I saw a Better Together referendum broadcast on the BBC last night. It was full of proud and patriotic Scots proudly telling us how proudly proud they were to be proud and patriotic Scots. We’ve got lovely scenery you know, and they were all dead proud of lots of other stuff that’s never going to change because it’s already happened, like things achieved by people who are long since dead.
The video featured that lovely wummin that retweeted the oh so funny wee joke that Catholics are like Christmas lights because they’d look better hanging from a tree. So that’s just patriotic and Cool Britannia then, in an Orangey grassroots way. And oh so very proud she was. Alicsammin doesn’t know what a joke is. Britishness is so inclusive isn’t it. And the ordinary mum who just happens to be the chair of her local Labour party was there as well, being proudly and patriotically grassroots too. And some wee manny, being proud in Gaelic, proudly proud of a Union that’s killing his language.
They were all proud of a Union that’s dead, a partnership that’s a takeover, an equality that’s subordinate. Proud of a Union that tells us we have no right to anything. They’re proud of the ball and chain that restricts their freedom of movement. Proud to surrender their choices to others. We’re better together because then we don’t need to accept any responsibility. We can remain children. We can remain like the cygnets in the pond in the park and think that the world is bounded by the fence. Ugly ducklings forever.
It was all a bit desperate, over-compensation. The only people you should ever need to tell how proud you are are the people you are people of. But the people the ProudScots are proud of are all dead. They’re proud of the dead because they can’t be proud of the living. So they stress how proud they are, to cover up the vanishing dignity, the evaporating hope, the death of aspiration.
The essence of Unionism is being proud of the dead and the inanimate. Perhaps it’s safer that way. It’s a passive pride, a pride that stands on the dignity of others, without a sign that you might dare to imagine that you could make people proud of what you could do yourself. Or that you might be proud enough to dream of what the people of Scotland could do together as a nation, not in the past but here and now. You might dare to think that pride is about an active present not the passive past. But an active Scottish pride is a dangerous pride. The ProudScots keep it safe and quiet, they’re proud of the scenery viewed through the window of the coach as it winds its way through a the estate of an absentee landlord in a landscape denuded of humanity. All aboard the ProudScot tour bus.
There was enough chest expanding pridery on display to inflate the egos of a pride of Unionists – that’s the official collective noun for them, in case you were wondering. They like to think that they’re the British lions. Did you know that lions eat their young and turn on the sick and wounded? True fact that. And most of their food is stolen from hyenas and other far more successful hunters. ‘Nother true fact that.
I don’t much fancy being a proud British lion, it’s just a less successful hyena with better hair. Hyenas have more laughs anyway. But I’m proud too, proud enough to know that things should be better than this, proud enough to dream of a country that doesn’t just mouth justice but practises it, proud enough to do something about it. And proud enough to understand the difference between being proudly self-regarding, and the pride others could have in you.
Today the doctor called from the hospital. We spoke about the pride and dignity of a beloved man whose life is slipping away. She needed to know if she should strive officiously to keep my partner alive. Sometimes the ones you love are so broken and worn out that you need to let them go free. She wanted me to know that the time for a decision is approaching. It’s not here yet, but it will be soon. He’s not coming home again.
So I watched the proud Scots being proud of having no answers, proud of the certainty of lack of faith and ambition, passively proud of the past. They live in a broken dream but are too afraid to let it go, blinded by their own passivity and pride they can’t see it can never be fixed, can never be healed. So they distract themselves with currencies, alicsammins and cynicism. They don’t want to face the decisions that face us all. The decisions required to take charge of your own life by yourself. It’s too hard, too frightening. So they retreat into denial, it’s all good, it’s all just fine, look at the dead and be proud. No future just a present that looks to a past that’s vanished.
But the time to let go is coming. Be brave. Face the fear. Accept it. And life will go on and you’ll discover the strength within you. The strength you can’t see because you’re too busy looking at the past.
I went to the park with my friend Mary and the dug to feed the swans. I had some Yes cakes left over from Friday, and on the basis that you are what you eat, I fed them to the cygnets in Alexandra Park and imagined they will grow up into Yes swans. They’ll leave the safety of their wee pond and will fly off to recolonise a loch in a Highland estate long since cleared of human beings. The swans will do what the people can’t. They’ll fly free.
Swans start out life as ugly ducklings, and then grow into graceful and elegant creatures, who can be right nippy wee buggers if you cross them. They take to the skies and find their own paths and soar above the proud lions, the imagination flies free. And they don’t care what anyone thinks of them.
Scotland can fly free and find her own path, in grace and beauty. I want to be proud like a Yes swan.