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By Jason Michael
EVERY INTRODUCTION TO PSYCHOLOGY course begins, or should begin, with the twisted tale of Pavlov’s dogs. This is a grim and cruel story of the most awful kind of animal experimentation. It goes without saying, then, that students love it. This Nobel Prize winning Russian scientist, Ivan Pavlov, wasn’t exactly a dog lover. In order to better understand conditioned behaviour, so the story goes, he locked a group of dogs in a room with an electrified floor – not a great start to an animal story, I know. He would then turn on the power and shock the poor creatures. As one would expect, they barked and howled and jumped around trying to escape the pain. After repeated shocks the dogs learnt there was no way out. They gave up, stopped barking and howling and just lay down. In the next phase of the experiment he divided the room in half. The dogs were put on one side with an electrified floor and on the other side, over a small barrier, was a non-electrified wooden floor. This time when he turned the power on, rather than leap over the barrier to the safety of the wooden floor, the dogs simply gave up and lay down. They had been conditioned.
Sad as this story is for the dogs, it does tell us something about the psychology of behavioural conditioning – something people are subjected to also. Over decades and centuries of union with England the people of Scotland have been subjected to a programme of unrelenting cultural and media conditioning. As John MacCormick wrote in his 1955 history of the national movement of Scotland, The Flag in the Wind, our taught history after Culloden had been reduced to an extension of early English history. Like Wessex, Mercia, or Kent, Scotland was merely a north British kingdom that was slow on the uptake. Nothing of this has really changed. The BBC has spearheaded the media narrative that Scotland is utterly dependent on the broad shoulders of England. Even its new Scottish channel has picked the very worst sort of “nationalist” to be fairer and more balanced for its Scottish audience. The first task of the independence movement, having recognised this problem, is to undue the conditioning of centuries.
So the BBC decides to give more balance in Scotland. Introducing your new "nationalist" voice: Tommy Robinson lovin… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) March 03, 2019
What it is tasked with, before anything else, is asking about the nature of independence for a conditioned or colonised people. Our conditioning means that we are internally formed by our education, media, politics, and social expectations. Our place in the British understanding of things has sunk deep into the roots of who we are as people and as a nation. We are British in spite of our desire to be free because centuries of this state formation process have imposed Britishness upon us. It is this British history that is, as James Joyce said of Ireland, the “nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” Our conditioning must be overcome, fully overcome, before we can be free.
Sure, we can gain national independence before we have overcome this conditioning. That is far from impossible. But it will have certain devastating consequences. Conditioned as a nation to be North Britons, in an independent Scotland we will be completely incapable of building anything other than a little Britain in the north. All we will be able to do, as conditioned people, is replicate in miniature the only thing we have been conditioned to know. Like the dogs, in the above lesson, we will quickly give up and lie down defeated – because we have been taught to be defeated. This, and I am sad to say, is my impression of Ireland. In this I have the agreement of many Irish nationalists and republicans. Ireland is an incomplete revolution. It has not as yet lived up to the 1916 Easter Proclamation of the Irish Republic:
We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people.
In 2019 the people of Ireland are still without the ownership of Ireland, still without unfettered control of their own destinies, and still subject to the control of foreign people. Landlordism, long the instrument of British dominance in Ireland, still ensures there is no right to a home for every woman, man, and child of the nation. The wealth of the country is still very much in the hands of economic masters, banking and financial institutions, and an élite and privileged class. To this day the policy of the Irish government in Dublin is dictated by foreign globalised corporations which pay next to nothing into the common purse of the country while removing every penny they make in profit. By no stretch of the imagination was this the independence envisioned by the men and women who went out to fight for their freedom and the Republic on Easter week 1916. What they got instead was a partial independence, and, until now, an incomplete revolution. This “New Ireland” was the work of reactionaries who took it upon themselves to temper the zeal of revolution and so produce a state made in the image and likeness of that of their former colonial master.
@Emer_OToole I remember reading something Garett Fitzgerald wrote about a lack of civic republicanism in Ireland - the incomplete revolution—
Maev Mac Coille (@maevmac) June 04, 2014
Ireland is a nation still on the journey of self-becoming. It is an independent nation, for sure, but its independence is dependent on its national and colonial memory of domination. We in Scotland are yet to set out on that journey, and so we must ask: What does independence mean? Are we to be merely independent as a state, free to reproduce all the ills England has for three centuries foisted upon us? Is that what independence means? Surely this was the independence feared by Mather Byles when he asked those seeking American independence: “Which is better, to be ruled by one tyrant three thousand miles away or by three thousand tyrants one mile away?” If the greater part of our nation’s psyche is conditioned to reproduce Britain’s mode of rule, then isn’t it better to be ruled by one Britain far away than a whole country of little Britons down the road?
The solution to this problem; being free and independent without reproducing the conditions we hope independence will free us from, is to free ourselves before we gain independence. What I mean by this is that independence is for the free. We must be free of Britain and Britishness before we can win the independence we need and want. Independence – true independence – presupposes freedom. We must be mentally, and physically, and spiritually free. We must reclaim our intellectual freedom and our freedom to dissent. We must be fully autonomous human beings, and not just members of another herd, before we will have the wherewithal to claim and to build a new nation-state founded on the very principles of freedom. No one who is not already free – truly free – can lay the foundations of a new nation precisely because the unfree do not know the principles of freedom.
Wullie (@WullieForIndy) March 05, 2019
Why am I writing this – again? I asked a simple question earlier tonight:
In the event that the SNP doesn’t use the mandate and we end up out the EU despite our rejection of Brexit, is it time for another single-platform pro-independence party?
No sooner was it asked than people on social media were suggesting I was a “unionist plant.” Folk were reminding me that I wasn’t around in the ’60s, that I hadn’t worked as hard as them, that I wasn’t in the SNP for as long as them, that I was splitting the party, splitting the vote, that I was playing Westminster’s game, et cetera ad nauseum. What they were telling me was that questions were not really allowed. They had joined a community in which free thinking, intellectual freedom, and freedom of conscience were not really welcome. Others were chiming in that they “had suspicions about me.” One guy, “Wullie,” came right out and said it in plain English: “Look mate, I’m not interested in you’re [sic] highfaluting opinions. I’m just a working man who didn’t finish high school or go to Uni…” Thinking for one’s self is dangerous. Intellectual freedom is “highfaluting,” it caused dis-ease in the conditioned mind. It introduces something that frightens the servile mind. ‘Sit down and shut up,’ it says ‘and follow the leader.’
I’m not against the SNP. Far from it. I am critical sometimes of the SNP – and so should I be. So too must we all be. Being critical is nothing other than “expressing an analysis of something’s merits and faults,” and like every other political party and human institution the SNP has its merits and faults. I support the SNP because, even after subjecting its merits and faults to rigorous critique in my own mind, on balance, I believe it to be the best option. But, as a free person, I reserve the right to change my mind in the future after further consideration. As a free person, I reserve the right to ask questions – no matter how difficult others may find those questions. That is freedom. It doesn’t matter what the actual question was, or even that it was my question. I am only truly free when my sister and brother is also free. We have a right and a duty to ask questions, to know the truth. Sitting down and shutting up and following the leader is, in this regard, no different to the dog who sits down when the electricity is turned on. We must reject the conditioning of our captivity.
Classical Conditioning in High School