May the Fourth Be with You

On this day, not quite 250 years ago, the nation-state in which I was born declared itself free of the British Empire, determined to create its own. Founded by traumatised people, displaced from their homelands by desperation or greed (same thing, perhaps), they in turn displaced, to put it mildly, those they declared other. And so trauma begets trauma until we say enough. I’m not going to pass this on anymore. It is time to heal.
As we look in compassion, horror or bemusement at the great divides that define what are perhaps optimistically called “United States,” we might take the opportunity to consciously decide we’d like to do things differently here in Scotland or wherever we might call home. As various commentators with various points of view attempt to divide the people of Scotland and the UK on the question of Scottish independence, we might choose instead to see the shared humanity that underlies all difference.
If our identity, our sense of being, depends on anything outside ourselves we are standing on shaky ground. If it depends on opposing anyone or anything, we are always off balance. For those of us who feel independence would bring benefits, perhaps we might listen in kindness to those who disagree or have concerns. Friends tell me they are afraid to speak because passions run high in their circles and communities. This is likely to entrench opposition, rather than open a space where we might explore together, as equals, this important question.
True independence for a community, region or nation is only realised when we each experience that blessing of knowing deep within that we are each complete, worthy and whole. Otherwise, we are crying out to everyone and everything we meet to give us what we imagine we lack. We might try to manipulate others to agree with our point of view or savour the attack on those who disagree.
When I was a postgrad in Edinburgh, a fellow student taught me a valuable lesson. I was vociferously criticising her point of view in the Blind Poet one evening. At some point I realised her discomfort and asked, “Is this not fun for you?” She replied insightfully, “Is this a game to you?” And truly, it was. I was never good at physical sport, but was taught that happiness comes from winning. Argument became my sport and I was encouraged in my talent. “You should be a lawyer,” the town librarians told my teenage self. High praise indeed, in a status oriented culture. But winning does not lead to happiness — only to the desire to win again and again.
Let’s be honest. We all know this feeling of lack. This sense that something is missing or not quite right. We might call it a yearning. And nothing that anyone else does for us, nor any object, sensation, achievement or “win” we might seem to acquire, leaves us feeling fulfilled. At least not for long. The yearning comes back, again and again.
We can try substitutes, of course. Different pleasures might call to us, and us to them. Or perhaps we grow attached to our own suffering and the adrenaline rush that comes with feelings of stress. Addiction is not an exception in our society, but the norm. And that’s no sign of character fault or flaw, but simply evidence that we are in pain and looking for something which might soothe.
But no substitute for that which we truly yearn is ever enough. And if we continue to beat down that path of worldly pleasures and pains, we might well grow cynical, judgemental, anxious and/or depressed. These are all signs of a dissatisfied soul.
So we might step back and see independence not in terms of winning a debate — or even a vote — but instead in finding that place within ourselves that knows its own completeness, its own wholeness, its own Self. From this place, we can truly be of service to our communities and all our relations because we’re not needing something from them. We’re not looking out for some kind of deal where we get what we want. Perhaps in Westminster and Washington, we might see what problems this causes for everyone.
All spiritual traditions point not to the mind or the senses to find real satisfaction, but to the heart. This heart is the centre of our being, the place of balance, where nothing else is needed. It’s nothing to do with romance or emotions, but is the steady ground of the spiritual heart. When we find it, we feel it physically in our bodies. It’s not another concept to believe or disbelieve, but a palpable direct experience.
When we are at rest here, in the heart, our focus shifts from “me” to “we,” from “ego” to “eco.” There are no lines drawn in the sand to divide an “us” from a “them,” because we know our own wholeness. We know we do not depend on an other to define us. In others words, we are healing. Independence is not something we demand or declare in the face of opposition, but something we can all experience directly. And in experiencing it, we can begin to share this possibility with others.
In this way, we offer a genuine alternative to competitive individualism in the form of healthy individuality. Each of us honouring our own unique and individual expression of this Life we share is the foundation of real relationships with each other. And real relationships are the root of strong communities, vibrant ecosystems and an economy that centres wellbeing for all. How about that for an independence movement?

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  1. Squigglypen says:

    ‘real relationships are the root of strong communities vibrant eco systems and an economy that centres well being for all’ …do you actually know ANY country that operates like that..?
    Scotland wants the chance to improve herself with the consent of her people. Before we get to the vibrant eco system etc there is a battle to be fought with a country south of us who has damaged so many other communities..called them ‘the commonwealth’ and now is hysterically trying to hold on to Scotland. We have a year of hell ahead of us and living in LaLa land won’t cut it. Once again I say…we are lucky to have Nicola….

    1. Vishwam says:

      Hello dear Squigglypen, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I don’t know any country that yet operates like that, but I know communities that do. It is possible and deeply practical. In fact, it’s a much more efficient way to operate everything. Stress and conflict takes a lot of energy away from the practical work of offering genuinely helpful services. And I agree we’re lucky to have Nicola, though I don’t think it’s all about her or any political party. It’s about all of us, each of us contributing in our own way. Please notice I said nothing against the official independence movement. I’m simply offering possibilities for supporting independence in the fullest and deepest way, from my perspective. Please feel free to take what is helpful and ignore the rest.

      If you wish to see life as hell and battle, you’re welcome to, of course. If we grow up that way, we might believe that’s the only way life can be. If we’re very lucky, we might learn there’s another option and go for it.

      Wishing you peace,

  2. meg macleod says:

    Well said…..ditto….yes…let’s adopt this for part of our constitution….

    1. Vishwam says:

      That would be something, wouldn’t it?

  3. 220705 says:

    A nice wee homily, Vishwam. But where would we be without conflict and competition? There’d be no dialectic, no evolution, no change, no opposition to the status quo. We’d just have the peace of the graveyard. We’d be stuck in the bit.

    Or are you offering disarming ‘kindness’ as a kind of psychological warfare weapon, wickedness dressed up as virtue, a way for the weak to manipulate the strong while leaving the underlying inequality untouched, a kind of curlike submissiveness? The sort of weapon the woman you were bullying turned against you in the Blind Poet that evening?

    Kindness keeps people down. It smothers them with morality and self-loathing. It fosters ressentiment and the festering resentment and hostility that arises from such repression and becomes itself a sublimated form of aggression. What it masks is not ‘nice’.

    1. Vishwam says:

      Dear numerical friend,

      I’ve just reread the article and am not seeing what you are seeing in it. I didn’t say anything about simply being ‘nice’ nor am I suggesting any form of psychological warfare. The opposite, really. I’m offering a path of peace. And peace isn’t being fluffy and kind. It takes tremendous inner strength to remain peaceful in the face of opposition and insult. I’m not talking about being smotherlingly kind because that’s fake. I’m talking about being Real in a way which no performance or identity can embody. In other words, the removal of the masks that you’re talking about.

      The woman in the Blind Poet wasn’t turning a weapon against me. She was very kindly pointing out that I wasn’t being real or kind. I was performing. I was acting like an intellectual trying to be superior, to the benefit of no one.

      We might think that peace is boring, but really it’s vibrantly alive. And it includes difference, you see. A peaceful culture is not a stagnant one, but one that is constantly evolving and developing through innovative creative and the engagement of different points of view, different ways of being. Why would this require conflict?

      If self-loathing is present, then self-loving is a kind of medicine which is available. And if we’re having trouble doing that for ourselves, we might choose to seek help. There’s no need to suffer alone.

      1. Niemand says:

        I agree Vishwam and thanks for the article. People are addicted to conflict. It is far, far easier to be antagonistic and seek conflict by seeing those with whom you don’t agree as an enemy to be defeated than to find common ground such that both are ‘victorious’.

        Sometimes it is necessary to defeat bad actors but today’s society seems to see everything like this – win or lose, that’s it. It is above all else incredibly lazy. Sadly the question of Scottish autonomy is seen as a war by both sides almost as if we are back in the 16th century with actual cross-border wars. People even go so far as to talk up the idea of armed conflict, whilst your call for something different is damned by all sides. Suggests to me you are on to something.

        1. Vishwam says:

          Thank you, dear Niemand, for being able to hear what is offered here. Probably I have a lot to learn about communication! Though as you say, for those who are addicted to conflict, another option will just be something else to attack. Of course, any constructive feedback is always welcome in the spirit of cooperation and evolution. Attacks are also welcome, though not sure who they might help in any way.

          I do hope we can move beyond the idea that all ‘politics’ is war and see that all Life is sacred and to be honoured deeply. Thank you for all you contribute to that effort, simply by being you.

      2. 220705 says:

        ‘Why would this [engagement of different points of view, different ways of being] require conflict?’

        Because different points of view conflict – are incompatible and at odds – with one another. Everything in a universe like our own – a perspectival universe, a universe of manifold views – is ‘antisyzygal’ or contradictory in itself. Everything in such a universe is opposed by own negation, and it evolves through the conflict of these duelling polarities. In old-fashioned terms, conflict is the very essence of things; it’s how they become what they are. ‘Aufhebung’, as the Germans call this essential conflict that is immanent in everything, or ‘sublatus’ as the mediaeval scholars had it, which is variously translated into English as ‘sublimation’, ‘transfiguration’, ‘abolition’, or ‘transcendence’, ‘overcoming’. Basically, the universe evolves through the transfiguration or overcoming of the conflicts between different points of view/different ways of being that arise immanently within it.

        But, of course, this negative dialectical perspective conflicts with your more positive esoteric perspective, which I suppose is one of the ‘antisyzygies’ or ‘oppositions’ or ‘duelling polarities’ through which our perspectival universe evolves.

        1. Vishwam says:

          I would say that we only take conflict seriously when we identify with ideas. If we see they are just ideas, it’s ok to let them be. Perhaps what matters most is simply being ourselves, loving ourselves, and being open to others being themselves. If conflict needs to arise, we can let it arise without needing to be in conflict about it. 🙂

          1. 220705 says:

            And I’d say that that we only take ideological conflict seriously when see the ideas that are given to us and make claims on our belief as something to be overcome/transfigured/transcended/subverted through criticism. What matters most to me and the community of interest with which I identify is to be forever overcoming/transfiguting/transcending/subverting/evolving/growing away from the ideas that constitute us in order to be always (unto death) on the road to becoming each what ‘I’ am, to be always learning. Ich gebe dir den Übermenschen.

          2. 220705 says:

            I also remain to be convinced that there’s a substantive ‘self’ that we can be at all, let alone be the subject of love and respect.

          3. Vishwam says:

            I can relate to this search for the ‘I’ that I am and the effort to engage the intellect to discover it. This is the Self that I’m talking about here. My own experience is that the intellect is a hard path for the discovery of what is essentially beyond mental comprehension.

            You might find this short talk by Woman Stands Shining on the relationship between the intellect and imperialism interesting. She offers the kind of thoughtful critique you value, although perhaps in a different way.


          4. 220706 says:

            Ah, but you see, I don’t think anything lies beyond our comprehension; or, at least, nothing we can know but can only (if we’re so inclined) take on trust. And like anything that’s said by those who claim special knowledge to lie beyond my comprehension, this ‘Self’ or ‘I’ which ‘I’ supposedly am is a only transcendental pretence, an article of faith, a prejudice to be overcome.

          5. Vishwam says:

            I didn’t say beyond your comprehension. That would have been rude. Not do I claim any special knowledge. I have none. I wish you well on your path, friend.

          6. 220706 says:

            Sorry, Vishwam; I thought you said ‘the intellect is a hard path for the discovery of what is essentially beyond mental comprehension’.

            Nothing (as far as we can know) is essentially beyond our comprehension; what (if anything) is beyond our comprehension is unknowable.

          7. Vishwam says:

            Perhaps the mind is not the only instrument of knowing… This is what a great many traditions teach. But perhaps you are right.

          8. 220706 says:

            Indeed, the concept of ‘mind’ as a conscious subject (an ‘I’ or a ‘self’ if you will) is peculiarly European. Uncolonised cultures in other parts of the globe (and they’re increasingly few) construct their social and environmental relations quite differently, in ways our ‘minds’ can’t conceive without assimilating those constructions to our own thinking, thereby reconstructing them as something on our own image. The route to overcoming our own alienation as conscious inward subjects environed in an objective outward world lies not through pillaging other cultures for ‘alternative narratives’ that we can exchange like commodities for our own, but through the transfiguration of our own alienation through its own immanent critique, through fanning the flames of its own inner conflicts and contradictions.

          9. Vishwam says:

            You and I are walking different roads, it seems. I hope you enjoy yours. Your description, though, of what you think I am doing is not really what I am saying or experiencing. Probably I’ve been unclear. Like you, I am also not saying the mind is the ‘I’ or the ‘Self’ but rather that the ‘Self’ is beyond the mind and can be experienced through the heart. This teaching is shared in many cultures, including the Christian mystics of Europe. These teachings are consciously offered to the world for the healing of all with the awareness that not everyone will be interested. We are each of us different.

          10. 220708 says:

            I’m never quite sure what is meant by ‘the heart’ in such narratives. It’s surely not meant literally, as the organ that pumps blood around the body. It seems rather to be meant figuratively, as some sort of special faculty of intuition that operates independently of what we might call our ‘rational’ faculty, our ability to infer conclusions from conceptual data, an intuition that’s either the gift of some elect class of seer or charismatic or activated among the faithful by following some spiritual discipline of humility as prescribed and sold by some authoritative master. In my experience, this is ‘the heart’ of frauds and charlatans.

          11. Vishwam says:

            Thank you for asking this important question and I’m sorry to hear you’ve had bad experiences with spirituality. I find this a helpful definition of the heart

            “We have subtle subconscious faculties we are not using. Beyond the limited intellect is a vast realm of mind that includes psychic and extrasensory abilities; intuition; wisdom; a sense of unity; aesthetic, qualitative and creative faculties; and image-forming and symbolic capacities. Though these faculties are many, we give them a single name with some justification, because they are operating best when they are in concert. They comprise a mind, moreover, in spontaneous connection with the cosmic mind, the total mind we call “heart.”

            ~ Kabir Helminski

            This heart is a quality possessed by all but largely ignored in our culture, though that seems to be changing. If you have five minutes sometime, you might like to try this simple heart meditation. No humility or subservience of anything, required. Simply an open mind and a willingness to relax. The heart is something really to be experienced directly. If you like, you can consider it a science experiment!


          12. 220708 says:

            Kabir’s sufism is certainly one of the several brands of wisdom on the market. Maybe Which? could run an issue of reviews that would help us shop smarter among them.

          13. Vishwam says:

            I offer the quote from Kabir as one example of how to understand the heart. It is up to each of us to notice for ourselves what path in life calls deeply to our hearts and to follow that. No external ratings system is needed.

            Perhaps if Sufism doesn’t resonate with you, the words of Illarion Merculieff who is a Native from the lands currently called Alaska might interest you.

            “The Unangan people are taught to live according to laws that have guided their thoughts and behavior for millennia. Examples of these laws include reciprocity with all living things, humility, respect for all life, honoring Elder wisdom, giving without expectation of a return to self, thinking of others first, and more. Such spiritual principles for living did not come from logic or thought but from a much deeper source of wisdom, which our Unangan culture referred to as the ‘heart.’ When Unangan Elders speak of the ‘heart’, they do not mean mere feelings, even positive and compassionate ones, but of a deeper portal of profound interconnectedness and awareness that exists between humans and all living things. Centering oneself there results in humble, wise, connected ways of being and acting in the world. To access it, you must ‘drop out’ of the relentless thinking that typically occupies the Western mind. Indigenous peoples have cultivated access to this heart source as part of a deep experience and awareness of the profound interdependence between the natural and human worlds.”


            Or if you prefer Christian teachings, Cynthia Bourgeault’s The Wisdom Jesus is a beautiful resource.

            If you like yoga, Ramana Maharshi the great Jnana Yogi speaks very powerfully of the heart.

            If they are all saying the same, isn’t that a clue?

          14. 220708 says:

            It’s a clue to the wide range of products on the global wisdom market from among which we can choose and the healthy competition that exists among their vendors.

          15. Vishwam says:

            If we see everything in terms of markets, does that mean we’ve internalised capitalism completely?

            I don’t see anything radical about cynicism, do you?

          16. 220708 says:

            But how can we not see everything in terms of markets when everything – including wisdom – has been commodified and merchandised through courses, events, and online storefronts?

            It’s not so much that we have internalised capitalism; it’s more that capitalism has successfully colonised our diverse cognitive, evaluative, and practical modalities – our diverse forms of life – and transformed them into interchangeable lifestyles from among which we can choose in accordance with our personal preferences.

            You can almost hear the sales pitch:

            ‘What path in life calls deeply to our hearts? If Sufism doesn’t resonate with you, the words of Illarion Merculieff who is a Native from the lands currently called Alaska might interest you. Or if you prefer Christian teachings, Cynthia Bourgeault’s The Wisdom Jesus is a beautiful resource. If you like yoga, Ramana Maharshi the great Jnana Yogi speaks very powerfully of the heart. It’s never been easier to find the path to follow. No external ratings system is needed.’

          17. SleepingDog says:

            @Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist, you really have not grasped the idea communisms that underpin our modern world.

          18. 220709 says:

            What Marx was describing in the fragment from the Communist Manifesto that you quote in your blog is the globalisation of local cultures through capitalism (This is the passage in the Communist Manifesto in which he waxes lyrical about capitalism before adding his ‘But…’). What he doesn’t go into (here) is how inequalities of power between nations make that globalisation a process of colonisation, in which local cultures are assimilated to the dominant European ‘master’ culture rather than integrated into a genuinely cosmopolitan plurality.

            Have a look at Žižek for an account of how this colonisation might be ‘transfigured’ into a decolonised global communism of ideas and/or Shiv Visvanathan on cognitive justice. Boaventura de Sousa Santos has edited a useful anthology on the subject: Cognitive Justice in a Global World.

            We envision ‘cognitive justice’ as a plurality of knowledge in which different ways of knowing co-exist without privilege, on a basis.of equality, in a global communism of ideas. Politically, it acts through critique of the dominant paradigms of knowledge and the facilitation of ‘ideal speech situations’ in which conflicting and often incommensurable paradigms might converse. We envisage that these ‘dialogues of knowledge’ will contribute to the evolution of global capitalism into the more sustainable, equitable, and democratic world of global communism.

            Cognitive justice is being enacted in a growing variety of fields, such as ethnobiology, database design, and ICT4D Information and communication technology for development). Catherine Odora Hoppers has written about cognitive justice in the field of education, arguing that indigenous knowledges have to be included in dialogues of knowledge without having to fit in the structures and standards (‘paradigms’) of European knowledge. When Indigenous knowledges are treated equally, they can play their role in making a more democratic and dialectical science, which is essential to the decolonisation and survival of non-European forms of life.

          19. Vishwam says:

            I’m confused here and maybe you can help me out. When I mention spiritual teachers, I’m selling something, supposedly. And when you mention Zizek, it’s different somehow?

            Everyone deserves to earn a living and when those doing so are also supporting others in numerous ways — including serving those who can afford the service, giving free or discounted service to those who can’t, living a simple life, and giving away any money that isn’t needed — I’m not sure we can call that capitalism, really.

            My own heart teacher, Padma Devi, calls for a new economics: “I give, you give, we all receive.” She has spent her life keeping only what she needs and giving away the rest. Personally, I try to do the same. Many wisdom teachers are working along these lines.

            If you prefer Zizek, that’s fine. But why bully those of us walking a different road?

            Thank you for any help you might be able to offer.

          20. 220709 says:

            There’s no difference whatsoever; Žižek is as much a snake oil salesman as the next spiritual teacher, however much he denies having any special knowledge or authority.

            Certainly, those who don’t enjoy independent means need to earn a living, and trade (exchanging commodities for profit) can be an honourable way to earn a living, depending on what it is that’s commodified in the trade. We no longer find human trafficking to be an honourable way of earning a living because we no longer find it acceptable to commodify human beings (that is turn something to which we ascribe some intrinsic value into something to which is ascribed only exchange value). We’re also becoming increasingly less inclined to find acceptable the commodification of other forms of life, both human and non-human.

            I don’t like the trade in wisdom that’s been appropriated from other cultures. Its assimilation to Western ‘lifestyle’ culture is bad enough, but exchanging it as a commodity for profit is a form of exploitation and therefore doubly dishonourable as a way of earning a living.

            Consequently, I stand in solidarity with what indigenous people remain in the world with regard to the commercial degradation of their forms of life under global capitalism. That degradation has to be resisted robustly whichever road it walks, and if that robust resistance is to be construed as ‘bullying’, then bullying it is.

          21. SleepingDog says:

            @Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist, good grief, that’s some Tory-grade effluent you’ve spewed there. So when did you “no longer find human trafficking to be an honourable way of earning a living because we no longer find it acceptable to commodify human beings”? Not only do you erase from history anyone who ever objected to enslavement (as well as any who considered it somehow a necessary evil), not only do you startlingly fail to see that human trafficking has never actually stopped, not only do you fail to understand that the model of surveillance capitalism precisely commodifies human beings, but… oh, I can’t be bothered even trying to analyse your wackadoodle spoutings tonight. You’d be as happy justifying the status quo in Hell, I’d believe.

          22. 220710 says:

            Where did I deny that anyone ever objected to chattel slavery when it was an established institution in our society? Or that chattel slavery still survives as a criminal activity in our society?

            As for this new point you raise: yes, our data (which is increasingly to what we are reduced in late capitalism) has indeed become a commodity that can be harvested and traded for profit, which degradation and impoverishment of our humanity as an intrinsic value to a mere exchange value many of us find objectionable. Perhaps we will as a society criminalise (and not just regulate) this trade too sometime in the future.

            And – who knows? – one day, sometime in the future, as a society, we perhaps might also criminalise the looting and commodification of others’ cultural inheritance by the spirituality industry. This is an end for which many decolonisers are working.

          23. Vishwam says:

            I’m glad to hear you stand in solidarity with indigenous peoples. I feel similarly.

            Can I ask, with genuine interest, have indigenous people suggested to you that criticising people on the internet is an effective form of solidarity?

            Personally, I have been thanked by the indigenous people with whom I work for sharing the writing and the teachings that I do. I’m not appropriating (nor getting paid) here, but pointing directly to indigenous sources who are sharing (some of) their traditional teachings in order to help the world who needs this wisdom more than ever. For some reason, you felt to disparage the indigenous teachers (Woman Stands Shining, Ilarion Merculieff, among others) which I have pointed to. This leaves me rather bemused.

            Woman Stands Shining (Dine/Lakota) offers an interesting take on colonialism inspired by in part by
            the book Native Science by Gregory Cajete. He noticed that colonisers saw indigenous peoples as childish and immature. Wondering why they would have such a thought, he looked at the culture they came from. These commentators, he noticed, we’re mostly aristocratic English men who had been allowed to play, explore, create and imagine until the age of five. At that point, they were told that only the intellect really matters.

            Then they come to discover a people where even grown men sing, dance and see and hear beings they couldn’t see or hear. In terms of their own culture, this all seemed childish. From the Native perspective, this is how to live in deep harmony with all Life. The intellect, she points out, is a limited instrument for deep relationships.

            Perhaps in true solidarity, might loosen out attachment to the intellect as the single most important aspect of life and broaden our horizons playfully, joyfully and spiritually in whatever way calls to each of us.

            This seems a more constructive approach to me than telling other people they are doing it wrong, based on our own mental perceptions of how life is supposed to be.

            I’m still grateful to the woman who pointed out I was helping no one when I was doing that myself.

            As for sharing Yoga, the indigenous wisdom of what we now call India, I do get paid for that. Great teachers from India travelled to the West and consciously shared these teachings, asking us to share them with others and to make a modest living from doing so. The Yogis are seeing how materialism (including capitalism, etc) is causing huge problems for the world and out of compassion are sharing these teachings as widely as possible. We might say Yoga is a technology of decolonisation.

            I honour the lineage from which these teachings come and of which I have become a part. If you don’t like that, it’s ok. I wish you well in every aspect of life.

          24. meg macleod says:

            Some of the most perceptive thinking and expression of ideas beyond what we the western civilization assume to be normality came from a book called’ seven arrows’……hyemeyohsts storm

          25. 220710 says:

            I don’t criticise people on the internet; you’d struggle to find any ad hominem criticism in my posts. I engage critically with the claims that various ciphers make in virtual fora like this in order to develop my own thinking and deepen my understanding through argument or ‘dialectics’. I’ve been doing it since the early 1990s, and you’d be amazed how much my thinking has evolved over the part thirty years. One of the reasons I gave up on academia back in the ‘80s was that the fora there were so restricted and exclusive. The internet has provided me with one vast, worldwide agora in which I might discover, challenge, and overcome the assumptions on which my existing beliefs and attitudes depend. An unexamined life… and all that jazz.

            I don’t disparage indigenous teachers and their translators especially. I disparage anyone who would speak with authority and who guard that authority by enjoining us to ‘loosen out attachment to the intellect’, as if people didn’t already play in their surroundings (bodily as well as intellectually, with words and images, the ‘res intellecta’) and learn thus freely, for themselves, but need teachers to show them how to do it properly and to the proper end. I’m also deeply dubious of the dichotomy between ‘spirituality’ and ‘the intellect’ by which would-be spiritual leaders would construct us; I can’t see a dichotomy without wanting to playfully deconstruct it.

            Anyhow: this (interrogating and testing my own existing beliefs and attitudes through argument) seems to me a more constructive approach than telling other people that they’re doing life wrong, that the intellect is a limited instrument for the deep relationships they crave, and that we should loosen our attachment to it and listen instead to whichever spiritual authority takes our fancy in the storefront.

          26. 220711 says:

            Seven Arrows is a classic example of Western cultural appropriation and commodification.

            Hyemeyohsts Storm – real-life name, Charles or ‘Chuck’ Storm – is the son of a German immigrant, who arrived to the US after World War I. He’s married to Swan Storm, whose real-life name is Stephanie Leonard-Storm, who, under the guise of his ‘medicine twin’, is also his business partner in the selling indigenous spirituality.

            Seven Arrows was first published as ‘non-fiction’ by Harper & Row and promoted as describing details of Cheyenne spirituality and ceremonies. However, it raised fierce protests and objections from the Cheyenne nation, who regard the content as blasphemous and utterly wrong. The Cheyenne also revealed that Storm wasn’t enrolled or indeed known in the nation. The copy of an enrollment card of in the name of Charles Storm that was presented by Harper & Row in its defence was exposed as a forgery. Harper & Row entered negotiations with the Cheyenne nation limit the damage to the company and agreed to pay ‘reparations’ to avoid a court judgement against Harper & Row. The company refused to withdraw the book, however, as the rights had already been sold to another publishing house. Instead, the book was republished as ‘fiction’ to indicate that its contents weren’t based on the subjective or ‘felt’ life-experience of Cheyenne people.

            Western translators often use the concept of ‘teachings’ to appropriate the religious elements of other cultures to our own understanding. ‘Teachings’ are essentially content, which is commodified to make it commensurable across otherwise incommensurable life-experiences, that active masters transmit through their storefronts to passive disciples on the basis of an inequality of power that obtains between them, an inequality that the relationship itself both self-fulfils and perpetuates. This self-fulfilling and self-perpetuating inequality is both the origin and cause of the teacher’s authority.

            Resisting the cultural appropriation and reduction of indigenous forms of life to commensurable ‘spiritualities’ by Western translators is part of the task of decolonisation in pursuit of worldwide cognitive justice. Such appropriation and commodification is as oppressive to indigenous people as the plundering of their land and labour has been.

          27. Meg Macleod says:

            Disappointing to read this informed comment….when so much makes perfect sense in an imperfect world…..

          28. 220711 says:

            The phenomenon is known colloquially, among Native American and First Nations activists, as ‘plastic shamanism’. This pejorative term is most often applied to people who fraudulently pose as Native American traditional healers, but also includes those who fraudulently proclaim themselves spiritual advisors, seers, psychics, self-identified New Age gurus, or other practitioners of non-traditional modalities of spirituality and healing. ‘Plastic shaman’ has also been used to refer to non-Natives who, like Herr Storm, pose as Native American authors and misrepresent indigenous spiritual ways.

          29. 220711 says:

            Don’t be disappointed, Meg! If it rocks your boat, roll with it. Ultimately, everything’s just made up.

          30. Meg Macleod says:

            Well….looking back to 50 years ago..even that insight(even if unauthuorised opened a door I might not have found….to share something you feel important if done in good faith and acknowlwdging the source is no bad thing ….
            Many are drawn to find something ‘other’ that links them to something our culture has trampled on. And that is true now as it was 50 years ago…and everyone finds something different somewhere along the road to jericho

          31. Vishwam says:

            I’m glad you’re finding the internet helpful for the development of your intellect. Like you, I greatly value the intellect as a wonderful tool.

            You rightly pointed out that I was bullying the woman in the pub. I was not attacking her as a person, but was vociferously critical of the ideas she was sharing. You, my friend, are treating me in the same way and it’s not on.

            I wonder if you might like to apply your intellect to observing the difference between the words I write and what you are projecting on to me? No matter what I say, you seem to twist the words to imply that I am trying to tell you how to live. That is up to you.

            You say you find this kind of way of engaging with others helpful for your own intellect. That’s fine as far as it goes. What about the effect it has on others?

          32. Vishwam says:

            Thank you, Meg, for reminding me of Seven Arrows. There is something very magical about this book and how it transforms consciousness, whatever the history of it and the beliefs of others about it may be. I’ve just started reading it again, thanks to your encouragement.

          33. 220711 says:

            I’m not projecting anything onto ‘you’, Vishwam. I only taking what appears in this blogpost as a point to departure for an excursion into issues of cultural appropriation, commodification, and decolonisation. A bit like Plato did through his characters – ‘Socrates’ et al – in his dialectical writings.

            ‘Others’ exist here only as ciphers in text-based virtual agora. This isn’t ‘you’ and ‘I’ blethering like a couple of bodies in a pub; it’s a conflict of ideas expressed by the dramatis personae in an improvised narrative.

          34. Vishwam says:

            If you’re forgetting there are real people involved here, that’s seriously worrying. Just like you, I’m a human being sat at a phone or laptop, here to engage in meaningful connection with others. If you are not able to do the same, it really doesn’t feel healthy to engage with your comments on here anymore. I ask you to consider recognising and honouring the humanity of those behind the words on the screen. Thank you for listening.

          35. 220711 says:

            No, what’s seriously worrying is rather that some people are so invested in the narratives they project in these virtual agorae that they often become emotionally perturbed when those narratives are disrupted and subsequently seek to guard them (and thereby remove the source of their perturbation) by appealing to the critic’s sense of guilt (that is, by employing the so-called ‘pathetic fallacy’).

            Dialectics as a praxis requires a high degree of emotional detachment, a state in which one overcomes one’s emotional attachment to or desire for things, people, or worldly concerns (a.k.a. ‘ego’) and thus attains a ‘higher’ perspective, in which the dichotomy between ‘self’ and ‘other’, ‘subject’ and ‘object’, ‘perceiver’ and ‘perceived’, etc. is abolished/overcome/transfigured (‘aufheben’). I understand that some of the ‘wise virtues’ we Westerners find in a whole range of diverse non-Western forms of life or ‘indigenous spiritualities’ are translated or appropriated into Western thinking as that very state the Ancient Greek dialecticians called ‘apatheia’.

            Those who can’t or are unwilling to attain the required degree of ‘apatheia’ or emotional nonattachment should perhaps indeed avoid engaging in dialectics. I imagine that, without such renunciation, it could be upsetting.

          36. Vishwam says:

            I’m beginning to see your approach. Thank you for explaining. I’ll look at that in myself.

            I’m glad you are seeing how this way of communicating could be upsetting to others.

          37. 220712 says:

            Aye, but any such upset is a hell of their own making. Greater detachment – less ‘ego’ – would let it run like water from a duck’s back. I find that the selflessness of anonymity lends me that detachment in my praxis.

            Matthew 6:1-6

            ‘Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

            ‘So, when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets or with condescension, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

            ‘And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.’

          38. SleepingDog says:

            @Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist, a more critical view would be that anonymity allows hypocrisy and self-contradiction to be practised more easily without detection. What kind of person seeks the capacity to disavow all previous statements? What is the concern that these may be joined up and a larger picture emerge?

          39. 220712 says:

            Is that right, ‘SleepingDog’?

          40. SleepingDog says:

            @Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist, ‘SleepingDog’ is a name, not an attempt at anonymity. You or others can look through all my comments and tell me where I have contradicted myself, or committed hypocrisy. You can read my blog if you want. Since I have a long-established link with the domain name, and published creatively (if modestly) under it, it is much more of a name than most pseudonyms. I don’t claim to speak for anyone else.

            The curious thing about your contributions, if they can be taken as a whole, is that while in part they do form something of a cacophony of self-contradiction, they are strikingly consistent in other respects, such as opposition to Scottish Independence, support for the status quo, Union, royalism, Christian theology and some brand of postmodernism. Perhaps revealing more than you intend?

            I take it that some of your poses are meant to be ridiculous, like “I stand in solidarity with what indigenous people remain in the world with regard to the commercial degradation of their forms of life under global capitalism”, otherwise they would be simply racist, as if indigenous people (you have effectively said non-European indigenous people are mindless by European standards) were all the same, and some did not choose to host casinos etc.
            Other of your positions are just appalling, like implying that human trafficking was once accepted as an honourable occupation. Perhaps you can have an interesting conversation with the next indigenous person you meet about your views.

          41. 220712 says:

            Indeed, and you or others can look through all my comments too and tell me where I have contradicted myself, or committed hypocrisy.

            ‘The curious thing about your contributions, if they can be taken as a whole, is that while in part they do form something of a cacophony of self-contradiction…’

            Is the penny finally beginning to drop? The ‘truth’ is, taken as a whole, something of a cacophony of self-contradiction. That’s a key methodological principle of dialectics. The aim of dialectical thinking as praxis is to enact this ‘truth’ and the internal contradictions and conflicts that animate its evolution.

            Where on earth have I said that ‘non-European indigenous people are mindless by European standards’. I’ve said that ‘mind’ is a Eurocentric concept, which can’t be applied to non-Europeans without anachronism, and to which non-Europeans can’t be assimilated without distorting the forms of life that are peculiar to them (their indigeneity, if you will).

            And are you suggesting that indigenous peoples are NOT all the same in respect of the commercial degradation of their forms of life under global capitalism? Are you seriously suggesting that my claim, that the forms of life of indigenous peoples generally suffer commercial degradation under global capitalism, is racist? Why’s it racist?

            And are you denying the established historical fact that human trafficking was once generally accepted in 17th and 18th century Britain as an honourable occupation.? Aren’t you aware of the work The Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery at University College London in relation to this? (Wasn’t there a TV documentary about its work in relation to this on the BBC a few years ago?)

          42. Vishwam says:

            I’ve been contemplating your statement about hell, numerical One. We might say that all hell is, in a way, of our own making. Hell is a state of mind. It’s only when we’re afraid of losing something (our body, our possessions, out status, etc) that we can be hurt. Hell, we might say, is an effect of ego. Is this in agreement with what you were saying?

            Does this mean that none of us take any responsibility for the effects of our actions on others? This seems, itself, an egoistic approach to life.

            Compassion seems a deeply valuable component in any attempt to undermine the foundations of ego for the benefit of all. Though maybe you would disagree?

          43. SleepingDog says:

            One might think that the what’s-in-it-for-me orthodox Christian motivation of doing the Lord’s bidding in order to achieve everlasting rewards in Heaven was the ultimate in egoism. Perhaps the only truly ethical option for such a devout Christian is to take someone else’s (a stranger rather than a loved one) place in Hell, in defiance of God.

            I don’t recall participating in a comment-stream where the word ‘indigenous’ was used so freely. I have just watched episode 1: Plunder of Al Jazeera’s documentary series Restitution: Africa’s Stolen Art:
            For someone apparently active in Christian church, perhaps Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist would like to comment on the documentary’s view that the great European ethnographic museums (one in Berlin at the time of the Berlin Conference which carved up Africa for the European colonialists) preferred Christian missionaries over soldiers and other frontline occupiers as sources of artefacts, as apparently they were able to abuse their relative positions of trust to access secret and hidden items, and had strong culturcidal as well as pecuniary motives.

          44. 220713 says:

            Yes, the upset people claim when their beliefs are criticised is the egoistical response (the response of an ‘I’) they make to that criticism. In that sense, the criticism causes as an effect that egoistical response and is to that extent ‘responsible’ for that response. (Bear in mind, however, SleepingDog’s observation that first-person narrators – ‘I’s or ‘egos’ – are unreliable narrators.)

            However, the upset is also dependent (as is any egoistical response, such as pleasure or condescension or gratitude or compassion or offence) on the attachment of the ego to its object, which is why detachment from belief (doubt, unbelief, agnosticism) is crucial to dialectics as a praxis. To that extent, the ‘fault’ or responsibility for the upset lies in a failure to unidentify with the belief that’s the subject of criticism, in a failure of selflessness, with egoism itself.

            Basically, I can’t help it if others respond egoistically to criticism of their thinking. Egos must take responsibility for their own feelings (which is, in many therapeutic practices, as many counsellors will tell you, the first step to recovery from many of our emotional maladies).

  4. SleepingDog says:

    Would this approach expose and root out bad actors like spycops? I think you have to give some credit to people as social animals with evolved abilities to deal with cheaters in their midst. It would be interesting to read some kind of summary of how known spycops and corporate agents were rumbled. Bear in mind that those beguiled were often seeking fulfilment through interpersonal relationships.

    I have no idea how accurate this account is, but I was struck by the phrase “the things he shared with them didn’t add up”:
    Realistically, we should expect Scottish Independence movements to be heavily infiltrated. My old Contemporary Issues in British Politics lecturer told us that Special Branch sent undercover/plainclothes officers to every political meeting in the country, and there are other organisations using such methods. There is no requirement to be paranoid.

    When the article speaks of ‘wholeness’ it may also mean ‘integrity’, which reflects back on whether things about you add up (or don’t). Intellectual fraud is not typically a crime (the extent to which spycops committed, or received immunity from committing, crimes is perhaps yet undetermined). But generally, voluntarily presenting yourself as having political views you do not subscribe to could be a violation of the social contract, however trivial or egoistic the reason for deceit was, however professional or amateur the deceiver is. Some non-destructive testing may be required, for the sake of the collective.

    1. Vishwam says:

      Dear SleepingDog, this approach does indeed affect those around us in time. People who join movements for disingenuous reasons are affected by the qualities of the people in those groups. We are social beings, as you say. And so if we cultivate a different state of consciousness which is fully present, open and aware of our own wholeness, we begin to see that in others even when they are trying to hide it from themselves.

      And yes, as you say, police have used seduction (i.e. sexual abuse) to infiltrate progressive social movements. If we have found such a deep level of healing within ourselves that we are not pulled in by such behaviour, we limit the power of that approach. I’m aware some people will hear this as pathologising those who have been abused and I am absolutely not saying this. I’m pointing out that a hierarchical culture is based on abusive relationships as standard. It’s the water we swim in. Unless we are lucky enough to find those who know there is another way and show us how to live in wholeness, we will be pulled in by that kind of malarky.

      No society changes without a profound change of consciousness. The consciousness of the heart offers just such a path.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Vishwam, I re-read part of the article around your statement:
        “If our identity, our sense of being, depends on anything outside ourselves we are standing on shaky ground.”
        A traditional sense of groundedness stems from the belief that it takes a village to raise a child, which is philosophically formalised into the hypothesis that our human minds are social creations, something supported by science (which also looks at how environments interact with neuroplasticity and behaviour). Yet you seem to be arguing for some sort of solipsism.

        While emotions have biological functions for individuals, they also have socio-biological functions for social animals, like humans. Therefore a healthy human experiences fears for others, is angry about perceived injustices to others, not just themselves. I mentioned anger (a political change agent) before. Perhaps peace will just get us cooked. Perhaps we need anger as long as it is appropriately directed?

        1. Vishwam says:

          I would absolutely agree with you that the mind and emotions are developed socially and this is really important. In the yogic model, the mind and emotions are outside the Self. You can see your thoughts, right? You can feel what your emotions are. And so I’m saying, we don’t need to identify with these things anymore than we identify with our clothing. I’m not saying don’t be a good son or neighbour, for example, but you don’t need to limit yourself to being a son or a neighbour. And if you feel happy sometimes and sad others, you don’t need to identify as a happy person or a sad one.

          As for the relevance to social change, we might say the emotions are like water. When we’re at peace, it’s like sitting in a boat on the water, able to paddle in any direction we like or simply rest. When we have a strong rush of emotion, it’s like someone’s picked up the lake, folded it in half and tilted it so we’re suddenly caught up in a rush of feeling and possibly action. Afterwards, we might wonder why we did or said what we did…. Our choices become limited when we’re caught up in that. So I would say peace is much more helpful for social transformation and saving our energy for what really matters. Peace is not being passive and just sitting at home meditating. It’s doing what is needed for the benefit of all, including ourselves.

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @Vishwam, I agree that achieving peace is useful to clear one’s mind and focus on the causes of one’s distress, disquiet, disaffection. I would have thought of the self more as a container of various elements, our emotions, thoughts, embodiment, memories, externalised historical record, various identities and personas through and over time. A multi-disciplinary course on the mind used a definition that included layered brain structures that we share with some other groups of animals, and both conscious and unconscious mental elements. Certain philosophical questions will be raised when humans connect their nervous systems to increasingly advanced technologies. If you peel too much away from the idea of the Self, why should the Self seek Enlightenment?

          2. Vishwam says:

            Dear Sleeping Dog,

            Thank you for your thoughtful question. We might recognise that our image of another person is not really who that person is. There’s so much more to them than we could possibly imagine. Is it true? I would say the same goes for ourselves. Our image of ourselves, however complex of a multi-disciplinary model we might use, is not really who we are. The fullness of Self is so much more. Enlightenment, we might say, is simply the Self coming to know itself in fullness and wholeness, no longer captivated by any mental image.

            Does that make sense?


          3. SleepingDog says:

            @Vishwam, thanks for staying with this. I will have to devote more time to think about your response.

          4. Vishwam says:

            Thank you for your respectful consideration, dear Sleeping Dog.

  5. Dougie Blackwood says:

    I’m one of these people that is happy to go round the doors and canvass for independence. When you do that there are various scenarios that you come across; those already committed will want to talk and discuss but there is little value in that; those set and decided against are sometimes angry, they are best left to nurse their wrath; then there are those that are either undecided or against but willing to listen. This last category is where both the benefits and enjoyment of canvassing are to be found.

    As described in the piece there is no point in trying to browbeat or hector, that does no good at all. First you must never get angry, this puts an end to any reasoned discussion, then listen. It is their concerns that must be answered rather than spinning a pre-prepared story. Be prepared to agree that some things are not easy but that anything can be overcome if we have the powers to make the decisions rather than by listening to the many nay sayers..

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @Dougie Blackwood, surely the truth often comes out in anger? That’s the useful provocation that comes before “you can’t handle the truth!”.
      Culturally and sociobiologically, anger expressed has its uses.

    2. Vishwam says:

      Thank you, Dougie, for the compassionate work you are doing to support independence in a way that cares about people as people.

  6. Dougie Blackwood says:

    Over the years I’ve had many enjoyable conversations on the doorstep. Often we agree to disagree but numerous times the undecided can be persuaded but I’ve never been successful by starting with an angry exchange. Even those that you leave undecided, if you have had a rational discussion, may come round as the conversation sinks in.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @Dougie Blackwood, does it not occur to you that someone who acts as if they are persuaded by your cold-calling might by faking it to get rid of you, or be as easily persuaded by the next cold-caller? I am not convinced there is an ethical justification for bearding people in their lairs. Even Socrates seemed to restrict his gadflying and midwifing to public areas like the Agora. Plus they’ll be disappointed it isn’t Amazon. And we’re still in a pandemic.

      I am thinking of another movie, Twelve Angry Men, where [spoilers] anger lifts the jurors over the brink of their reticence. The last hold-out has been keeping secret his motivation for his vote, until it is jolted from him.
      Sure, anger is often harmful or threatening, but also often misplaced or misdirected, possibly because of the pain of working through it. Maybe you will doorstep people willing to complain about something (that maybe sounds trivial to you) because they don’t trust you enough to tell you what is really bothering them. And I don’t think you will ever fully understand their politics until and unless you have a way of unlocking the question “What is really bothering you?” The answer to that might decide their vote on polling day.

      By the way, there is an interesting set-up in new BBC drama Sherwood, but I have only seen the first episode. No spoilers to say that to understand the anger within a community, you have to know or learn quite a lot of common history and personal histories. And hey, there’s even a politician going door-to-door in virtually the opening scene.

      1. Graeme McCormick says:

        I really like this article and the responses. I wish I could be more mild when I debate with Unionists but sometimes my passion for Independence has to be tempered.

        I love the idea of healing. I’m committed to the one-to-one discussion and hope to persuade the Independence doubters and if not at least leave each other on the best of terms.

        I do wonder why we have marches and demonstrations. I enjoyed them but don’t think they advance the cause now. If anything they are potentially threatening to some folk.

        I don’t think there was a Union March of any size before the Referendum. Maybe we should follow their example and spend our time speaking to folk who are indentified and persuadable.

        1. Vishwam says:

          I like your approach, Graeme. There is great power in gentleness.

        2. Adrian Roper says:

          There was a big Union march down the royal mile a few days before the referendum. Pipes and drums and sashes and the rest of it, with banners for lots of orange lodges from across the lowlands. Not sure it was a significant vote swinger but it was big. Cheers

      2. 220706 says:

        ‘I am not convinced there is an ethical justification for bearding people in their lairs.’

        In liberal societies, there’s no obligation on the part of any agent to justify her or his actions; the only obligation is on hose who would constrain an action to justify its constraint.

        So, in a liberal society, Dougie needs no justification to beard people in their lairs, but anyone who would stop him does.

        1. SleepingDog says:

          @Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist, I think you are confusing liberty with licence. Many writers on liberty frame some kind of constraint so that one person’s freedoms do not negatively impact other people’s. According to Wikiquote (I’ve mislaid my copy of On Liberty), JS ‘I work for EvilCorps’ Mill wrote:
          “The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental and spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest. (p. 18)”

          There are concepts of positive and negative freedoms. Essentially the freedom of a canvasser to proselytise people in their own homes conflicts with a home-dweller’s freedom from being hassled by cold-callers. Some forms of cold calling are banned by law in various jurisdictions. If cold-calling is banned by law and the canvasser supports the rule of law as a public good, then they will require an overweighing ethical reason to canvas (or accept some responsibility for wrongdoing). Similarly, if cold-calling was prohibited by the unwritten rules of a social contract which the canvasser supported as a public good.

          A thought experiment might help. Say a small town in Scotland was found by pollsters to be a bell-weather of national Scottish opinion. Canvassers and pollsters might flock to the town before every significant national political decision. This would be greatly increased under many forms of direct democracy (say by policy televoting). The poor townsfolk would be subjected to the sound of repeatedly ringing doorbells. I guess this is why the technology to pause live television (handy during the football) was invented. It is one of those cases of unequal effects in society, and where drip-drip or cumulative actions (not unlike micro-aggressions or unwanted sexual comments/advances) build to major negative effects on people. But individually, each canvasser’s door-knock is similar in character to knocking once on any door in Scotland.

          Also on the lopsided theme: the bright-eyed canvasser, well-prepared, time-cleared and psyched up for some enjoyable conversational sport is at a decided advantage over their ambushed prey. This is clearly unfair, in terms of a political discussion. Again, an ethical justification seems required (but not necessarily verbalised). A voluntary, mutual, level ground would seem a better forum to discuss politics in. Indeed, door-stepping seems very far from your ideal conditions for collective decision-making.

          Yet, there could be an overwhelming ethical justification, like the escalating global climate crisis. I just worry that if door-to-door canvassing was successful in changing people’s political views (and votes), then it would largely be done by unscrupulous people and nefarious organisations, or even by well-meaning people who have no claim to be more right about politics than the people whose doors they knock on (there’s a bit of a master-pupil talk-down quality in these canvasser expectations that I find unappealing). Why is the goal persuasion? And not, say, mutual learning through discussion?

          1. 220707 says:

            Yes, for Mill and ‘classical’ liberals, the question of liberty concerns the circumstances in which we may be justified in constraining the actions of others; their answer is that we may be justified in constraining the actions of other only if those actions infringe upon our own liberty, and that such conflicts between our respective liberty should be resolved through negotiation rather than by force. The problem with classical liberalism is that it disregards the inequalities of power that can arise in our social relations, which distort such negotiation. That’s why folk like myself think the elimination of such inequalities from our social institutions is a condition of liberty.

            Let’s take your example as an illustration. The canvasser is at liberty to solicit the votes of electors in a certain area, since in doing so she isn’t preventing the electors she visits from acting in any way they might choose or going about their chosen business. She is not at liberty, however, to prevent the electors she visits from closing the door in her face or otherwise refusing to engage with her. Conversely, the elector whose vote she is soliciting is at liberty to shut the door in her face, but is not at liberty to in any way prevent her soliciting.

            Liberty, in the classical liberal view, thus isn’t license; it’s freedom from constraint, including freedom from the constraint of poverty, ignorance, disability, discrimination, and any other form of disadvantage or oppression.

          2. Niemand says:

            What about those who put up a sign saying ‘no-canvassers’ etc? This is pretty common. Do you walk away or ignore it and knock anyway?

            Don’t think this a black and white issue. The other aspect is people being bombarded with stuff in our inboxes and letterboxes. It can get to the point where it feels like an invasion, and one that we do not want and disrupts our lives to no good end for us. But by your argument we just have to put up with it and constantly hit delete, virtually or otherwise. You may say this is advertising, not political canvassing but is there much difference?

          3. SleepingDog says:

            @Niemand, fair points. There was a recent trend of people/organizations stuffing plastic through front-door letterboxes. Isn’t that a form of plastic pollution?

            When I was doing a clerical module in long-ago employment training, we were subjected to a psychology-grounded interruption-of-task test to see how we coped. I have also seen this done as part of autism diagnoses tests. Being interrupted during concentration on a task has mild to severe negative impacts on people’s cognitive and organizational abilities to perform the task. This is in addition to some people’s mobility issues in physically answering a door, sometimes physical and psychological discomfort in doing so. It also occurs to me that people who live on ground floors due to such problems might be over-targeted by canvassers anyway.

            I seem to have missed being door-stepped yesterday. I found a religious paper stuck through my letterbox when I got back. I imagine I could have coped with a holier-than-thou attack, but I expect others might be more fragile or vulnerable to certain ideological imputations (the First Minister’s statement on abortion clinic buffers comes to mind).

          4. 220708 says:

            That’s a good example of a conflict of liberties that should be resolved through negotiation rather than coercion (though it’s difficult to discern how someone coming to my door to solicit my vote in an election constrains me in any way). In fact, putting up a ‘No Canvassers’ sign could be a first step in the negotiation of a mutually acceptable, non-coercive resolution of the conflict.

  7. TommyL says:

    I like the sentiment in this article. I prefer Self Determination to Independence. Unfortunately I don’t think that’s where the SNP under Nicola is where we’re headed.

    1. 220711 says:

      There’s certainly little prospect on display that we, the people, in the real communities of our local neighbourhoods and workplaces, will be allowed any more autonomy and agency under an independent Scottish government than we’re allowed at present.

    2. Vishwam says:

      Thank you for your kind comment and I’m with you on that Tommy. I used the word independence as it ties in with the date this was written and also the way most people are talking about Scotland. It seems to me helpful to remember that the party that seems to be in power during the process of independence does not define the future of the country. It may well be that independence is the first step towards self determination, autonomy or direct democracy. I wrote a kind of speculative fiction article along these lines in the spring that you might enjoy —

      1. TommyL says:

        It might. However, as things stand, the probabilities are against it.

        1. Vishwam says:

          I wonder if we can every know all the variables at play? Maybe just remaining open to possibilities helps them happen.

        2. Vishwam says:

          Hey Tommy,

          You might find this latest article from George Monbiot on participatory democracy interesting! He talks about why we find it hard to imagine real change and what we can do about it.

          1. 220713 says:

            Yep, this is exactly the sort of alternative to nationalism I’d like to see us develop, in which decision-making is devolved as locally as possible, away from the ‘imagined’ community of the nation to the ‘real’ communities of our neighbourhoods and workplaces, and ’rounded-up’ on the principle of subsidiarity, along the lines that Bookchin proposed. His daughter, Debbie, has written that ‘Had my father lived to see his ideas about “social ecology” enacted in Rojava and southeastern Turkey, he would have been profoundly moved to know that his revolutionary spirit and vision for human liberation had been reborn among a generation of the Kurdish people.’


          2. TommyL says:

            Hi Vishwam, I read your earlier article and George Monbiot’s article. I liked them both. I agree with Murray Bookchin who “sees the state as a force for domination, and statecraft as the means by which it is sustained. Politics, by contrast, is “the active engagement of free citizens” in their own affairs.”

            And that is why I believe the odds are heavily stacked against us getting anywhere near the speculative fiction in your article.

            For the future to look like your article there needs to be supporting evidence in the present. I don’t see anything substantial in that regard. Meanwhile, there is plenty of supporting evidence in the present, that SNP lead independence is an illusion.

            Throughout their tenure the SNP technique has been to distract from discussing the present by encouraging people to look to a better future. It continues to work for them. They set future “ambitious” targets that are never met. They urge us to aim for “independence” in the future, while, in the present, they centralise power, and subvert democracy by reducing government transparency, and using the power of government to promote inaccurate messages that suit their agenda.

            To give you a practical example: Locally controlled housing associations were never as locally controlled as we were led to believe, no matter which party was in government. However, over the past ten years any semblance of local control has diminished. Our local housing association here in Bellsmyre, Dumbarton was taken over by Caledonia housing association of Perth.

            Democratic procedures needed to be negotiated along the way, such as seeking the agreement of tenants to the transfer of ownership. This was achieved through deception (I can show you the evidence if you wish). Complaints were made to The Scottish Governments Housing regulator, who backed the deception.

            Caledonia is one of the ever growing beasts in social housing who talk democracy while practicing the opposite. They have the blessing of The Scottish Government. Indeed they are encouraged by The Scottish Government because these companies will help government meet social house building targets. SNP have duped Scots into believing that meeting new social house build targets is the same as solving Scotland’s housing crisis. Another distraction.

            In 2014 the active engagement of free citizens was a possibility to be built on in Scotland. However, that possibility has been snuffed out by The State. The same thing happened to The Anti Poll Tax Movement in 1990.

            I know small pockets of good stuff have kept going since 2014, such as Galgael, which you mention, who have been doing good stuff since way before 2014. However, there isn’t enough going on to make me believe we’re near to Self Determination as a nation…..Unless you have substantive evidence to the contrary.

          3. Meg Macleod says:

            To be free of faraway domination is the first hurdle for our present time…and then perhaps a big rethink of where Scotland should the holes you point out….nothing can happen until the binding chains are cut..first things first…fundamental freedom to think…

          4. SleepingDog says:

            @Meg Macleod, essentially yes, I agree, Independence is part of a long process with many steps, some of which have to be taken before others, some can be taken in parallel, others providing alternate routes:
            And all this within a much larger context, of pressing problems at global scale. Problems which Imperial Britannia is a net contributor to and holds out no rational solutions for.

          5. 220715 says:

            Meg, the prime hurdle we have to get over before we can assume responsibility for our own destinies is domination as such, whether its ‘far away’ or closer to home; it’s the inequalities of power that are build into our social institutions, including our institutions of governance, I see nothing in the Scottish government’s present proposals for independence that will effect structural changes required in our institutions to reduce those inequalities. That’s why I’m holding out for something better, some real structural change I can vote ‘Yes’ to.

          6. 220715 says:

            Spot on, Tommy.

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