The end of ideas
Danny Phillips reminds us that nationalism is not a battle of big ideas but a settling of old scores, no matter how or by whom it is sold.
I have often wondered what a modern revolution might look like. Turns out we do not need to storm a palace or take the post office. Just vote leave.
I could not give a flying pitchfork that money traders are screaming blind panic. If anyone had it coming, it’s them. These are the first class plutocrats who queue for nothing and get posh-brand loyalty cards. From the day they enter private school they live in parallel universe protected by get-away-scot-free employment contracts. They should just be thankful it was peaceful.
Our working classes gave up voting a long time ago. Whatever the result they were rushed off their feet, running around making ends meet, worrying about an insecure job and whether they could afford their home.
Well, no longer. The table’s just flipped. You think leavers care that the IFS predicts trouble ahead or the City of London lost a $zillion, or that bemused experts say they don’t know what to do? Sure its scary, but now the plutocrats know how it feels.
That’s twice I have had to rise at the same time as our office cleaner rises daily to check whether my identity’s changed. No doubt I will rise early again to see if the mother-of-all make-my-country-great-again populists Donald Trump gets elected. I am now less convinced that sanity will prevail in that one.
I have always thought that our nationalism was more dangerous, as it has the support of so much of our middle class intelligentsia. They have bought into the idea that some nationalisms are better than others, no doubt persuaded by the abolition of the graduate tax, a closed higher education system, and jobs on expert panels.
Oxford and Cambridge voted remain for an open inclusive outward looking country. Not so, Glasgow’s west end. They argue we must vote to take back control of Scotland, so Scots can make their own decisions and build a fairer country. Heard that before?
Sturgeon says Scots are being dragged out the EU against their wishes and it’s her duty to stand up for their democratic rights. Conveniently forgetting that the EU fucked the Greek economy, dismissed an Italian elected government and left 50% of Spain’s young people jobless.
One million Scots and 37% of SNP supporters voted leave. Thirteen million English voted remain. It’s complicated. And Scots don’t have to vote leave to let them have it. Sturgeon asked them to save that for the big one.
Sturgeon’s key weapon is the racist leave campaign. Scotland is a white country. Waves of immigration never impacted us. Black people never moved even to the second city of the Empire. I leave you to work out why. So we don’t blame brown people. Most Scots never see one. Race rarely enters our politics except to prove what a lovely nationalism we are. Instead we blame people south of the border.
Nationalism’s long march is far from over. We’re seeing it across the world. But this is not some global movement for justice or a battle of the big ideas; it’s the settling old scores, elites vying for power, and anti-establishmentarianism. There is no way on earth I am voting for a continuation of this. I’ll have nothing to do with it.
Nationalist movements don’t have history of ending well, especially ones that carry their arts and crafts and academic class. If I thought for one minute this was about a re-balance of power between plutocrats and pitchforks I would re-consider. But of course its not. Like all popular nationalism its about which plutocrats rule over us. My guess is that the clever people in Glasgow’s west end have high hopes who that might be.
The truth is we’ve built yet another system that only works for some people. Our global economy brings high profits for plutocrats and EU free movement of labour meant their children could take up opportunities in 27 countries. For the rest it brings insecure employment, low wages, and their grown up children can’t afford the deposit on a flat to leave home.
None of these populist nationalists, including our own, suggests we challenge this. When given the opportunity to raise the smallest top rate of tax rises on 17,000 Scottish plutocrats Sturgeon supported Osborne saying it would be ‘reckless and daft’ to raise taxes on the rich. “We don’t think people in Scotland should have to pay more than the rest of the UK.” We truly have swapped being tribes of the big ideas, for tribes of nations.
Of course there are no guarantees and I would not bet on a Yes 2 vote just yet. Sturgeon is worried as she has some explaining to do. Borders and currency just got very real. And why would separating from 40 years of the EU be a messy disaster leaving us economically and culturally poorer, but separating from 300 years in the UK could be concluded in 18 months and leave us culturally and economically richer? And if she loses this one, it will probably go Justin Trudeau.
But never have the cards been more in her favour. No longer does she need to sell a radical future. Farage and Gove made sure of that. Now she is the status quo. No longer does she need to persuade the sceptical suburbs to have faith and take a risk. She will tell Scotland that to keep things the same, to go back to normal, to end the worry, we should just follow the pitchforks (and their academic advisers) and this time, just do it. Vote yes.