Wanted: a little fraternal solidarity

One of the reasons many Labour folk cite for not supporting independence is because they care as much about the child growing up in poverty in Camden as much as the one in Calton.  They just about manage to stop themselves from breaking into song on how children are our future.  I jest, but I do accept they make a serious point.  We should care about the fate of all the people on these islands – and I agree.

But I don’t like the opposite preposition – that you people don’t care about children in poverty anywhere other than in Scotland – being tossed carelessly as a jibe at SNP/independence supporters.  Because it’s false.

It is hard to articulate but in some respects, my passion for changing things, for throwing out the old order and defining and re-imagining a new way for Scotland is absolutely linked to a wish to participate fully on the international stage and to be in a position to contribute more effectively to the lot of other communities.  It’s something shared by many other supporters of independence.

Hence, I would like to think, that an independent Scotland would have a different approach to asylum-seekers and refugees, and a *door more open* attitude to economic migrants too.  Scotland, as we all know, is far from full up.

I’d also like to think that we might commit to a decent sum towards international development activity, playing a full role in addressing absolute want in countries and enabling impoverished nations to grow and build their way to a better future.

Having a seat in the EU and the UN would enable Scotland to speak up and speak out on international issues: I’d even like to think that on occasion, our wee voice might be heard and listened to.  Sometimes, too, we might act not only for our own common good, but for others too.  Wee countries can and do make a difference.

The alternative is to stay as we are, largely as international pariahs, trading on a reputation long since burnished.  We get involved too often in the wrong wars. We throw our weight around.  We like to think we are military players: there is no shortage of belief in the right thing to do when it comes to tooling up.

But when it comes to leading on other matters, we’ve become, under this Conservative-led government, Pontius Pilate like.  Old instincts die hard and this lot learned their craft from the Thatcher creed.  Thus, a distrust of all things European, which often betrays itself as outright prejudice and disdain, is the tie that binds the Tory lot.  Playing hardball with Europe has become the bone which Cameron throws to his dogs to satiate their appetites.  It turns my stomach.

As does the idea that we in the UK can withdraw from what is going on over the water, as being nowt to do with us.  When it is everything to do with us: some of our banks helped to cause it, after all.

We are so tied into the idea of the banks being too big to fail, that instead we are prepared to allow countries and peoples to fail instead.  As long as the paper moneymakers remain unfettered to continue doing what they did, who cares who pays the price.

Well, I care and I know others do too.  What is happening in Greece right now is desperate.  There are real people – little people – hurting and I feel their pain.  The country is being asked to deliver impossible levels of cuts, ones that will effectively destroy its economy and society, in order to meet its debt.  I can see why the other members of the Eurozone have insisted on such a course of action, but frankly, I’m toiling to understand it.

Yes they had to attempt to keep Greece in the Euro, to avoid total meltdown of the currency zone.  Yes they could not allow one country to default on its debts for fear of a domino effect.  And yes they had to try and keep all economies inside the tent of the prevailing economic orthodoxy.

But not at any price surely.  Some have pointed out, that this monster was not of Greek origin, yet Greece is being lined up as the first sacrificial lamb.  The financial institutions now appear to be the arbiters of countries’ activities – they set the rules for nation states, while not accepting any brakes or rules to be applied to their own activities, of course.

At what point does someone – anyone – break cover and say enough.  We are brothers and sisters and we cannot, will not enforce poverty and instability on our neighbours.  Being in this together means exactly that.  We cannot inflict financial torture on others, on innocent individuals, in the hope that doing so spares us, yet the behaviour of our UK Government suggests precisely this insouciance.

Today, I am not only feeling the Greeks’ pain, but also sharing their anger.  I am angry that no politician or country is prepared to stand up and be counted on their behalf.  To offer an alternative solution to the shocking fiscal requirements being imposed on Greece.  To signal that it is does not have to be this way, that if we are to prevent this happening again in future, we must work together – as a family of nations to find a different way of financing ourselves and our economies.  One which does not involve a handful of untouchables dictating to the rest of us how to go about our business while taking no ethical responsibility for how they do theirs.

And I am utterly resolved that things in future must be different.  That there is nothing to be gained from staying within the UK, from remaining part of a union of nations which is prepared to abandon its fellow men and women to their fate.  Whether they live in Camden, Calton or Crete.

24 thoughts on “Wanted: a little fraternal solidarity

  1. The really scary thing for the Greek people (along with the financial hardship ) is what do they do ? Who do they vote for in a big old democracy ? Obviously, people come first but where are the defenders of democracy in the Euro. The people are being left without options ,yet all us in Europe are tutting from the sidelines.
    YEAH ,we’re all European but we’r no Greek -solidarity brothers my erse

  2. For the record, I care as much about poverty in Calton as I do about poverty in Camden as I do about poverty in Calais. Icare about poverty all over the world, but I choose to take responsibility for my own country first.

  3. One of your best pieces, but I’m not sure that referring to the Greek public as “little people” is a terribly respectful way of illustrating their plight or demonstrating your solidarity. I’m sure it wasn’t so intended, but it reads extremely patronisingly, like the way the British media often refers to famine victims and refugees.

    • Thanks for the condescension check. I am happy and proud to think of myself as one of the little people and feel entirely comfortable using it to refer to the citizens of Greece. Sometimes it’s less about how others see you but as how you see yourself.

    • Burd – I’ll understand if you choose to moderate this out.

      I’d like to ask RevStu, the person making the above comment on your piece, about pots and kettles. The following headlines were used in one of his ‘pro-independence’ blogs concerning the May 2010 UK elections.

      1. THE WELSH ARE SNIVELLING, FORELOCK-TUGGING WRETCHES

      2. THE SCOTTISH ARE CRINGING, PITIFUL SCUM

      3. THE ENGLISH ARE WHIMPERING, SPINELESS COWARDS

      4. THE NORTHERN IRISH ARE POTATO-BRAINED HALFWITS

      I might be missing something, but to me these comments are a bit more than disrespectful. Patronising doesn’t come in to it either. So, just what is it that makes him feel he has the moral authority to criticise you for any part of your well written and thought provoking blog?

      • Point made – RevStu please don’t respond, or else I’ll delete and unmoderate you. Both.

        You want to spat, take it elsewhere. Thank ye kindly!

      • Bit harsh – since Longshanker’s claims are awfully misleading on numerous levels and printing one side of the argument with no right of reply is a touch unfair – but your house your rules, I guess.

  4. Are we not forgetting something about the Financial Institutions?

    The First Minister was quite happy to offer his support to Mr Fred on his aquisition trip. The assumption from that is had Scotland been independent, there would have been similar support.

    There is however a danger by not trying to sort things out. You only need to look at Germany in the 1920s. Extremist parties from all sides came to prominence. They started to die out as the economy recovered, only to rise up again with the Wall Street crash. We may see some sort of extremism take place in Greece. People will only take so much before supporting such extremist parties. And that in itself can be more dangerous. Greece is a case where they absolutely never have been allowed in. A country where corruption and non-payment of taxes is rife, with huge pensions relative to the UK.

    Europe’s problem is that the politicians there like the power. Why on earth the SNP want to be part of that corrupt Union is beyond me.

    • It’s not the Union that is corrupt but the politicians, if indeed they are. I’m a big fan of the EU and believe in small nations banding together in mutual beneficial interests – trade and social policy being obvious ones.

      I agree about the danger of doing nothing but the same risk applies from the inertia from mainstream political parties and leaders, in allowing extremists to plug the gap. There is some evidence of that happening in some countries already.

      I don’t excuse the financial institutions at all – I make the point clearly that Greece is being asked to pay for their profligacy. And they are one of many. And I think I hint at, if don’t explain very well, that it is not about doing nothing but about doing different. What Greece is being asked to vote for is more of the same, with them taking an unfair share of the pain in the process. These measures will bankrupt their country in order for the status quo in the financial world to continue.

  5. Superb again Kate. Greece’s eventual comeback will teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.

  6. It’s all very well to say that you care about child poverty in Camden as much as child poverty in Calton but the unnacceptable part of their argument is that Scots are to be denied Social Justice until such time as the Labour Party in England can persuade that constituency to pursue this objective.

    Now this isn’t going to happen any time soon – even if Labour’s elite Westminster leadership eventually understand that Social Justice isn’t about whose turn it is to host the next dinner party. I for one am not about to sacrafice the future of Scotland’s kids on the alter of bloody minded pursuit of Westminster power.

    The best hope for Social Justice in England is for its neighbours to demonstrate how things should be done. It’s called action centred leadership and it is the only form of leadership that is not all talk.

    We have a golden opportunity to start walking the walk in Scotland. Labour at Westminster can’t even bring themselves to talk the talk.

    • I agree but I used that as a hook for the wider point I wanted to make about nationalism and internationalism, and particularly, feeling Greece’s pain and feeling powerless in our current constitutional set-up to say or do anything about that. You tease out the core objection at the heart of Labour’s argument very well!

    • Which sounded patronising and didn’t mean it to be! What I meant was you say it better than I could – in fact, about time you did a wee guest post on this (or indeed other matters!)…

      • Well I didn’t FEEL patronised so by all means withdraw the kiss and make up offer of a guest post!!!🙂

        The situation in Greece is tragic but, just as I place total responsibility for the state of Scotland on Scots, the Greeks need to accept responsibility for pursuing an unsustainable ecomonic strategy for decades. We all get the goverments we deserve, so they say.

        It was always going to come home to roost. The banking crisis was not the root cause of all this. It HAS meant that banks are now no longer able to cover public spending based on debt. This has, in turn, exposed the underlying problem.

        We should perhaps be thankful the banking crisis happened when it did because the problems some parts of the world are facing now would have been much worse had they been deferred longer.

        Let’s not forget that this is NOT a global problem. It is irresponsible economies that are suffering – the striking thing is that this irresponsibility seems to be most prevalent amongst the most neo-liberal economies!!!

      • Fair points. Unsustainable national policies combined with toxic debt obligations of not allowing the banks to fail. Be interesting to know how much Athens Olympics contributed to imbalance in their balance sheet if you see what I mean… and what it might mean for UK?

        A guest post offer still there, any time you’d like…

      • On your point re not global, it would be good to see and read more about what is going on in Latin America, South America especially. There are bits and bobs but largely ignored. Including by our ain lot in terms of offering new markets for export and trade etc.

  7. The contrast between Greece and Iceland is quite stark. Obviously I’m not saying everything is dandy in Iceland but they do seem to be recovering fairly well. I support the EU but it does feel as though Greece is being sacrificed, it’s just nasty.

    As for the whole phenomenon of Labour accusing the SNP of not caring about people elsewhere – it’s on a par with accusations of being tartan Tories, neo-fascists etc. They need to have reasons for being against us so they tell themselves these things and maybe even believe them because they can’t acknowledge that, other than independence, the differences between the SNP and Labour on many issues are quite marginal. But if you’ve got an enemy they’ve got to be baddies you know, so they build things up to make us seem awful.

  8. agree with you.socialism and caring for our fellow humans is surely not be limited to borders.

  9. Absolutely Kate, I also find the not-so-subtle implication that we independent supporters do not care about others absolutely offensive. Of course, the easy retort to any such accusation is “well do you support a single, global country? Because if you don’t, then by your logic you only care about the children of Britain, and not a jot for any others, not even those just across the Irish Sea.” Like most unionist arguments, it falls apart at the most basic scrutiny. Doesn’t stop them saying it, though.

    As for Greece, the real tragedy is that it should never have been taken into the Eurozone in the first place. I don’t understand why they couldn’t have kept the Euro amongst a smaller subsection of the EU at first, just to see how it went. If there is one good thing to come out of this debacle, hopefully it will be the relaxing of the rule that all new entrants to the EU must (nominally, at least) adopt the Euro, especially under the current circumstances.

  10. Excellent article. I feel the pain of the greeks too and think the situation is shocking. However, I feel that “One of the reasons many Labour folk cite for not supporting independence is because they care as much about the child growing up in poverty in Camden as much as the one in Calton.” that is a high level of emotional blackmail.

    Scotland needs independence in order to right the wrongs of London rule. Scotland must sort its own problems first then it can consider helping others. Independence offers the chance of protection from the rich ruling elite who would see mass poverty for many to maintain their wealth and positions and the British Labour party are part of the problem, They talk the language of social justice but when in government they lost the plot and got so close to the City of London that they became blind to the mission and vision that the party brand projects.

    I was brought to believe in independence for Scotland and that a vote for labour was a vote for poverty in Scotland. There years in government proved that.

    If Scotland does not have its own house in order it cannot under the union help anyone in Camden because our resources regardless of party in power will be used to underwrite the spending of UK gov that doesn’t care about poverty. Its a price worth paying in Scotland for UK governments. The Union means we are not equal thus no matter the government we cannot help anyone in Camden and can only offer limited help to those in the Calton.

    • Absolutely spot on Jennifer – thanks for taking the time to comment! Please come back again, now you are moderated you won’t need to wait again to get a comment up.

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