An event worth attending

I have been invited to speak at the Scottish Sovereignty Research Group Conference in Dunfermline at the end of July. This is not something I do much of these days. Mostly because I don’t get invited as much as I used to. But also because I’m not comfortable with large numbers of people. Two is a large number. Even if one of them is me. There’s a bit of legacy from lockdown involved, I suspect. I know the whole pandemic thing was traumatic in a host of ways for a great many people. I know there were a lot of horrible things happening out there. I know a lot of people did not cope well with lockdown. I was fine with it. I was more than fine with it. I preferred it to what I’d previously been obliged to accept as ‘normal life’.

I was unaffected by the pandemic. That is not the same as being untroubled. Of course, I was troubled by the fact that people were suffering and dying out there. But that was ‘out there’. Lockdown had the effect of isolating me from the reality of it. I wasn’t in the midst of it. I wasn’t meant to be. I’m not a front-line health worker or anything else that would require me to be ‘out there’. My role was to isolate myself physically from the rest of society. That was the best thing I could do. That was my job. And I enjoyed my work.

And I was good at it – though I say so myself. The proof of that is the fact that I was so little directly affected by the disease. In fact, not directly affected at all. It wasn’t all down to me. It was a household arrangement. My wife and I are both pretty good at adapting to situations and finding solutions – or workarounds. We very quickly sorted out all our arrangements so as to make coping as stress-free as possible. This isn’t a tutorial. So I won’t get into all the things we did. But the result was that, for me, lockdown was a good thing. It suited me. In psychologically preparing myself for isolation I became somewhat emotionally detached. That was probably a good thing. I was comfortable with it.

Some might say a bit too comfortable. It got so that, even when precautions were eased I really didn’t want to go out. When I did, I found I was very uncomfortable with the presence of other people in my vicinity. By “vicinity” I mean postcode area. I was far more strict about continuing precautions than most of the people I encountered. I saw people shaking hands and hugging and going maskless and I just wanted to distance myself from them as much as possible. I had spent the best part of a year not having to deal with how selfish and self-centred and inconsiderate and rude and just plain stupid people are. It was going to take a lot longer than a year to get back into the way of being around other people. And I wasn’t that much bothered about even trying.

Stress-inducing events have a cumulative effect. Drivers, for example, endure a multitude of stressful incidents as they travel. If people are selfish etc. ‘in the flesh’ then they are ten times worse when behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Their personal boundaries extend beyond the shell of the vehicle and extend in tandem with factors such as the speed at which everything is moving. Road traffic being what it is, personal space is constantly being invaded. Stress-inducing events merge into something continuous. If that stress is not released, things can get very nasty.

It’s the same when we’re just walking around on the streets or mixing with other people in shops and in the pub and so on. Our personal space is frequently invaded. Or under threat of invasion – which can be just as stressful as actual invasion. But people are social animals and modern societies require us to interact with far more people than evolution has equipped us to manage. So, over many generations, we have developed coping mechanisms that allow that mass interaction to continue without violence erupting. These coping mechanisms are large unconscious. Therefore, the stressors that make the coping mechanisms necessary become largely invisible.

Lockdown seriously disrupted these coping mechanisms. This had implications for everybody, I suspect. But not everybody would necessarily be affected in the same way or to the same degree. The potential for stress had increased while the mechanisms for coping with stress had atrophied. This meant that stress release mechanisms became more crucial. It also meant that the coping and compensating mechanisms had to be more conscious than when ‘normal life’ prevailed. To a greater or lesser degree, we all had to relearn how to get along with other people. For some, this was considerably more difficult than others.

Stress release mechanisms are the little things we do for others that compensate for stress caused by a clumsy interaction or miscommunication or our own selfishness and stupidity or the selfishness and stupidity of others. Language – verbal and non-verbal – obviously plays an important role in the stress release mechanism. We (literally) bump into someone in a shop doorway and this causes stress. We say ‘sorry’ or excuse me’ and this releases the stress. An oversimplification, I know. But it suffices for the purposes of illustration. If we don’t say ‘sorry’ or otherwise compensate for the inappropriate interaction, the stress remains. That stress has to dissipate over time. But it doesn’t get long enough to dissipate before another stress-inducing incident occurs. The stress from this new incident is added to the remaining stress from the previous incident. And so it continues until something releases that stress. The stress accumulates. The stress makes us ill and anti-social. We become more vulnerable to stress and more likely to initiate stress-inducing incidents affecting others around us. It’s a wonder the streets aren’t a bloodbath. Sometimes, they are. Riots are a form of group stress release mechanism.

Incidentally, if you’ve ever wondered why motorists blast their horns so much the answer is simple. It’s the only way they can communicate with others. Remember that communication – saying ‘sorry’ – is a vital stress-release mechanism. Drivers can’t use language as people in face-to-face encounters can. So they use their horn instead. But this is getting away from the topic.

I was very comfortable with virtual interactions. Zoom meetings were often shambolic in the early days. But people quickly got used to the technology and the technology itself was improved so virtual gatherings began to feel more natural. For some individuals, virtual gatherings became preferable. I was one of those individuals. I am not comfortable around other people. Or, as it is from my perspective, being crowed by rude, inconsiderate and often malodorous people

Getting old doesn’t help. Particular aspects of general degeneration can significantly impact one’s capacity for comfortable socialising. My hearing in one ear is severely impaired, making conversation difficult when there is a degree of background noise. That is stressful. My memory has deteriorated badly. (Is there a good way to deteriorate?) Especially my memory for faces and names. I find this extremely stressful in social situations. I either fail to recognise people – even those I’ve known for most of my life, or I fail to recall names. Put both together and that’s a lot of stress.

That’s a rather long yet still far from a comprehensive explanation of why I tend to avoid other people these days. The more of them there are, the more I try to avoid them. I make no apology for this long-winded explanation. It’s my blog and I enjoy writing in this way – where the writing is the thinking. Nobody is obliged to read it. I am compelled to write it.

Those who have read all the foregoing – congratulations or commiserations as appropriate – are probably wondering why, if being amongst other people is so painful for me, am I going to the Scottish Sovereignty Research Group Conference. It’s nice to be invited anywhere. The invitation came from my good friend Geoff Bush – a tireless campaigner for Scotland’s cause. But the main reason is that I reckon this gathering might be quite significant. I complain that the voice of dissent is too rarely heard. So it behoves me, I think, to accept when given an opportunity to have it heard is offered – even if it is only a few minutes during a busy three-day conference.

I have been invited to speak to a group discussing ‘Routes to independence’. I’ll be trying to persuade them that this should not be plural. There are a great many other things I’d like to say. But I’ll take what I can get.

I said I reckon that the SSRG Conference will be significant. That was not just a throwaway comment. A glance at the list of speakers and topics should be enough to convince any Yes activist that this is a worthwhile event. The discussions at this type of gathering are always informative and stimulating and occasionally inspiring. I am surprisingly (given my experience of SNP-sponsored events) confident that the Conference will produce something tangible. Maybe even something valuable. That’s a big statement for an old cynic like me.

Please consider attending the SSRG Conference. It is open to all. Just click the image below to be taken to the SSRG website.

Scottish Sovereignty Research Group Conference

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7 thoughts on “An event worth attending

  1. The SSRG Conference does indeed have a great line-up: One might even say it contains the rock stars of the Yes Movement (especially when Paul McCartney is involved).

    Good to see that the ‘Manifesto for Indy’ on the agenda – we need to prioritise these, putting the strongest at the top and going forth with this one.

    With the Yes Movement having been so fragmented in recent years – mainly due to the actions and inactions of our supposed political leaders and representatives – it is heartening to see the best thinkers getting together to consider the more effective and speediest way to cut through the Gordian knot that Scotland has somehow allowed itself to be entangled and bound by.

    Liked by 8 people

  2. Its getting more obvious now
    If the MSM haven’t mentioned the Vatican fire then
    There were 45 FBI agents in Westminster when the 40+ resignations happened.
    Abe assassination.

    Still to come, fall of Macron, fall of Justin Castro(AKA Trudeau)
    We’re winning.


  3. Not my cup of tea at all, I’d need a whole forest of matchsticks to keep the e’es open.

    But there’s some interesting stuff on the website I’ve looked at before

    that doesn’t mean anybody should agree with it, but it probably should actually be read to give different perspectives on things – and at least SSRG doesn’t claim to be “the” umbrella organisation of the YES movement like some other one that appears once a year some years to have a conference in Edinburgh of the great and self-appointed, and discuss, errr, no idea what it discusses, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t either.

    This conference (SSRG) has a full agenda, interesting speakers who YESsers can agree or disagree with , who put in a lot of effort, and whose names are known to most people who keep our eyes open. Whoops, I used that word “most people” (well, two words) without any proof at all. Damn.

    Good luck with the Conference, it’s timely, and I hope gets a bit reported.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Just go Peter, don’t doubt yourself, I’m pretty sure people want to hear what you say, I also think you’ll be surprised that folk will in most part agree with you.

    Craig Murray has a few serious health problems yet he’s touring Scotland promoting the indyref, I know its not going to happen and even if it did it would be a disaster, ill thought out and ill prepared its a trap for the genuine yes movement, still Murray pushes on. Didn’t you organise or attend a demo outside Holyrood for women’s rights not the long ago, and I’m sure you and the women made your points very clear, for shortly afterwards the usual culprits contacted and got the nod from Westminster via the SPCB to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

    The SSRG event will allow you to express your indy ideas and not be judged.

    Liked by 1 person

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