Andrew Tickell is hardly the first to suggest that we all should sympathise with “the very sorts who really bought into Better Together vision of Britain“. That we should show some understanding for people who were grievously deceived. That we should be supportive of people who have suffered a great loss.
Maybe so. But, while I don’t for one moment doubt Andrew’s sincerity, I often sense a measure of self-indulgence about the more extravagant displays of fellow feeling. More than a hint of self-righteousness. Perhaps a pinch of condescension. All bound together with a generous helping of moral superiority. Virtue-signalling is very much the dish of the day.
I am generally in favour of sympathy. If I say society has deteriorated over recent decades largely due to a declining capacity for human empathy, this may be more than just the tendency to rose-tinted hindsight which often comes with age. But if sympathy is a scarce and, arguably, diminishing resource, should it not be apportioned judiciously. As individuals, we cannot possibly sympathise with all who may be deserving. If this ever were possible, advances in communication mean that there are now vastly more calls on our sympathy than we can hope to satisfy.
Unless we’re Luddite hermits, we spend much of our days immersed in stories and images evidencing man’s inhumanity to man in graphic and gory detail. Rolling news on TV and online is a litany of atrocities, each with its list of victims for whom we are expected to grieve. We are obliged to be selective. We must be parsimonious with our sympathy lest we be reduced to a dessicated husk, sucked dry of all emotion. And if this makes us seem betimes hard-hearted or heartless, then I’m sorry. But only as sorry as I can afford to be.
Where should those suffering No voters be placed as we prioritise the calls on our stock of sympathy? What is it they have lost? Only their illusions. The scales have fallen from their eyes and, discomfiting as this may be, it hardly compares with the loss of limbs or loved ones. An emotional attachment has been severed. But the wound bleeds only in the sense of an over-contrived metaphor.
Losing something to which we are inexplicably and irrationally bound is part of the human experience. It can be painful. But it can also be formative. Before we lavish too much sympathy on Unionists coming to terms with the collapse of so much that had seemed to them solid and dependable, consider the true nature of their plight. Theirs is not a loss of the kind that leaves an aching void that can never be filled. It is more in the nature of a moving on. What they feel is, not the life-blighting pain of bereavement, but the passing pangs of nostalgia. They have not been permanently deprived of something irreplaceable. They have shed the burden of something that has proved unworthy.
Listen to those who have made the journey from No to Yes. Do they seem bereft? Do they give the impression that a part of their being has been stripped from them leaving a raw and festering wound that will not heal? Or is it more as if a layer has been peeled away to reveal something fresh and fulfilling?
Losing the Union doesn’t leave you alone. It leaves you in better company. It does not call for sympathy. It is cause for celebration.
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4 thoughts on “No sympathy for Unionists”
A rational or emotional approach to any subject or activity or challenge generally follows something like the following stages:
In terms of the 1st Scottish Independence Referendum a majority of people (1) inferred that the arguments against Yes were stronger, so they (2) decided in favour of the Union and then (3) confirmed this by actually voting No.
For those the (4) consequence of voting No, and seeing that they were wrong after observing events, is mere embarrassment.
They do not have to account to others for what has happened since 2014 to Scotland, its people and institutions. They’re not going to jail, they’re not being banished from the land and they are not being subjected to 100 lashes of the birch.
If a mild feeling of shame and awkwardness is all No voters have to endure in order that lessons are learnt then I think there is much to commend it.
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I would suggest a sequence more like the following was all too often the case.
Many people had made their decision before the arguments were made. Many didn’t even attend to the arguments; they merely picked up on the media narrative. Having made their decision, and after having acted upon it, they then selected from the arguments the bits that made their conclusion look rational.
People don’t vote what they know. People vote what they feel. But, having voted what they feel, they are embarrassed to admit it was an emotional choice and so seek out the arguments which make it look like a rational choice. If you want to win a campaign, you use an emotional appeal while providing chinks of rational-sounding stuff that can be referred to after the fact.
It is absolutely pointless trying to prove that Scotland isn’t ‘Too wee! Too poor! Too stupid!’. What you must do is make people FEEL that Scotland is ‘Wealthy enough! Smart enough! Big enough!’ while giving them a few numbers that the can use to put a sheen of rationality on that feeling.
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Yes I, no doubt like you and many other Yessers, have heard plenty of post-consequence ‘rationalisation’ – you know the ‘arguments’: “we need a proper currency plan otherwise we won’t be able to buy & sell and import & export”, “we need the nuclear weapons protection of the UK otherwise we risk being obliterated by some half-starved, paranoid, religious fanatics living rough on the other side of the world”, “we’ll lose our pensions if we don’t stay part of the Union”, “my sister and brother living in England will become Janet & John Foreigner to me after independence”.
These excuses – for that is what they are – form a convenient cover for the actual reason for voting No/supporting the Union, namely that many No voters have an emotional attachment to the UK, Britain, the “Empire” etc.
By this stage if No voters are either unable to get over their denial of reality and/or fear a little humiliation by admitting they got it wrong then there is little hope for them and we should leave them for the men in the white coats to deal with rather than wasting any more of our own much needed and scarce emotional energy by lending them some sympathy for their voting actions.
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Must agree, Duncanio. The problem is compounded, however, in the case of NO voters because they condemned the rest of us to this hell. Many of them still feel no shame or regret. If I hear or read another NO voters say: it was a once in a lifetime promise, I may be tempted to throttle said NO voter. The introduction of EVEL, not mentioned beforehand, not debated in parliament, not voted on, precludes any promise, declaration, whatever. That action rendered the Edinburgh Agreement null and void, as far as I am concerned. To feel sympathy for those who ill use you is probably very worthy and very liberating in a religious kind of ‘prodigal son’ way, but to mere mortals who have no pretensions to hang on a cross, what they require is a good kick up the rear end, then another, for good measure. Too often lately, I have heard some prat on tv or radio talk about his/her conversion to YES, then they spoil it by making an attack on the SNP, just stopping short of the usual accusations of being ‘Natsies’, etc. If you have come to YES, reluctantly, from a NO position, just leave it at that because you come across as a stupid prat anyway, and an utterly self-centred, selfish, self-interested and self-indulgent one at that, whose vote has caused misery to others more enlightened than yourself. I’m inclined to say, FO, but I suppose we need them because the SNP hierarchy insists on a S30 Order and another indyref for some unfathomable reason known only to themselves, when other options exist.- in order to put us all through this again and to throw the dice on a vote that could result in NO again, the human propensity for stupidity rarely waning, but always ready to wax at the drop of a Westminster lie.
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