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Showing posts with label Hiroshima. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hiroshima. Show all posts

Monday, 13 January 2014

Scottish Defenders of the Union – complex and varied in motivation and belief

Over the last month, I have been exposed directly to a fair sample of the infinite variety of the Scottish (defined as resident in and committed to Scotland, regardless of country of origin) defenders of the Union and advocates of a No vote, through a more or less random series of contacts.

As our intrepid YES doorstep campaigners and politicians know far better than I, direct contact yields insights and perceptions that can seem more profound than print and media exposure to more structured arguments. But they can be dangerously misleading on occasion – so I proceed here tentatively, and with many reservations and qualifications. I make no general claims – what I have to say is subjective and reflects only one - and perhaps unduly narrow – perspective. Here are the variants I have encountered, in some cases dominant and seeming to almost define the position of the individual displaying them, in other case simply one aspect of a complex and often conflicting mix. The list of course is not, and never can be comprehensive.

SOME ANTI-INDEPENDENCE  VOTER TYPES

The Patroniser: Independence? It will never happen – it’s Salmond and the SNP’s obsession – has always been a minority sport, as shown again and again by the polls. Two-term SNP Government elected? Simply a local reaction to last days of UK Labour, incompetence of Scottish Labour, the Crash and the Coalition – slap on the wrist for UK – will return to normal UK voting at referendum and in 2015. Give it up, mate – it’s a lost cause …”

A brief discussion with Patronisers quickly reveals that they have little conception of the arguments for and against independence and are sadly deficient in facts and key dates. Overall mode – complacency and reluctance to be confused by argument or hard information.

The Cringer: “Do you think Scotland’s big enough to run its own affairs? We haven’t got the people – just look at Holyrood – they’re all mediocrities in a wee, pretendy Parliament.  It would be all kilts and heather, Braveheart and tartan dolls. And the oil’s running out, there’s no real industry. All the real talent has left long ago – anybody with any sense heads south or emigrates. We couldn’t even run the Bank of Scotland – it caused the UK crash and we had to be bailed out by England. “

As in all classic Orwellian-doublethink, the Cringers don’t see themselves as inferior - or ready to head south or emigrate - and any current examples of Scottish success in running things can be dismissed by either claiming it’s an aberration – or down to UK involvement and help. Pointing to Scottish success in the past is either put down to Braveheartism or to the benefits of the Union. Overall mode – embarrassment at Scotland and Scottishness, complacency that their personal repudiation of Scottish competence somehow explains them being exempted from the criticisms, and the belief that it ingratiates them with UK power and influence.

The I’m Alright Jocks:I’ve got no complaints about the UK – it’s done alright by me. I bet it’s done alright by you too! What have we got to complain about? Yes, there’s been a bad patch since 2008 crash, and difficult things have had to be done, but we’re on the way back up. The poor? Hungry children? Pressures on the sick and vulnerable, the NHS, unemployment? There are no poor people! Have you seen any?

Growth in food banks? All exaggerated, and what do you expect – some people will always turn out for a freebie! I don’t see any deprivation or poverty near me. Most of those in trouble are in that state because of their fecklessness – they can all afford phones and iPads and holidays abroad on benefit. Too many scroungers, too many immigrants abusing NHS and benefits. My parents didn’t have much, but they scrimped and scraped to educate me, and I’ve done all right.”

There’s an element of the I’m Alright Jock callousness and denial of reality in all unionist types, but the above summarises the core ‘arguments’ in their most basic version. Overall mode: Denial of deprivation or blaming of the poor, belief in urban myths, blame, and utter callousness about the less-fortunate.

The Fearful: “The risks of dismantling a 300-year-old union are too great. These are dangerous times – we need the security of belonging to a larger, more powerful grouping. On defence, security, international clout, trade with other nations, we need the backing of UK. Duplication of services, inevitable in a newly-independent nation add extra cost and the risks of settling-in problems.”

Often mainly rational, albeit with an element of irrational fear, the Fearful will listen to argument and can be persuaded, providing their logic-based posture isn’t simply a rationalisation for deep-rooted, emotional opposition. A simple test is whether or not they’ve at least looked at the White Paper and/or are amenable to examining its argument. If they’re totally dismissive and contemptuous of it, they are probably a lost cause in the immediate term. Overall mode: The status quo of UK may not be perfect, but it’s the devil we know. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

The Emotional Scot/Brit: “We have over three centuries of co-operation, a shared cultural and commercial heritage, we have fought and died together in wars for freedom, and justice. The links of family – kith and kin – cross all national boundaries. I don’t want my children and grandchildren to be foreigners, to have to stop at border points. We will lose a fundamental part of our identity – not to mention our shared institutions, e.g. BBC - if we rip the union apart.”

This category exists with subtle but important variations, e.g. are they Scot/Brits or Brit/Scots – which identity is regarded as more significant? The Emotional Scot/Brit mindset can also be part of other dominant modes, indeed it can represent a residual, buried emotional mindset in some marginal independence supporters! Some are actually seeking reassurance on these points. Their fears can either be factually removed by the truth - e.g. on boundaries, border posts – or are logically inconsistent – e.g. pointing out that we fought and died together with other independent nations in wars for freedom and justice, and the majority of wars were imperialist, unjust, and in some cases, illegal. (The Emotional Scot/Brit is often present in Don’t knows.) Overall mode: There are important, unquantifiable family and emotional ties that bind us, and it is a huge risk for the stability of the British Isles to sever them.

The Internationalist Multilateralists:

“Nationalism is inherently divisive – bigger is better, economically, socially and for powerful defence. Ultimately, I favour world co-operation across boundaries, and I believe all men and women are brothers and sisters, and are equal, regardless of social class, economic or ethnic background, but meanwhile I support the UK, despite its appalling imperial record of exploiting other nations and ethnic groups for centuries, and its current record of Parliamentary, police and press corruption, its gross inequality and staggering gap between rich and poor, its inherent distrust of and opposition to trades unions, its House of Lord comprising over eight hundred unelected peers, ennobled variously because of birth, being bishops on one church, large donors to political parties or being failed, but loyal politicians.

I am morally opposed to nuclear weapons of mass destruction, and would never be the first to use them – however … (and here comes the buts and the caveats) … but in a still unstable world, with unpredictable rogue regimes, I believe it is vital to hold on to our nuclear weapons and to our nuclear alliance with those countries – our allies - who got them first, resisting any attempts by other countries to get them (that’s called nuclear proliferation, by the way!) because we can be trusted with them but they can’t.  Of course, I’m committed to nuclear disarmament for the whole world, but only if every other country goes first – that’s called multilateralism.

As I said, I would advocate only using them as a deterrent and would never use them first, if at all, but I see no contradiction on being part of a nuclear alliance, NATO, that has a first-strike policy, and is dominated by the only country in history to have used nuclear weapons twice against cities in a non-nuclear country, Japan, and in a then non-nuclear world.

The various close misses of nuclear Armageddon over the last sixty years or so I dismiss as unfortunate aberrations caused by periodic gross incompetence of military or civil authorities, greedy and amoral industrialist or lunatic politicians – including at least one President of the USA

I suppose in summation, I regard it as deeply unpatriotic of Scottish independence supporters to want to be rid of weapons of mass destruction located without their consent near to their largest centre of population, posing an ever-present threat of nuclear accident, pollution, and of Scotland being a first-strike target by the lunatic foreign dictators our whole case for WMD is predicated on.

Overall mode: Utter idiocy, moral bankruptcy, venal hopes of profit, career and preferment – almost certainly a Scottish Labour politician in UK power structure. With a tiny number, a faint hope that the corrosive effect of their amoral sophistry is beginning to weaken the rotten foundations of their strategically and morally untenable position.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Truth and transparency in politics – unrealisable ideals or practical necessities?

JESUS: To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

PONTIUS PILATE: What is truth?

I am an atheist, and do not recognise the Bible as the word of God, nor as an objective historical account, but I do recognise it, in its many translations, especially the King James version, as a great work of literature, of poetry, one containing deep insights into human nature and behaviour.

Like most men, I lost my idealised view of  politics and politicians early in life, recognising that the ‘art of the possible’ involved compromise, and compromise sometimes involves avoiding tight definitions if the agreement is to hold across divergent viewpoints.

For example, in diplomacy and in negotiation, ambiguity is sometimes necessary; indeed on occasion – say, in collective agreements between management and union - it is the essence of an agreement clause that it be subject to more than one interpretation, which is the antithesis of legally drafted agreements. This is sometime called the “agree fuzzy now, fight detail later if necessary …” approach. So like Pontius Pilate, politicians only ask the question What is Truth? rhetorically, and don’t expect an answer.

The first duty of a politician is to gain power, the pre-requisite of any political programme, however high-minded. But in a democracy, a politician with any real values must constantly test expedient actions against two fundamental questions -

Does the greatest good for the greatest number outweigh the rights of the few or the individual?

Does the end justify the means?

Professors of ethics will tease you with many ethical dilemmas relating to these questions. Suffice to say, there is no absolute answer to either of them. To both, I say sometimes the answer is yes, dependent on circumstances and sometime the answer is an absolute no – for me, anyway.

The possession and use of nuclear weapons of mass destruction provides my absolutes and I say that to possess them is absolutely wrong and to contemplate their use or to use them is absolutely wrong. I also say that it is at best naive, and at worst hypocritical to suggest that they can be possessed with no intent to use them, and without taking appalling, unacceptable risks.

There are sharply divided views on whether the United States of America and Harry Truman were right in their decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, or whether it was a crime against humanity, indefensible against any ethical standards. (I say ethical and not religious standards, because many ministers of religion then and now have defended the use of nuclear weapons.)

Their use then was justified by America by saying YES to both of the questions above. The only mitigation I can suggest for Truman is that it was the first use of nuclear weapons, no one knew for certain what their destructive power really was until that moment, no other country had them, so a nuclear exchange leading to Armageddon could not have resulted, and the destructive power, awesome and terrible though it was, was as nothing to what can be delivered today by a single Trident submarine.

Scotland will soon be facing great choices in its march towards what I hope will be its independence as a nation – a non-nuclear nation. If that great goal is achieved, the credit will be substantially the SNP’s – the great progress towards it could not have been achieved achieved without them, and without the belief, commitment and unremitting hard work over decades of many people with a great ideal. The campaign for independence is now being led by the SNP but with the involvement of  many other groups and parties, and groupings within the three major parties.

But there is now a worm in the SNP apple and that worm is NATO. NATO is a nuclear alliance, committed to the possession and use of nuclear weapons of mass destruction, and the dominant countries within it will brook no interference from the member countries within NATO with non-nuclear policies.

When the critical decision must be made on the first use of nuclear weapons since 1945, NATO will not seek the permission of the member countries in a democratic vote, nor will they seek the endorsement of the people or the UN. The dominant nuclear powers in NATO will act militarily and unilaterally to unleash the whirlwind – that is the stark, realpolitik.

If a nuclear strike is launched, every member of NATO will be culpable, whether they endorsed it or not.

For an independent Scotland to seek membership – or a continuation of present UK membership – of NATO is wrong and dangerous. Attempting to hide behind Norway’s stance and that of other non-nuclear NATO members is wrong because they are wrong to be members, and because membership of a nuclear alliance is incompatible, any way you slice it, with a non-nuclear stance. The current status of Scotland as the home of the UK’s nuclear deterrent is also fundamentally different from any other NATO member country.

In recent months, the SNP has failed in transparency over their defence policy and failed in transparency over the intentions of the leadership in relation to NATO. They have allowed speculation to rage unchecked from their opponents, and they have not only failed to inform their supporters of their true intentions, they have actively misled them by pretending that no game was afoot, leaving many members – not me – defending the indefensible.

I intend to blog in detail on this, with facts and detail, but today, I had to say this to get it off my chest. But maybe all is not lost …