Mentions of Groundhog Day (the movie) are now as commonplace and cliché as references to Orwell’s 1984 or Animal Farm. Writers looking to spice a piece with a sprinkling of literary allusion might well want to avoid something so old hat. But the allusions noted only get to be old hat because they are now part of the language. Not only the language as it is spoken or written, the language of our thoughts. Determined as I may be to avoid anything so commonplace and cliché in my writing, I just can’t help thinking of Groundhog Day when I see something as endlessly repeated as the title of Mhairi Black‘s column in The National – We need to get our positive message on independence out there.
Really, Mhairi? You think so? Is that the same “positive message” as we were needing to get out there ten years ago? Is it the same need as there was then? If the same need is being expressed about the same message after all this time does it not strike you that perhaps something isn’t quite right here? Maybe it’s the message. Maybe its the way you’re trying to get it out there. But if the positive message isn’t out there after all this time and after incalculable effort by the Yes movement and after countless urgings identical to your own, does it not occur to you, Mhairi, that there’s something amiss?
Who remembers when we thought of Mhairi Black not just as a breath of fresh air but as an icy, mint-fresh blast that was going to stir the ancient dust of Westminster? Everything about that young woman seemed to be the polar opposite of everything the British political system was – and remains. Because nothing has changed. The excoriation of Westminster and the British government that Mhairi offers would have been just as relevant had she written it in 2015 when she was first elected. In fact, she probably did write it back then. And at intervals since determined by just how short she believes the public’ memory to be. It’s impossible to disagree with her assessment of the British state and the British political system. But we’ve heard it all before. It’s like… well… Groundhog Day.
Perhaps I’m being unfair. Perhaps the fire in Mhairi’s rhetoric blazes as bright and hot as it did seven years ago. Maybe it’s my cynicism that makes think of one of those old coal-effect fires as I read her article. Or it could just be the contempt born of familiarity. Because there’s certainly nothing new here. The whole spiel has become formulaic. Scripted. Mechanical. As if constructed from a set of parts like flat-pack furniture. A pabulum concocted according to an old recipe and fed to the troops in the hope of preventing them flagging with the effort of maintaining a state of readiness for the day that isn’t Groundhog Day.
But if it is my cynicism that makes me see only something tired and dull where I’m supposed to find inspiration then it becomes a question of how I came to be so cynical. Could it be because I’ve heard the tale of an imminent referendum so often it has become meaningless? The last thing it does is bid me suppose there will be a referendum imminently. I know others seem able to just discount all those previous tellings of precisely the same tale. But I find myself unable to be oblivious to order. I am almost jealous of those who can look at the likes of Mhairi Blacks column and see it as if for the first rather than the umpteenth time.
All I take from take from the article is yet another reminder of the woeful dearth of fresh thinking and novel ideas in the upper reaches of the SNP. But then, it’s hardly the first time I’ve made that observation.
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