Thursday, September 18, 2014

drummond, brown, artisanal toast and fantasy nationalism

There's a splendid chapter in Bill Drummond's book 45 entitled 'A Cure for Nationalism' that seems to neatly sum up the uncomfortable cognitive dissonance at the heart of a certain kind of Scottishness, and particularly poignant at this defining moment in modern political history.

To set the scene, our protagonist, Drummond, is in Paris for the 1998 World cup where Scotland faced - and were narrowly defeated by - Brazil in the opening fixture.

Drummond's dissonance is revealed, made manifest and resolved within a few short paragraphs.

'I was present at the births of all five of my children; not once did I well up with the mystery and wonder of it all, but just the notion of Scotland is enough to make me weep. 

This morning I sit silent on the train. I feel totally empty. Not because Scotland lost. Even if they had won I'd feel the same. It's investing all that emotional energy into something that you have no control over. 

At least Bruce's men were willing to give their lives to defend Scotland's sovereign statehood. 

What do I or any of the Tartan Army ever actually do for Scotland? For the good of its appalling nutritional standards, its chronic abuse of alcohol, its stagnant economy, its highest rates of cancer in Europe? 

"Let us do or die" - what a lie. we do nothing but die. 

Forget fantasy football, this is fantasy nationalism. None of us really gives a sh*t about Scotland, even those that vote SNP. 

Thank God we are not about to do or die like some former Yugoslavian state. We have never had an empire, never wanted one.'

But on the upside, he concludes... 

'Thank God we do not suffer from a crippled national psyche that makes us go around kicking Johnny Foreigner and smashing up continental bars and thinking we are doing it because we and our pompous has-been country deserve respect.'

It was also interesting to notice former UK PM Gordon Brown's final rallying call to the 'NO' lobby, in which he waded straight in with a deft pulling of the 'No True Scotsman Fallacy' lever within the first few seconds of his speech.

'[You] are the REAL people of Scotland...'  he declares to the faithful.

Now, obviously, one is either a person of Scotland or one is not, there is no 'real' about it, however whilst Brown was often framed by the English media as a somewhat out-of-date and dour irrelevance in his time as PM, his playing of the (fake) authenticity card - straight out of the blocks, no less - is as much a slice of zeitgeisty 2014-ness as any artisanal toast.

Speaking of logical fallacies and biases, then the 'No' lobby would seem to have 'System 1' on it's side.

Given the uncertainty that surrounds a possible 'Yes' outcome, tendencies towards loss aversion ( ie things are not too bad just now, so do we want to risk things being worse? And are the potential gains heavy enough to outweigh anticipated losses given that we weigh them a bout 2.5 to 1 on the loss side?) will be a significant factor when it comes to the crunch.

From an 'availability' or 'recognition' perspective the fact that just about all of the British mass media (most significantly the supposedly balanced BBC) has come out firmly in the 'No' camp it's probably pretty remarkable that less than 24hrs before the polls open it's still neck and neck.

It would seem that up to half of the turkeys are not voting for Christmas.

Whether the final polls reflect this neck-and-neck ness that has been salient throughout the campaign remains to be seen.
And from a peak-end-rule standpoint, how we remember the campaign will be influenced by it's outcome.

To keep up the football theme that we started with, the famous 1999 Champions league Final is regarded as one of the great footballing episodes of recent times.

Principally because of how the Fergie-led United snatched victory with two goals in the nail-biting last minute.

What no-one mentions is that, for the experiencing self  the previous 119 minutes was pretty stodgy stuff.
The peak and the end followed in such quick succession that the remembering self has a somewhat false recollection of excitement over the entire piece.

Similarly if the indyref does finish in a 'No' and the final polling numbers stray into, say, 70/30 territory at the death (and as the aforementioned loss aversion, status quo bias and system justification bias do their worst), then the memory of what has been a fairly significant episode in mass engagement in politics may appear somewhat more cut-and-dried in hindsight than is a true reflection.

With all that said, and whichever way it goes, it's still shite being Scottish.

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