The Semiotics of See You Jimmy
Sir Chris Hoy’s contribution to national debate is part of a pattern of counter-intuitive evidence. It’s double-speak. In really simple terms, it doesn’t make any sense. One of the things he said was: “It would not be quite as simple as just saying, ‘there is a Scottish athlete, they have won a gold medal, therefore that’s a medal for Scotland’.
Er, yes it would.
This approach to seeing the world can only be understood in the context of the inferiorism perpetuated and nurtured by the Unionist campaign. Part of this is a deliberate campaign of distortion and propaganda, but most of it is the general view understood by the general populace.
Here’s three recent examples of this.
When the Prime Minister came to Scotland in April he focused entirely on defence. The unionist message has been relentless. Cameron stuck to the script:
“Being part of the UK opens doors for the Scottish defence industry around the globe. Scotland counts for more on the world stage because it is part of the United Kingdom and Scottish defence jobs are more secure as part of the United Kingdom.”
Yet this week we saw French firm Thales take a huge contract. Thales has won a 10-year deal to service the Royal Navy’s hi-tech submarines and ships. The Ministry of Defence confirmed the deal, which it said was worth at least £600m.
Thales will provide maintenance and repairs for 17 offensive and defensive systems across the fleet including the Astute, Trafalgar and Vanguard class of submarines. It would also cover Type 45 warships, the MoD said, helping it save an estimated £140m over the decade.
The reality is that Scotland is not served well by the Ministry of Defence. We pay far more than is spent in Scotland on defence; we have the low-paid, dangerous jobs of guarding operating nuclear submarines and the rusting hulks of dozens of decommissioned subs. The MoD has even reneged on its promise of increased troop numbers based in Scotland.
The Thales contract at a stroke made a nonsense of Better Together’s arguments.
The argument that: Scotland will lose out to defence jobs if it becomes independent is contradicted by daily reality. Scotland is losing out as part of the union.
The issue of Scotland’s place in the world has spun around 180 degrees as the Conservative Party went into meltdown after UKIP’s Revolt of the Shires.
But this theme of counterfactual oddities goes on. For years we were brow-beaten by the story that a referendum would damage Scotland’s economy, the very act of even considering self-determination would fundamentally destabilise our society we were told ad nauseam. Yet now the ruling party in Westminster has tabled a plan to hold a referendum to withdraw us from the whole of the EU. The silence is deafening.
As Angus Robertson has said: ““Scotland’s interests lie in fighting our corner in the European Union, but we are prevented from doing so by a Tory Government at Westminster that is obsessed with their plans to drag us out of Europe.”
New Gold Dream
Finally, let’s look at elite sport. There’s something really odd about Sir Chris Hoy’s logic: Scottish athletes and sports men and women often have to travel outside the country at the moment under the Union, because our facilities are often not good enough. Therefore, under independence things will be much harder.
It’s an almost comically stupid argument.
Aside from the whole question of prioritising elite athletes in some desperate search for national profile and some weird obsession with ‘sporting achievement’ in a time of acute economic depression – the arguments put forward by Hoy (and then defended desperately in the media) are bizarre.
Why couldn’t / wouldn’t an independent country be able to compete? There’s a lot of myth-building about sporting excellence.
Scotland Tonight even asked (seriously) ‘Would other countries want to compete with an independent Scotland?’ Both speak to a deep-seated inferiorism, as does the whole European narrative (how will we possibly make our way in the world?) and the whole contorted defence debate centres around an inability to think beyond Scotland as a sort of on-call international squaddie left squabbling over jobs at radioactive Rosyth.
Why Does Anyone Believe any of this?
Because these arguments don’t actually make any sense, they survive, thrive even only in the context of a supreme insecurity nurtured and cherished by some and unconsciously drawn on by many.
The phenomenon is well noted. Beveridge and Turnbull (1989), Young (1979), Nairn (1977), Fanon (1967) all explore the idea. Writing in Scottish Affairs in 1994 Linda Cusick writes: “These have had hegemony over Scots’ perceptions of themselves to such an extent that they have a systemic quality. The semiotics of Scotland are regressive in cultural terms, and in their political manifestations lock us into subordination and dependency.’
Frantz Fanon (1967) writes: “Every effort is made to bring the colonised person to admit the inferiority of his/her culture.” Cusick suggests: “Once self-doubt is created, resistance to foreign rule is weakened, while for the coloniser self justification is achieved with a belief that were it not for his interventions the colony would slide back into barbarism.”
We live with the cultivation of popular assent around some core idea: ‘we are generally incapable’ is reiterated daily by consensus builders and the media elite.
An understanding of this process and a widespread conscientization may be one of the best outcomes of the referendum process as we begin to figure out who runs this place and how we can overcome them.