Does it ever occur to Carolyn Leckie and all the other happy-clappers telling Yes activists they should be “listening to and empathising with someone not convinced by the case for independence” that there may be a very good reason why those Yes activists find this so difficult? Have they ever stopped to consider the possibility that, right-on and virtuous as it may appear, giving people free rein to parrot the British Nationalist propaganda they’ve absorbed may not be the super-solution they suppose it to be? Have they, for even one moment, entertained the possibility that, trendy as the culture of counselling may be, it might actually be the wrong approach?
If everybody is listening, what are they listening to? If Yes activists are intent on trying to empathise with those who are filled with fear and self-doubt, who is going to challenge their fears and question the cause of their self-doubt?
The reason Yes activists find it difficult to listen to people who are “not convinced” by “the case for independence” may be that they’ve heard it all before and know the trepidation to be irrational. They know that there is no real basis for the fear and self-doubt. They know that the scare stories have been comprehensively and repeatedly debunked.
They know that these people remain “unconvinced”, not because they haven’t been given ample opportunity to voice their ‘concerns’ and have them addressed, but because THEY are not listening.
Or perhaps Yes activists find it difficult to listen to the “unconvinced” because they recognise that the fears are not genuine. That they are post hoc rationalisations of a position arrived at, not through reason, but through prejudice or simple inertia.
Fear is the ugly offspring of ignorance. It is a void. A space in which imagination is not tamed by the constraints of knowledge. A space which the mass media have evolved to populate with monsters.
All the people who are amenable to being persuaded by the ‘positive case for independence’ have already been persuaded. What remains are the mindless bigots and people who have grown comfortable with their ignorance. People who are content with their imaginings. People who don’t really want to know. People who don’t want to make the effort to think. They will not be provoked to think by being given ’empathetic’ assurances that it’s OK to embrace ignorance.
If someone expresses the firm belief that independence would leave Scotland without a functioning currency then, however baseless it may be, that belief is not going to be undermined by sympathetic noises signalling a readiness to accept that this a real possibility which they have every right to be concerned about. Ignorance should always be challenged.
If we are to listen to those who cling to their faith in the British state despite all that has happened, then we are entitled to demand that they explain their beliefs and account for their fears and justify their lack of confidence.
The Yes campaign in the 2014 referendum was hamstrung by an obsession with being ‘positive’. It was hobbled by notions of commanding some sort of moral and ethical high ground while our opponents were left to dominate the battlefield of realpolitik. It was crippled by a reluctance to go on the offensive against propaganda-fed ignorance and debilitated by a conviction that minds could only be changed by being inoffensive to the point of being ineffectual.
It’s time to be assertive. It’s time to be aggressive. It’s time to stop being so defensive and apologetic and self-critical and start vigorously, ruthlessly denouncing the British Nationalist ideology which threatens our democracy.
No, Carolyn! I will not listen patiently while people talk Scotland down. And I can no more empathise with the idea that we are inadequate and unworthy than I can with the belief that the affairs of humankind are overlooked by a great wizard in the sky.
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