Remembering “a man on amphetamines”
It’s not what ‘they’ do that matters, its what ‘we’ do.
When Nicola appeared on UK TV, she was – unlike the others – not pleading with people to vote for her, but representing the settled will of a people. She was representing the direction we are collectively moving in.
She was seeking, and calling for, the settled will of the people of England, asking them to come to their senses, to see through the lies they are told about Scotland, about the SNP, about her, and about themselves.
Despite the media frenzy against her, people in England saw her and us for what she and we are, and she remained the most popular politician in the election, even while the rest of the lies did their work.
People in England are obviously not stupid, nor inherently right wing, but they experience week in/ week out the most ferocious battering of what can only be called propaganda – whether the extreme Daily Mail/ Telegraph/ Sun, or the often insidious (“there is no real alternative”) Guardian/ Independent/ BBC.
A long time ago, in 2009, in an event called Yes Yes Yes in Out of the Blue in Leith, organised by one Mike Small, I heard for the first time “a man on amphetamines”, (who I later learnt was Robin McAlpine) explain very clearly that one of the main reasons why Scotland stood a good chance of achieving independence and beating a path that might inspire other countries to follow, is because we are just not that important on the world stage.
He spoke about how lucky we were to be a small country that doesn’t have a global financial centre in our midst where the wealthy gamble with the wealth we’ve produced, and if they win they take the profits and if they lose we pay their debts. The intensity of propaganda suffered by citizens in England is shocking.
Here in Scotland half the population became extraordinarily educated in how the media and financiers and politicians lie to us, and how to see through it (Rule 1. Begin by assuming that the opposite of what they say is true, and then work backwards to find out what is really true).
Can we convey a few of the lessons we have learnt to a gathering movement down south, to help them realise how to create a rich space between movement building and political action, between a diverse but focused movement and those parties that are able to speak honestly to society as a whole?
3 of the lessons might be:
Live as if you have already won.
We may be up against what can seem to be overwhelming forces, but in reality they persist only for as long as they persuade us that we are powerless. If our meeting, organising and action is a joy, then we’ve already won (however long it takes); if not, then we’ve already lost.
Stop trying to defeat them, start winning them over.
Replacing the vindictive contempt for others with a willingness to travel with them to find out why they/we think as they/we do, deepening our understanding. Instead of the righteous shrinking band of true believers, be an expansive inclusive (“ex-Lab, ex-Lib, ex-UKIP welcome here”) transformation of the landscape from turgid Labour vs Tory, or Nationalist vs Unionist to Realist vs Idealist (economically dynamic social democracy vs those calling for the radical transformation of society).
The most extraordinary moment of last night, for me, was not ‘important’ Labour politicians being replaced by vibrant women, was not Alex Salmond striding to the podium past scores of journalists, nor his brilliant one word answers to Paxman that had the studio in hysterics. It was Nicola walking through the darkness in the middle of the night to the count in Glasgow, being pestered by journalists but responding to their requests as she does to everyone rather than imperiously walking past. Then, most superbly, her being unable to hear or answer Dimbleby’s questions because of the SNP supporters roaring in the background, who she then headed off to join.
When Robin MacAlpine or Ivan McKee or Peter McColl speak their minds, it is a demand to others to think for themselves as much as a rapid-fire transmission of info and analysis.
When Lesley Riddoch speaks, she is as much asking what’s going on, who are you, what are your stories, as transmitting others struggles, successes and solutions from hereabouts or far afield.
When Michael Greenwell, Lesley and Chris, the NewsShaft team, fire up their podcasts, or Mike works another 18 hour day on Bella, it continually makes space for us to be heard, to dialogue, and to create a better society by reminding us that our society is not ‘theirs’ but ‘ours’ (and one which is open to including all of them).
Struggling against the mess and oppression ‘they’ have made succeeds when we have a clear picture of what we are up against, and who we are.
When we are clear that the defences we are up against are built to protect the system (a ‘system’ maintained by peoples’ frightened grabbing defensiveness), and when we refuse to be defined by our opposition to that system, then all this eruption of creativity and communication finds its way like water around the sandcastle of the supposedly powerful, and we know we’re heading in the right direction because we’re already there.