Thursday, August 28, 2014

September 19th

Well, I'm writing this on the train to Coventry early on the the morning after what will probably prove to be the highlight of the campaign - if you consider it in terms of men in expensive suits talking over each other on the telly.

Don't get me wrong, I am heartily glad, as a Yes campaigner, that Alec Salmond brought his A game this time. To the extent of wondering whether he deliberately fluffed the first debate with Alastair Darling as a way of lowering expectations so that he could emerge, Martin Sheen like, under the TV lights...

But that is the part of my brain that engages with politics of vital concern like it was a game, like it was a ritual, like it was, frankly, an episode of The West Wing.

And while I am second to none in my devotion to that oeuvre that revolutionised what it was possible to expect to see written on American TV (alas, not British), there has been a whole other campaign happening in Scotland that I have been privileged to be part of that has been moving its feet to a different beat..

And this campaign, cultural, web based and performance based - this cultural campaign, this expression of energy and hope and wit and passion as campaign issues in and of themselves, this argument for More Life in the face of the general cultural death of market nihilism and the dictatorship of the commentariat...this is the one I'm thinking about on the train down today.

I was at a meeting the other day of various Yes folk - bloggers, talkers, organisers - most of whom were too exhausted to speak. Most of whom were impatient at being taken away from the ploughing of their own furrow. The campaign is deadly serious right now.

But these were the fun people too, and we were and are all concerned and agreed that the creative space for proper participation and engagement in the stuff that matters. The making of a better society has already started through this campaign and cannot and will not find itself closed down on September 19th...when the idiot binary question that has prompted the opening up of this interesting and exciting analogue world of possibilities...will be gone.

How do we sustain the energy?

Well first of all - take it from an old man - we won't. Every campaign, successful or otherwise, exists within a paradigm for as long as it lasts, and victory or defeat, everything changes. To attempt to cling to what isn't there anymore is energy sapping and dispiriting.

You have to translate and re-apply the energy with the awareness that it ain't going to be the same focus.

Besides, we are dealing here with a whole bunch of numerically determined scenario situations here, not just with a Yes or a No. How big or small the margin is will... materially and culturally..and dare I say, spiritually...define the territory where we'll need to focus that energy.

A sixty percent victory for a very different thing from a 52% victory. The same is true of the margins of a victory for No. If a No vote won big, if the referendum worked out as being a reflection of where we stated this campaign (with Yes around 30% where it's been for YEARS) and all this had been , apparently, fort NOTHING...well, we'd all of us, I think, be very depressed...including a lot of people who'd voted No. We'd be ashamed, politically neutralised and helpless, like in 1979. (I told you I was old)

We'd find it hard to organise a cabaret. And I wouldn't go to a party unless they were handing out heroin.

But given that this scenario is unlikely...and a narrow win for Yes or No is what we're expecting as of typing this on the 26th of August (not having seen the “Eat your Cereal” advert!) there are practical and spiritual questions to think about when it comes to how to maintain and develop this new civic and cultural democracy we've just invented.

If it's a Yes vote, we want to be part of the conversation about the constitution and design of the new nation. That's what we've already been doing all this time. We'rve been acting, consciously or not, AS IF the future were already here. AS IF WE ALREADY HAD a real participatory democracy in this country. There will be stuff to talk about, meetings to go to, and we will need all the poets and singers we can get to both inform the national conversation and give form to making that future real. And having a few chuckles and tears on the way.

The weirsd thing is, if iot's a narrow No, we have to doi EXACTLY the same.

We have to keep acting AS IF. We have to keep behaving as if we arfe in the early days of a better nation.

For two reasons ; first, because we will be, even with a No vote, living in a changed country. We have already come a long way, but we know now that we are lucky enough to live in a place that we KNOW can change for the better, because we've already seen it.

And secondly, because no one has ever made a better world without acting as if it were already here. No one has ever become free or equal without acting AS IF they already were.

This referendum campaign has all been about ways of seeing. Ways of Thinking. Ways of Being in a present tense that carries the promise of the future, the promise of more life. None of that will change on September 19th. We will still be involved in inventing a future for ourselves...there will be no guarantees about ANYthing, no matter which way it goes...It's just that a YES vote, in ,my opinion will embrace that difficult yet hopeful reality, and a No vote will attempt ( delusionally) to postpone facing reality till the day after tomorrow.

Either way, we need to have a space, physically and on-line, where that energy and invention and talk that we've been doing with National Collective, Bella Caledonia, All Back to Bowie's and in halls up and down the country that have been hosting debates and speeches...can keep happening. There's already some practical chat about how we might do that...plans afoot...and I'm confident there will be enough of us with enough energy not to just "keep it going" but keep inventing it as we go.

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