Saturday, May 29, 2021

Scottish Independence

There is an article over at Quillette that won't stay on the sidebar forever about the SNP and independence. I defer to him on many things because my Scots-Irish heritage is 200 years old and his information is considerably more important, however much I like the Wallace Tartan. Nostalgia is not reality, and the current Scots seem much farther left than I am comfortable with.

There is a long comment by someone named Geary Johansen that I found quite informative, though you should apply the usual discounts that 1) he has a site he is trying to get you to visit, and 2) seems to want to revert to discussing Scandinavia a bit quickly. Still, I liked it. As a person who follows the yearly PISA scores, I was particularly interested in the info about Finnish education.

I am interested here in the phenomenon of the SNP appealing to very old sentiments in order to sell a new idea. I learned from CS Lewis many years ago*, though I did not believe it at first, that this is usual.  The CPUSA had a specific training of using the tunes from old Christian hymns and modifying the words just a bit to get folks singing along to socialist ideas. Think Pete Seeger, with at least two dozen examples, beginning with "Down By the Riverside" and continuing to "We Shall Overcome." But to get back to the Scots, I think we in America can guess at it immediately.  The SNP is saying "Bagpipes playing 'Scotland the Brave!' Kilts! The cursed English, and remember Robbie Burns!" We see it easily in others, not so well in ourselves. I have suspected all along that independence was a bad idea for the Scots, but he makes the case most strongly.  Of course, I also believe that groups have the right to make rules about their governance even if they are wrong.

*Our business is to present that which is timeless (the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow) in the particular language of our own age. The bad preacher does exactly the opposite: he may think about the Beveridge Report and talk about the coming of the kingdom. The core of his thought is merely contemporary; only the superficies is traditional. But your teaching must be timeless at its heart and wear a modern dress. ("Christian Apologetics" 1945) You should write this on your wrist and on your brow and place it like a mezuzah on your doorposts, for it is the great danger of the 20th and 21st C of the church.  Racism? Pah. Consider who is putting our focus on that third-level problem of the Church. Come back to Lewis and this thought in one month and one year and every year thereafter. This is where we are usually fooled.  Mostly liberals, but conservatives also in a different way, and if you do not apprehend that, take a long walk to figure out where that might be.  Or read more CS Lewis, which is the answer to all modern problems.


james said...

Or read more Chesterton, who described a lot of our problems a hundred years ago.

FWIW, I've read suggestions that Scotland is a net drag on the UK economy, since much of the industry is offline/obsolete. I wonder if that's true. If so, it would make a Scotland split even worse than the article says.

Narr said...

My wife, dear woman, has fallen in with an international ring of Scots nationalists who worship at the altar of "Outlander," the epic and seemingly endless tale of war and rebellion, intrigue and exile, time-travel and sex. Lots of time-traveling sex.

It's a given with that crew that Scotland "should be a free country." That's really how they think, and luckily it's not up to me to decide who deserves a country and who doesn't . . . The attitude reminds me a bit of the old SNL "If it's not Scottish, it's crap!" skit.

It's parallel on a mass scale to something I see in this country with voting rights. The less relevance national statehood has in reality, the more it will be fetishized by those who imagine it will solve their problems.

And FWIW I have more Scottish genes than my wife and most of her cronies.

Cousin Eddie

Grim said...

The Scots think -- and have long thought -- that their possession of the energy fields in the North Sea would make them viably independent. That may be right or wrong, but it isn't much analyzed in an article that puts a lot of weight on the economic case for remaining conjoined.

The Scots also seem to have decided that they are more naturally a Scandinavian country than a British dependency. There is an argument to be made here, partly economic -- similar offshore energy fields underlie the Scandinavian economies -- and partly cultural. Many parts of Scotland were effectively incorporated into Viking-age Scandinavia for centuries. Of course, other parts were incorporated into the Anglo-Norman empire built by William the Conqueror and his descendants; but so too was Ireland, which sees itself as culturally distinct from the English as well. In any case I think the SNP aims at a Scandinavian-style social democracy rather than outright socialism, and thinks it can fund it along the same lines. They may be right or wrong, but... well, it remains to be seen if they are right or wrong.

You raise a good point about Lewis' warning. The counterpoint is that the older pro-British Scottish patriotism was built on similarly fraudulent grounds. "Clan Tartans" are a product of the 19th century, for example; the Black Watch, whose tartan is now universal for anyone who wants to wear it, was stood up as a pro-British militia to resist the Jacobites. A lot of the symbolism of the Scottish regiments dates to the Napoleonic wars, when the Scots were used to fight their traditional allies the French, on behalf of their traditional enemies the English. The Hundred Years War overlaps with the War of Scottish Independence to some degree, until the English sued for peace and allowed the Scots to go free; and even after, the Scots and the French carried out a robust trade (especially in wine, which the Scots loved, and whisky, which the French enjoyed).

As for the author's claim that the Scots have a kind of racial superiority sense regarding the English, thinking of their neighbors as less intelligent and awful... well, the opposite is at least equally true. My sense from talking to native-born Scots is that they've been educated to view their culture as inferior and backwards, rather in the way that Southerners are asked to view their culture vis-a-vis the rest of the United States. They may have a defensive pride as a result, but also are subject to a kind of cultural imperialism that many internalize.

All in all, I favor independence -- for Scotland, for Ireland, for Wales, and for the parts of the United States that would be happier if they weren't chained to a ruling class that looks down on them and defies their interests. In fact I think that independence in general is a good thing, if it leads to smaller states with less power and less need for what Weber describes as 'constant administration.' Such states may indeed prove poorer, or not; but poorer yet freer is not to be despised.

Donna B. said...

Don't underestimate the Brexit effect on some Scots newly found quest for independence.

The one SNP candidate I have intermittently observed certainly did exactly as you note. References in her ads often included specifically "Scottish" words: bonnie, wee bairns, auld, aye, dinnae, and so on. It was cringeworthy, but she and the SNP won.

My sister and her husband were emphatically against Scotland's independence some years ago, but Brexit caused them to reconsider and caused them to no longer make fun of the sort of advertisement by this candidate. They (literally) worked for her.

Narr said...

A general evolution toward smaller and more culturally (let's say) distinct regions has been going on for a long time; I can't recall who dubbed it a new sort of medievalism but the analogy is a fair one-- instead of the abstract state it's the cults, movements, and trading leagues that set the pace, and there's no present-day shortage of pretend holy roman empires--UN, NATO (which is becoming more of a liability every day), G7, what have you.

I've no more objection to Scots (or Welsh, etc) independence than I do to the Czechs and Slovaks splitting up, I just think a lot of people romanticize the notion.

Cousin Eddie

Assistant Village Idiot said...

For Scots to get out from under the English and join the EU seems a quintessential out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire-version of freedom.

Grim, I assent to your idea of more free, whatever the economic consequences, view of tribal governance. I hope I would choose it 100 times out of 100 in my own life. But people seem to quietly but repeatedly choose the better job and future for their kids over the abstract. Not even all Americans would choose freedom, and almost no one else would in other places.

Donna B. said...

Aye, AVI - I ken what you say. I dinnae ken what me wee sis is thinking.