To quote the delectable Natalie Imbuglia on the topic of Scottish independence, I’m torn.
On the one hand, I think the devolution of power from the political behemoth that is Westminster (or any powerful centralised government for that matter) is a good thing, as it lessens the power and the might of the “UK” on the global stage, whilst at the same time it gives back to the people of Scotland a sense of being in control of the separate nation it once was, with the ability to administer policies and finances solely on and for the people of Scotland.
However, on the other hand, there would inevitably be the erection of yet another border (manned or otherwise, invisible or otherwise), yet another area of our little blue dot segregated from the rest, yet more nationalism both sides of the border. For those left in the UK who are not of the capitalist / nationalist persuasion, it could spell danger. There is the potential (if not inevitability), that those aligned to the right may swell in numbers, which could lead to further segregation (albeit from a social class perspective) if the Conservatives gain a majority government. This could herald a wave of neo-nationalism in England, including the potential (if not inevitable) rise of UKIP and pave the way for an extraction from the EU, as well as no end of multi-culturism problems.
As coincidence may have it (not that there is such a thing of course), I was doing my weekly ‘big shop’ and stopped off at the magazine rack to see if anything caught my private eye. Sitting next to The Private Eye was a copy of the New Scientist which I had never read before, so for the first time ever at the weekend I bought it, as its cover made reference to a special report inside which read “End of the Nation?” It was a very interesting read which went through the inaugural birth and associated definition of nation. It was full of very long words, so it was an article I would definitely have to read twice due to the offspring (not the punk band) vying for my weekend time so I only skim read it. I knew I was in London this week so decided to give it some serious “strokey beard time” on the train.
Many moons ago I purchased a DVD box set, a classic from the BBC archives. The “Ascent of Man” by Dr Jacob Bronowski is a series of essays made into thirteen documentaries, in which Bronowski details from his perspective the ascent of man through the ages. The series starts off with the story with Australopithecus, the first bi-pedal of the primates and in his opinion the earliest hominid which evolved four million years ago, and which arguably played the most significant step-change in human evolution. Sadly after six episodes Dr J seems to be a material reductionist, I hope that changes by the end of episode thirteen.
Dragging myself back on topic, one needs to consider the full chain of events that led up to the formation of what we call nation, the full chain of events and the concept of the hierarchy. The definition of a hierarchy is an arrangement of items (objects, names, values, categories, etc.) in which the items are represented as being “above,” “below,” or “at the same level as” one another.
As Bronowski rightly points out, hierarchies can be found anywhere. Take the atomic hierarchy, atomic order. Particles join as nuclei, nuclei join as atoms, atoms join as molecules, molecules join as bases, bases join as amino acids, the building blocks of life itself. And so it is with geographic order. Homes joins as roads, roads join as villages, villages join as towns, towns join as cities, cities join as territories, territories join as nations. And so it is with social order. Selves join as families, families join as class, class joins as society.
So that which we find in nature seems profoundly to correspond to the way in which we join geographically and socially with our nation.
Following the path of biological order (on the basis that we are modern-man at this point), we evolved and started wandering the land as families, then extended families and eventually formed larger bands of hunter-gatherers, not bound by any rules or laws of the land, nor any boundaries as they did not exist (besides physical ones of course). That was until around 10,000 years ago, when the agricultural revolution started. Due to a “coincidental” amalgam of wheat grasses on the plains outside Jericho in then Palestine, modern man realised the theory of Neil the Hippy from The Young Ones: “We sow the seed, nature grows the seed, and then we eat the seed…”
The agricultural revolution moved man away from his previous hunter-gather, nomadic “camping and caves” lifestyle and developed the first settlements. Early agrarian collectives required little governing as they were largely self-organising and happy living the hippy life. But with the advent of agriculturalism came complexity, as collectives turned into settlements, existential complexity increased.
As time went on, places like Jericho, Damascus and Aleppo came into being (the first cities) and became fixed places on the yet to be penned map of the world, and within the city boundaries there began the production and storage of food. Once food surplus was being stored, inevitable skirmishes between the haves and have nots broke out. Once it was clear that in order to progress, rules and laws were needed to exist to keep law and order, and the first ruling powers took seat.
This was the true birth of the human hierarchy. Society was born and with it the hierarchical class system and more and more cities started to spring up around areas of natural resources. As the social complexity grew so did the concept of trade, with settlement exchanging produce, for produce cash or favour. As society was becoming ever more complex, the apparent need for leadership arose, whether that be monarch or government or warlord, as often territory warred against territory. I guess this also heralded the birth of greed, of capitalism (perhaps).
As lines started to appear on the map, so did the birth of the nation, both visible and invisible boundary lines were drawn segregating one nation from the next. And with the birth of the nation came the notion of national identity, a sense that a population which belonged to one area of a map was glued together by common language or cultural inheritance. For the first time people belonged to something bigger than their local environment, patriotism grew as man pledged allegiance to one’s nation.
Ever since, nation has fought against nation, over boundary lines and natural resources, over religious and cultural beliefs and there seems to be no end to it.
Mother Nature has a reset button and it has been pressed a few times already. Whether it be asteroid, ice age or biological (plague/black death), there have been times in our four billion year history that our little blue dot has changed course. It now looks like man will at some point press his own self-created reset button, that I am almost certain. It looks like Mother Nature has been put out to pasture, for now.
I’d like to see “Un Monde Sans Frontiers”, a world without borders, a world which devolves power to smaller territories in order to look after the needs smaller numbers of folks, where folks are free to roam and settle in places that suit them, where folks all work together for the good of everyone and not the self, all in peace. I think that’s called The Venus Project.
I for one am not patriotic. When I think about pride and allegiances, I am proud to be a father of three amazing kids, proud to be the husband of a remarkable woman, proud to be a friend and confidante to others I hold dear. I have a sense of belonging to my local community as well as Liverpool my home town but that is where it stops. I don’t see myself as English, or British or European, my allegiances lie with man in general, not any one kind of man but all kinds of man. My allegiances do not lie with political ideologies, corporations or boundary lines on a map, it lies with the Universe, with the global collective consciousness.
I personally don’t feel connected to Westminster or the UK one bit. I would feel more connected to a devolved territory, and I guess that’s the decision Scotland has to make next Thursday. They have an opportunity to reconnect. Good luck to them.