Wee Ginger Kittens …

A guest post by Jason Baird of the IndyApp

A few months ago the following kitten GIF was posted to a twitter thread discussing self-
organisation among the local YES groups – it was posted by a big Yesser and killed the discussion stone dead!GIF 1

Like a brilliant tabloid headline, those kittens seemed to hit the nail right on the head for a lot of people. By confirming and then crystallising certain preconceived ideas, every entertaining kitten retweet that followed light-heartedly bludgeoned the credibility of the possible alternatives… and the twitter argument was over.

That GIF really got me thinking because it seems to perfectly encapsulate a potentially damaging view of the Yes groups commonly held within parts of the movement, and even by some grassroots activists themselves. It’s a debilitating stereotype that misunderstands the autonomy of local indy groups and paints them all as unleadable and without order. So, let me use the same Gif to explain why those preconceived ideas are so wrong.

First, I’d like to start by pointing out that the power of the kittens GIF lies in the fact that there is a very large element of truth to it. The autonomous groups are in many ways like kittens in sheer single-mindedness and fierce individualism. However, the old tabloid trick used here is to powerfully identify universally-acknowledged truths, and then apply them as proof to an unrelated proposition.

In this case the implication is: single-mindedness and fierce individualism of the YES groups (an acknowledged truth) makes self-organisation, enlightened self-interest and working together on shared goals impossible. At best this is an unproven proposition, and if believed, at worst a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So, let’s take a closer look at those kittens again:
GIF 1

Aww, lovely… and yes, in some ways the kittens are a very good representation of the indy groups, and the Yes movement in general. They are autonomous, inquisitive and playful, but with a real hunter’s instinct. They are also too, too cute and loved by all – when not being annoying 😉

However, to equate this particular GIF to the grassroots is to fundamentally misunderstand the psychology of the autonomous groups and, just as importantly, the kittens. What we see here are the legs and disembodied hands of an increasingly frustrated external force attempting to impose their will on the kittens. ‘Line up, damn yous!’ These arms and legs do not represent organisation: they represent top-down organisation.

Big hint: Autonomous groups (and kittens) do not respond well to top-down!

This is why political parties, and the more centrally organised institutions of the YES movement, find working with grassroots groups (as a collective) such a frustrating experience. It’s not a criticism, but whenever a Yes institution (or political party) attempts to organise the groups, they will always be seen, in one way or another, as attempting to line up the kittens to their own organisational requirements, and no matter how sensible those requirements may seem to be, from a Yes organisational point of view, the kittens (as a collective) have shown themselves simply uninterested.

This frustrating experience has led many thinkers and activists from the more ‘traditionally organised’ side of the movement, to conclude that any practical organisation of the local groups is therefore, in itself , somehow impossible. That’s the message being cleverly reinforced by the GIF but fortunately it’s a damaging message that is simply NOT true. What is true however, and what it should be used to underline, is the frustration felt by all those still trying (and failing) to organise the groups from above.

So, with all that in mind, let’s imagine our own alternative kittens GIF … One with all the kittens doing their own thing – some on the floor, some on the table, some under the couch, some on top of the couch – all doing what interests them most. Then, instead of
disembodied hands trying to place them all in a line, we have a large bowl of milk placed on the ground. Soon, mysteriously (not), you see every kitten in the room happily and intently engaged in the same thing, lapping away at the edge of the bowl. No need for guidance, persuasion or even disembodied hands.
GIF 2

This bowl of milk represents official referendum campaigning. THAT is what brings the autonomous groups together, and it’s the wide and varied local interests of those groups, developed before the bowl of milk is put down, that gives the YES movement it’s incredibly frustrating, but powerfully decentralised, campaigning abilities.

Big hint 2: Yes grassroots only gains its full power when the movement is focussed by an official IndyRef campaign. Disembodied hands from above are not required to keep our eyes on that prize!
GIF 3

During the last referendum we had plenty of kittens; our big problem was that we only had a small, but very deep, bowl for the milk – in the form of our centralised Yes HQ. Only a few kittens got fed, there was mayhem as they tried to get their share of the milk and there was frustration, disappointment and inaction from all those wanting to participate but couldn’t see over the feeding scrum, never mind get to the bowl!

Our job as a movement, and what the NYR IndyApp platform has been designed to help do, is to enable a large enough pro-Indy organisational bowl to be created before the next IndyRef campaign is called – a bowl that gives every kitten more than enough access to their own share of campaign milk. They can drink their milk however they like. Some will be dainty, some will get it all over their faces and inevitably some will even climb into the bowl! The mess will not matter, because some kittens will want to lick their milk off the faces of friends, and even those kittens that climb in the bowl will serve as a warning to others not to be so daft. The important point is that it is the kittens
that must decide how they drink.

As I hope this article has shown, leadership from above is NOT the intuitive model Yes communities formed themselves around when fighting IndyRef1 and it’s NOT the organisational model that evolved within the local groups themselves. So, how can the grassroots groups themselves crack the organisational nut to ensure all kittens get their milk during IndyRef2*

From our experience of Yes shop campaigning during IndyRef1 and years of local meetings, opendiscussions, listening and holding National Gatherings, what has emerged from the groups themselves is a desire to come together as a community of autonomous groups and create their own collective structures, for their own organisational needs. That is the collective will that the National Yes Registry (NYR) is focused on encouraging, and it’s that ‘community of autonomous groups’ that the IndyApp platform has been built to help practically facilitate.

Next Step: Now that the IndyApp platform is ready, the NYR are holding a national training weekend for all local Group Editors and interested group members. It will be held at The Station Hotel in Perth over 21/22 September 2019, 160+ training places available with overnight accommodation for 100.

After holding successful test events, we have an interactive training process that practically takes folk through all the shared platform functions needed to allow that community of local Indy groups to form.

Timing: Our aim is to cascade platform readiness across all groups and synchronize IndyApp training with the timing of the Scottish Government’s own IndyRef legislation, going through Holyrood and scheduled for completion by Christmas.

The Strategy: Once we are properly networked and local groups are able to respond to enquiries from the public, we can all focus on expanding IndyApp membership out to as many Yes supporters as we possibly can. From that solid base we can begin to get many, many more Yessers actively involved in practical campaigning. This training weekend is about building the grassroot networks that Yes will need to be ready for action the moment IndyRef2 gets called. Only the groups can organise themselves like this and only active group members can lead the process.

Open Invite: ALL groups are very welcome, whither registered on the IndyApp platform or not. To ensure you and your group are a part of this important training weekend, please book your places here …

https://nationalyesregistry.scot/perth-training-weekend/

Bookings are going well but each place at the Perth weekend is heavily subsidised in order to keep attendance affordable and open to all. This means that the training weekend is dependent on the success of our crowdfund. The full venue costs must be paid by the 1 st of September and so the crowdfund end date is less than a week away! At time of printing we are at 22% of our target, so if you like what we are trying to do, please click on the link, read more about it and perhaps drop something in our bucket to help make it happen.

https://nationalyesregistry.scot/crowdfunding/

*I think the kitten analogy is now at its limits, but I will be lurking below the line for anyone who wants to continue stretching it 😉

GIF 4

36 comments on “Wee Ginger Kittens …

  1. Bob Lamont says:

    In the midst of catastrophe you find a kitastrophe to enthuse about… Bravo..

  2. Bugger le Panda says:

    No one has ever herded cats.
    The may follow you but only that.

  3. Millsy says:

    An indisputably cogent message put across excellently !

    The unionists have been ‘campaigning ‘ relentlessly since 2014 , whether it be via the media propaganda 24/7 , the unionist Westminster parties , the GERS figures , the ‘independent’ think tanks …. while WE have been told to wait ” Now is not the time ” for campaigning .

    The leadership of the SNP in particular has got to grasp the nettle – ”Now ” will NEVER be the time unless we make it so !
    There is a growing sense in the country that if we do not act soon then Brexit events will overwhelm us and the optimum moment for action will have passed us by .

    WE are ready , Nicola – are YOU !

  4. CATHy says:

    Brilliant!

  5. panda paws says:

    Loved the kittens, sorry Ginger!

    “big problem was that we only had a small, but very deep, bowl for the milk – in the form of our centralised Yes HQ. ”

    Quite! We should learn from the last campaign so we can make the next campaign the last (and a successful) campaign.

    Good luck with initiative.

  6. Peter A Bell says:

    Some time ago, and in a different context, I wrote what I still regard as the most fundamental attribute of the Yes movement.

    “Yes is a diverse, open, inclusive, unstructured popular movement. It is NOT an organisation. That is as it should be. That is its strength. It is not hierarchical. It is an amorphous, informal, organic network. That is the essence of its power.

    There are no leaders of the Yes movement. But there are leaders IN the Yes movement. Leadership arises as leadership is required. When that leadership ceases to be necessary, it merges back into the movement ready to be called upon if needed. The Yes movement has no need of leaders so long as it has this potential for emergent leadership.”

    I think this fits quite comfortably with Jason’s kitten analogy while taking it into the realm of human intellect rather than animal instinct. We are not kittens. Like all analogies, Jason’s breaks down on close contact with reality.

    The phenomenon of emergent leadership was, for me, brought into sharp focus at the first of Yes Registry’s Gatherings. A task had to be performed. An objective had to be achieved. And the leadership needed to accomplish this simply emerged from among the people involved, and remained for the as long as it was required. It was a remarkable thing to witness.

    Jason is right. It is at least as impossible to impose a fixed hierarchical order on the Yes movement as it is to herd cats. But this does not imply chaos. There is order within the Yes movement. Even, at times and in certain circumstances, something akin to a transient hierarchical structure. Whatever it takes to get the job done.

    The nature of the task at hand defines the need for emergent leadership and determines the form that this leadership takes. This thought has been very much at the forefront of my mind of late as I contemplate how the different elements of the independence cause can be brought together and made to work effectively as a campaigning organisation. Which is where I present an analogy of my own.

    In this analogy, the SNP is the lever by means of which Scotland will be prised out of the Union. The Scottish Government (Nicola Sturgeon) is the fulcrum on which the lever moves. The Scottish Parliament is the solid base on which the lever rests. The Yes movement is the force which must be applied to the lever. It is absolutely essential that these components work together. Otherwise, nothing much happens.

    The most problematic part of all this is the relationship between the Yes movement and the SNP. Once again, I dip into my blog archive.

    “An accommodation must be found. Factionalism is most certainly not any kind of solution. It is, in fact, a way of avoiding the difficult task of finding that accommodation between the SNP and the Yes movement – and among all the elements of the independence cause – which will allow each and all to be effective.

    The single point at which all the elements of the independence cause meet is the Union. The thing that everybody in the independence movement agrees on is that the Union must end. It cannot even be said that all agree on independence. Because there are differing ideas about what independence means. There is no ambiguity whatever about the imperative to end the Union.”

    What I have been pondering lately is how best we might move towards this accommodation. It occurs to me that, if the theory of emergent leadership holds, then the necessary leadership should emerge from the Yes movement. The task of opening a productive dialogue between the Yes movement and the SNP will demand a particular kind of leadership. And it may be something that many in the Yes movement will be uncomfortable with.

    It may be time for the Yes movement to find from among its massive number a person or persons who can sit down with the SNP leadership and speak for the Yes movement as a whole.

    • Well said, Peter.
      The SNP Party and the Greens are required to take forward any S30 process and negotiate the nuts ‘n’ bolts of Indyref2 with WM certainly.
      Blair Jenkins was dragged into every studio as ‘head’ of Indyref1, a job, imho. for which he was not prepared or skilled enough.
      Interviewers, hacks, and trios of Btter together wolves ganged up on him every time.
      We have 35 WM MP’s who should be front and centre when the Beeb and Sky come calling.
      They hold ‘Shadow’ Portfolios for Health, Finance, Foreign Office, and so on.
      Spread the PR load amongst our experts.
      Also among the YES Movement there must be quite literally tens of thousands of experts in every field, from Banking to Baby Boxes.
      The NYR app is a valuable tool for coordinating initiatives and setting up new grass roots hubs.
      I look forward to the day when Davidson is front of Camera when Scotland has resoundingly voted Yes; I’d be tempted to quip; ‘nothing to say, Ruth? What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?
      This life IS full of care. There is no time to stand and stare.

      • NYR IndyApp says:

        Hi Peter and thanks for such a considered response to the article. I would say that any form of ‘leadership’ that might come out of the Grassroots Yes movement as it currently exists, will need thes ame thing that every recognised leadership from the movement has had up to date.That is, anacknowledged and accepted level of consent. Until now that consent has been shown mainly through support for campaigning innitiatives. Some people may not like a particular innitiative, but if it has popular support it has consent and with it the credibility to carry on as a form of leadership. Once that consent is withdrawn, credibility is withdrawn. I think this is the turn over and churn you remark upon.

        For the grassroots movement to grow a larger, national type leadership of some sort (a big If) then credibility is key and credibility can only come from collective consent. So, for me, the practical problem of ‘Yes leadership’ that WILL need a solution is how does that ‘leadership’ collect and sustain credibility from the grassroots, and how can the grassroots remove consent should a ‘leadership’ be percieved as no longer representing the movement?

        All this is way beyond my pay scale though Peter. All we want to do with the NYR Indyapp platform is provide a method by which the goups can come together, as they did at the Gatherings, and form a campaigning community that can then decide themselves what form (if any) best suits them as a campaigning organisation. I know from experience how pragmatic and practical the groups are when given the tools and opportunity to find solutions. We just want to provide them those tools and opportunities.

        Lets hope we get the consent and popular support to justify our own leadership on this, otherwise the same grassroot laws of credibility apply to ourselves just as they do to everyone else trying to advance the movement. 😦
        Jason

        So, here is another shameless plea to everyone, If you like what we are trying to do please help us if you can We are at 32% with only 4 days left…https://nationalyesregistry.scot/crowdfunding/

        • Peter A Bell says:

          It was not my intention, Jason, to divert from the topic of IndyApp. If I have inadvertently done so, than I apologise. Let nobody doubt the importance of the tool you and your team have developed. It will unquestionably be a valuable aid in the coming referendum campaign.

          It is that campaign which is my concern. I can see how IndyApp is going to facilitate networking within the Yes movement and, thereby, make it stronger. It then becomes a question of how that strength can be used most effectively. In my ‘lever’ analogy, there’s a bit missing. The bit that connects the Yes movement to the rest of it. Mainly, to the SNP. There is currently no dialogue between the Yes movement and the party. The SNP speaks to us from time to time. But we have no way of responding. We have no representative body. No voice.

          I’m not even certain that we want one. But I wonder whether the campaign machinery can function properly without clear lines of communication. What you are doing creates clear lines of communication within the Yes movement. I am now thinking about how that can be extended.

          Again, if that is off-topic, I apologise. Perhaps this is not the place for airing my concerns and ideas. I hope you and Paul will excuse me, therefore, if I point people to the article on my own blog where this matter was first broached in order that discussion can continue there – https://peterabell.blog/2019/08/27/a-dangerous-thought/.

          • NYR IndyApp says:

            Not at all Peter, this is what its all abou!.
            I think we agree, its just that I don’t think we yet have the luxury to move onto addressing the connecting element, that seems to be needed, between the political leaderships and the grassroots until the grassroots are at least minimally organised within themselves. Once (or if) Yes Grassroots organises themselves I believe that such a connecting element will naturally form.

            How or what it looks like I don’t know and doesn’t nuch matter at this stage. all I do know is that the groups are very practical and pragmatic and when faced with a need they usually come up with an answer. But.. any answer to a question like this NEEDS grassroots organisation as a base requirement. That’s what the IndyApp platform is trying to provide. That needs collective will of the groups and training. Fingers crossed we get support enough to provide it.

            Sorry no time to carry this on just now but its a topic that Perth is all about. Hope you can make it Peter, especially the second day.
            Talk later
            J 🙂

    • NYR IndyApp says:

      Sorry Peter, posted a reply to you on the post below…
      Jason 😦

  7. […] think this fits quite comfortably with Jason Baird’s kitten analogy while taking it into the realm of human intellect rather than animal instinct. We are not kittens. […]

  8. mogabee says:

    Ever so succinctly put.

    There’s a crazy belief by many of those intent on herding us kittycats that yessers are moving away from the desire to vote yes and end the union.

    Not a bit of it!! We are bored with inactivity and just want a campaign to get our sharp teeth into.

    Thanks for this article and also to Peter Bell for his insight.

  9. Macart says:

    Timely post and some great comments. 🙂

    Seems the poop is about to hit the wossiname with Mr Johnson’s latest wheeze.

  10. Aucheorn says:

    The problem that I see is that without a Yes “Leader” how do we Yessers get our message and make a connection to the SNP Hierarchy.

    It seems to me that the Government is not listening or even acknowledging the Yes movement.
    As many others have said recently “Give us the go ahead and we will make it the right time”. I know of many foot soldiers who are waiting for that moment.

    • Bob Lamont says:

      The frustrations of many Yessers with SNP ‘detachment’ is both a legacy mutual preference mixed with impatience with what has gone on of late and the preferred silence of SNP.
      There’s been a bit of sniping going on (feet under the table etc.) but we cannot know what their info and tactics are any more than those who would use it as a weapon against them. If I had to guess the cause for reserve, it can only be tied to Brexit, perhaps even by threat from or agreement with HMG.
      Regarding communications, we should not forget the huge number of SNP Members, Councillors and MSPs who are deeply committed Yessers, their comments and criticisms will already have fed into the SNP hierarchy, but Peter’s observation and comment touch on whether this ad-hoc arrangement should and could be formalised given the nature of the Yes movement.
      Given the latest news on Johnson’s games, the kettle may soon be coming to the boil, or shit hitting the proverbial fan…

    • NYR IndyApp says:

      Hi Aucherorn.
      Think its only grassroots organisation that the SNP can recognise and work with. What that organisation looks like and how it works is entirely in the hands of the grassroots (and is their responsibility to form).
      J 🙂

  11. Craig P says:

    Love the kittens:milk analogy Jason!

    • NYR IndyApp says:

      Thanks Craig! (though really you should never feed kittens milk, but this time… for yes, i broke the rules :0 )

      J 🙂

    • NYR IndyApp says:

      Thanks Craig 🙂 (Though really kittens should never be fed milk 😦 For Yes…I broke the rules this one time)
      J 🙂

  12. Petra says:

    Ironic or what? Privy councillors are heading north from London to Balmoral today to get Queenie, who’s lolling around on holiday in Scotland, to suspend Parliament for 5 weeks (over the last few years 3 to 20 days max). Suspend Parliament to enable a dictator, known as Bojo the Clown, to achieve his No Deal Brexit which the vast majority of sovereign Scots don’t want.

    On a positive note, lol, we’re reaching crunch time now and thank goodness Nicola Sturgeon didn’t allow herself to be pressurised into jumping the gun. If she had done so, we would have surely lost Indyref2.

    Her decision making is tied to Brexit of course. She and her ilk have had to take into account that the Scots let them down in 2014 and could do so again. If they hadn’t done all that they could to halt / mitigate Brexit and we’d lost Indyref2 we’d be up sh*t creek without a paddle and the Scots would be ripping her (verbally) apart. And of course without knowing the end result of Brexit how can NS send out the SNP’s .. ‘An Independent Scotland: Household Guide’ to every home in Scotland and more so stand up and make comparisons between one course of action … Independence … and well … a load of constantly shifting hot air?

    This long drawn out, miserable fiasco will culminate in Nicola Sturgeon announcing a referendum date, one way or another, and when she does the “kittens” will unite around that bowl. We’ll see a repeat of 2014 but this time we’ll win. Person or persons who represent the Yes movement sitting down / collaborating with the SNP? Don’t we have that, potentially, already with the SIC?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-49493632

  13. Jason, I tried to donate but don’t understand the box with 3 symbols that comes up after I press ‘Donate’.

    • NYR IndyApp says:

      Thankyou very much ufostudios and sorry about that 🙂 Could you email me on nationalyesregistry@gmail.com and we can work out what’s happenning. Thanks again for wanting to help.
      J :).

    • NYR IndyApp says:

      Hi Again ufostudiosbulgariia. Had a look and it could be the text is not showing on your device for some reason. The three boxes are top: Card number, Bottom left: Expiry Month/Year, Bottom right: CVC (three number on the back)
      Thanks again for supporting us and really hope this helps (and apologies to other posters 😦 )
      J 🙂

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