With three maybe four sleeps to go before we know the result of the Scottish referendum I can barely contain my excitement. I am finding it difficult to concentrate on anything else – and like most people, most women especially, there is much to be got through in a day. However there is no other topic, no other decision, no other prospect that is as important as this referendum right now – no wonder concentration drifts out of the window.
Although I grew up in a politically savvy family, amid fiery debates about huge worldly topics around the kitchen table, annual May Day marches going back as far as I can remember, I have never felt so close to something which could result it huge positive social change.
Aye we’ll have they capitalists shaking in their boots the day!
Glasgow May Day Parade 1960
Despite Grandpa Alex’s May Day exortation “Aye we’ll have they capitalists shaking in their boots the day!”, the revolution never seemed to happened. There were moments of hope for capitalist boot-shaking, ban the bomb marches, the poll tax campaign, the Miners’ Strike, the anti-Iraq war demonstrations, but generally it was business as usual.
As a child I gradually saw the gulf between how my family made sense of the world (Marxist dialectical materialism mostly) and the actual world outside of our lefty bubble.
Paul Robeson at Glasgow May Day, Queen’s Park 1960
What was on the BBC, what I learned in school (kings and queens, endless rote learning of dates, wars and acts of parliament) and read in my comics – (boarding schools, more kings and queens, plucky little orphans, brave Cavaliers and poor Marie Antoinette) did not look familiar – aka symbolic annihilation.
Scottish Socialist Sunday School Naming Certificate
I became intellectually and culturally bipolar in my efforts to reconcile my life, ideas and understandings with ambient reality. Even as a child marching along in those May Day columns, in my Socialist Sunday School best, heading through Glasgow city centre I was always puzzled by the seeming indifference, bemusement and occasional hostility of the people watching us from the pavement . The two tides were running in parallel but I always felt I was running against the prevailing current. The tide eventually proved too strong for me and I stepped out.
Scotland’s symbolic annihilation was commonplace and the country struggled to resolve its own bipolarity. In 1919 (the same year the tanks rolled into George Square, and the forces of capitalism were maybe a wee bit shaky in their boots), G. Gregory Smith named it: in the Caledonian antisyzygy, he remarked, ‘we have a reflection of the contrasts which the Scot shows at every turn… which is the admission that two sides of the matter have been considered…Oxymoron was ever the bravest figure, and we must not forget that disorderly order is order after all”.
Oxymoron was ever the bravest figure…we must not forget that disorderly order is order after all”.
Disorderly order just about covers it. Even the anti-establishment politics I grew up with no longer seemed adequate to explain the reality of my life, now seriously out of kilter even with the comforting yet ever contradictory certainties of dialectical materialism –(another antisyzygy of sorts). Cast into an analytical wilderness by the late 1970s I shrugged my critical shoulders and walked away, unable to connect the dots between my now adult life and any kind of analysis which made sense. Foolishly, I was searching for simplicity. I didn’t find it.
The Women’s Movement
The women’s movement provided early promise, but, full of its own complexities, lost sight of the enemy outside and struggled to survive in Thatcher’s Britain. However, as the movement matured, so too did I and gradually filled in the blanks in my understanding of how the world works, how change happens and what part I, as a woman could play.
By the 1990s I had found a practical focus for my politics by working on gender equality in education and onward from there working against prevent domestic abuse and all forms of violence against women.
Another Scotland is possible
With only three days to go I think I am swimming in the same political tide as so many others. We’re all off the pavement now and thousands are marching along the same road. Inequality and social injustice are there for all to see in the unionist establishment’s grand plan. But party politics are no longer the only show in town. The split between the lives we are living and the parallel universe being devised for us by the Westminster establishment has become too wide. Working closely with their allies in big business and in the fourth estate, the dominant UK political parties have lined up as one to threaten us with disaster and by doing so confirmed for many of us just why we need shot of them. Their virtual reality democracy game is over.
disorderly order is order after all”
Scottish people are learning how to break the establishment machine code and are poised to reprogramme the whole jing bang.
#indyref has revitalised a nouveau Scottish antisyzygy but Friday morning may see a new synthesis. The establishment might just be shaking in their boots. Alex would be pleased. Another Scotland is possible. I’m voting YES!