Sunday, July 20, 2014

A New Union? Of Peoples, not Subjects

To reiterate from first principles: we, as free individuals, autonomous, “sovereign” individuals if you will, choose to pool our individual autonomy at pragmatically chosen levels of administrative convenience and democratic accountability. We do this in cities, regions, nation-states and associations of nation states.  Up until now, we have pooled some of that autonomy at different levels in Scotland, the UK and Europe, and in NATO.  
That is power, in the modern world, starts with us.  With you and me.  Choosing to work together for our mutual benefit.
The question before us right here and now, then,  is whether we think it’s time to extend democratic and fiscal control within Scotland and renegotiate our relationship with the other peoples and institutions on these islands and beyond. And do we do that on the basis of power being "devolved" in the opposite direction.  Do I choose, as a free individual, to pool that freedom with others...or do I treat myself as a subject to real power, and petition others, who have that power, to devolve a bit more of their power to me? 
Where does power come from?  Where does it reside?  
The power of money and guns, of course, is not strictly subject to anyone's vote, but might it not be that we need an alternative collective centre of gravity in our lives to balance that fiscal and military power, rather than ask favours of the powerful that confirm that real power, elections or not, stays where it is?
Again, do we choose to be powerful ourselves, and to come together to devolve that power into institutions?  Or do we remain beggars at the table, looking for a loan to keep us going? 
Are we content  to remain as subjects to an authority who lends us limited power over "devolved" areas within strictly defined limits.  Or are we brave enough to say that power, sovereignty, autonomy, starts with us, and that we devolve it to "them" local councilsHolyrood, and Westminster, Brussels, we see fit?
Does power go up from the people?  Or Down from the Crown in Westminster?
Do we now assert that as autonomous individuals we choose to pool our authority how we choose and in the size and extent of polity we choose?
And what are those levels? If we devolve our power, do we want a distinctive Scottish voice not just in the UK, but in the world?
If we started "as if" we were not subjects, but sovereign, autonomous individuals, as if it were our choice and our gift to elect to pool our autonomy in political units  so that we could get things done on welfare, health, education, housing, war and peace? If we could have a say in inventing a new nation through which we could be part of the world, what nation would we choose?
There’s a philosophical experiment I want to suggest. An imaginative exercise.

In a blind test,behind  a "veil of ignorance" as the American thinker John Rawls has it, (where you don’t know where you personally will end up in the hierarchy) would you invent a country that looked to the past (with its familiarity for good and ill) or choose, on the principle of autonomy, on first principles of justice,  to take a chance on something like the future?  
On the morning of September 19th,  if we have had the courage to vote not just for change (which will come anyway) but to engage with that change, to hold that change democratically  accountable,  we will have woken to take responsibility not just for ourselves, but for how we live in the world,

I think we will have taken a step towards a much better , much more hopeful, much more accountable, much more flexible, more agile set of social and economic and cultural ties across these islands and the world, than if we decide we’d really rather not.

And it’s okay to continue to allow Tony Blair, or David Cameron to offer their support to the power structures that they choose, that they inhabit, in our name.

I can't vote for that.  As a subject of the United Kingdom, I find it very difficult to form uncomplicated relationships.

But on the basis that I am a citizen of Scotland, and an inhabitant of the island of Great Britain, and of Europe and the world (and the solar system) I'm open to co-operation, to Union, with everyone.  I want to talk to everyone everywhere about how to pool our sovereignty for the common good. Anyone want to join in?

1 comment:

  1. As a fellow citizen (of a distinctive Scotland, of the world) I have already booked my ticket, Peter, and am sitting at the back of the bus patiently waiting for us to take off.

    All aboard for a better, brighter future where all of us will be first!