Right-wing populist governments with designs on capturing the state and fascism, such as Donald Trump’s and Boris Johnson’s are, are bringing home the shock doctrine consecutive US and British governments have employed on their foreign interventionist adventures since the US-backed coup and military takeover of Chile in 1973. This is the neoliberal dream; to see powerful and cohesive democracies softened up by truncheons, rent asunder by socio-economic division, and fractured into thousands of squabbling factions of the oppressed.
Blessings are conditional. However we think of them, and wherever we think they originate, blessings are gifts – special graces – which we can accept and discard. That is in our gift. We have the right of refusal. Blessed with love, we cannot take our lovers and loved ones for granted. We cannot take without giving in return. The gift of love is not a certificate of ownership. Likewise, the blessing and gift of life is conditional. Its continuation and renewal always and everywhere depend on our generous acceptance of the gift and our loving care for the blessing.
But how does one go about translating the theological equivalent of Donne’s “every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main” to an angsty teenager in 2019? How is this shared with a youngster, the product of capitalistic and atomised personal nihilism and pervasive cultural pessimism? Nothing makes me fear for the future of faith more than the thought that an uncrossable chasm has opened between the generations of our grandparents and that of their grandchildren.
This is the extraordinary power we are handing to these soft Noes. We are casting aside the independence and the new state that could be in favour of an empty IOU from soft Noes who, we may well suspect, we have simply imagined and reified. Yes, you read that right: It is my conviction that these soft Noes are phantasms. Figments of our imaginations. Ghosts. Sure, in a nation of 5.4 million people with 3,925,800 registered voters there are bound to be some ditherers – some.
In Britain, the architects of ‘Global Britain’ – the hardline Brexiteers – have envisioned a new future and new direction for the British state post-EU. ‘Empire 2.0’ is a neoliberal project built on a sinister neo-imperialist nostalgia which seeks to restore the former greatness of the United Kingdom. They want to construct an anarcho-capitalist wonderland for the powerful, wealthy, and privileged ruling class – the English Übermensch, veiled by the trappings of classical Britishness; the signs of soft nationalism – the London bus, the red letterbox, and the now ubiquitous Union Jack.
Here’s my secret: I am not an independentista. I am a Liberationist. Liberation – the “Let my people go!” of the Book of Exodus – is as much about the liberation of the nation as it is about the liberation of society and the family as it is about the liberation of the person. Scottish independence, then, for me, is as much a cause of national liberation as it is a cause for the liberation of everyone in Scotland from the constitutional, social, and economic conditions that keep us in chains – and we are in chains; for some these are the fetters of poverty and for others they are the bonds of indifference.
Too many people in the UK seem incapable or unwilling to accept that all of this is a deliberate attack on ordinary people, a series of policies directed at soaking the wealth of society from the bottom to the top. Those who have died of starvation have died as the result of a policy which sees their deaths as nothing more that collateral damage. These same policies think just as little of the rest of us. Even how they speak of people – thinking here of Iain Duncan Smith’s “low value people” – betrays their vicious and avaricious contempt for human beings.
Feeding people is of course our number one priority. At a time like this feeding people is in itself an act of rebellion, but the foodbank must be militant – it cannot and must not feed people on a charitable and apolitical basis. It must not simply feed the hungry, but ask why they are hungry. Such a militant movement must use the soup kitchen and the foodbank as the mess halls of a revolution.