It’s Time – to Listen to Our Elders

poll-tax-scotlandEnthused by the upcoming Radical Independence Conference, Scotland is once again buzzing about the possibility of another #Indy Referendum. At the moment, the busy bees are mostly online. The crucial debate is about how to engage ‘the grey vote’, i.e. how to stop the ‘old dears’ worrying about their pensions. Although some voices are raised in defence of these fears (at the last Referendum the ambiguity of both sides concerning post-Independence economics was widely criticised) no-one is questioning this language. (There are some voices raised against the more recent vilification of older voters in the EU Referendum.) Instead, various strategies are being put forward to convince our elders that their fears are groundless. No-one is suggesting that we listen to them. What could our elders possibly know about economics, about risk, about national identity, about independence?

Those now in their 80s will remember WW2 and those a decade younger the economic hardship afterwards, the gender injustice caused by monied class interests as factory owners rehired returning servicemen and sacked their women workers. Those now in their 60s remember that ‘flower power’ was what caused the bloodless revolution in Portugal – when every radio station played Land of Hope and Glory to celebrate the courage of soldiers putting carnations in the muzzle of their guns and refusing to fire on their people. All of these people will remember marching in the first CND demonstrations, joining the protests at Aldermaston, at Greenham Common, at Faslane. These were the decades of the ecumenical movement, which laid the basis for anti-sectarian understanding. Our elders protested against the Falklands War; in the late 80’s one in five people in Scotland defied the Tories by refusing to pay the Poll Tax. These are the people who are being disparaged today; being told to shut up and listen.

 in the late 80’s one in five people in Scotland defied the Tories by refusing to pay the Poll Tax. These are the people who are being disparaged today; being told to shut up and listen.

I first encountered ageism at Stirling University, when was in my 30s. I already had a few degrees, was fluent in several languages having lived and taught abroad, and founded the university capoeira club. The president of the sports union told me to get myself nominated for a ‘blue’ but I was too diffident to ask someone to do that. So the shaming and contempt I experienced (in public, not in private) from, mostly, younger gay men, came as a great shock to me. I’d just come back from Brazil and most of my teaching was done in Latin cultures in which elders have a respected place in the family home. I was a member of the Afro-Caribbean Society and found my black friends refreshingly free of ageism. I still do.

There are many psychological reasons for our phobias and some may have a basis in prudence (it took me a while to get used to spiders when I first returned to the UK) but ageism must surely be the most stupid of all prejudices: we are despising a person that we have already been or are (hopefully) becoming. Ageism can also be internalised and it is no news to say that women especially are under tremendous pressure from the cosmetics industry to erase any sign of ageing. This phobia is not now confined to women, a gay friend (tall, handsome and athletic, with a partner, good family relationship, his own house, a secure well-paid job and good friends) sabotaged plans for his 30th birthday because he was ashamed to be that old. With heterosexual men becoming increasingly objectified in the media, ageist self-hatred is on the rise among all young White, Northern Europeans and in their cultural diaspora. Which, as young people become more and more globalised, means everywhere.

“Valar morghulis”, quotes one of the characters in George RR Martin’s deftly-written series A Games of Thrones (don’t just watch it, read it!): all of us will die. And many of us will fall ill in the process. And our elders are more prone to illness and death. So we shun them. These people and these inconvenient truths. Yet folktale after folktale warn about what happens when we get rid of the old folk, when we do not heed their warnings about what is to come – because nothing is new under the sun. Miss Marple is not alone in thinking that when you live in a wee village, you understand the world.

“Valar morghulis”, quotes one of the characters in George RR Martin’s deftly-written series A Games of Thrones (don’t just watch it, read it!): all of us will die. And many of us will fall ill in the process. And our elders are more prone to illness and death. So we shun them. These people and these inconvenient truths. Yet folktale after folktale warn about what happens when we get rid of the old folk

It’s not time to tell our elders that their fears are groundless: it’s time to listen to them. Not just to their fears but also to their hopes and dreams; to their life experience. The Scottish Government made a huge blunder over their forced imposition of the hugely unpopular and draconian Named Person scheme – the massive public opposition to which united conservative Christians and radical civil liberties activists. Now, belatedly, and with absolutely no apology, they have launched a national survey, so they can listen (and email spam as there’s no opt-out).

The Radical Independence movement needs to stop equating youth and innovation with virtue, and old age and tradition with prejudice. The energy and enthusiasm of the young is a wonderful resource for an independent Scotland (that I and my 90 year-old mother will be voting for); so is the life experience and wisdom of the old.

 

Comments (29)

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  1. Crubag says:

    The National Survey isn’t a Scottish Government initiative, it’s an SNP initiative, though you could be forgiven for missing the usual party logos and branding. They’ve been taken off.

    On your main point, I don’t think it makes sense to target old people, any more than women – who were narrowly, majority No, according to the poll.

    Voters are individual and the message needs to be inclusive enough to reach them. In the case of indy, what is probably missing most at the moment is a centre-right grouping to make the argument for a smaller state – which was the trajectory of the new states in the east.

    1. Chris Downie says:

      There were several right of centre voices for independence during the last campaign (Wealthy Nation, Scottish Democratic Alliance) and a few more are emerging (Scottish Libertarian Party, Michael Fry). The YES media and campaign simply choose not to give them much time. Huge mistake. If we cannot be grown-up, admit this fight transcends traditional left/right dichotomy and give a decent platform to them all, then we don’t deserve to win the fight to be a fledgling democracy.

      Imho, it is only when Scotland clearly displays a true spectrum of pro-indy voices, that it will have demonstrated it is undeniably ready for independence.

    2. Doug Daniel says:

      Well yeah, they wanted a smaller state because they’d just spent decades under communist rule. Independent Estonia having a smaller state than Estonia under the USSR is not really comparable to independent Scotland having a smaller state than Scotland under Tory Westminster rule…

  2. Frank says:

    I think one of the reasons why Rise sank without a trace was that it didn’t appeal to anyone over 30.

  3. Edward Andrews says:

    Any an old man – well over 70 I agree totally. Just after the Referendum I remember falling out with someone who was going great guns about the oldies loosing us the Referendum. They didn’t, it was just that they were cultivated by the Yoonis and threatened with their pensions. Some were silly enough to believe them or wanted to maintain the Status quo, or had fought for Queen and Country, but then I got exactly the same story from 40 somethings.
    If we believe that Scotland is an open inclusive society we can’t demonise one section and write them off. They are the ones who we have to campaign to change their minds.
    I was out today working on a By-election there were 5 of us 4 of us 0ver 60. One of the younger 60 + year olds said that of coursed we are the people who will need to die off before Scotland gets Independence. Aye Right.

  4. MBC says:

    I got a friend aged 95 to sign the petition about TTIP because I took the time to explain to her what it was all about. Once she grasped that foreign multinationals could sue a democratically elected government because they were trying to improve the lot of their own people, she signed without hesitation.

    Her generation fought WW2 to protect the liberty of future generations.

    Generations need to talk to one another more. We are not so different in our values.

  5. Richard MacKinnon says:

    ” i.e. how to stop the ‘old dears’ worrying about their pensions”.
    Its not my pension I’m worried about its the Edinburgh Agreement signed by David Cameron and Alex Salmond in 2012. It stated that both sides will respect the outcome of the 2014 referendum. So that’s my worry how can Scotland hold another referendum and be true to its word?

    1. Donald McGregor says:

      Don’t fret – I think we’ve respected it until everything changed.

      1. Richard MacKinnon says:

        Donald,
        Of course I fret. I am an honourable man. How can we go back on the Edinburgh Agreement? Salmond signed it in our name. In the name of all Scots that participated. We have to respect it or else it will be the indyref2 Scots that will be seen as a parcel of rogues.

        1. Gralloched says:

          The Edinburgh agreement has been interpreted by the establishment and their media to mean that nobody alive in Scotland today is ever allowed to utter the fell word “independence ” until the day they die. ” Once in a generation ! Once in a generation ! ” is the screech.
          Who actually said that ? Where ? When ? In what context ?
          As an Englishman I’m invited to believe that the entire people of Scotland were lined up and forced to sign a mighty oath, in blood, upon a stack of Bibles or whatever that the very thought of independence would never cross their minds until the day they die. Really ?

  6. Eleanor Ferguson says:

    I am a 64 year old and along with my 68 year old husband who was a business analyst before retirement, we are very much pro independence and our friends who are around the same age were about equally divided during the vote for in 2014.
    Perhaps older people are more cautious but are just as capable of thinking things through as younger people. Most people would rather things just bumped along as usual until things become so bad that we start to feel angry either on our own behalf or on behalf of other people whose suffering begins to impinge on our consciences-as in the UK Government’s benefits ‘reforms’ and their policies on refugees and now being over ruled in the latest referendum. There is more of a realisation that as part of the UK we have no power over our own affairs. We are not intrinsically different in some of our attitudes, but our government is so much more responsible in the way it talks about immigrants and benefit claimants than the UK government that we seem to be so much more civilised and that is what will eventually get through to people no matter what their ages are.

  7. Alan McManus says:

    Thanks for your correction, Crubag, and to everyone commenting for supportive points. On keeping one’s word, I agree this is laudable. However the broken unionist last minute ‘vow’ conned the people of Scotland and in any case no politician has the right to stop the self-determination of the people – especially when circumstances have clearly changed.

  8. David Sangster says:

    Another political landmark for my generation was Devolution. I was 55 in ’99, and well remember the feeling of joy that Scotland was recognised as a political entity for the first time in three centuries. I think this may be a further reason for the reluctance of the over-55s to embrace independence : we saw Scotland transformed by Devolution, and,crucially, also bought into the idea that it was not simply a one-off event but the beginning of a process. We understood that successive Scottish governments would continue to wring concessions from Westminster and press persistently for transfer of more powers into the hands of Holyrood.

    It didn’t happen. The Labour party rested on its laurels, and in any case were too preoccupied with their internal affairs to pay attention to the interests of the country. In the end they couldn’t even cling to power. In sailed the SNP with Independence nailed to the masthead, with the result that any furtherance of Devolution dropped off the agenda. I suspect that had Devo-max been on the paper in 2014 we oldies would have gone for it in droves. If Indyref2 does take place in 2018 it comes at the end of almost twenty wasted years during which the country could have advanced step by step towards independence in all but name. We’ll be too old for it to matter. Like Labour we’ll be proccupied with our internal affairs.

    1. Donald McGregor says:

      It’s quite startling how mention of the 97 referendum/99 parliament brings back the shock and joy of those years…
      I was 40 then, and everything was possible. A journey indeed, as you say.
      Not perhaps got as far as we might, (hah!) but once around the bay allows some at least to dream of far shores.

  9. Bill McDermott says:

    # Richard MacKinnon

    Come off it! That is an old canard worthy of the worst of the Unionists. When Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon made mention of the “once in a generation” importance of the vote on September 18, 2014 they were actually referring to the life changing importance of it. They were not laying down the law for everybody else to obey.

    Anyway, we now have a definitive definition of “generation” in the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland where it refers to 7 years as the interval between votes.

    The SG has said all along that it will be the Scottish people who will determine that interval. Live with it please.

    1. Richard MacKinnon says:

      Bill,
      I am happy to ‘live with it’. The result was conclusive.
      If you think a generation is 7 years I suggest it is you that is finding a problem ‘living with it’.

  10. Catherine McRorie says:

    Most pensioners put the interest of future generations above their own and are open to listening to the young. MSM has influenced older generation who are not using social media. More needs to be done to inform them.Spoke to 2 last week & had never heard of McCrone report, still believed Scot was too poor to manage on its own.They still watch @BBC for info our biggest enemy

  11. Lochside says:

    Richard McKinnon…why are you on here? You are a stubborn, committed Unionist. Your mindset is one of a British Nationalist, with complete disdain for the concept of Scottishness and its right to self determination. A strange conclusion about a nation of a 1000 years existence, with almost the exact borders from that time. But you ‘re entitled to hang on to your cognitive dissonance as no doubt your world would collapse if Scotland joined the rest of the world in being an independent state.

    I once thought like you, but Thatcher; the rigged 1979 Referendum;the McCrone Report; the theft of 6000 sq. miles of Scottish water; the racist abuse of Scots and Scotland by English politicians and media ever since the rise of the SNP ; and the gradual awakening, the growing consciousness that my nationality was regarded as insignificant, subordinate and plain inconvenient by my ‘fellow’ Britons… itself a bogus identity created to suppress and ultimately wipe us, the Scots, out of history.

    I’ve learned to understand that love of self and national identity is infinitely preferable to self loathing and supinity to another nation.

    1. Richard MacKinnon says:

      Lochside,
      I once thought like you. I voted Yes in 2014. But the fact is the majority voted No and as a democrat I accept their decision. The Edinburgh Agreement was signed by Alex Salmond Scotland’s First Minister, in our name, it has to be respected.
      Why am I here? you ask. I feel I need to explain these facts and what they mean. Apart from that, why should I not be here? Is it because you only want to hear from peolpe you agree with Lochside? If that is the case you wont learn anything.
      ‘Cognitive dissonance’ I dont know what it means, but I know this, if Scottish nationalists think they can ignore the 2014 result and hold another referendum they are mistaken. Scottish unionists will not accept its legitimacy and nor should they.
      I have said all this before and I think it will require to be repeated. The irony is a lot of Yes voters including SNP leaders understand this. They just hav’nt worked out what to do next.

  12. Bill McDermott says:

    #Richard MacKinnon

    It is not me who finds it hard to accept the 7 years diktat. It is you, you numbskill. This is your unionist government’s doing, not mine.

    1. Richard MacKinnon says:

      Bill,
      I think you mean ‘numbskull’.
      If your going to insult someone at least get the spelling right, or else people will start to ask themselves, who exactly is the numbskull here?

  13. Alan McManus says:

    Lochside I completely agree with all of your points, apart from your (shall we say) robust critique of Richard. Maybe you two have crossed swords before and therefore you have experience of this stubborn disdain/ cognitive dissonance you speak of but I feel his defence of politicians’ promises and a one-time narrow majority decision was articulated clearly (and politely) and has been answered. My experience with political comment is that coherent dialectic is inversely related to aggression. That said, I quite understand how heartfelt your response is. It may be that Richard’s is too. If we want to change hearts and minds, we need to attend to both.

  14. Lochside says:

    Richard MacKinnon, you say you voted ‘YES’ in 2014 and conclude that as ‘we’ lost, meaning, I’m guessing here, that the argument is over. For a democrat, as you claim to be, that is a nonsensical belief. Should the Conservatives in Scotland stop being ‘contenders’ for power, despite not having a majority for 60 years? Of course not. It could be argued, erroneously, that their particular tide is turning, but they are entitled to exist and to argue for the ‘society’ and subject status of Scotland within the British Union. They are not, however, entitled to force Scottish citizens of Europe out of the European Union against their express will in the EU Referendum.

    I know you will argue that it was an all ‘British’ Referendum. This ignores that the recognition of the 1707 Act of Union was implicit in allowing the Scottish Referendum to take place soley in Scotland. The recognition that Scotland only could vote on it , as one part of the British Union, in dissolving that partnership unilaterally. Under the same conditions, Scotland’s constitutional standing meant that it could not be coerced out of the EU Union against its will. That is why the UK government did not enforce a all UK vote ignoring national differences.

    The point is: Scotland remains one part of a UK Union. That Union can,and will in my opinion, be dissolved at a date in the near future. This is legally and democratically acceptable to all but resolute British Unionists. This will depend on Scotland’s people to decide as and when and as often as they wish. As for suggesting that I don’t wish to hear your arguments, not true. I am happy for debate. I do not want to be told by you or anybody else the assertion that some people ‘won’t accept’ us having another legitimate Referendum. If you can explain how and why, I would be interested. Also, if the Tories, the unrepresentative and unelected, by Scotland, decide to cut or wipe out the Barnett Formula, and expect Scotland’s population to compensate this by increasing our taxes, and continue to asset strip our country, would you still believe that we would have no right to vote to dissolve this perfidious Union?

    1. Richard MacKinnon says:

      Lochside,
      I know you don’t want to hear that some people won’t accept another referendum but that is what will happen, I think, if the SNP go ahead and hold one.
      Look at the evidence. It is only 3 months since the EU/UK referendum and already the unionist parties in Scotland seem to be dead against a rerun of 2014. With the result in June so divided between Scotland and England, where all of Scotland by region voted to Remain and England voted to Leave you might have thought that at least Labour and Lib Dem parties in Scotland would have been supportive of indyref2 as an option but it doesn’t seem as if that is what is happening. It looks as if they are going to keep the unionist/nationalist division alive.
      So ask your self Lochside, what would you do if you were in Theresa May’s fancy shoes, if Nicola Sturgeon calls a referendum next year or the year after?
      Do you acknowledge it as legitimate, sign an Edinburgh Agreement no.2. Speak to Ruth Davidson and get her to set up another Better Together with Kezia and Willie and hope that they are better organised than the last one.
      or.
      Do you say go to the SNP ‘go ahead but we are not taking part, we won last time’. I can imagine Ruth Davidson would love that role, Chief pointer outer of the farce that is a one sided referendum, but this time sitting in the comfortable seats, on the side lines. That is the important bit, mockery and ridicule without technically participating. And then the result. Lets be generous and say 90% Yes 10% No, but that is unimportant if the turnout is 35% or less. (even 35 % is unrealistic, 17-20% will never vote and if the 55% in 2014 are persuaded and don’t vote, the turnout could be in the 20s).
      Lochside, I know this is difficult for you to read but believe me the SNP leaders are fully aware of this scenario. In fact it is people like yourself that can cause them no end of problems in your continual and unrelenting demand for a second referendum.

  15. Lochside says:

    Richard MacKinnon,
    As you have chosen to ignore my core points that democracy is at stake here, I will address your two main points:(1) I do accept some people do not want another Referendum, it’s just that their view is undemocratic. We don’t just have one general election. We have one every 5 years. The reason? people are entitled under a democratic system to change their minds, and thus a period is allowed to elapse to enable change if they desire it. That’s why, with a majority of MPs and a majority of MSPs including the pro Ref Greens, we are entitled as a partner in the UK to demand a plebiscite in view of the unilateral decision to remove Scotland from the EU.

    Your other point regarding low numbers if a referendum 2 is called is fatuous. What you are suggesting is non compliance in a legitimate Ref. People are entitled to not vote, even abstain deliberately. But I would suggest you look at the last time the UK tried this: the 1979 Referendum. Only 32.9% actually voted. The UK brought in a 40% minimum threshhold for the vote. And despite a victory by ‘YES’ it was put aside. This fuelled the process that you Richard are uncomfortably experiencing. People in Scotland were ‘beaten’ not just by ‘No’s
    , but by the ill, the absent, the dead etc. This undemocratic gerrymandering will not be tolerated ever again. If the loathsome Davidson persuades all 20% of her vote and the remaining 10% SLAB ‘loyalists’ not to vote…well hell mend them. They will only be demonstrating their hostility and self loathing towards their country and its people.

    1. Richard MacKinnon says:

      Lochside,
      Im going to cut and past a couple of extracts from your last comment to show you, why your logic is more than flawed it contradicts itself.
      “I do accept some people do not want another Referendum, it’s just that their view is undemocratic.” and,
      “Your other point regarding low numbers if a referendum 2 is called is fatuous. What you are suggesting is non compliance in a legitimate Ref. People are entitled to not vote, even abstain deliberately”.
      Please dont say I’m quoting you out of context. I am not. All I am trying to do is explain real politic.
      You and all the other diehards on Bella and Wings are so far out of touch with reality you are becoming a major problem for the SNP. Please believe me, I dont deliberately go out of my way to sound smug, I just cant help it. But that is funny. And I know that is an irony too far at this point for you Lochside to comprehend, but give it time, you will get it.
      Also it has to be said, your description of Ruth Davidson is out of order.

  16. Alan McManus says:

    Richard and Lochside, I think it would be amazing if you two co-wrote an article for Bella on these points, in the form of a debate. You’ve proved that you can listen to each other (and listening is the point of my blog post) and a clear, respectful articulation of point and counterpoint might save a lot of inarticulate insult online and in person. Not least in relation to the forthcoming RIC. It would also mean that anyone wishing to comment here on ageism in Scottish politics and society may do so without taking sides/ refereeing your very valuable debate.

  17. Lochside says:

    Richard MacKinnon: I will not dispute your cut and paste job. Like all diehard Unionists, rather than answer my points about democracy and the suggestion of blocking it by refusing to allow or countenance a further referendum, you try to take my comments out of context. Which is a deliberate ploy of avoidance of the questions.
    The two quotes are not illogical in the context that I made them. You accuse me of being ‘out of order’ in my description o fRuth Davidson. It was not. She is. And I refrained from using the description that I would like to of someone that I believe is an opportunist who will not hesitate to stoop to any stunt or lie to accelerate her career.
    You question my intelligence and understanding of irony. This tactic is symptomatic of someone suffering from cognitive dissonance. I suggest you look it up and ruminate on its meaning. It may illuminate your resolute and unquestioning resistance to a clear argument for the democratic process e.g Indyref2 that is legitimately challenging the question of sovereignty,not just of Scotland, but of the future R.U.K. That is realpolitik, not the grubby gerrymandering of British Unionism that you appear to support.

    I will end my contribution on this subject here, as I feel that as you are unwilling to answer any of my salient points, I do not wish to descend into repetition. One last point: if you find your ribs busting at misled ‘diehards’, such as I, causing the SNP problems with some hidden agenda that you appear to believe they have. Then go ahead and wet yourself into the bargain. If the SNP renege on the REF2 promise, then they will pay the price electorally…that’s what you call democracy.

  18. Alan McManus says:

    This informed and interesting appraisal of the legal status of the Edinburgh Agreement, written before the Indy Ref, may help. In conflict resolution, changing perspective from particular to general (or vice-versa) often does. The language is detached but interesting for all that: http://www.scottishconstitutionalfutures.org/OpinionandAnalysis/ViewBlogPost/tabid/1767/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/431/Christine-Bell-The-Legal-Status-of-the-Edinburgh-Agreement.aspx

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