Crises and choices

John McDonnell offers an interesting argument for preserving the Union. Filter out the word-spray intended to put a patina of sense on that argument and what remains is the proposition that the more successive British governments do harm to Scotland the less feasible democratic constitutional reform becomes. The inescapable logic being that doing harm to Scotland is an effective way of preserving the Union. Which necessarily implies that those who wish to preserve the Union are powerfully motivated to do harm to Scotland.

This is not a new argument, of course. It is simply a variation on the theme of constant crisis as a means of social control. A theme familiar from the writings of George Orwell and other peddlers of dystopian visions. Perpetual war is probably the most common form of constant crisis. But this looks like it may soon be be knocked off the top spot by climate change. And, as you would expect, the dismal science of economics is always a contender.

Constant crisis is a particularly useful tool for social control because it is flexible enough to be adapted for almost any set of circumstances. The nature of the crisis is, obviously, an important factor. It needn’t be something as serious as armed conflict – which includes such as the ‘War on Terror’ and the ‘War on Drugs’. It can be something relatively low-key – such as the economic instability which is an ever-present background hum in our lives.

Just as the intensity of that background hum can can be turned up or down as may be expedient, so the manner in which the constant crisis is related to individuals and groups can be fine-tuned to maximise the coercive effect. This can go from the constant crisis being the problem which regrettably requires that people be controlled, to people resisting control being the problem on account of the crisis.

Evidently, John McDonnell feels the need to ramp up the threat level. Brexit isn’t enough. In his desperation to convey a sense of crisis he throws climate change and child poverty at us as well. With all this going on, so the argument goes, it would be irresponsible to indulge the democratic right of self-determination. It is only a matter of adjusting the size and shape of the crisis and pretty much anything can be portrayed as an indulgence or a distraction or a waste of resources.

What is missing from McDonnell’s ‘thinking’ is any consideration of the fact that circumstances are the product of choices. A chain of causal connections links the nature of present circumstances to past choices. The matter of how and by whom those choices are made can never be irrelevant. Constitutional politics is concerned with the core questions of who decides, how those decisions are arrived at and the processes by which decisions are implemented. Constitutional debate can never be a mere indulgence.

If the crisis being deployed as a justification for compromising democracy is real, it is a product of self-evidently bad choices made by the British political elite. If the crisis is false or exaggerated, it’s because the British political elite choose to deceive us. Why, then, would we trust their choices? Why would we entrust them with the power to make choices that affect Scotland? Why would we not choose to make those choices ourselves?



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4 thoughts on “Crises and choices

  1. “…The inescapable logic being that doing harm to Scotland is an effective way of preserving the Union…”

    It has worked beautifully thus far, Mr Bell. The greater the pressure of threat, the greater the fear, and the greater the fear, the greater the Stockholm Syndrome. However, I believe we need to dig even deeper and ask the question, why?

    Why does the British/English Nationalist elite feel it needs to do this to a country that is still, by and large, quiescent? Is the SNP or the wider YES movement on the rampage? Nope? If anything, the SNP, in particular, allows the threat to hang over us like the Sword of Damocles by specifically not going on the rampage.

    So, just why does the UK/England choose to intimidate and threaten and bully us into compliance? According to their propaganda, we are supplicants of the most contemptible variety, who, like vampires, suck the lifeblood of our big neighbour which has always been there for us in our hour of need. Except that the truth is pretty much the opposite. It is the truth of the Union relationship that must at all costs be kept from the bulk of the population on both sides of the border: it is one thing to have the contemptible Scots poop their pants in economic terror; and quite another to have the English population do the same because they are far more likely to take to the streets and threaten real revolution. That is why we will never be allowed to leave the UK amicably or without grave injury to our future prospects unless we have friends in the international community who will be there to protect us, even if they do so only out of a mutual self-interest and cynical ulterior motives.

    I really don’t think we have even scraped the surface of what is coming our way if we do not escape Brexit. This, I think, the One Nation State that will follow Brexit as night follows day, is the last throw of the dice for England as the UK, for England as a second-rate kind of world power, for England as a rather tawdry military force in the world. Power over the other peoples of these British Isles has ever been the aim of every English monarchy and parliament since before the Normans, and absorption into a Greater England the ultimate triumph. By not even acknowledging the truth of all this, our own leaders do us a massive disservice, and all in the name of happy clappy harmony and goodwill which does not always flow the other way.

    As I have often said, we sacrificed our perfectly legal and legitimate right to self-determination after 2014 by not accepting that we were in deep trouble from the demographics of that vote. No, we had to wait until 2016 to witness its real flowering. Will we still be grinning inanely when that One Nation State envelopes us, secure in the knowledge that we have been ‘nice as pie’?

    Basically, those of us who are independence supporters must never question the ‘finer feelings’ (translated as: you must be anti English if you want independence (rUK NO voters)/ you must be anti Scottish if you can’t see that no one, absolutely no Scot, wants independence (Scots-born NO voters)) of minority groups that even the UN would find iffy and warns against accommodating in its Charter because these types of groups that vote consistently against other people’s independence are, by and large, themselves colonialists. Think Israel and Palestine. Think New Caledonia and the French settlers. Think Canada and the Quebecois. Think the First Nation Peoples and Manifest Destiny.

    Now, apparently, the ex patriate Scots in England who would vote against independence by a majority might be given the vote because it’s only fair and we must be ‘nice’, after all, effectively cancelling out the EU residents who are far more likely to vote YES this time around just to ensure that we make it so much more difficult for ourselves to reach the line, you understand. Has the SNP gone insane. Or are they just being Scottish? We all understand that Scots must always snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It’s in our DNA. Our opponents understand that, even if we don’t. Read The Scotsman, folks, that great supporter of all things Scottish, so Scottish, it even adopts the name from the very people it tries to hold down every day.

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    1. “Now, apparently, the ex patriate Scots in England who would vote against independence by a majority might be given the vote…”

      I appear to have missed something. This cannot be a serious suggestion. In part because the franchise is based on residency, not ethnicity. And also because ethnicity is such a minefield.

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      1. I believe that it is to be included, perhaps, in the Referendums Bill, Mr Bell. I have heard that from several sources, but I cannot vouch for its authenticity. Suffice it to say that it would not surprise me overly. The franchise might be based on residency, but that does not prevent an ethnic vote from taking place, as happened with rUK NO voters in 2014. If that wasn’t an ethnic vote, what is an ethnic vote?

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