14 year-old Éireann Sheridan reflects on her experiences of the referendum and asks: who stole my future?
Apprehension and excitement buzzed throughout my whole being, I could think of little else even when at school. The 18th of September loomed nearer by the moment, and all that occupied my mind, were thoughts and hopes for the outcome of Scotland’s referendum. This was a new thing for me, and I was enthralled by the opportunity for positive change.
The lead up to what I saw as the chance to create a better place to live, had engrossed me in a whirlwind of learning, hope and opportunity. Despite taking a passing interest, politics had never excited me on such a high level. I understood the huge importance of what was happening in my country, and as a result, took the time to educate myself on what was happening. Conclusively, I came to the wholehearted and enthusiastic decision, to back independence. The more I learned, the more frustrated I became about my inability to vote due to my being 13 years old when the vote would take place, however, this did not stop me passionately supporting the yes campaign. I wanted a better future for us all.
The excitement remained within me constantly; it was all I wanted to speak about. I asked many of my teachers about it, but they were not allowed to share their opinions with me at all. In fact, there was something of a taboo on the subject within the school walls. The premise seemed to be that teachers swaying the minds of children would be unfair, yet we learned about political happenings from other countries. In hindsight, it seems like an opportunity wasted, for example in Modern Studies class we could have discussed the process.
Regardless, as the day drew near, my age group and peers had become more aware of the situation. They gradually developed opinions about it, and I very much actively voiced my own and engaged in debate. Some of the points put across and opinions shared, shocked me to my core. I had not realised how many people thought so very differently from how I did. Ideas that my country was incapable of running itself had never before occurred to me.
“Our future in our hands” promised the yes campaign, but suddenly, I was faced with the harsh reality that my future was in other people’s hands, many of whom did not share my view. When some of my friends spoke, I heard their parents voice speaking through them. Worse than that, I heard the TV speaking through their parents to get there. This made me question my own views. Was I falling into the same trap? Were my views actually those of my parents who were both yes voters? Should I have been reconsidering my opinions?
I tried to engage my brain, I listened, I read and I had to convince myself my opinion was my own. The best possible future for me, I completely believed and concluded, would be in the land of opportunity following Scotland’s independence.
It was the 18th of September. Although the weather was awful as usual, and everyone was going about their daily business, all it took to know that something greater was happening, was to listen in to conversation. Everybody was talking about it; when they voted, what they voted and what other people were saying. You would have had to be living under a rock to be unaware of it.
I can clearly remember sitting in Modern Studies, staring out of the window, watching people go to the polling station. Never had I been so excited. Never had I put so much faith in my country. After school, I went to the polling station with my mum. I went all the way to the booth with her and witnessed her draw an ‘X’ in the yes box. Pride and hope were my distinct feelings in that moment but they were met with envy. I would have loved to have been allowed to vote and considering how educated I now was, I felt it unfair that I could not. There was nothing I could do, my feelings reminded me of the slogan “hope vs fear”, I hoped with all my heart that the people of Scotland would not let me down and feared with just as much of myself, the consequences of a no vote.
With that thought in mind, I reflected over the referendum. It had been the positivity and ‘hope’ of the yes campaign in contrast to the negative and ‘fearful’ No campaign that had initially attracted me to Yes, although I believe, both hope and fear can propel people to accomplish great things. In many people’s minds, a no vote was the safe option, that remaining part of the United Kingdom was not something to fear. Having learned many of both the inevitable and possible repercussions of both outcomes, I knew this to be so very far from the truth. In making a decision, one must consider its consequences as well as its possibilities, to do otherwise would be foolish, surely? This seems pretty obvious, despite the fact I will not be 14 until January.
I stayed up to watch the results come in. It did not take long for the hopes in my heart to sink, heavily to my stomach. Something, in the mood, in the eyes of the politicians on the opposing side, told me that a no vote was imminent. The next hours proved this. Never in my life had I felt let down by my country, up to that moment. Scotland the brave?… 55% cowardice, I dare say. Fought and died for? Yet refusing our own self-determination with a vote! Disappointment was an understatement.
Stating that I simply could not face it, I took the next day off school, I didn’t realise I would be this frustrated and upset. I had woken up at the normal time anyway, and habitually checked social media. The yes related groups and pages, which had been my daily ritual to visit, were still very much alive. Although among some remaining hope, the regret and the hurt was hugely present. As is done in such times, I looked for someone to blame.
I asked myself then, who stole my future? I started with all those who voted No, this had seemed the most rational place to apportion blame. But I quickly came to the conclusion that they only did so because they were convinced to. Who had convinced them? The leader of the no campaign, Blair McDougal? The leader of better together, Alastair Darling? The scare mongering of Jim Murphy and Gordon Brown? They seemed very valid people to blame, and then I wondered why they did what they did. Clearly, their actions were for their own personal gain, I decided, for: power, wealth, their own jobs, their own classes, a different country, an alien way of life. How could they possibly get away with such things and how did their actions actually have any influence? I played with this thought, toying it from corner to corner in my mind. Then it hit me. The mass media, I had heard people complain about them and my own experience and logic told me they were right.
The mass media is our most easily accessible source of knowledge. Our knowledge of things stretches only as far as the knowledge of the source from which we gained it and moreover, its conveyor is rarely reliable. The human ability to remain impartial, according to my observation therefore seems limited. And the mass media allow these people, these selfish people, to influence the ways and thoughts of our society. The persuasion and influence of media is to be expected, but when it becomes pervasive and repetitive, there are issues such as the one we are currently faced with. We are the victims of brainwashing. And the mass media are in on it. Incidentally, I covered this area as my chosen subject during a school challenge in English, to make your own ‘ted talk’ and is why I have developed this opinion.
With a growing aggravation and despising towards the mass media, I was sure I had found the people to blame. However, I came to the puzzling realisation that when I refer to the ‘mass media’ I am unsure of who exactly I mean. What individuals make up the mass media and which individuals within it are to blame? The reporters who deliver the news, the journalists who tell them what to say, the editors who decide the content or the people in charge?
Most of the people I tried to blame, were not really people at all. They were organisations, made up of people I knew little of. So, who stole my future?
The people we allow to hide behind the anonymity of their entities.
That’s our problem, as the Scottish people, we allowed this to happen, we were too apathetic. We played too nice. Although an invigorating, refreshing movement to be a part of, the positive yes campaign was not powerful enough. We failed to convey our fears and the repercussions of a no majority to other Scots. We allowed the Westminster monsters to put across their fear mongering scare stories. We allowed our opposition to get away with far too much.
Not anymore. They might have won the battle, but the war is just beginning. We are the Yes movement and we will not stand down. We will use both hope as well as fear now. I look forward to participating in future elections, although I cannot vote in the Westminster election in 2015 and I will only be 15 when we have the Scottish election in 2016 (grrr!). Still, I recently represented Deans Community High School at the inter school debate, ‘Model UN’ where schools act as countries and submit resolutions, which kept up my interest in politics. I especially look forward to voting Yes in Scotland’s next referendum. May the people of Scotland unite and break free, and may it happen in my lifetime.
I wont let my future be stolen again. Will you?