Thursday, September 18, 2014

Scots Wha Hae!

Regardless of whether Scotland ends up as an independent country or not, what's interesting is the extent to which this historic referendum is a big "screw you" to the dictates of Neoliberalism and the idea that the only means you have of self-determination is what the banks and markets dictate rather than the needs and wishes of your own people. Maybe that idea is finally starting to crack. If so, that's a good sign.It's also a "screw you" to the new elites who seem to be disdainful of popular democracy, even as they get richer every year while their constituents, the people they are supposedly supposed to represent, grow ever poorer.
Scotland’s push for independence is driven by a conviction — one not ungrounded in reality — that the British ruling class has blundered through the last couple of decades. The same discontent applies to varying degrees in the United States and, especially, the Eurozone. It is, in many ways, a defining feature of our time.

The rise of Catalan would-be secessionists in Spain, the rise of parties of the far right in European countries as diverse as Greece and Sweden, and the Tea Party in the United States are all rooted in a sense that, having been granted vast control over the levers of power, the political elite across the advanced world have made a mess of things.

The details of Scotland’s grievances are almost the diametrical opposite of those of, say, the Tea Party or Swedish right-wingers. They want more social welfare spending rather than less, and have a strongly pro-green, antinuclear environmental streak. (Scotland’s threatened secession is less the equivalent of Texas pulling out of the United States, in that sense, than of Massachusetts or Oregon doing the same.) But there are always people who have disagreements with the direction of policy in their nation; the whole point of a state is to have an apparatus that channels disparate preferences into one sound set of policy choices.

Power is not a right; it is a responsibility. The choice that the Scots are making on Thursday is about whether the men and women who rule Britain messed things up so badly that they would rather go it alone. And so the results will ripple through world capitals from Athens to Washington: People don’t think the way things are going is good enough, and voters are getting angry enough to want to do something about it.
Scotland’s Independence Vote Shows a Global Crisis of the Elites (NYT)
Neoliberalism, in Britain and elsewhere, has not just hived off collective resources into private hands; it has also hollowed out liberal democratic governments, placing large areas of political debate under the sole purview of dispassionate, spreadsheet-wielding technocrats, beholden only to the markets. The result is an ever-shrinking arena for the rest of us to thrash out ideas. Under this type of politics, most of the political landscape becomes ossified and uncontested. We can squabble over whether the government should implement temporary energy price freezes, but never ask why energy production shouldn’t be in public ownership altogether. We can ponder the finer details of banker bonuses, but never discuss why it is that a mammoth, rentier financial industry is allowed to gamble every day with the world’s economic future—pocketing all the profits when it wins and socializing all the risk when it loses. Amid an orgy of material choice, our political horizons have narrowed to near zero.

The message of the pro-union Better Together campaign—which started out with a seemingly insurmountable poll lead, before hemorrhaging support in recent months—has been grounded firmly within those narrow horizons, concentrating on fear of the unknown and the amorphous risk of structural change. While initiatives like Common Weal were going around asking Scots “if you could do anything, what would you do?” slogans on the other side have included “I love my family, I’m saying no thanks,” and, “If you don’t know, vote no.” It’s a narrative calculated to appeal to an electorate uncertain of their capacity to change the world around them, a population content to allow those wielding power under the existing political model to define the safe, limited routes to change within it. “Their whole campaign has been predicated on the idea that people are basically stupid and not interested in politics,” argues McAlpine. “The message is, ‘We know what's good for you, don't ask questions.’ ”
More Than Scottish Pride (Slate)
Perhaps the most arresting fact about the Scottish referendum is this: that there is no newspaper – local, regional or national, English or Scottish – that supports independence except the Sunday Herald. The Scots who will vote yes have been almost without representation in the media.
There is nothing unusual about this. Change in any direction, except further over the brink of market fundamentalism and planetary destruction, requires the defiance of almost the entire battery of salaried opinion. What distinguishes the independence campaign is that it has continued to prosper despite this assault.

In the coverage of the referendum we see most of the pathologies of the corporate media. Here, for instance, you will find the unfounded generalisations with which less enlightened souls are characterised. In the Spectator, Simon Heffer maintains that: “addicted to welfare … Scots embraced the something for nothing society”, objecting to the poll tax “because many of them felt that paying taxes ought to be the responsibility of someone else”.

Here is the condescension with which the dominant classes have always treated those they regard as inferior: their serfs, the poor, the Irish, Africans, anyone with whom they disagree. “What spoilt, selfish, childlike fools those Scots are … They simply don’t have a clue how lucky they are,” sneered Melanie Reid in the Times. Here is the chronic inability to distinguish between a cause and a person: the referendum is widely portrayed as a vote about Alex Salmond, who is then monstered beyond recognition (a Telegraph editorial compared him to Robert Mugabe).

Living within their tiny circle of light, most senior journalists seem unable to comprehend a desire for change. If they notice it at all, they perceive it as a mortal threat, comparable perhaps to Hitler. They know as little of the lives of the 64 million inhabiting the outer darkness as they do of the Andaman islanders. Yet, lecturing the poor from under the wisteria, they claim to speak for the nation.
How the media shafted the people of Scotland (The Guardian) P.S. My friend from work who is from the U.K. (Northern Ireland) is absolutely convinced that this entire referendum is all Mel Gibson's fault


  1. Pretty strange for a country to be inspired by an out-of-work right-wing Catholic Anti-Semite

    1. Been done to death by people far funnier than that.

      It's been a tremendous campaign. Things will never be the same. The schtick is done, stick a fork in it. It will take a while to crumble and blow away... ah, Ozymandias.

    2. Totally. Decentralization of power is always worth fighting for

    3. It's not like that has happened before or anything. Certainly not in Germany, anyways.

    4. Funny how little people are really taught about the Swiss system, which started decentralized. I majored in poli sci, and we hardly touched on it, they flogged the two party system so hard, and second, the proportional system. As though the Swiss were an uninteresting anomaly. And I guess they succeeded. I am thinking of doing a pissed off post about propaganda; it's turned into an avalanche...


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