Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Fuck Scottishness. I'm Voting Yes.

To paraphrase Allen Chun who said the same of China, something called "Scotland" unquestionably exists, but, more importantly there is a multitude of expressions to denote different aspects of Scotland and Scottish-ness. There is no room for these multiple perspectives in our official political debates right now as Scotland continues to be represented through flags, whiskey, and mountains by British and Scottish nationalists. Impartiality is impossible so let me explain how my biases and personal experiences shape my politics and my choice to vote yes to Scottish independence. I was born in Scotland and I have lived for several years in England and in China. My father was born in London but left the UK's supposedly cosmopolitan capital because it was "too parochial" and because north of Watford is not barbarian country. His father was from Waterford in southern Ireland and came to London to escape his own involvement in a civil war which pitted brother against brother in a battle for control of the nation against the British empire. He was then told "no dogs, no Irish" on arrival, so he had to start his own small business. He married a woman from England who I was lucky to grow up with and who I can't recall even mentioning countries.

My mother was born in Clydebank outside Glasgow into a family of migrants from Donegal. They arrived in Scotland with Irish as their first language and we spent every summer in the hills of Donegal. My grandmother was an Irish catholic and she read the Bible. My grandfather was an internationalist socialist and read the communist manifesto. The first time I ever wore a Scottish football top as a 7 year old, I was called a "mongrel" with "no right to wear that" by my protestant neighbour. I attended a "non-denominational" school which sent us to the Church of Scotland for every Christian festival! Almost every day of primary school I was called a "fenian bastard" and almost every day I responded in kind to call them "orange bastards" in return. I grew up being teased by my dad for being a "fenian" for supporting Celtic and had to suffer in silence listening to friend's dads calling people "English bastards". Even as children we discussed our identity at school. It's impossible not to given our history. I was always told I'm British because my passport says so yet this inclusion made me feel more excluded than ever as it offered no concern for how I understood myself, the daily reality of mutual exclusion, or my family history. The idea that my identity or anyone's identity could simplify and gloss over these contestations and simply return to being British or being Scottish feels foreign to me.

Ethnic majorities have a responsibility to understand minority and in-between experiences. They tend to forget they have their own identity attachments because they are surrounded by people with seemingly similar ones. Telling someone to be above nationalism when they have been marked their whole lives as different and foreign is not progressive, it's an unconsciously ethno-centric view of the world which seeks to detach themselves from all responsibility from the complex realities of colonialism, marginalisation, and discrimination. To witness the scandal that is the official debate on the subject which frames Yes voters as nationalists and then fails to deconstruct any of the ideological assumptions of why people vote no or feel British, feels like everything I've just written and the colour and fuzziness of the identity politics I know I have lived through is meaningless. The political debate makes a politics lecturer want to withdraw from politics. To have to justify why I am not a nationalist to people who have thought about these things for a few hours when I have been forced to think about these things every day since I was a boy is tiresome and worrying. You are no or you are yes, you don't like the SNP or you do, you are with us or you are against us. The party political machines have the real victory here not because people want to vote no but because it is impossible to have a debate without relying on these childish binaries, which most children know are imagined. Their victory is society's loss because instead of sharing my hopes and fears with many English friends I'm forced to justify why I'm not anti-English instead of discussing how to make things better. Instead of being excited by politics, I feel like it is nothing to do with me.

The political parties have long converged on a neoliberal consensus: the Conservatives are cowboy capitalists, Labour is whatever the Conservatives say with a smile and a tax rebate for working families, and the Lib Dems are part of an illiberal coalition presiding over declining civil liberties and freedom of speech. There is no debate. They are willing the "end of history" to insist we all agree on values, we just differ on detail. The discourse of "austerity" overshadows every possible political discussion. The rapid growth of food banks since 2008 and the media and politician's unwillingness to fully tackle the issue should be the scandal of our age. The value of humans and their right to be seen as good British citizens is judged solely by their contribution to GDP as the most vulnerable in our society are called scum and gazed upon in human zoos such as Benefits Street. There is no hope of any alternative being offered outside this discourse and it is a guarantee of further economic inequality and political disengagement. I'll be voting yes not because it guarantees social justice but because it is the only offer on the table of doing anything whatsoever about it.

The referendum does not ask us how we identify ourselves or how do we understand our history. It asks "do you think Scotland should be an independent nation?". I wanted to say no so I could reject the need for nations altogether but the best way to do that is to say Yes. A no vote simply confirms we are happy to move to the next general election with excluding everyone who isn't British and or economically viable the dominant motif. Leaving the EU and the "threat" of immigrants are now top of the very unconsciously nationalist political agenda which dominates the UK's political discourse. I'll be voting yes because I have never been British and I would like to have a meaningful debate about how colonialism, including the participation of Scots, shapes how we view ourselves and the outside world. The smaller the state the easier it will be to ask how are people being marginalised and stigmatised in Easterhouse, Calton, and East Kilbride, places I've yet to hear being mentioned by our "leaders" crippling the debate. I want to be able to look beyond Scotland V England and look at how we marginalise people on our own doorstep. I want to say Fuck Scottish-ness  and it mean something.