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By Jason Michael
So last week we all had a wee bit of a rammy, and the unionists were beside themselves with glee. That was last week. This is this week. Let’s at least see in it that we still feel passionately about what we are doing.
It hasn’t been an easy week for independentista bloggers in Scotland, and it most certainly hasn’t been easy for our readers. I have been as much a part of that difficulty as anyone else and for that I am deeply sorry. We are part of a movement that has grown up through real stress and adversity. People the length and breadth of the country have given the project of independence their hearts and souls; their all. Watching on as the bloggers and writers, who effectively became the barricade against the relentless onslaught of Britain’s media machine, tore strips out of one another over the past few days must have been soul destroying. As always, Paul Kavanagh has said it best:
It’s the fault of those of us who tweet, who write, who blog, who run national groups, who manage the “new media”. We’re the ones who’re letting Scotland down. We’re letting ourselves down. We’ve turned into passengers on a sinking ship who’re arguing about the music the band is playing instead of organising the life-boats.
As one of those writers it is difficult to assess my importance in the movement. Both this, my personal blog, and the Butterfly Rebellion which I edit are minnows in comparison to the likes of Wings Over Scotland, Wee Ginger Dug, and the rest, but I have played my part in the recent strife. Yes, anger and frustration got the better of me and I was more than willing to throw in my tuppence worth when it came to what I perceived – and to a great extent still do – as a threat to the integrity of the movement. Maybe there were better ways to have gone about that, and I won’t be so arrogant so as not to take on board the criticism that came my way as a result of this storm on social media.
IndyRef was the first time in my life I heard Scottish voices speaking without them being caricatured or subtly demeaned for not being BBC enough. I doubt it was only me, but I have absorbed a sense of shame about my Scottishness. There was always an undertone of social, political, and cultural inferiority in how I understood myself as a Scot and Scotland at the table of true Britishness. This is, as I have since learned, how colonialism works and operates. We accept the superiority of the master, internalise it, and so attempt to become human in the image of the master – always, as it is designed to be, an impossible task.
What we did together during IndyRef began the process of breaking my own internal shackles. Strong Scots voices became music to my ears. We, I discovered, were people of worth who had a voice worth listening to. All the while, however, I was aware of a few missing notes in the tune. The beautiful Scottish voices I was hearing and reading were all of a type. They were educated and middle class. They had an air of privilege and perhaps entitlement about them. Now this is not envious class hatred. I dealt with that some time ago. I loved these voices. I loved what they were saying and doing. I love them still, and God only knows the gratitude I have for them.
All the same my Scottish voice – a working class Scottish voice – seemed to be missing. This, more than anything else, moved me to begin writing. From the very beginning I knew that we could only win Scotland back from the grip of Westminster together. We had to overcome or at least suspend all our other differences; they had to become subservient to the struggle for independence.
What I saw when one of our blogs launched an open assault on another last week was the violation of this unspoken rule. One particularly well-funded and well-polished, media savvy group – all code for middle class of course – unleashed its fury and frustration on a blog with massive working class appeal. Like nationalism, class antagonism is a truly powerful social force, and one which I believe has the power to wreck our collective effort if left unchecked.
Independence, as I have always made clear, is the single most important objective of this movement. That is, after all, why we call ourselves the “Scottish independence movement.” It is so important that I will argue that it must take priority over all other social and political concerns – and the reason for this: Without it we will have no rights save those granted and easily taken by London. It was with this in mind that I and a number of others opened full salvo. Perhaps it could have been done better. It is done now and it is over.
Is there anything we can take from this? I believe so. It isn’t the case that we have succumbed to terminal infighting. No, we had a spat. But what I take from this is the realisation that we’re all pretty damn passionate about what we are doing. I will not stand idly by while anyone – “foreign or domestic” – undermines and weakens the vehicle that is taking us to independence. This movement is the lifeboat Paul Kavanagh wrote about, and it was, however upsetting, also encouraging to see people fighting to protect it. It is worth fighting for, but, with all last week’s business thankfully behind us, it is time to refocus that fighting spirit – that esprit de corps – back on the real enemy.
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