When you encounter people who denigrate and deride The National, try rattling off a list of the columnists who write for the paper ─ Stuart Cosgrove, David Pratt, Kirsty Strickland, Joanna Cherry, Andrew Tickell, Ruth Wishart, Lesley Riddoch and the rest. My guess is that you’ll draw blank stares at most of the names you mention. The sad fact is that pitifully few folk actually read what these commentators have to say about the pressing issues of our times or the perennial problems besetting humankind. Which is unfortunate. Because this is writing to make you think. Which may well be the reason why so few people read these columnists. Sweeping generalisation alert! People don’t like to think! More precisely, they don’t like to be made to think.
To a greater or lesser degree, none of us enjoys having our ideas called into question. We have a conceit of ourselves which maintains that we’ve given matters due consideration and that the resulting conclusions are sufficient. Being constantly obliged to revisit and review these matters is effortful and tiresome. It is also very healthy. But we know how much enthusiasm there is across the population for doing healthy things.
I reckon the greatest compliment that might be bestowed upon a writer is to tell them that their work is stimulating. The commentary and analysis to be found in the pages of The National is consistently stimulating. Not least because, for the most part, what we are offered through the pages of The National is a distinctively Scottish perspective. A perspective that is rarely if ever found in the emphatically British titles.
Not that I always agree with what these columnists say. But there are few things more stimulating than a point of view with which you strongly disagree. While it is gratifying to read your own thoughts being echoed by a ‘name’, this doesn’t really get the juices flowing. It’s being obliged to formulate a counter-argument or to pick out flaws in the writer’s reasoning that is stimulating. Being forced to reconsider and occasionally revise one’s views is a good thing.
In that sense, George Kerevan’s column in today’s National is not stimulating at all. There is nothing there with which I can disagree. I take three main points from George’s article, and they are all points that I have made over the years since I myself ventured into the world of citizen journalism. They are, to my mind, statements of the obvious. As is very often the case, however, the obvious is well worth restating. These are important points. And, obvious as they may be, they are points which all too many people ─ including a number in positions of power and influence ─ have yet to grasp.
The first of these points is that focusing on destroying the things you detest can blind you to the need to consider what will replace it. Or perhaps more importantly, who decides what will replace it. This is something I have spoken of in response to demands that the House of Lords be abolished. Those making this demand tend to exhibit a serious lack of reflection when it comes to the matter of what will be put in its place. The furthest most have got is insisting that the second chamber should be elected. Personally, I see little point in replicating the party-political systems and processes which make the House of Commons the embodiment of British demockracy. (No! That isn’t a typo!) I see even less point in abolishing the House of Lords only to have its replacement designed by those who consider the British state to be the epitome of genuine democracy. And no sense at all in having a new second chamber designed by those who are principally interested in accruing more power to the British executive.
I made a similar observation regarding Brexit when I wrote that it was not only the consequences of quitting the EU but the implications this would have for the kind of state the UK would become given that it would be redefined by the people who thought it a grand idea to leave the EU with no thought or preparation.
This is very much the same point as George Kerevan makes.
Behind the lacklustre Truss is a new team of Tory rising stars who are anti-establishment – meaning they want to take on the existing cosy institutions that dominate British public life. Institutions such as the Treasury, the Bank of England and the BBC. I’m talking about the likes of Kemi Badenoch, Kwasi Kwarteng, and James Cleverly.
Before you say: “What’s wrong with blowing up the Treasury and the Beeb?”, let’s ponder what Truss and co will put in their place. Essentially, if you ignore all the blank cheques Truss is signing, she is proposing a radical overhaul of the Whitehall machinery. This comes down to centralising power in Number 10 and doing it for real.
The second point which is hardly new but well worth repeating is to be found in the first sentence of the above quote. It is not the politicians who appear on TV that we need to be concerned about but the forces behind those ‘faces’. This is something I have said often in relation to Boris Johnson. To a large extent, the bungling, bumbling buffoon character was an act. But it didn’t really matter if it was real. Johnson was elevated to high office by those faceless forces. Or, to step back from what I now see as a looming precipice of conspiracy theory, his path to high office was eased by those forces. They facilitated his rise to Prime Minister because his was the face that had most utility for the faceless ones.
To retreat even further from what might be considered conspiracy theorising, we’re not talking here about some cabal of powerful but secretive figures plotting in some luxury hideaway. I use the term ‘forces’ advisedly. There is no ‘Evil Conspiracy’. There are just forces. The forces which arise when a sufficient body of entities with a sufficient amount of influence come to have a sufficient commonality of interest. There is no need for these entities to be organised so as to work in concert for the forces they create to steer history in the direction that best serves their common interests. It just happens. It only looks like a conspiracy when one is looking backwards from the outcome and finding connections which from that vantage point seem purposeful ─ so long as one ignores all the connections which don’t fit the ones that do are indistinguishable from a plan.
As power has accrued to the office of British Prime Minister, that office has become the tool of those forces. Again, there is no conscious direction going on. Although some will claim to see such direction where they want to see it.
Where Boris Johnson was to a great extent putting on an act, Liz Truss’s unprincipled stupidity seems genuine. That doesn’t disqualify her as a tool for the faceless forces. Far from it. Her deficiencies as a human being make her the ideal agent of coincidental purpose. Take random forces with no more than a statistical tendency towards a particular outcome, add the power of the British Prime Minister’s office with a ‘tractable’ incumbent, and that outcome becomes a near certainty.
The best trick the Devil ever pulled was being non-existent.
The message here is that we must beware the faceless forces behind the picture of vacuousness that is the face of Liz Truss.
The third point George Kerevan makes may be slightly less obvious than the others but it is certainly no less important. In fact, it is probably the most crucial point of all. Which may be why George saved it for his closing paragraph.
None of this bodes well for Scottish independence. A world preoccupied with war and inflation won’t give a damn about Downing Street ignoring the democratic will of the Scottish people. We are on our own. But that may be no bad thing.
We are on our own. Another fact I’ve tried to highlight before now. Forget all the talk of the British state’s behaviour towards Scotland ‘driving’ people to support independence! The British are not going to do the work for us! Forget too all the blather about international courts and the UN and the ‘international community’. Nobody is riding to Scotland’s rescue! We are on our own! Scotland is on its own! We confront those faceless forces ourselves or we accept whatever fate those forces decide for us. It will not be a fate which pleases anybody who cares about Scotland and democracy.
Sadly, we can’t even rely on our own Scottish Government to stand fast for Scotland’s distinctive political culture and national identity. We, the people, are truly on our own. Principal among the many things that all the people of the UK have in common is that in different ways and in varying degrees we have all been let down by the entire political class. We, the people, are on our own. If we don’t make a stand against the inexorable trend towards UK-wide ‘managed democracy’ marching under the ideological banner of British Nationalism, then who will?
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10 thoughts on “Faceless forces”
I agree whole heartedly on most folk not reading beyond the headline and can only hope (that horrible little word of last resort) that people are not as ‘hard of thinking’ as we believe. Keep up the good work. Your reflections and analysis can make for grim reading; as reality often does, but it helps to keep me sane.
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Was in complete agreement with this article until the second last paragraph where Peter asserts the “International Community” are unnecessary. As I have always said, Scotland is on its own until it declares itself independent. But that declaration is meaningless unless it is subsequently recognised by …. the “International Community”. If they ignore it, there is nothing stopping the “Forces” being alluded to in the article just swatting it aside, as happened in Catalonia, with a crackdown on Scottish identity, culture and institutions as yet unimagined.
You are a quite remarkably slow learner. How many times has it been pointed out to you that Scotland is not Catalonia? The fact that the constitutional situations are totally different continues to elude you.
Almost as remarkable as your inability to grasp self-evident facts is your inability to comprehend plain English. I doubt if anybody else failed to understand that I was referring to the process of bringing about the restoration of Scotland’s independence. NOT as you stupidly imagine, what happens AFTER independence is restored.
Back to your inability to understand basic political realities. The international community will have no reason to withhold recognition of Scotland’s independence on the single condition that the process by which independence is restored is impeccably democratic. I work on the assumption that the process will be entirely democratic. You are incapable (there’s that word again!) of imagining a process being democratic if it doesn’t conform to the Sturgeon orthodoxy.
You’re just not very bright. Cue some whining about me abusing you because you disagree. Because yet another thing you’re incapable of is accepting that the point you were trying so hard to score have gone against you. I will say this despite being aware that it will go way over your silly wee head. I am not abusing you. I am helpfully pointing out your stupidity on the grounds that if you don’t know how stupid you’re being you won’t ever be less stupid. And I do not mock you just because you disagree. I mock you because your disagreement is silly. For all the reasons that you can’t understand.
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Reblogged this on Ramblings of a now 60+ Female.
I used to buy the National and read most of the columnists, well maybe not that Paton fellas, but the one’s you mentioned and the likes of Ruth Wishart and what’s his name? Ah yes, Horsebox Mike Russell’s as well. The Hamish fella on history penned some good stuff.
But the truth is apart from George Kerevan’s half-decent articles, the rest are just repetitive formulaic shite, whilst outside in the real word SFA happens on the indyfront, these columnists and a few more are there just to give you and I the feel good factor, that even though we’re gong backwards on the indyfront, our articles give you hope, now you can finish your tea with a contented feeling that it will end up alright in the end.
The little shit that edits Sturgeon’s fanzine Callum Baird, is also the editor of the Herald, he’s playing both sides against each other via the newsrags.
Its all a game to the National to get sales up, mind you Sturgeon has given the press £3million of Scottish taxpayers cash to keep them afloat, now like the BBC we’re funding our enemies so they can tell us lies and put indy down, you couldn’t make this shit up.
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And what continues to elude you, despite an article dedicated to them, is that the “Forces” you allude to don’t give a gnat’s ass about the peculiarities of this or that constitutional arrangement. Without the “international community” acknowledging Scotland’s newly declared independence, whatever you think differentiates Scotland’s position from Catalonia’s so fundamentally won’t shield us from them.
However it now transpires, far from discounting the “international community”, you are just assuming they’ll fall over themselves to welcome us into their midst. Which is new, but invalidates your claim they are not part of the process.
Where we seem to differ is when independence becomes a reality. A reality in the real World, not the imaginary one in your head. You appear to believe simply by the Scottish govt declaring independence ….. we become independent with all that entails. Where-as I, and most reasonable people, know that a UDI means squat until it is recognised internationally. Only that makes it a reality. Without it, your “Forces” will just laugh in your face.
I agree with every part of your article apart from one point …. and you blow up. You’re becoming an “angry man” caricature Peter.
“Where-as I, and most reasonable people”
Which seems a rather vain statement, as in it has the quality of being worthless or futile.
I consciously phrased that statement in the expectation it would become the focus of any replies. You didn’t disappoint.
The UK is in a dark place, and so far there is not even a tunnel for there to be a light at the end of.
And that’s all I have to say about THAT.