Arts & Culture - Anti-Capitalism - Policy & Ideas

2007 - 2022

Fear Merchants

What is it we fear? What is it they want us to fear? Is it poverty, failure, military weakness? If you have never bought the pension myth, think on those souls who put their present in hawk over fear of future material poverty and all the while impoverish their day to day family life and relationships. And then think on those who bind themselves to a 9 to 5 slavery of mortgage indenture that taints the bulk of their active life, for a time of distant ‘security’ when they must queue for a hip-replacement. For those who are already poor, it is a state of being which they can only hope will get better. If there are upsides to poverty, these might be found in a perverted kind of inclusion in communal lack.

I speak from relative comfort, but when you extrapolate the hypothetical fear of anything and boil it down to its constituent parts, that fear becomes manageable, but firstly, as with arachnophobia it needs examined. We need a snapshot of the fear presented from a distance at which we can poke and prod before we can take the horror in our hands and stoke it.

Having dodged and dived through these years of rampant capitalism, at times playing the capitalists at their own game in order to survive, I confess to having been a survival hooker, selling myself in their system. In mitigation I can only hope that using their system and operating with their rules, I have done so in a more compassionate and fair way. Still I have no admiration for that system that places market above humanity but can understand now, in a world that demanded my personal adaptation to Jackess of many trades, that the confidence to design a project or a business that might provide collective benefit beyond one’s own immediate needs, takes a lack of fear of ‘the market’ underpinned by the reality-check of failure.

My motivation for inventing businesses was to be absorbed and remain busy – my personal fear, was less of material poverty than being unused, un-busy, un-stretched and unemployed. When no jobs were forthcoming I had to invent my own. This took me right into uncharted territory that I would normally have shunned. The service economy in the tourism business always struck me as thinly disguised cultural prostitution, (sometimes not so thinly if you witness The Royal Mile in the summer). Discovering I could do this touristy stuff better than many competitors was a surprise, but it exploded the mystery of business and showed me that there could be huge potential for development if those that usually eschewed business applied their creative minds to it.

Fear is the ultimate and enduring tool of control – at its’ limit, the employment of physical hurt or violence to control individuals, from women in abusive relationships (yes I agree with Joan McAlpine) to whole populations: look this day at Syria. Both the institutions of state and religion who have needed to consolidate their power employ psychological fear, the primitive fear of damnation or the complex conspiracy fear of terrorism and when they feel their controlled populations become restive with the established fear ‘givens’, they turn up the screws.

Every generation looks back on a more halcyon past and longs for it, and misses the obvious that the present they are living in will be transformed into the rose-coloured past of the next generation. Our survival instinct dilutes the bad memories and allows the rosier ones to prevail. The danger is we either forget the challenging parts of our past, or start to disbelieve they were ever that bad. The prize of building a better future is to refashion the best things from the past into a new configuration of the present calibrated by a realistic appreciation of our mistakes, our fallibility and our weaknesses.

Capitalism has duped us into thinking that money is God, that stuff will stave off unhappiness, and we must work on the hamster wheel of material accumulation to inoculate ourselves from lack. At both ends of the scale we are anaesthetised by alcohol, where those who fall through the net are numbed with addiction. ‘Schooling’ which we call education plays its part too, with the factory model corralling young people into prolonged infancy, in a siding of society with a fiction of education only serving to better prepare them to embrace the rampant money and acquisitive culture that we are told is the only option.

For young people, fear and pressure in equal measure filter up through the pervasive veil of sound-bite positive reinforcement – in the race for exam success, university places, and employability. Where in this crowded adjunct of supermarket-like education and policy documents is there room for the spark of individual addiction to knowledge? The link to education providing a better future life has been lost, in favour of acquisitive exam goods in a shopping trolley.

Profit prevails above sharing because that is the trickle down ethos of the one-party state of Capitalism and like a parent is the one that has the most influence in the end.

The real fear which we should plan for is the meddling by darker side of the imperialist state, which will be operating now in some former cold war control room stacked with umbrellas and bowler hats.

We need to have the confidence to believe that we can think our way to a better small society where we indeed have the potential to turn our collective minds to create a catalyst for bigger social change. We will not leave others behind, but will be the first domino, tipping a change of thought. Our society can become the focus of their hope, the possibility of a better reality for others.

Because things are the way they are is not how they will always be or how they should be. The first step is to free our minds to think that change is an inevitable part of our evolution and that we can shape that through personal agency. The vested interests of the status quo tell us we cant do this, that indeed we are naïve, idealistic, heart-led dreamers who don’t understand the ‘real’ hard world.

We should allow ourselves to believe that we can build the confidence to manage how we share out the poverty or the wealth. The new Scotland may be one or the other and at times both. But is it preferable to have your poverty imposed and regulated like Greece finds itself, or be a people who can at least have a say in how they manage their lack? The 10 years of imposed austerity in Greece leaves a generation without ideological hope. It has been removed from their collective psyche. Greece is being bureaucratically smashed. This was exactly what Thatcher did to Scottish youth in the 80s. For Scotland we should countenance failure but believe that there is the potential to turn the tanker of greed around and give the outmoded mores of sharing some room to breathe.

If we begin to think like this we may develop a society that expects the best in its population, not one that operates in expectation of the worst of human behaviour legislating to the level of the lowest common denominator. Much of the debate over the viability of the new Scotland relies on scare-mongering over our ability to manage ourselves, being too poor or too small. This doom-mongering comes from the traditional conservative business class who see the desire for independence as emotional rather than practical. They cling to their closed shop of business knowledge which they believe the rest of us do not understand.

But it is the very psyche of our people that is the untapped ingredient which is currently hobbled. Unfairness breeds resentment, anger and violence to the self or to external objects. Transparency that the pain is as fairly shared as are the gain is the kind of ‘fairness philosophy’ those under the yoke of global capitalist ethics are desperate for. The emotional wish for independence is no woolly soft option. Hope is key to the well being of humans, and achievable realistic goals as well as longer term dreams are what keep the human spirit moving on. The denial of that hope is a killer.

A population that can overcome its fear is one that can reinvigorate the engines of its collective potential. Perhaps our future will contain the germ of a world where the pursuit of the material is supplanted by the pursuit of knowledge, where it is normal to use what you need not what you think you can secrete away for yourself, that less is sometimes more and where profligacy, greed and competition play second fiddle to communal aid . What is needed is the creation of ‘busy-ness’ as something that replaces the old terms and models of business. A new place where social enterprise and capital will work for humans and the surplus created go to sustain communities through a different financial network of ethical and mutual banks and co-operative societies.

None of this is new, but when the pendulum is swinging there’s no harm in jumping on to give it a bit of a push. It may ironically be that the imposed policies of the Thatcher era that removed the expectation of employment from many and forced some of us out of our comfort zone into the wilderness of business, will in turn come back to bite the very politics that spawned the worst of the hard, real, uncompassionate world of greed economics.

All we have to fear is fear itself, so get that fear on the table, and give it a good interrogation with a stick. Give it a name, then dispense with it for good.

Comments (39)

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  1. longshanker says:

    My fear is visceral, not outwith the bounds of rationality and certainly within the bounds of historical precedent. While most of my mind and part of my heart is with the concept of independence, my heart and intuition fear it; and the inevitably unpredictable fallout from its consequence.
    Being able to run our own affairs I take as a given. It’s the effect on what will be one of our most important trading partners that I fear. It could set us back generations on so many different levels.

    1. Robert Peffers says:

      I wouldn’t worry about that if I were you. Facts prove that we will be in a far better position with our, “Biggest market Partner”, than ever before with independence. Scotland is a net exporter of food, power and fuel, while England is a net importer of all three. Add to that the sutuation now extant, We have plenty of that essential of life Water. England is in dire need of water. It means that English growers are now contemplate not planting this year as there is little chance of crop germination. So they either buy our goods or we sell them elsewhere. Poetic justice really. It was the English Transportation Laws that forced Scotland into the Darian Expedition and English intransigence, (aided by the Dutch), that left the expedition underfunded. That plus the shared monarchs orders not to help forced the Scottish bankruptcy. Even then we joined a Union that was in massive national debt, due to fighting European wars. We may have been broke but we had no national debt. Wheel turn and now Scotland gets less from the treasury than she puts in while the UK runs up massive national debt. So we had help pay their debt when we joined and will probably have to help pay it when we leave. They need us more than we need them.

      1. longshanker says:

        A lot of the ‘facts’ being touted around just now are conclusions based on incomplete data, though I’m not disputing the three cited by you. Bella Caledonia recently featured a great piece which Scotched the myth of the ‘independence’ of think tanks and research bodies and their consequent findings.
        Your trading scenario, while perfectly feasible, only adds fuel to the fear. Schism and strife can get out of hand in so many unpredictable ways – disputes over scarce resources being a prime candidate in their history.
        If England does need us more, as you assert, then it’s worth remembering that they’re bigger than us and quite possibly more belligerent than us – there’s nothing quite as vicious as a contested divorce.
        Suprisingly, I disagree with your summation for the reason Darien failed. But maybe in another thread – eh?

  2. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    We have also been sold the myth that we can infinitely increase production and and infinitely increase consumption to absorb this. Coupling this myth with a huge industry which made money out of other money to fuel this increasing production and consumption has left us where we are today.
    Money and wealth are not the same thing.

  3. Dave McEwan Hill says:


    I have absolutely no idea where you are coming from on this. Perhaps you should take it up with the 196 other independent nations and let them offer you advice

    1. longshanker says:

      196 other independent nations is too vague and offers no context – so sorry – wouldn’t know where to start with that advice.
      Most pro-Indy people are familiar with the McCrone report. There are enough forebodings in there. We ignore them at our peril.

  4. vronsky says:

    This is a quote from ‘longshanks’ website (‘longshanks’ was one nickname of Edward II – the other was ‘Hammer of the Scots’):

    You may believe that you have a natural legal and moral right to a resource and your fellows may even reinforce your assertion. But, God helps those who help themselves. More importantly, God is on the side of the biggest battalions. Worth bearing in mind when taking solace from the McCrone report without paying attention to the possible contraindications of Independence lieing therein.

    Rather threatening and hence, I suppose, quite on topic.
    An interesting article – the exact nature of ‘fear’ in the capaigning political context needs more of this sort of exploration. But ‘in hawk’ in the first para should be ‘in hock’.

    1. actually that was Edward I. An important distinction. It was his much weaker son who was sent home at Bannockburn ‘tae think again’, a point that the Corries rather slid over

    2. David Smillie says:

      ‘…more importantly, God is on the side of the biggest battalions.’ Sounds a bit like a motto for bullies everywhere.

      1. longshanker says:

        It’s also realpolitic for the history of civilisation.

      2. albauberalles says:

        i’m sure there are many bigger ‘battalions’ around than the one that’s behind longshanker!

        1. longshanker says:

          Nemo ne impune lacessit

    3. Tocasaid says:

      Or perhaps god was on the side of the VietCong, IRA, Taleban and Sandinistas? Or closer to home, did god stand with the Picts against the might of Rome?

    4. longshanker says:

      You realise of course that you’re quoting from a comment on a fable.

  5. douglas clark says:

    Just to say, that is a very good article. I am coming around to the view that my political fear is actually about remaining in this union!


    Well, you could take the smaller perspective of countries that have formed in Europe, or exist in Europe, such as Norway which split from Sweden or Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia which split from the USSR or Russia, I forget which it was at the time. Or Eire.

    Or if you prefer countries with older independence, you’ve always got Portugal, which finally split from Spain in 1640.

    None of these countries have, to the best of my immediate knowledge, burgeoning reunification movements.

    1. longshanker says:

      I don’t think Portugal is a good country to use as a positive example in this instance. It only reinforces part of the reason for my fear; schism and strife and imperialism both political and military. None of it very nice.
      Eire’s independence was bloody and protracted. Norway’s wasn’t the most transitionally civilised either.
      I don’t think any of these things would necessarily happen here – but there are various levels of antagonism, subtle and upfront, which could be brought to bear upon us. Any or all of these potentials could make things very uncomfortable to the point of outright unpleasantness.
      It is the potential of all of these unknowns which leads to fear. None of these fears have been answered by anything I have seen, heard or read anywhere.
      The McCrone report has already predicted one part of the political discourse currently taking place. I believe that others will also bear fruit.

      1. douglas clark says:

        Wasn’t the point I was making. The point is how many countries that have become independent have taken a unilateral decision to return to their imperial masters? Whatever the details of the split in 1640, as far as I know, there is no large scale Iberia movement in Portugal.

        1. longshanker says:

          You’re losing me there Douglas. My fear is based on potential schism and strife in the social and political sphere in the event of independence. (and of course the lead up to it). I don’t think I mentioned anything to do with the return of independent countries to their former masters. It’s not relevant considering that situation doesn’t exist within the UK at present.

  6. Richard Cain says:

    As long as you’re growing and learning (whether individually or as a nation), there will always be fear about what lies ahead. It’s not a matter of crushing the fear or stamping it down; it’s a matter of recognising the fear, accepting it, but not letting it rule you and pressing on regardless.

  7. Happy to hock for the eagle-eyed hawks which I meant to stroke earlier on…but was feart.

  8. What do you mean by “Norways wasn’t the most transitionally civilised, how many deaths were there? How many turned out onto the streets?

    1. longshanker says:

      I don’t believe that the threat of war looming in the background before independence was finally gained by Norway could be considered civilised. My interpretation of course, maybe yours is different.

  9. John Souter says:

    Fiona – wonderful article, a pleasure to read.

    Nobody should doubt their value or pawn it to authority.

  10. orpheuslyre says:

    An interesting article. Shame any reasonable comment on it was hijacked by the troll.

    1. longshanker says:

      Classic Argumentum Ad Hominem there orpheuslyre. Other less reasonable people would call it stereotypical CyberNat behaviour. The first comment on this thought provoking piece was on topic. So justify your outlandish trolling claim or retract it for the fear provoking falsehood that it is.

  11. Macart says:

    I saw a tremendous quote the other day by a poster on another thread which really struck a chord. If he reads this I hope he won’t mind my paraphrasing ‘If we fear independence or its effects, we don’t deserve it’.

    I refuse to live in fear of the future. We have a chance here to do things differently and hopefully better. If we throw that chance away because we fear what may be, then we also throw away the chance of having what could be.

  12. douglas clark says:

    That Longshanker is a contraversialist is beyond doubt.

    I am under the general impression – from what he has written here – that a boo from a goose is enough to derail any pretendy loyalty he has to the idea of Scottish Independence. Frankly, it is going to end up as handbags anyway according to him.

    At that point, the likes of Longshanker will say, “I told you so” and remain as feart of any change whatsoever as he always was. It is a bit on a self fullfilling prophecy and is nothing to worry about. Longshanker will vote no in a referendum and feel completely vindicated . ‘Phew, we avoided a shouting match!” That is what our good friend Longshanker is selling you. He also is somewhat in love with the idea that independence will be won or lost on the tip of a bloody sword. Frankly, that is scaremongering.

    No doubt, Longshanker will be back in a moment to tell me how wrong I am. But that is the way I see the man. Happy to be corrected.

    1. longshanker says:


      I don’t understand why you should be so denigrating as to say I have a pretend loyalty to Scottish Independence. I think we are more than capable of running our own affairs – though I can’t say I would be too happy with any of the present Holyrood parcel of rogues having anything to do with it.

      The original piece is about fear. I openly and honestly expressed my fear regarding independence. I’m firmly in the don’t know camp at the moment. It’s a bloody dilemma because I’m not known in my social circle for being a ditherer.

      I often laugh at myself for the apparent irrationality of the potentials that pop in to my head. It’s a large sliding scale which at the petty end would be a ‘shouting match’ as alluded to by you. The other end could be a humiliating and hurtful bloody nose. There’s plenty of historical precedent for that belief.

      I’m not trying to sell anything either. But to say I’m scaremongering is bordering on denigration again. I think I’m being honest and realistic.
      The McCrone report specifically refers to the realistic scenario that England would be in ‘dire straits’ without North Sea Oil revenue. That makes it potentially dangerous.

      That is the rationale of my fear. I don’t think you’re wrong as such. I just hope it’s me that is.

      One thing I’m not is a fearty: Nemo ne impune lacessit.

      If we gain independence and schism and strife don’t rear their ugly head, I’ll hold my hands up and laugh at myself for being an eejit. And if I’m still blogging, you can rub it in as much as you want. I’m big enough and honest enough to admit when I’m wrong.

  13. longshanker says:

    I don’t fear the future. Never have. I do fear schism and strife though. Things can only get nastier.

  14. douglas clark says:

    Longshanker @ 9:48pm.

    It is your fear that I am suggesting you use as an excuse for advocating some sort of status quo. God knows what the status quo might be, I tend to have a Casandra like vision of the ‘no’ vote, you appear to have a similar view, or a fear maybe, of what a ‘yes’ vote might mean.

    In the Longshanker Universe, fear rules. It overrides anything else. You cannot deny that, for you said it here:

    My fear is visceral, not outwith the bounds of rationality and certainly within the bounds of historical precedent. While most of my mind and part of my heart is with the concept of independence, my heart and intuition fear it; and the inevitably unpredictable fallout from its consequence.

    I pointed out to you that most free nations do not want to return to colonial rule. You chose to misunderstand that and pretend that the process must be bloody. I am suggesting that that needn’t be. Indeed, the split between our two counties will be dealt with in a civilised manner. But still you worry.

    Longshanker @ 8:51pm.

    I don’t fear the future. Never have. I do fear schism and strife though. Things can only get nastier.

    You do fear the future. You think it will get nastier, and I think it will get better.

    Best of luck in spreading the negative, Longshanker……

    1. longshanker says:

      ‘…Casandra like vision…’
      I don;’t believe you.

      Extending the mythological metaphor though. Pandora;s box – unleashed all manner of ills on the world, provided hope – hope only.

      ‘…Longshanker universe…’
      You’re becoming shrill. Not very nice.

      ‘…colonial rule’
      We’re not colonised, This comment is still irrelevant to the situation being discussed here. Not misunderstood – irrelevant.

      ‘…will be dealt with in a civilised manner.’
      You’re gift for prophesy told you this did it? Some of McCrone’s vision is already happening. I’ll choose to believe his instead.

      ‘You think it will get nastier…’
      You think unknown reactionary forces will not be unleased if we choose to push our neighbour into financial ‘dire straits’? I hope they’re civilised about it if it happens, I fear they wont be.

      ‘…spreading the negative…’
      Not so much negative as realistic.

      Oh. And if you think I’m advocating the status quo, you’ve never really had a handle on this topic from the start.

  15. Macart says:

    Fear is the enemy of all progress. If we fear getting on that bike for the first time because we might fall off and get a skint knee, then we don’t learn to ride a bike. If we fall off a few times and get the odd bump and bruise, yet refuse to give up? Well, Tour de France anyone?

    Even by my poor standards of posting (relative newbie), that is a very simplistic analogy, yet holds true for everything in life. If you want it, if you work at it, you can achieve it. Success is not guaranteed, but it’s an absolute guarantee that if you don’t attempt anything, you will gain nothing. Fear shouldn’t hold back the aspiration to be better than you are.

    1. Macart says:

      Edit: Whoops, last line should read – Fear shouldn’t hold back the aspiration to be better off than you are.

      That’ll teach me to rush typing over breakfast. 😀

    2. longshanker says:

      Agree with everything you say Macart.
      The Independent Hare could quite easily get eaten by the lion at the finish line, while the progressive Tortoise achieves the final goal much more peacably.

      1. Macart says:

        Hullo longshanker

        From what I gather your fear is that there will be so much resentment built up by our next door neighbours that you fear a violent backlash of some description upon Scotland gaining independence. I can’t help you there, I can only say that there already exists a great deal of resentment in certain corners of the next door neighbour’s community toward Scotland at present. Much of it originated quite deliberately by the UK govt and press. I can also only offer that the UK in general and Scotland in particular has been ill served by a distant and undemocratic Westminster in the past four decades, hence the sorry state of affairs the country finds itself in at the moment.

        No manufacturing base, austerity cuts, skills deficit, a trillion pounds in debt (and climbing), centralisation of power and business toward the south east. The whole of these islands are already out of whack and constitutionally challenged. I am absolutely convinced that allowing Westminster to continue administering our country will lead to further and deeper disaster for those who live here. Taking the above as the current situation we find ourselves in and looking at your own fears it would be a case of doomed if we do, doomed if we don’t.

        I choose to look forward and take the chance. At least we have a choice/chance, the choice/chance to have a government which is answerable to our needs and aspirations and a resource base from which to rebuild our nation’s fortunes. Whilst we have huge political differences with the English electorate we share many common social bonds. At the end of the day, that is what is being aimed at here, a political separation not a social one. I firmly believe that we shall be best of neighbours. It’s far better to be thought of as a good neighbour than resented as a sponging lodger.

  16. longshanker says:

    ‘It’s far better to be thought of as a good neighbour than resented as a sponging lodger.’

    But, as seems to be the consensus, the lodger isn’t a sponger at all. He’s a cash cow and he’s being getting ripped off for years. He’s wised up and he wants to leave. His leaving impoverishes the landlord. The landlord is going to try and stop him by whatever means it takes fair or foul.
    Hypothetical I know. But as I’ve said all along, it’s within the bounds of realism, historical precedent, and the McCrone report alludes to it too.

    1. Macart says:

      As I said before longshanker, I can’t help with your apprehension over what Westminster may or may not do. I do know they have had a serious and detrimental effect so far and allowing that state of affairs to continue is not an option. I also know, for an absolute certainty, that in actual historical precident the likes of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and in fact the vast majority of one time Empire countries have survived just fine minus the hand of Westminster at the tiller (all countries with massive natural resource and wealth) and that we’re in no danger of ceasing trade, social interaction or indeed political partnership anytime soon. I tend to look toward that form of relationship when gazing into crystal balls. 😀

      1. Macart says:

        Precident? I really must stop typing with mittens on. 🙂

  17. Brian@DMP says:


    A very thought provoking post.

    Without wanting to depress too many good people here I would have to say that my fear is the alarming rate at which a certain underclass is breeding. We are living in times where there is a new generation that has no interest in anything other than social media, excessive drinking, casual meaningless sex and rioting. I was raised in South West England and returned recently to discover that the town centre has been taken over by “feral youths” who lack direction, drive and even a modicum of educattion. The situation was bad before the economic breakdown we are seeing now…can these kids seriously be expected to help with the turnaround?

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