Here at This is How She Fight Start we like to pride ourselves on always being slightly behind the bleeding edge of the perpetually onrushing buzzsaw that is the 24-hour News Cycle. It’s the Ridcully approach to information management: if it really is important then people will still be talking about it a few days after the fact, and if they’re not, well, it can’t have been that vital anyway. And so it is that I eventually come to put down some thoughts on the Scottish referendum, a mere week after the fact. Next time I’m planning to discuss whether or not we should abandon the Gold Standard.
Tebbit’s test, for those of you who remain happily unaware, was posited by a rightwing English politician concerned, as rightwing politicians so often are, by so many of them coming over here and doing all those unnatural and scary things that everyone knows they do – worshipping different gods, speaking different languages, having different coloured skin – all that eccentric, unfathomable, borderline freakish stuff held in just contempt by right-thinking people everywhere. Specifically, he claimed that a first, second, third, whatever, generation Pakistani immigrant could not be considered English until they supported the correct side when England played Pakistan at cricket.
To be [swallows hard] fair, it’s not an unilluminating way of framing the question, for all the grotesque discourses in invokes (we’re only a hop, skip, and a jump away from ‘Rivers of Blood’ here, it’s worth remembering). How do individuals decide where there sense of belonging lies? How do we accommodate those differences and pluralities inherent in the word ‘we’? Does a ‘we’ axiomatically mean a ‘they’? Is the group better defined from within or without? Was Bodyline a legitimate tactic? Difficult questions all. None of which really seemed to get addressed during the independence ‘debate’, which from the remove at which I had to observe it appeared to be nothing so much as the longest ever convention for charmingly accented snake-oil salesmen. Vats, lakes, oceans of the stuff were slopped and swilled around on both sides, to the point that whenever ‘oil reserves’ were mentioned I frankly had trouble believing there was any of the fucking stuff left. To say the details of the Yes side’s proposals hadn’t been properly thought through seemed sadly as true as the claim that No’s big ideas were worked out at five minutes to midnight on the back of a cigarillo packet, what with them having spent the previous two fucking years louchely chuffing away on the contents whilst watching polo matches and commenting archly on the ingratitude and unsightliness of the poor.
Though let’s be honest, this was never a discussion that was going to be decided by closely considered plans or detailed budgets or facts or logic. Nationalism in all its forms is an anathema to critical thought. Despite the, at best, hopelessly naïve ragbag of aspirations and expectations presented by the pro-independence side, had they been successful the upshot would clearly have been nothing more than exchanging rule by a bunch of insular elitist bastards in Westminster for rule by a bunch of insular elitist bastards in Holyrood. They would at least have been Scottish bastards though, and that’s not nothing. Nations exist largely to provide the ruling classes with something other than their self-interest to invoke when making decisions that will fuck other people over. By and large they also offer the rest of us something a bit more coherent to tap into in the way of economies of scale and communal support and identity, but it’s worth remembering that the advantages of the nation-state get sucked up far more than they trickle down. There’s something to be said for having the ‘up’ closer to you, and seeing as that’s not about to happen economically any time soon, it might as well be geographically.
However, here we are. They’ve stayed, and I’m not a little relieved by that, for purely personal, selfish reasons. Principally because I’m continually grateful for the role Scotland plays in keeping the rest of the UK honest, but also because living halfway round the world puts enough of a strain on your notions of identity and belonging as it is, without your mother country/ies falling apart. My parents got divorced during my first stint in Japan and the feeling of watching helplessly from afar as people you care about take irrevocable decisions in your absence was distressingly familiar. Having banged on at length about the essentially idiocy of national identity it’s still something of a shock to me that I’m parsing these events in those terms, but there it is. I suspect I’d have felt very differently had I been living back in the UK. Which, for the time being at least, will remain U, and that’s as close to a resolution as I’m going to be able to provide to this post. Though I can at least console myself that one of the defining features of this whole process has been an absence of resolution, so it’s not like I’m the only one who has difficulty in bringing things to a satisfactory climax.
I’m sorry. I’ve been under a lot of pressure at work recently.