Unleash the Hounds

moneytalk2‘To believe in something that has not yet happened always requires faith’Chris Erskine explores the positives of the referendum and the deeper roots of our crisis.

Somewhere, someone in Westminster has issued the command to ‘Unleash the Hounds’. Not those of Baskerville. No much scarier monsters, whose teeth are already round the throats of most of us – the hounds of ASDA; RBS; TSB and the CBI etc. You see, as I write, they have been sent northwards to quash the rebellion, to talk sense to the rabble, to bring Westminster’s ‘shock and awe’.

Regardless of the outcome, the synchronicity of the Scottish Independence vote (which has probably already happened before publication) and this article cannot be overlooked. You see, I’m interested in the ability; or lack of ability to create meaningful cultural, political and dare I say it, spiritual change. Don’t worry this is not a manifesto, it’s more of a lament with a Sleaford Mods or Fat White Family backing track. It’s a therapeutic session with myself, which may lead to a public sentencing – hung, drawn and quartered – for not accepting societies medical advice to shut the fuck up!!

But wait, it’s not just about me it’s also about you, about nation-states, states of mind, divorce, Father and Mother, family and land. Let me be more precise. It’s about waking up, becoming more conscious and being more honest, but most of all its about hysterical weakness!!

We’re all in it Together!!

Cards on the table! I was born in Scotland, youngest child of seven, Father left not long after the cutting of my umbilical (or unbiblical can never get that right) cord. Shipped off to south-east Kent, colonised beyond any chance of repatriation. Fought and struggled against the injustice of it all, kicking out against the walls of my council estate; class-room cages; and dead end jobs. Finding solace in subcultural rituals; and promises of revolt, which never quiet delivered their utopian dreams.

The more I struggled the better I got at it, the better off I became. Still pushing and longing for some kind of change, but weaving these desires through acquired needs and patterns of consumption. Telling myself that I was still on the good side, which is never the right side! Active as an activist, the voices of the voiceless still familiar and true, but all the while the continual acquisition of titles and cash – husband, home-owner, parent, director, trustee and doctor – evoking a fantasy which no longer makes sense. Am I making sense? I need some help!

In his recent book, Capitalism’s New Clothes, Colin Cremin seeks to lay bare some of the embedded fantasies and its inbuilt symbols, which are located within the worlds of activism and the wider global capitalist system(s). Of particular interest are his observations regarding what he terms a ‘virtuous circle’, in which capital absorbs, reconfigures and then rebrands critique and activism, turning it into a everyday commodity, seamlessly amalgamated and domesticated by turbo-capitalism.

These mechanisms of co-option are sat in the complex web of global surveillance mechanisms and the very core of the individual. Located within the anxieties produced by the sense of continual panoptical observation; and the shopping trolley, bank accounts, and health service of everyday life. Co-dependence of global and personal vested interests, groomed and more efficient than any trafficking network, known to man (sic.).
Taunting those who suggest to being part of the solution, Cremin writes: we have for a long while been in the midst of a kind of deconstructive pseudo-activity of micro-struggles that respond to the symptoms of capitalism though without ever challenging its totality.
You see, Citizen George Osborne idea (we are all in it together) has a Shadow(s), one that seeks to remain unmentioned, unconscious and unseen. The problem is the people of Scotland have turned the lights on. Not just exposing that the Establishment is truly rooted into the London square mile; but that we are all disciples and addicts – economical slaves.

But it all needs to stop now, Daddy wants us to behave – remember there might be monsters underneath the bed. We are supposed to be seen and not heard – all this democracy nonsense has gone too far. We simply don’t know what’s good for us and the toys are being put back in the cupboard, south of the border.

Am I making any sense?

Don’t get me wrong, this is not just a Scottish thing, it’s a deeply you and me thing. It’s a drugs don’t work thing, the patient is waking up too much and we might be in need of the restraints. The idea behind the enclosures act might have started with the land, but it never stopped pushing itself all the way into each of our souls. The symbols of nation, flag, economy, family, home and identity are all walls in the crazy mirror maze of ownership and power. The unfortunate reality is that we have all, to some degree or another, culturally and spiritually reproduced this way of being and become entrapped in its exchanges.

SlavojŽižek, in his groundbreaking book, Violence asks – what if the true evil of our societies is not their capitalist dynamics as such, but our attempts to extricate ourselves from them – all the while profiting – by carving out exclusive self-enclosed communal spaces? This leads me to my main question, the one that is becoming the real battleground in Scotland. Is it possible to think and act outside our own self-enclosed communal spaces? But – my mortgage, my benefits, my job, my holidays, my children’s education – it’s all a bit scary and I want my iPhone!

We are left in a state of permanent mental insecurity needing to operate according to the logic of the market, expressing certain values, cultivating and projecting a kind of a personality, to stay, in some shape or form, in the game. In other words, we have all developed a set of vested interests, which are placing us beyond being able to try and make sense of the world or engage in activities that seek to make the world a more just place.
These interests are clearly connected to my own ‘private life’ commitments and responsibilities. They make clear the departure from my previous social position(s) into what I would call post-working class, but what many others would (probably more accurately) term middle-class inevitability. My own identity has truly entered the ‘virtuous circle’ discussed earlier, in which turbo-capitalism absorb, transforms and then rebrands my critique and activism, turning it into a commodity. We are all truly in this together!

Life is Hysterical

Hysteric (adj.)1650, from Latin hystericus, from Greek hysterikos ‘ belonging to the womb’. Hysteria 1801, coined in medical Latin as abstract noun from hysteric

So fragmentation or no fragmentation of the Union or my wellbeing, I think we are in deep need of the hysteric. Not hysteria, which is the message of the market, the ghost of dear old Margret – society where art thou!! No. We need the hysteric of the womb – possibility of new birth and life – the ancient call of compassion. Ways of being, which will be willing to stretch beyond self to bring about change, avoiding the sirens of ASADA and crew.

How long will the fantasy of building exclusive self-enclosed communal spaces (family, career, social cliques etc.) , in which the individual take advantage of the market, but eventually get caught in their individualism, actually hold? When will we see that market freedom does not allow us to develop the faculty to act any further, beyond consumption? Are we willing to detox from these powers and pyramidal cultures? And if so how is this to be done given our current predicament?

My hysterical thoughts may seem extremely weak, but that is my entire intention. To explain I need more help! Simon Critchley thinks weakness is a conception of the human being defined by an experience of enactment that exceeds the limits of potency and strength and in which authenticity is rooted in an affirmation of the margins and impotence.

This has not been, and was never intended to be, a narrative of the strong things of this life – of the dominant, wealthy or victors of social struggle(s). The dominant capitalist paradigm may have captured much of my life; and may turn Scotland from thinking again. However I think there is much to learn and observe from the hysterics of weakness.

Here are some thoughts – rulers are never interested in weak things. This is not to suggest that weakness should always play the victim, in fact it is highly dynamic, creative and imaginative. We need to find ways in which our passions and gifts, associations, celebration and ongoing violations, albeit in small and beautiful ways, can build alternative moral economies.

Weakness holds the potential of reconfiguring, the very understanding of success and social impact. If viewed through the totems of turbo-capitalism, any attempt to change things can be easily overlooked, undermined and misunderstood. However, it is my contention that small seeds hold the potential for unique dislodging and disruption of desire and imagination.

Hysterical weakness can give birth to unorthodox vantage points that expose the vested interests of mainstream society. This comes from the social positioning, which enables and offer up fresh and heretical readings of society and its various components. These heresies not only challenge the dominant, orthodox reading of history and culture, but also have the audacity to suggest fragile, incomplete and contradictory alternatives. The subtle and frail nature held in these narratives produces inbuilt collective struggles.

John Holloway writes there is a resonance, a mutual recognition of being part of a moving against-and-beyond, a constant sharing of ideas and information … the constant weaving of a We, the shaping of a common flow of doing and rebellion. This resonance does not mean that we all agree: on the contrary, disagreement and discussion are crucial in the formation of the resonating We.

It would be unwise and also untrue to suggest that this is seen as utopian. Nonetheless, it would also be as suspect to suggest that we settle within the current order, or make peace with the status quo. Hysterical weakness requires ‘nomads of the present’, leaving (if only in part) the land of our mothers and fathers, not knowing where we are heading but searching for a land they have not yet seen. In other words, attempting to take back and rethink lives at the multi-layered of levels of incompleteness and contradiction.

This is not a question of local versus global or micro versus macro, it is rather a question of understanding that the strength of the social flow depends finally on our ability to reappropriate. The big events are important but they cannot take the place of the constant search for ways of doing against and beyond capitalism. The Scottish referendum is important, but yes or no there will still be dragons in the land.

To believe in something that has not yet happened always requires faith. The encouragement that I take from these times is just how many people seem willing to press beyond (albeit still in a capitalist framework) the idea of the way things are in Scotland. Win or lose this should not be overlooked or quickly forgotten. Even if there were not to be enough people to trigger the reconfiguration of nation states, the waters have been stirred.

‘Life is completely confined and shackled. A kind of economic fatalism prevails; each individual, whether he (sic.) resists it or not, is assigned a specific role and with it his interests and his character. The church is regarded as a redemption factory of little importance, art as a safety valve… The most burning question of the day and night is: is there anywhere a force that is able to put an end to this state of affairs?’ – Flight Out of Time – Dada Diary: Hugo Ball

These stirrings in the North have breached the facades of the Establishments control. This has not been done by the power of big business or Westminster, but because of the weak things of this world. The hysteria of greed and consumption are running scared because the tide has gone out and they have been found to be naked. Hysterical weakness can always be made to look ridiculous, but that is its force and source of strength!



Categories: Anti-Capitalism

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22 replies

  1. I live in a town to the west of Glasgow. A lot of the No vote was, frankly, on the protestant fringe. I know many people whom I went to school with and who have voted SNP in the past, who voted against independence on Thursday past (they voted SNP because the Labour Party was seen as being almost exclusively Catholic and, well, there wasn’t anyone else)
    They did it with a mixture of their innate small ‘c’ conservatism and their barely hidden tribal bigotry. These people still revere the monarchy and many are members of a certain quasi-religious organisation and, bearing this in mind and the opposition to independence by many in the Church of Scotland then this will explain, in my view, why places like Inverclyde, West Lothian, Midlothian, Renfrewshire and North, South and East Ayrshire all narrowly voted No. Also the North East, in areas where the SNP had a whopping margin in all elections they voted quite decisively against Scottish independence. The problem I have is – they’re no nearly as bigoted and tribal in their outlook up there so there must be some other reason. Maybe someone could explain.

    • The YOugov polling points to the weakness of the SNP’s economic plans being a vote loser.

      The majority of higher income groups voted no, with lower income groups 50:50, so I imagine relatively prosperous places like the north east will require much more convincing.

      A fully worked through plan will require our own currency, currency reserves and central bank (though the latter could be contracted out).

    • The way I see it, aside from the points you make and the general fear of change, the main reasons people voted no were that they’re quite happy as it is so why bother changing anything.

      There are pockets of poverty in the north east for sure, but the vast majority of people have it pretty good up there – the only thing to moan about on a day to day basis is the weather (the haar and the cold wind are not to envy).

      It doesn’t take much to be able to make a lot of money in the oil industry, and once you get a taste for cash it’s easy to be sucked in and want more and more and more. So take your well paid punter with a nice house, holidays in the sun, new car every few years and reasonable job security and ask what incentive he has to look around and push for change? He doesn’t generally see the problems on a day-to-day basis so they’re a bit like the tragedies you see on the news when a flood hits Bangladesh or famine strikes in East Africa – terrible shame and all that but not a lot he can do about it.

      There also aren’t that many on the left hand side of the political spectrum up there, or at least there weren’t when I lived there. I grew up in the North East knowing nothing about politics or trade unions or the decimation of heavy industry and working class communities, instead living a life where my only concern was whether Aberdeen would win the league (it was the 80s, by way of explanation).

      The political apathy of the last 30 years also plays it’s part. Lack of political interest means fewer people take off their blinkers to look at the bigger picture, at what’s going on around them in society and the world at large.

      So how do we change this? Suggestions include:
      1. Highlight the lies and deceit of Westminster as nobody likes to be lied to or taken for a mug.
      2. Highlight the inequalities in our own country, but keep it local as East Glasgow might as well be East Africa to someone in rural Aberdeenshire.
      3. Encourage the belief that independence is good for everyone would be the next step, but that is clearly quite tricky. Demonstrating that independence will make no difference to the wealthy professional’s lifestyle but will help the poorer sections of society could be a decent place to start.
      4. As Crubag noted, a fully worked through economic plan with less ambiguity would help enormously. I know several people that voted no due to what they deemed a poorly presented economic case (they also highlighted a dislike of Alex Salmond but, strangely enough, are content to keep Cameron, Osborne et al – nowt as queer as folk indeed).

  2. Either way, there’s nowt so queer a folk. Especially Scottish folk.

  3. All this Protestant and Catholic stuff I hear about – the churches must be stuffed to overflowing each Sunday. 🙂

  4. I am glad that you name the problem as being spiritual. Something in me shivered every time I saw those Yes adverts asking how we’d like to live in the richest country in the world. I accept that it may have been what polling said would work. But such is an instrumentalist politics and part of the problem. Such is not conducive to a deeper opening of the way; to the cultural evolution of the human condition. It suggests to me that, spiritually, perhaps we were not ready yet for independence.

    The inertia of the gilded carriage has dragged a noble steed into the mire. As we await our promised bayoneting, what is left to us? Only the pibroch of eternity beyond lament. Only the life-restoring knowledge that, beyond a surface politics, we tried to birth a way of being a peoples that would reclaim our culture, put the poor first, and rid our land of values that bottom out as thermonuclear weapons on the Clyde. I wonder how many of those who voted No have stood at Faslane, and will stand again, protesting Trident?

    The head of John the Baptist may have been delivered to Herod’s court, but John’s voice – “whoso has two coats, share with who has none” – cries on through the wilderness, whistling down the glens and out into the city streets of Glasgow and Dundee.

    “You can’t kill the spirit,” and it is the spirit that legitimises, or delegitimises, the flow of life into the community.

    The anti-independence camp had the flow of money on its side. But we had the poetry. Seemingly comforting poems that urge us to forget about “battle-weary turf or tartan” (de Luca) lull to senselessness, and thereby fail the bardic test as long as that turf remains colonised by landed power, as long as the tartan people remain deprived of their share in providence, trapped in spirals of inequality, hopelessness and intergenerational poverty.

    Hamish Henderson said that “poetry becomes a people.” I’d rather starve on poetry than feast on fear.

  5. FYI – I have joined the Labour party this week.
    I voted SNP when I was younger but have voted Labour the last 17 years.
    This week and the last few months have taught me that the Silent Majority need to be active in politics – not just the 44.7%.
    Since the referendum result there is now talk of declaring independence by other means (UDI) and possibly another referendum if SNP have a majority in 2016.
    Don’t you guys get it?
    Over 2 million scots want to keep the union!
    The yes vote was supposed to be about “getting the government we vote for” – that democracy in Scotland is being ignored.
    The referendum has given the democratic result that we voted for.
    Now you guys are choosing to ignore the will of the majority of Scots.
    This nonsense about a Yes alliance forcing independence or declaring another referendum is an affront to democracy!
    Please give it up for the good of the Scotland.
    The Yes campaign promoted self determination as its route cause – on 18th September 2014 – our self determination was to stay in the union.
    Please respect it!

    • Do you not want to vary your act a little? That’s the same comment you have posted on three different articles. Unleash the hounds? Unleash the trolls would be more apt.

    • How many times do you need to post that you have joined the Labour party? I think I have read this same post on three different threads. Please stop with your attention seeking. Your post has nothing to do with the article in question.

    • If the referendum proved anything, it proved that the union is as divided now as it was at the start. You want us to just, give it up? Why? You only managed a little over half. Just under half wanted the union to end. All you won was a reprieve. Nothing more. You said you joined labour? What do you think would have happened if Keir Hardie had given up at the first defeat? There would be no labour party. The tories would have packed their bags and buggered off in 1997. the Liberals would have given up long before then. Sorry but that’s not how democracy works.

      You won a reprieve but the fundamental issues of the the Scottish constitutional question have not been addressed. They’re still there. Sure we didn’t win, but none of us here are convinced we were on the wrong side. As the three main parties start reneging on their “vow” and as labour, amazingingly is now calling for support to defend the NHS, only a week after saying it was in no danger at all…many of us who voted yes are feeling vindicated. Even now, David Cameron is rolling out a package that will prevent Scottish MPs voting on any English issues. Labour are hopelessly trapped and a situation like that will see the English effectively end the union themselves. When that happens, and it will, you’ll see how little affection there actually was for the union. Personally I won’t be in the least bit put out to see it end. The union as you know it, is living on borrowed time.

      Another referendum is an affront to democracy? what utter drivel. Is that what the referendum on devolution was in 97? – an affront to democracy? Any democratically elected party that gets the larger share of the popular vote and did so saying it would hold a referendum on any issue, would be perfectly legal and democratic.

      We’re ignoring the majority of Scots? We’re choosing only to disagree with little more than half – the country is split on the union just as it was at the beginning. For all your fear bombs and all your nonsense and with the full support of the media, you could barely manage little more than half.

      As for democracy being ignored in Scotland? That referendum was the only time for the foreseeable future that your vote counted. You chose Westminster over Scotland. You chose to be irrelevant & allow the electorate of another nation to make your decisions for you. Only now, as I said earlier, they will be voting to exclude Scotland come the next general election. The irony is so thick you need a knife to cut it.

      Labour will fail to reach out to the yes voter. Why? Because they committed the unpardonable folly of attacking the electorate that wanted change. You fight on the issues of the proposition. But you never, ever, turn your guns on the voter. Instead of making a case for the union, they made it personal instead. There will be snow ball fights in hell before anyone who voted yes feels comfortable voting for a “unionist” party. If there is anything significant about the no campaign, it was its ability to make yes voters more comfortable with their Scottish identity.

      • Cannot agree more! Well said!

      • What a remarkably acute post by David Agnew. The defeat was (almost certainly) inevitable, but it has proved to illuminate the (surprising) weakness and vulnerability of the Union, rather more than delivering a decisive defeat; and less a defeat than supplying an invaluable snapshot of political reality. Now we know the scale of the problem; challenging but less than I would have predicted. This will take time (it was always going to require lots of time), but time is what we have; we have more time, and infinitely more energy than our opponents.

    • ‘Don’t you guys get it?
      Over 2 million scots want to keep the union!
      The yes vote was supposed to be about “getting the government we vote for” – that democracy in Scotland is being ignored.
      The referendum has given the democratic result that we voted for.
      Now you guys are choosing to ignore the will of the majority of Scots.’

      translation:

      ‘Go back into your box, you lost. Forget this silly idea. You are fascists and nazis. You are not democratic.’

      Sure Scot, you can’t kill an idea. How about making yourself democratically useful by calling on Gordon Brown and your Labour party to uphold the devo-max promise ?

    • If this is what you truly believe a democracy is, then you are deluded. The 3 main parties intimidated, bullied and lied their way to achieve the “no” vote they so greatly needed. Quite frankly, im sure you will find your feet in the labour party, where your morally corrupt ideas will be encouraged to flourish!

    • And giving up thereby allowing the ruling classes to do whatever they want is what….good for democracy? You wouldn’t be trolling away on your keyboard if our forefathers had accepted their lot.

      Put forward a relevant argument by all means, but at least show some respect for a democratic movement for change.

    • So, what you are saying is – minorities need to remain silent and hidden.?

  6. Hmmmm let me guess…….middle class, good job, never known real hunger or finding yourself ‘down on your luck’? Sorry pal it’s you who needs to examine the meaning of democracy and as far as joining the Labour Party ………there really is no hope for you at all

  7. shame on you Dundee city council !

  8. @Sure Scot.

    As it’s been pointed out elsewhere. The UK labour party doesn’t give up on its ideology because they have lost a poll, as neither does any other party or political organization. It’s absurd to think this should this be different for the SNP or YES alliance, and hope everyone just packs up sticks and goes home.

    As for the UK Labour party. It will not have gone unnoticed, also amongst many no voters, that the UK Westminster parties do not represent the interests of the Scottish people or Scotland, but rather that they represent only the interests of a Westminster elite. It will also not have gone unnoticed the way in which these so called Scots trashed the name of Scotland and its population not only across the UK, but also on a global scale. Most voted no because they were terrified. Hardly a democracy.
    The referendum is now over and yes have lost due to a corrupt and dysfunctional media and corrupt Westminster parties who pretend to represent the interests of the Scottish people. All sights now must be trained on the media and the corrupt Westminster parties who lied, intimidated and terrorized our citizens into making a decision which was clearly against their interests. The only thing the Westminster parties have managed to devolve so far is the axe!

    • I need to say there is some fantastic networking and discussion going on within these sites. Scotland will never be the same. I am in awe at everybodys input and dedication. That is truely what is needed. But to be slightly crazy. I’m not so sure we ever had a chance. Although It appeared that way, of course. Can you really rely on the count being true? We know the media, the 3 parties, big business and finance never wanted us to leave. Why would they let us go and walk away with what they need so bad?
      They’re not going to hand it over willingly. Especially when the collective movement had such vision and determination to break away from the norm. (naughty, naughty)
      All I do know is, when my car is broken down and unable to start, I can’t drive anywhere nevermind the garage.

      Anyway, crazy moment over.
      Scotland, you’ve given me a sense of real pride. thankyou
      Let’s be careful out there.

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