I’ve got an invective policy on this blog. There are some topics and individuals upon which the only tongue lashings are the threads tying down a sharp tongue. That doesn’t mean I’m not burning with smart arsed and bitchy put downs against [inaudible mumble] and their [inaudible mumble] which furgodssake [inaudibly mumbled]. But I keep schtum anyway, even when it’s [inaudible mumble] John Mason. Is that hypocritical of me? Quite possibly. I don’t care. I’m human, I contain contradictions. We all do. That’s what makes us human.
I will not criticise any individual, organisation, or campaigning group actively seeking a Yes vote in September. No one told me not to. I’ve got protection from undue influence – through the magic of scissors and PVA glue I transformed my lovely free expensively produced UKOK bookletty thingy into a lovely hat which protects the sensitive regions of the neo-cortex from SNP mind control rays. It works better than tinfoil, though it’s certainly less stylish.
But the fact I’m not going to criticise or mock them doesn’t mean I agree with everything every other Yes group or campaigner says or does, nor does it mean I agree with their strategies or tactics. This is a grassroots movement. That’s the opposite of a manicured lawn, which is a monoculture of manufactured sameness. A mass movement is a big breathing living mass of organic nature, a forest or a field of wild flowers. That’s the whole point of being a mass grassroot movement. It’s not a controlled domesticated thing. It contains contradictions and incompatibilities. And that’s precisely how it should be.
All of us come to this debate with our own histories, our own stories, our own perspectives. We’ve got our own expectations, and our own priorities about the things we want to achieve and how to achieve them. The only thing we have in common is the agreement that Scotland requires the full powers of self-government in order to tackle them effectively. I don’t criticise other Yes supporters, even those with whom I have fundamental political disagreements, because I refuse to be distracted from the prize of a Yes vote in September.
I’m not saying others should follow my example. That’s entirely up to other people. Like I said, we each come to this debate with our own experiences, our own perspectives, and our own priorities. What I see as my priority is not necessarily what others see as theirs. This is a mass grassroots movement, there is no party line – but I would ask people to reflect upon the fact that there are now just 83 days to go until the most important vote in Scottish history, and perhaps to consider the need for a bit of self-discipline.
There is a good argument to be made that it’s arrogant to tell a person that they must delay or downplay their own important issues in the cause of another campaign. It’s an argument I’ve used myself often enough in the past – see what I mean about hypocrisy and contradictions? I remember many years ago an unreconstructed socialist telling me that all that “homosexual stuff” was a dangerous distraction from the real prize of building socialism in Britain. Only once that had been achieved would the workers’ collectives arrive at a true and just dispensation for the good little gay people who’d kept their mouths shut for the cause. But it’s not for him or anyone else to tell me what my political priorities ought to be. The political is personal and I’m not about to put off making much needed changes in my own life in the vague hope that one day paradise will arrive and someone else will do it for me. I’m going to do it myself. Now.
In fact it’s just like Labour’s solidarity argument – Scotland must put off tackling her own problems with poverty and social exclusion until the bright dawn comes and we get a UK Labour government which is actually a Labour government as opposed to the Labour goverments we actually get. Only Labour’s paradise never comes. This is something else we need to do for ourselves too, and why we need to vote Yes.
Political campaigns are like good comedy, except politicians aren’t funny on purpose. But the secret is still in the timing. There’s a time to pick a fight, and there’s a time to put that fight off for another day. Right now, those who are blocking progress towards tackling the many social and political issues Scotland faces are not other Yes campaigners – no matter how distasteful or reprehensible you may find them, their views or their tactics. It’s those who want us to vote No who are the immediate obstacle to progress. It’s the No campaign which seeks to deny us, all of us with our various opinions priorities and perspectives, from taking control of the tools Scotland requires to begin to work on the problems Scotland faces. And when Yes supporters attack each other, we do the No campaign’s job for them.
As we approach 18 September, and the possibility of a Yes vote becomes real, there is a greater tendency to jump the gun and start fighting the fights we can only fight in an independent Scotland. Right now we’re 83 days away from the referendum, hoping that Yes supporters do not criticise other Yes supporters is not the same as asking women or gay people or black people not to tackle pressing issues of sexism, homophobia or racism until the glorious day sometime in a vague and undetermined future when the revolution arrives and all these things will be sorted for us. There’s an expiry date on the referendum special offer, and it’s one that’s not far off. On 19 September, everything changes. And after that date, we will still have our own priorities – but with a Yes vote we’ll have the tools we need to tackle them ourselves.
This is not a student debating competition. There’s a far bigger prize. Keep your eye on it and don’t be distracted. Keep calm, keep focussed. Direct your ire carefully. Prioritise it. And we will win.