8 November 2012
The most intolerant
nationalism on these
islands is British
How strange that it never occurs to people who attack nationalism (of the Scottish or Welsh varieties) as 'sick', 'divisive', 'whimsical', 'arrogant' and 'sideshow politics' (all terms used by Christina Bridge – 1 November – in her piece 'Down with devolution') that the strongest, most intolerant and least sensitive nationalism active within these islands is the British variety.
I should find it astonishing (but actually am not surprised) that Christina Bridge can write, apparently without any sense of irony, that 'in the past two years the Olympics, the jubilee and the royal wedding have perfectly illustrated that a harmonised British identity is achievable'. That she goes on to suggest that 'this needs to be harnessed and built upon' simply illustrates how markedly different people's senses of their cultural and political identities have become in the last few decades.
I do not subscribe to nationalism as an ideology but I do believe in the right of peoples and nations, if this is how they perceive themselves, to determine their own political futures. Despite the abandonment of principle and dodgy behaviour of the SNP government, if there is one thing that is likely to convince me to vote 'yes' for Scottish independence it is the ludicrous presumption that 'British' nationalism is good and right, and all other kinds regressive, petty, nasty and wrong.
Illegal foreign wars and invasions, an economic war on the most vulnerable in our society through benefit cuts, endless toadying to the USA, a determination to build another generation of weapons of mass destruction, and the sycophantic adoration of royalty as seen for example on a weekly basis on the 'Antiques Roadshow' – to give just a few examples – suggest otherwise to me.
Christina Bridge rehearses arguments about the vices of nationalism/patriotism by quoting Shaw and Wilde, and she might have added Eric Hobsbawm to the list. Probably most readers of SR would agree that excessive, imperialist or ethnic nationalisms are indeed a bad thing, and I might venture that each of the above-named writers was thinking along those lines when they penned their thoughts.
The crescendos of British/English nationalist rhetoric emanating from Boris Johnson might well qualify for criticism as jingoistic, but the inclusive nature of the SNP and Plaid Cymru eschew that 'hatred and anger' which Christina ascribes to these movements. In a world where, outside of the Antarctic, every square inch of land is part of a nation state, why is it that wanting to be part of an independent Scotland or Wales is any more 'nationalist' than its only current alternative – being part of the United Kingdom? Christina appears to address this by sleight of language. While support for Welsh/Scottish independence is derided as 'whimsical nationalism', support for the concept of the United Kingdom is 'British identity'. Is this some subtle postmodern analysis, or linguistic sophistry?
I'm afraid her examples of a 'harmonised British identity' don't really convince me either. The Olympics was a vanity project that shouted 'London, my London', promoted a 'best is best' elitist worldview, and financed itself by sucking money for desperately needed social projects away from the rest of the country. The jubilee and royal wedding also pandered to the cult of the celebrity, and I'm sure cost a lot more than the £5.5 million used to promote the Welsh language.
The £80bn she mentions is money that was going to be spent in these regions anyway – perhaps she might argue by the same counter that local authorities are a waste of money and everything should be administered from London? The disadvantages faced by the people in the north (and south-west) of England pose a valid point, but if Wales and Scotland became independent, the representational anomaly would vanish overnight (as would the West Lothian question, but not the problem of London's disproportionate sucking up of wealth and resources). Free prescriptions were a democratic choice in Scotland – are we to be denied choice in the name of British uniformity?
There is another 'famous adage' similar to the one Christine quoted so approvingly in her concluding paragraph: 'We're all in it together'. My God, I hope not!
What should Alex [Trout's] response be to the CIA? (6 November). I hope that he would say: 'You mention that you will give me time to "talk it over with my boys". For an issue as important as this I think it's better if I talk it over with my "girls"'.
David White refers in his response to George Roberston's article to 'cold war mentalities'. But is the Cold War really over? Putin has embarked on a multi-billion pounds re-armaments programme; he supports the bloody Assad regime, and he has contempt for human rights and democracy. He has turned the clock back to the Brezhnev era. David White should watch Russia Today on free channel 85 to get the flavour of what is happening in Russia now.
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