s entirely appropriate on the day that Scottish Women’s Aid and Zero Tolerance protest outside the parliament about the Bill Walker fiasco that we look at Testosterone Democracy and the UK. OK?
From the perpetual need to ‘punch above our weight’ in foreign affairs (a process grimly documented by A.T. Williams and Iain Cobain) to the desire to Frack ourselves senseless to apparent need according to George Osborne for us to rely on Britain’s ‘broad shoulders’ (“Scottish independence: Osborne paints grim picture” ) – it’s all British Bulldogs and Boys Toys.
From Angus Robertson’s revelations that until recently the UK MOD trained Assad military personnel (and sold nerve gas chemicals to Syria in January) to poor old Ruth Davidson’s reconnoitering in fatigues in the TA to next year’s Armed Forces Day in Stirling, it’s all relentlessly macho stuff.
From advertising our armed services as toys and child recruitment by the Ministry of Defense to the shameful celebration of Gameboy-style celebrity feudalism (in which women play the role of brood mares and the men play the exultant role of Playboy Princes) to re-presenting Ali Ismail Abbas as a good-news story on the telly to the revelations from Paul Lewis and Rob Evans about the British police operating off the leash as the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), part of Special Branch targetting female protesters and forming close personal – sexual – relationships with them, it’s all brutal stuff.
Then there are the constant themes of entrenched British militarism, from the desperate need for Trident and all it means for global power and prestige, to the rush to judgement on Syria and the desperate bellowing desires to unload a bunch of $3 million missiles into Syria to blow stuff up.
The theme that links these actions and moral atrocities from the acutely personal to the state-run – from Bill Walker to the Special Demonstration Squad – is a society and a democracy unaccountable and out of control in which violence and a lack of thought is allowed to override everything. Perhaps the the apogee of this phenomenon is in our possession of WMD (all of which are in Scotland).
As the former vice-president of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Judge Christopher Weeramantry, offered in a devastating and eloquent indictment of the possession, development and threatened use of nuclear weapons:
The self-appointed nuclear policemen of the world need to realise how their actions totally destroy their credibility; there cannot be one law for some and another law for others. The right of nations such as Scotland to challenge the deployment of weapons which threaten their people, their environment and future generations is undeniable, Anti-nuclear civil resistance is the right of every citizen of this planet. For the nuclear threat, attacking as it does every core concept of human rights, calls for urgent and universal action for its prevention.
Writing for Bella in 2012 Brian Quail wrote:
Today at Coulport, we have the biggest arsenal of nuclear missiles in Europe. Why? Because we are British. We are home to the world’s most powerful machine for the mass killing of human beings, Trident. Why? Because we are British. We pay a terrible price for being “together” with England in the imperial British state. Time for a divorce.
We suffer from the most powerful and effective form of control; that is, the oppression which is internal and self-imposed. This is so effective, it does not even recognise itself as oppression, but sees it as self-definition. We are proud to be British, and independence is a denial of Britishness. So, we accept our allocated subservient role proudly and dutifully.
Writing in The Coracle for the Iona Community, Brian wrote: “Since its formation in 1707, the British state has been inherently, congenitally and irredeemably an imperialist political construct. Trident is the ultimate symbol of this Britishness.”
But we know all this.
On the caring-sharing side we have – perhaps incredulously – Gordon Brown popping up a little like a latter-day David Jannsen – in Govan this week at a secret meeting to espouse (in terms worthy of Finbar Saunders) that a ‘Constitutional Pillar’ could be erected and, even stranger that “The purpose of the Union is to pool resources”.
In 2006 Gordon was interviewed by New Woman (yes!) arguing that apparently no other nation can match us for national mourning. “I think we come together as one people like no other country … as we did following the deaths of Princess Diana and the Queen Mother,” he told the magazine.
Now Gordon from all accounts of his time in No 10 and No 11 isn’t perhaps best known as Mr Touchy Feely.
But Douglas Alexander is. He’s the poster boy for a post-Smith Christian Socialism. He’s the guy who’s held up his hands and said “I got it all wrong about negative campaigning”. He’s the guy who’s all ‘submerged optimism and female voters’.
He even had the good sense to reflect with some honesty in 2011 about the state of the Labour failure (‘Alexander: Labour has failed Scotland’).
Earlier this year he made great play of arguing that we all move away from “hate-filled outpourings” – a view only marginally undermined by the fact that he also explained he deeply regretted that he was the mastermind behind previous extremely negative campaigning in 1999.
Anyway, if anyone was to steer the No campaign away from its relentlessly aggressive macho posturing on a tide of Fourth Wave Feminism, it’ surely Douglas?
Writing in Third Way magazine (Christian comment on culture) he writes:
The referendum is an opportunity to reaffirm the shared endeavour of sustaining a just and tolerant society across these islands and to uphold the idea of neighbourliness.
This rather insipid vision is fatally undermined by the inconvenience of something called reality. As the Bedroom Tax exposes the ongoing problem of the Feeble 50 (now the Feeble 41) a report from March this year – the The Breadline Britain Poverty and Social Exclusion report, the largest and most authoritative study of poverty and deprivation ever conducted in the UK suggested that levels of poverty in Scotland are worse than they have been for 30 years, according to a new report, which claims 29% of Scots lack three or more of the necessities for basic living.
Speaking to 2700 people in Scotland and more than 14,000 across the UK, a team including urban studies experts at Glasgow and Heriot-Watt universities, identified a list of the essentials members of the public thought everyone should be able to afford and which no-one should have to go without, such as money for a winter coat and shoes, a warm dry home, or the ability to eat an adequate diet.
This grim reality can’t really be made to sit side by side with the picture of ‘neighbourliness’ and a ‘just and tolerant society’ painted by Douglas Alexander. It just doesn’t work any more to equate Britain with justice and fairness. Who are we comparing ourselves with? Who are we kidding?
All of which finally takes us to George Osborne, today, in Aberdeen with all his neighbourliness for which he’s so well known. He said – in terms that are a bit less neighbourly (unless you’re at No 7 and Freddy Krueger lives next door?):
Even if you were getting all the money from Scottish oil, you’d have to make big, big cuts – 5% of the GDP – to your education budget, to your health budget, before you could even start putting money into an oil fund.
James Murray, editor of Business Green pointed out today that Osborne’s speech is a great example of what George Monbiot recently called resource testeria :
Extraction is an ideology, gendered and gendering, pursued independently of economic purpose. As Cameron says, without shale gas “we could lose ground in the tough global race.”(14) It doesn’t matter whether the race is worth running. It doesn’t matter that it’s a race towards mutually assured destruction, through manmade climate change. The point is that it’s tough and a race. And that’s all a politician needs to feel like a man.
Now George might have good family motivations to consider – but the time for this unaccountable, unelected and out of control British democracy is over. It’s time for better. Let’s start with Walker and end up with an ethical foreign policy based on common values and not the endless posturing of the failed male elite.