Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Time to lay off Unionist celebrities?

While picking up the pieces of my telephone from the floor the other day, I got to thinking about the process of convincing people who disagree with you to switch their allegiance to your political cause. So often when arguing politics with someone I seem to end up either changing the subject, using sarcastic humour about the listener’s intelligence, or smashing the telephone against the wall in frustration at the mind-numbing bilge they have been reading in the tabloid press.

Anyhoo, enough about my father.

The truth is that Scottish nationalism finds itself less popular among the grey and blue-haired denizens of our fine country. For whatever reason, older Scots are less likely to be nationalists, whether it’s from fear of losing their pensions (oh, the irony), fear of change, in-grained voting habits, dislike of Alex Salmond’s smirk, or simply because they have internalized the ‘news’ they have read in Scotland’s fine and stalwart, free and independent press as fact.

So how to make people like my father change their minds?

The problem with Labour voters in Scotland is that discussing the issues with them quite simply does not work. Most, like my father, stopped thinking years ago.

Then I got to thinking about the power celebrities wield. But the problem with many famous Scots in entertainment and media is that they depend on favourable press in England, and as Al Gore quoted in An Inconvenient Truth, (and I paraphrase) “no amount of persuasion will convince a man of something if his wages depend on him not understanding it.” *

So I thought about the famous Scots my auld faither and I both admire, the ones who are Unionists: Billy Connolly, Andrew O’Hagan, Niall Ferguson. O’Hagan is one man in particular who, with his love of Burns and his socialist West Coast upbringing, has a very similar background to both my father and me. Quite honestly, I’ve never heard anyone read Rabbie better. He would be an articulate advocate for Scottish nationalism.

Then I read recently that Unionist and former Scottish nationalist Muriel Gray had come out as a floating voter. Her thoughtful piece explained how she had come to realise that whatever the problems the UK has today, Labour is not the answer. She’s not a reborn nationalist yet, but give her time.

Then I remembered the abuse she’s had from cybernats online over the past few years. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s not nursing a little resentment. I would. I’d be thinking that I’m disillusioned with Labour, but it’ll be cold day in hell before I vote for those nationalist bastards. I hope she realises that the morons who slag her off do not speak for all Scottish nationalists. Nor do I.

So I suppose this is a message to other Scottish nationalists out there who occasionally like to throw a punch at Unionist celebrities:

Nationalism is sometimes compared to other ideologies, but there is one important difference: ideologies like communism, fascism, capitalism, socialism, etc., can spread far and wide, infiltrating other political systems like a virus, spreading through many countries. Each country’s nationalism (however you define it) is limited by its homeland and its diaspora: Norwegians are unlikely to recruit Swedes around the world to the cause of Norwegian nationalism, and vice versa.

Your only option is to make those of your countrymen who disagree with you agree with you.

I’ve always seen it like being on a jury: if you’re the lone voice of reason, calling the other eleven jury members ill-informed morons will not win them over to your way of thinking. No one has ever been convinced of anything by being called names.

That’s why I’d like to call a halt on nationalists’ abuse of Unionist celebrities.

Maybe getting people like Andrew O’Hagan or Billy Connolly to see the socialist good sense that lies at the heart of Scottish nationalism is what we need to get people like my dad over the line. OK, for the sake of these celebrities’ UK careers, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to come out in favour of Scottish nationalism outright, but following Muriel Gray’s line in expressing doubts about Labour's competency is a good place to start.

If any can be persuaded, it might be enough to sway men like my father, which will at least save me buying a new phone every month.

* Quoting Upton Sinclair


scunnert said...

A thoughtful post. I agree that a lot of the slagging is counter-productive to our aims and objectives. It's hard to resist sometimes, but even Alex Salmond has softened his approach as the goal of independence is too important and could be set back by indulging ourselves in the fine sport of unionist baiting and bashing.


OutLander said...

Agreed, Scunnert.

The biggest problem is de-programming Unionists of all their cultural cringe garbage. It's as if they know nothing about the economic or social justice that lies at the heart of nationalism (English and Scottish).

O'Hagan's 'squeaky bagpipe' opinion piece a year or two ago was a case in point. He has a socialist perspective, and a highly moral world view, but somewhere along the way seems to have decided that Scottish nationalism has neither, when the exact opposite is the case.

nikostratos II said...

the problem with people like you is when you trivialize "fear of losing their pensions". It is not just 'pensions' their is a whole (flawed no doubt) welfare state built around the pension.

It is the fear of losing all of the state support which concerns older scots..if you do not have a good private pension with large savings who do you turn to?.

Alex salmond is a hear today gone tomorrow politician retirement lasts a bit longer.
The fact is there are right wing nutters in the snp who would slash and burn welfare with the best of them.

People(young) who just shrug off older Scots concerns on their old age as just whinging are forever destined to be denied their support and their vote.

OutLander said...

Greetings, Niko.

I’m not sure which SNP you are talking about. Is there another one I don’t know about? Your comments would seem to be more applicable to the Tories and their copycats New Labour, although I wouldn’t call either of them ‘right-wing nutters’.

I certainly wasn’t “shrugging off older Scots’ concerns about pensions”. It’s a palpable fear many old people have, including my father. I just think it’s the result of Labour scaremongering in the Scottish press, rather than fact.

If you could be convinced that the SNP planned to protect pensions, would that make you in favour of Scottish independence?