Scotland, continued

The campaign over Scottish independence has continued to fascinate me. It has, I think, become a bit less entertaining as I have found myself taking it more seriously, and I kind of feel bad about that… but, it may not be all bad. It occurs to me that this whole affair has been an extraordinary brain exercise. Most topics of “debate” are familiar enough that I’ve long ago sorted out my opinion. On Scotland, however, I have wavered back and forth repeatedly, as I’ve encountered interesting new arguments and gradually digested them. I sort of feel like we should do things like this, in a general sense, more often, just to keep things a bit more fluid and keep us on our toes, mentally. As for tomorrow’s vote, specifically, well…

I suppose that in the end, my (non-voting) attitude toward this whole affair is resignation toward the impossible paradox that is life.

Having chewed it over, I believe that were I a Scot or anyone else in the UK, Scottish independence absolutely would not be my preference. My own—as ever hypothetical and unasked—preference would be for all of the Yes campaign’s energy to catalyze a nationwide effort to banish the Conservatives, and replace them with a genuinely progressive people’s government.

But of course, that isn’t on the ballot. Scottish independence is, for the reason that it has proved far more exciting than what would, I’m sure, seem too much like ordinary old tedious, futile, politics-as-usual.

I can sympathize with that attitude, yet it’s basically a sympathy of despair. I still don’t know exactly what to think about the actual question of independence itself, as offered to voters tomorrow. Opinions are scrambled up among people I usually respect (which again, is part of what makes all this interesting.) I agree with Prof. Krugman that an independent Scotland continuing to rely on the British pound would be demented. I really don’t know how much that’s a guaranteed outcome of a Yes vote, and how much chance there is that other counsels might prevail in the fluid circumstances of new independence. I think I’m a bit more optimistic than Krugman that the whole project could be worthwhile, at least if Scotland finds a better currency solution.

Yet I’m far, far from joining George Monbiot et al. in believing that the Yes campaign really represents the seed of hope. I don’t buy that this is a rediscovery of imagination. No. Sorry. Again, I think a liberal perspective can sympathize with the Yes campaign to a significant degree… but I don’t think a liberal can actually look at it and see hope. It may well be that Scots have within their grasp a chance To Begin The World Anew… but they have the same as part of Britain. Success isn’t automatic as part of Britain; it won’t be automatic as an independent Scotland. Maybe the odds are better, but even if so that seems to depend on thinking smaller, in a sense, essentially lowering expectations. Thus I look at Scottish independence and see, at best, one more compromised, misguided attempt at making do amid even uglier realities. It might be a worthwhile compromise, but accepting that compromise is certainly not what I would call hope. I would call it despair, or, I suppose, functioning edge-of-despair.

Or, as I’ve come to conclude, “life.”

Because that seems to be how things are, because people seem not to be dependable for anything better than that. And, y’know, I don’t know what to do about that in any direct sense, except muddle on (and shudder every time I read about someone pursuing dramatic extension of human lifespans.) An Economist blog post a little while back brushed some of the same themes, and while I could not disagree more fervently with the author on the details, I feel like we arrive at a similar overall conclusion: the decision-making functions of human societies seem to be inherently deficient, yet that’s all there is.

So we muddle on. And perhaps try to push, with our negligible individual weight, for those misguided compromised reforms that seem relatively helpful… But even when these win, the reality is still discouraging, and most of the time they lose anyway. So we try to find something, some little thing, that helps brighten up our days in this broken world. They do exist. For the reasonably privileged like myself, they’re arguably plentiful. Many of them are, of course, also compromised…

But you have to take what you can get, usually, if you’re to go on at all, and for that reason I’m grateful for this entire independence referendum. Thank you. It has been humorous at times. When it hasn’t, it has still been interesting. I am certain that whatever its outcome, it will be both for some while yet at least.

Best of luck to everyone.

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