by George Gunn
As the fighter jets take off from Cyprus the torch of their engine burn sears the raw wound of a three week hurt. One of the very important aspects of British foreign policy which independence would have shielded us from is being implemented in our name over the already ravaged desert landscape of Iraq. As usual, with not a thought of how to extract their military from a winless war, the Westminster government can hardly disguise their haste – subject to an ever so slight delay by the un-timely democratic inconvenience of the Scottish referendum – in committing cripplingly expensive ordinance to add a high profile blast of solidarity to US global interests.
The sordid segue of UK party political conferences which have shipwrecked on the rocky early weeks of Autumn have also shown us that the only thing that Westminster parties have learned in regard to Scotland is that they prefer the Union to progress, that a referendum on independence must never be allowed to happen again and that in “granting more powers to Holyrood” they plan to keep Scotland closer to heel. All three of them by proclaiming – or in taking a “vow” – to enhance devolution desire, in reality, to undo it. In other words, as Talleyrand said of the last Bourbon Kings of France, “They have learned nothing and forgotten nothing”. The democratic mask has slipped.
As we move away from the Autumnal Equinox and the constitutional light slips away ever faster from bright new morning of “a vote for No is a vote for change” the coming nights of “realpolitik”, of back tracking and reneging, promise to be long and desultory. There have been many theories posited as to why the referendum was lost: the old voted for their pensions; the middle classes voted for their mortgages; Better Together terrified the living daylights out of everyone; the SNP chose a couple of bad policy horses to back in the referendum race such as currency union and North Sea Oil; the vote was rigged and, no doubt, there are many other reasons or factors, some of which have petitions attached which are circulating across cyber space. The trick is to keep positive, to always look forward and never look back – look what happened to Eurydice in the underworld? We may feel we are in a dark cave at the moment but there is light shining in from outside. That light is the energy created by our belief in ourselves: the people of Scotland. We will make our own history, not Westminster.
In the preface to his mighty 1820 dialectical dance, “The Philosophy of Right”, the German philosopher Hegel wrote
“One more word about giving instruction as to what the world ought to be. Philosophy in any case always comes on the scene too late to give it… When philosophy paints its gloomy picture then a form of life has grown old. It cannot be rejuvenated by the gloomy picture, but only understood. Only when the dusk starts to fall does the owl of Minerva spread its wings and fly.”
Yes lost the referendum but won the argument. No won the battle but will lose the war. That is the conventional wisdom of the independence cause. It would be a mistake, I would suggest, to take too much comfort from that. As the owl is the symbol of wisdom when she flies now in this Autumnal dusk in Scotland what does she see? Is it a “gloomy picture”? Or, to misquote the rogue US Republican senator Ron Paul, is “truth really treason in an empire of lies”?
When it came to the crunch the Better Together message was all about money and it was, I think, a mistake for Yes to “out-money” them. As far as democracy is concerned markets are indicators of nothing and prices are not reliable signals. They could be if we had regulated markets and a balanced media, but we do not. What we have is a state embedded press and this is a form of information fraud just as explicitly as the state bail-out of corrupt financial corporations is embedded fraud. Both the media and the markets have made irregularity normal.
What the Owl of Minerva sees as she flies is that there is no transparency or accountability in either the political or financial systems as the recent £250m false profit statements of Tesco and the collusion of their accountants’ highlights and the lack, so far, of any legal prosecution is proof of a general corruption.
The pattern in the UK is one of wealth extraction not of wealth creation. The austerity measures enacted by the government on the majority of the people is a form of extortion. Budget cuts disguised as more devolved powers is what passes for politics and economics in a shakedown society where empathy is seen as weakness by an ever-increasing sociopathic form of governance.
The Owl of Minerva also sees as she flies that wages are down 7% while property values rise by 250% and that 97% of all money created in the economy is created electronically through mortgages but these are loans which have no collateral: this is what Wall Street calls “bubble trouble”. The good news is that house prices cannot rise indefinitely, so then what? You would be surprised, would you not, to learn that our imperial masters have no plan for that? Will it take some huge exogenous event to bring it all crashing down or even trigger a rise in interest rates? A zero interest rate facilitates debt. If such a financial meteorite were to hit the empire of lies will, of course, try to cover it up. That is their other pattern.
But even the sophists of Westminster cannot plug the three huge economic holes of debt (by the time the UK general election comes around next year estimates abound that the UK debt will be £2 trillion) credit and leverage – which is the ratio of a company’s capital (debt) to the value of its ordinary shares. Nor can they explain away that in Scotland savings and capital investment are virtually missing: they have either been made impossible (the minimum wage should be £30 not £8.00 if it is to match real inflation), been filched or frightened off. In all of this most of our politicians are either complicit or ignorant.
What Scotland needs is a genuinely alternative society with an alternative currency which can reassess value (both human and material) and how that value is used, spent or stored so that scoundrels like Tesco cannot weave their conceits in the light of day and wave their duplicities in our faces and sneer.
The Owl of Minerva flies over our pretence that we live in a free society where freedom of speech is sacrosanct but increasingly argument is thwarted by the laws of libel and that costs money so people are genuinely nervous of speaking out. In Caithness, for example, I have heard countless anecdotes of workers at Dounreay being warned that their jobs would not “be there” if they voted Yes. Fear, as Better Together has proved, works. Freedom, however you define it, is nothing without information (“more information!” was the cry of Better Together) and information is power and power is retained by Westminster.
That, for me, is one of the lessons of the referendum: that we live in a corporate state fuelled by fear, self-interest, property bubbles and paranoid markets with a servant press easily preoccupied with foreign wars and big sporting events. There used to a name for this kind of state: it was called fascist.
“It is dangerous to be right in matters in which the established authorities are wrong” warned Voltaire but it is even more dangerous not to try to understand what has happened, as Hegel alluded and no matter the lateness of the hour.
The Yes campaign could have argued that we simply lose the banks (RBS, BofS etc) and such financial gloomers as Standard Life. We could have argued that we should start new local banks to encourage savings and investment. Some, I know, did. It might have helped if the SNP instead of debating with the Janus that is Ian Wood about how much oil there is in the North Sea had advocated to reduce our dependency on oil. They could have also stopped reasoning so optimistically about the “UK market” and talked up developing new export markets for Scotland whilst pointing out the current dire performance of UK trade. The Yes campaign should have/could have sung loud and long about a dual currency, our own pound as well as the pound sterling, highlighting the future strengths of the proposed Scottish currency as against the probable decline in the value of the pound sterling and the faltering supremacy of the US dollar as the Russians and Chinese move away from trading in it.
The Owl of Minerva is circling over the dusky woods of history. One thing is clear through the mirk: this political system cannot deliver the change the Scottish people desire. Already we are seeing the party rogues falling out over the flickering light of the Westminster camp-fire. The long night of disappointment will soon give way to the morning light. What we will see then will be new to everybody.
© George Gunn 2014.