Ruth Wishart’s column in The National today (Enough gaslighting … Scotland is done with this marriage) is long on rhetoric. Woefully short on explanation. Divorces don’t just happen. No matter how total the breakdown of the marriage it remains a binding contract until the contract is cancelled. For that to happen one of the parties to the contract has to act. As in take effective action. As in do what the Scottish Government has shown not the slightest inclination to do.
I’ll wager there is not one person of an age to have observed – and in some cases experienced – a few marriages over time who is not aware of a marital partnership which persisted despite every outward indication of being irreparably broken. Women in particular are known to ‘learn to live with’ abusive relationships in ways that defy the understanding of even the most perspicacious of those who are aware of the reality.
If, with a gun at my head, I were required to give a one word explanation for this readiness to tolerate the intolerable the word I would choose is inertia. There is a point at which the abused party becomes so diminished by their conditions of existence as to lack the physical and intellectual resources that altering those conditions would demand. When the abused party reaches this point no promise of a better condition will be sufficient to overcome the inertia that binds them as effectively as any chains. The more effective the abuse the less credible does any such promise seem. The more fleeting and tenuous the moments of relative happiness in an abusive relationship the less the inclination to put those moments in jeopardy by gambling on something assumed to be unattainable.
Overcoming the inertia requires not only a belief in the possibility of a better place to be but an awareness of reality which must be escaped. The breakthrough comes when the abused party acknowledges the reality of their condition and recognises that it is only their denial of how bad things are that prevents them accepting the possibility of better. In that moment, inertia is overcome. In that instant, a metamorphosis begins.
So long as the moment is seized. So long as the instant isn’t allowed to simply slip away. So long as action is taken before momentum is lost. So long as the necessary action is correctly identified.
The point, lest it have been lost in the foregoing, is that the fact of things being bad does not in itself imply that things must change. Overcoming inertia requires three things. Recognition of present reality. Acceptance of the possibility of a different reality. And awareness of the action required to initiate movement from the former to the latter.
Ruth Wishart paints a fairly graphic picture of the reality of Scotland’s status in the pretendy partnership of the Union. She even makes clear that the toxicity of this ‘precious’ Union is not attributable entirely to the relatively recent phenomenon of Boris Johnson and the variant strain of British Nationalism he represents, but has been a characteristic of the Union from its inception. What she writes hear may well aid recognition of Scotland’s present reality and encourage recognition of the need to escape it. What she fails to do is explain the action needed to change that reality. Without that, how might people accept that a better reality is attainable?
The line we’re being fed by the SNP leadership and its apologists is that if the ‘case for independence’ is kept polished then we need only wait for Scotland’s present reality to get bad enough and independence will happen. There is no attempt to address the matter of how. In fact, considerable effort is going into preventing or at least damping down discussion of what action will best serve to take advantage of the moment when inertia loses its grip.
Some of us have been giving much thought to this over many years. Some of us are ready and willing to talk about what must be done, as opposed to merely bleating about how dreadful it all is or banging on about our delightful vision of Scotland’s future. Some of us would really like to address the practicalities of restoring Scotland’s independence. We were done with this marriage a long time ago. Isn’t it about time we actually started the divorce proceedings?