We’re at a point now where procrastination just won’t cut it any more, where tinkering at the edges of single issues that only affect a tiny minority but make certain people look terribly “progressive” in the eyes of an even tinier bubble won’t get us to our destination.
And it certainly won’t answer the big questions on borders, currency, and Europe. These are all major areas which require work and analysis in order to be successfully argued against the full weight of the Unionist machine.Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh
There are no “big questions on borders, currency, and Europe”. There are only the niggling questions British Nationalists ask in order to create doubt. Those questions only seem big because so many in the Yes movement help to make them seem big. Politicians are particularly guilty in this regard. It is to their advantage to make politics appear daunting and complex. The make it a matter for ‘experts’ because they can then present themselves as the very experts we need. In this, they they get the eager assistance of journalists and professional commentators who also profit (often quite literally) from the the business of explaining and clarifying. If politics was simple, we wouldn’t need them. So it pays those journalists and commentators to join with professional politicians in making the whole business as opaque and arcane as possible.
Which is not to say that there aren’t issues which genuinely are complicated. But for the most part, the politicians and their media accomplices don’t understand those issues any better than the rest of us. It’s the things they do understand that they want to portray as being beyond the understanding of mere voters. The supposed “big questions” are the perfect example of this process of mystifying the commonplace.
Of course, there’s little point in mystifying issues unless you can present yourself as the one who holds the key to the mystery. Thus, every professional politician claims to be the person who has the answers to the “big questions”. They do this – in part, at least – by informing us in the most humble tones they can muster and a self-deprecatory shake of the head that they don’t claim to have all the answers. No! They only claim to have some of the answers which everybody wants. Which in aggregate must be all the answers. But they haven’t said as much. And that’s all that matters. A bit of plausible deniability for when the voters discover the politicians they’ve elected have no answers whatever and evidently don’t even understand the question.
The professional politician has a neat trick to get around the potential problem of some smart-arse asking about the answers they are claiming to have. It’s the line about needing to ‘have a conversation’ about the issue. This has the added advantage of making the politician seem inclusive. A team player who considers you part of the team. Which lasts right up until you try to engage them in this ‘conversation’. At which point they deploy another line from the professional politician’s arsenal – the one about how the issue that you were expecting to have a ‘conversation’ about is ‘not the real issue’. Or it’s extremely popular variant, ‘let’s be clear what the real issue is’. As if they wanted to be clear about anything.
Being ‘clear’ doesn’t work for them. Clarity requires honesty. Forthrightness. If the politician is honest and forthright about the “big questions” then people will realise that those questions aren’t so big after all. Some of them aren’t even meaningful questions. Very few are anything like as incomprehensible to the lay person as the lay person has been led to believe.
The corollary to politicians claiming to have the answers to big questions – or to be the person who will facilitate a ‘conversation’ about these issues – is that their competitors feel obliged to insist that they don’t have the answers at all and are incapable of doing the ‘conversation’ thing. This quickly descends into a game of abstrusity trumps with all the players trying to outdo one another in making the issue seem beyond the comprehension and capacities of all the other players. Pretty soon, the whole business of public policy is a can of worms and/or a tough nut to crack depending on which is most likely to make the public on the receiving end of the policy throw up their hands in uncomprehending despair and opt to leave the whole thing to the ‘experts’. They don’t just delegate their democratic power, they desert it.
There are no “big questions on borders, currency, and Europe”. The notion that there are such “big questions” is almost entirely a product of British propaganda. It all comes back to the way the constitutional issue has been framed. Which itself comes down to who is doing the framing. The British political elite has been allowed a free hand to frame the constitutional issue in the way that best serves their efforts to preserve their ‘precious’ Union. Rather than challenging the ‘Big Questions! Big Doubts!’ framing imposed by the British propaganda machine our own politicians – along with the larger part of the Yes movement – have chosen to accept that framing and work within its constraints.
The principal focus of the Yes effort has been trying to answer those ‘Big Question!’ and allay the ‘Big Doubts!’. There being no answers that will be deemed satisfactory and put an end to the questioning, all the effort to find the ‘correct’ answer(s) only serves to make the questions seem bigger and increase the doubts accordingly. The British propaganda apparatus has only to plant the ‘Big Questions!’ and sow the ‘Big Doubt!’. Pro-independence politicians and political activists take it from there.
There are no big questions. Or, to be more precise, the questions being presented as the big questions are not the big questions. They are unanswerable, either because there is no answer that will be accepted as such by those posing the question or because there are so many perfectly valid answers that any attempt to pin down a single one is bound to fail. The story then becomes one of questions going unanswered. The propaganda points to a ‘case for independence’ that is characterised by confusion, contradiction and inconsistency.
In all but the rarest instances one’s political opponents do not ask questions in order to elicit information or clarification. They ask questions because they know the honest answer – or the attempt to answer honestly – will be embarrassing and the dishonest answer evidently so. Or in order to generate doubt or amplify existing doubts. Or to kill a question they don’t want asked because there is such a massive distance between the answer voters want to hear and the answer that derives from their ideology and/or serves their political agenda.
What the Yes campaign needs is not better answers to questions posed by British Nationalists for British Nationalist purposes but better questions put to British Nationalists for our own purposes. Questions such as –
Do you accept that Scotland is at least as capable as any other nation of managing its borders and related matters such as immigration?
Do you acknowledge that Scotland is at least as capable as any other nation of managing its monetary affairs and related matters such as currency?
Do you allow that Scotland is at least as capable as any any other nation of managing its external affairs including its relationship(s) with the other European nations?
These are only ‘big questions’ if your inclination is to answer ‘no’ to any or all of them.
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