The Deliberate Ambiguity of the War Pigs
In the time of a pandemic, when it is clear what the real enemy of humanity is, Bojo the World King’s decision to expand the Trident nuclear arsenal appears to be perverse in the extreme. As is Dominic Raab’s mitigation of it by announcing that “democracy is under attack”, that it is “in retreat”. He should cheer up. No matter how much he is determined to supress voting in Scotland, by attacking it and forcing an independence referendum into retreat by denying it, he should take heart that every year between 50 and 70 national elections are held around the world—an average of more than one every week! Maybe there is a clue here to our future, post-independence, Scottish democracy – we should have a parliamentary election every year and a referendum about something (anything) every week? How long before they introduce a vaccine to stop us voting SNP?
What this latest set of gum bashing by two of the most untrustworthy politicians ever to cross the threshold of the House of Commons shows, yet again, is that the Conservative Party, the elite (who rule over us) and the upper classes in general, are incapable of learning anything. They are only in power because they have the most money. That is the “democracy” Dominic Raab fears is under attack and is “in retreat”. The one Bojo will defend through Armageddon with his new nukes. The one that allows them to become even richer as the rest of us struggle to survive this Year of the Pest. Making themselves richer is all they know. It is, after all, what they are in power to do.
Johnson and Raab, as they ramp up their New Cold War rhetoric, are keen to tell us that the “real enemy” and the most profound existential threat to “our democracy” is Russia, China, Islam or any other bogey man they can think of. Bojo in particular has warned that we must “relearn the art” of competing with countries bearing “opposing values”. We do this, apparently, by increasing the cap on warheads to 260; it was previously scheduled to drop to 180. All these beauties, of course, will be situated on the Clyde. So, once again, we in Jockistan are telt what is good for us. The consolation, if any, is that soon we will not be telt anything. The BBC reports that the UK government plans to stop publishing figures on the size of its nuclear stockpile, “to maintain ‘deliberate ambiguity’ for adversaries”. As a Prime Minister Boris Johnson is fluent in deliberate ambiguity.
In many ways it is not even the Covid-19 virus which is the only deadly symptom of the way we live our lives. What this pandemic has taught us is that the real threat to humanity is humanity itself, coupled with the capitalist system the ruling elite are addicted to. It is this financial narcotic which will kill us all. All that free money and cheap foreign holidays. We will asphyxiate from our wants.
The headlines in the press announced the abandonment of earlier UK commitments to reduce the nuclear weapons stockpile, but what the headlines did not reflect was the on-going debate within Westminster about just what democracy means in the harsh light of the modern world. Boris Johnson constantly attempts to portray Britain as a fun-loving, freedom-centred, democracy-sustaining value system, which is in direct opposition to those perceived – or at least he perceives – of our adversaries. For this purpose the Chinese dictatorship and the formally – sort of – democratic Russian regime are lumped together for practical purposes, as is the planet forming gas nebula called Islam. Although the shining stars of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are our close allies. Neither of these states are democracies. They are autocracies. But they buy British weapons. They hate Iran. And so on. Perversely, in order to sustain their “democracy”, Britain and its allies have been slowly withdrawing the democratic rights from their own subjects and citizens. To make us all safer. This is another form of “deliberate ambiguity”. This double think is part of what a modern democracy now means, this contradiction is what it has become. Britain is not alone in this, of course. Ever since the Iraq war liberal democracies around the world have become more pugnaciously right wing and irresponsibly militaristic. The irony of history is that those, like the present Westminster government, who talk the loudest about “spreading democracy” by force are also the first to actively engage in suppressing democracy wherever they find it. Especially if they find it in Scotland.
What the recent pronouncements of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom amount to is paranoia. Both politicians suffer from hysteria displacement. The British state has always been so afflicted. This condition is a mixture of cynicism, self-righteousness, rage, ignorance and apathy. This paranoia has been proven, historically, to be as fatal as the Corona virus. It leaves the individual isolated and alone. Politics is becoming less participatory. Executive government and party management has increasingly become remote and arrogant. A party too long in power and with no creditable opposition will inevitably have a policy drift away from the working class voters – the majority – who granted them power and will move towards the financial interests of wealthy lobbyists. Does that remind you of anyone?
Isolation may be manifest in the political sphere but loneliness, which is a result of isolation, concerns all of humanity. Tyrannies, whether democratic or military in origin, cannot function without trashing the intellectual, imaginative, civic and public spaces where life thrives. Isolation breaks down our ability to function emotionally or politically. Alienation sets in. As the American poet Anne Sexton put it,
has appeared unclothed in court”
The Tory view of the world is that we are all safe in our big house and that you do not have to bother with the world outside because it does not need to concern you and anyway you do not belong to it. This is the gated community view of society and it is slowly destroying what we understand as a private life. It is the desperate act of a declining power. The crowded centre ground of Western Liberal democracies has become a mass of sinking sand and it is choking political participation with its total domination and its exclusion of alternatives. Singularity in political life leads to totalitarianism. “There is no alternative.” “We are all in this together.” These are the friendly slogans of our jailers. This is made easier when a significant proportion of the population are “working from home”, chained to an electronic screen and slowly going mad.
What happens when lockdown is lifted, when the furlough scheme comes to an end, when the chain snaps and we all escape? In Norse mythology Fenrir, the World Wolf, is chained up to a boulder by the gods to keep him under control and to prevent him from wreaking havoc throughout their world. A sword was placed in Fenrir’s jaws to hold them open. As he howled wildly and in defiance and rage a river of foam flowed from his drooling mouth. This was called Ván, or Expectation. Are we, the Scottish electorate, as we approach this forthcoming election, bound to the boulder of limited manoeuvre – are we drooling with expectation? Will we, like Fenrir at Ragnarok, break free and run through the streets, the straths and glens, with our lower jaw against the ground and our upper jaw in the sky, devouring everything in our path?
Something is going to have to give. For those who support Scottish independence and desire a referendum, being beguiled by a six month promise that goes on indefinitely is like being stuck in a SNP constructed purgatory. In this holding tank of expectation the trapped and expectant are drip fed doubts and anxieties about manufactured threats and non-existent problems so that eventually they are not surprised by what they think they know. This way nothing gets done and nothing changes. Nonetheless the conundrum remains: independence changes nothing, but nothing will change without independence. As an electorate we have to go on an hegira; which is a journey or trip undertaken as a means of escaping an undesirable or dangerous environment, or as a means of arriving at a highly desirable destination.
When we get there we can construct a republic which is truly democratic, based on the sovereignty of the people and not the Crown. In other words a secular, socially just and environmentally sustainable country. It is a wish list, I know, but why not add the establishment of real universal health care, education, housing and a guaranteed income. Also the protection of pensions and gender and trade union rights. Then we can tackle poverty, land reform and repair the environmental vandalism and degradation inflicted upon Scotland by generations of desolation landowners. All that and more can and will be made possible when we set up a Constituent Assembly or Constitutional Convention from which we will have a set of guidelines on how to live called a constitution. This is the least the Scottish people should expect.
The Scotland I have badly and loosely sketched out doesn’t, as yet, exist. This is its strength; it is possible. The world as envisaged by Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab and their gang of larcenists and wolf-warrior diplomats doesn’t exist either. That is its weakness and its danger. The West is not engaged in a global ideological struggle with China, however much the Tories tell us we are. Because of globalisation the world cannot be conveniently divided up into ideological or economic blocks. China “owns”, for example, as much as a trillion dollars in US sovereign dept and China is the largest market for many of the US’s biggest companies. The geo-politics of the world are complicated and inter-connected. The world-view of the Westminster government is that of a child’s cartoon.
What we need in Scotland are new and different dreams. I happen to think that the classic Aristotelian definition of the human being as a rational animal is wrong, or at least incomplete. In order to achieve anything coherent collectively, culturally, socially, intellectually or emotionally we must first think in images. Fenrir the World Wolf chained to a boulder; a sword driven between his jaws. Art, myth and language are forms of thinking as equal, in their way, as science and philosophy. None should be reduced or derived because of the other. Each one constitutes its own aspect of reality, its rendition of the actual world. Politically this world is in trouble. Even in Scotland ( oh yes) the distance between the politicians and the people is increasing. The leaders look but they do not see. We know that the real truth spills out from Westminster when they do not mean it to. They do actually think devolution was a huge mistake. Boris Johnson was telling the truth (his truth) when he declared, off mike, to the 1922 Committee, that the fact that more than 28 million people have been given a first jab in the UK is – well, he said, “The reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed my friends.”
He wasn’t kidding. According to Open Democracy (23rd March), since the Coronavirus crisis began,
“Overall, 237 MPs declared outside earnings during the 12 months since 23 March 2020. Together, this amounts to £4.9m of extra pay.”
Millions of people have had no support at all during this pandemic, are facing hardship and are destitute as a result. On the other hand MPs, who allegedly represent them, have lucrative connections and have been able to make money advising companies which are seeking public-funded contracts. Test and trace the tracks of my tears, to misquote Smokey Robinson. Just how much “deliberate ambiguity” there is in all of this you will have to judge for yourself, but these Trident warhead increase supporting war pigs have definitely got their noses firmly in the trough. I would suggest there is no ambiguity about that. Quite an image.
There is a Tamil saying, “The rock that resists the crowbar gives way to the roots of the tender plant.” That is a more optimistic image. No matter how hard the British state batters our democracy we will not win it back if we play their violent game. Nothing lasts forever. We have to dream up a new Scotland – a tender plant with robust roots. As we lurch in comedy more than tragedy to the election in May I feel, as Anne Sexton put it, that
“I must get a new bird
and a new immortality box.
There is folly enough inside this one.”
©George Gunn 2021
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