Division is an essential component of every healthy democracy, and efforts to end division and contention in political discussion invariably produce the same two cancers in the body politic. In the leadership it fosters an authoritarian attitude which tends towards autocracy and even totalitarianism, and in the mass movement it creates a sheepish dogmatism by which the individual abdicates his or her responsibility to think and reason for his or herself and fuels the impulse to reject every contradiction as heresy. Every so often we get glimpses of these things...
Joker is not your typical superhero film. It is a beautiful and dark cinematic comment on what Pankaj Mishra has termed “The Age of Anger (2017).” Easily, Joker, is the best film I have seen this year. It is too easy to say that something is a work of genius, but there is definitely something of genius pervading this movie. As someone interested in society and politics, in the events and movements that are shaping the world around us, I would put Joker on an essential viewing list. So, if you are at a loose end before Christmas, this film comes with my highest recommendation.
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.
Boris Johnson, our new Prime Minister, is a man who shamelessly stood in front of a bus during the Brexit referendum campaign and told voters that leaving the European Union would return £350 million every week to essential public services like the NHS; all the while knowing this was untrue. Since moving into Number 10 he has repeated over and again that his government is engaged in ongoing negotiations with its European partners, when the European parliament and commission have unequivocally stated this is not the case.
Yet, the fact remains that the politics of independence is a national movement locked in an existential struggle with the British state and all the poison that that can bring to the fight. Not being the most social of people, “Jihadi Jason” – iScot Magazine’s witty new epithet for me – is all about winning the fight. Truth be told, I don’t feel particularly loyal to the Scottish National Party or to any pro-independence party. Political parties are useful instruments, but we mustn’t forget that they are also very human institutions. They attract professionals and careerists – journeymen.
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.
So, what will Westminster do? From the point of view of the Scottish independentista Westminster – the British government – can do as it pleases. It is of no concern to us. As power exists only in the imagination of the dominated, the very asking of the question – What will Westminster do? – is an act of capitulation. The independentista has no need of this question. It is unimportant to her. Rather, the independentista thinks of what is best for Scotland and acts to that end – ignoring the protests and tantrums of the British state. It may bring the force of the law down upon us.
Many reading this piece will no doubt be concerned that intolerance of Siol nan Gaidheal is itself intolerance, and the last thing we want to be is intolerant. We are an “inclusive” movement after all. But this paradox has been dealt with before, by the Austrian-born philosopher Karl Popper. After the horrors of the Holocaust and the defeat of Nazism in Europe Popper reasoned – rightly – that it is not intolerance to refuse to tolerate the intolerant.