2007 - 2022

Remembering “a man on amphetamines”

yesyesyeswebBy Justin Kenrick

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).

Be real.
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.


Comments (26)

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  1. Frank says:

    And the award for the most sycophantic article. Seriously what’s the point in publishing this?

    1. deewal says:

      Flattery will get you nowhere. 🙂

    2. You may be on the wrong page.

    3. Dervon says:

      sounds to me like a totalitararian sect offering. Sorry. Diversity is alright.

    4. Saor Alba says:

      Identical comment to one he made before on another article.
      Seems short on ideas.
      Beam him up Scotty.

      1. Dervon says:

        Having trouble with your Anglicized name my dear chap. Please, don’t be bitter.

    5. Francojock says:

      Dearie me,
      Sorry, if I thought your banal comment had any merit, I’d stir myself long enough to ridicule you……but that might undo all the good work of your care team !!!

      1. Dervon says:

        ad hominem, francojock. I find nothing so banal.

    6. Squirrel Towers says:

      Great article Justin, my timeline is awash with devastated friends who live down south and I will link to this. I think we need to support people who want to develop an alternative dialogue.

  2. Eman says:

    A great article – tapadh leat Justin

  3. Saor Alba says:

    Thanks Justin. A superb article, the point of which I can readily see.

  4. ELAINE FRASER says:

    Tonight someone, who voted No last September, asked me why most of the country had voted SNP last night . I thought where do I start and as usual I found myself mentioning Lesley Riddoch and Blossom ;Bella and Commonweal. He’d never heard of them . I for one Im glad I can point folk to these sources for information and Im really grateful for somewhere to turn to try and make sense of whats just happened and what might be next. I thought this piece by Justin was well written and on the money and yes complimentary to Bella etc – so what? Credit where credits due . I for one, don’t think I would feel anywhere near as informed /empowered as I do now , if not for Robin McAlpine, Mike Small , Lesley Riddoch and many many others .

    1. davidmccann24 says:

      My thoughts exactly Elaine. I am copying the link to this article to my nephew in England, who is devasted at the result of the election.

    2. Squirrel Towers says:

      I agree a great summary of the massive amount of work folk do to enable alternative discussions to happen, to encourage and to gather around to discuss our thoughts.

  5. douglas clark says:

    I think our identity is Scottish, and it surrounds a massive legacy of caring as much about others as ourselves.

    That’s what I think.

    Apart from that there has been an incredible raising of conciousness across the entire blogosphere, to that extent I completely agree with Elaine Fraser, above. But it is to the electorate that we must raise a glass. They have not been fooled about the direction of travel of the UK and have voted against it.

  6. Elspeth says:

    Thank you. I needed that.

  7. Clootie says:

    Good article, very thought provoking – thank you.

  8. If we were not “US” we would have been absorbed over the last thousand years
    An outcome the English mandarins have pursued but failed to deliver, unable to overwhelm the indomitable Scottish psyche.

    1. Gary Sinclair says:

      A very good point well made. 😉

  9. emilytom67 says:

    Huge article and yes hope over despair has been the focal point,we here in Scotland have so many and diverse branches to our tree these branches will keep the tree strong/straight.Kowledge knowledge knowledge is the weapon we have at hand,it is there at the press of a button giving us information nearer to the truth than we will ever get from the msm,there are so many alternative info feeds covering almost everything going on in the world to-day and a helluva lot of it makes you despair of/for mankind,but there is also a lot of hope.It should be written in stone that the truth must always be told to the people.Alba go bragh.

  10. Katrina Ann MacGregor says:

    Enjoyed this very much…tks


  11. Elaine Black says:

    Justin, this is so ‘on the money’ there is nothing left to say. 🙂 Also copied to my devastated Labour friends in England.

  12. Darien says:

    You don’t necessarily need to read to appreciate cultural and societal differences or similarities, just look and listen. My first recollections of travelling between Scotland and England was seeing very different types of buildings and widespread use of bricks in England, and the very different language and voices. England has therefore always been a foreign nation to me, which made voting SNP for the past 40 years a rather easy and obvious choice; why should anyone vote for an artificial construct of a nation? And when I travelled internationally, I encountered great similarities in language, and construction, and in law between the Scots and other nations. So I could see Scots having far more in common with the Nordic nations and the Low Countries than with England. One does not need to read anything to appreciate the great cultural differences between Scotland and England, or the cultural similarities between Scotland and other European nations. Language and culture develops through interaction (trade and travel), and for 1,000 years and more our interaction was less with a hostile England and more with our European neighbours. Our increased interaction with England is a relatively recent phenomenon primarily due to transport developments over the past 100 years.

    1. Darien says:

      “Our increased interaction with England is a relatively recent phenomenon primarily due to transport developments over the past 100 years” and the blatant suppressive anti-Scots Anglicisation strategy of the BBC of course.

  13. Maeve (anthropology graduate) says:

    Another insightful & inspiring piece, thanks Justin 🙂

  14. Barry Graham says:

    Good article, but let’s not fall into the sexist, patronising habit of referring to female politicians by their first names. Calling her Nicola isn’t far from “wee lassie.” It’s no way to talk about the First Minister, and I didn’t see it happen to Salmond.

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