Drawbridge Brothers: Nationalism

Nationalism is the closing of a door. The ideology gives off a strong penchant for isolationism and, a tendency to breed ethnic and racial discord, at times leading to hatred. If you think – ‘we must look after our own’ – it becomes a definitive barrier to a broader, more cosmopolitan outlook. It closes a chapter to a life that could be illuminating.


There’s much discussion about the origins and when it reared its ugly head. Francis Fukuyama1 (p187) cites two authors of the subject, i.e. Benedict Anderson who suggests nationalism emerged in the 16th century, whereas Ernest Gellner puts it at the 19th century. A third voice, Steven Grosby, Nationalism (p118) opines that it is difficult to determine.

Agreement is reached that it is a question of identity. Perhaps it could be construed as a need to belong. A powerful emotional state can be generated by the ideology. So strong are the feelings brought to bear that it can override rational thought.

It is widely agreed, Fukuyama (p191) that nationalism was ‘socially constructed’. Of course, it has mainly benefitted the elite but does have a base in tradition. However, tradition changes over the centuries. What was cultural norms and thought traditional in the 11th century is quite different to our cultural norms and way of life today. Tomorrow’s cultural norms will be different again; perhaps based more on equality and a move from borders.

The elite and political class have made good use of the powerful emotive pull of the ideology to their advantage. The consolidation of Germany as a nation following the 1871 war against France is an example. The First and Second World Wars with the call to arms ‘Your Country Needs You!’ had them lining up to enlist. An explosive cocktail of pride, – patriotism, jingoism, propaganda and manhood made it almost impossible to resist.

The European Union (EU)

The construction of the EU may seem as a step away from borders towards a new unity as noted by Fukuyama (p192) “… the European Union has been trying to construct a postnational sense of European citizenship since the 1950s.” Steven Grosby (p25) has a slightly different take on the issue when he writes that we are possibly seeing “… the emergence of the empire of the European Union.”

While the author’s intention may be more to do with semantics they do portray quite a contrast of view. Fukuyama hints at an all embracing natural development whereas Grosby has a more Machiavellian tinge to it with the use of the word ‘empire’.

My humble take is that it has more to do with erecting a force big enough to counter the emerging powers of India and China as well as to keep abreast of America. In effect the EU is a business model for economic survival. On present political course it may well become an empire.

However, the EU is not without problems, the UK has voted to leave and Spain already weak has a dilemma with the prospect of the Basque region breaking away. But Spain is not alone, in the UK Scotland threatens to divorce itself from the rest of the nation but wants to remain in the EU. Thus we have the EU trying to build an economic block to rival India, China and America while nationalism is snipping at its toes.

It is a peculiar situation that both Scotland and the Basque region want to break from their parent country but remain in the EU. Neither seems to see the contradiction that the EU wants a cohesive block with no borders but both the above want a separate border. It would seem that they do not understand the cultural shift that is envisaged for Europe.

Further afield in Canada, Quebec has a strong leaning to be independent. Some in Quebec and in the Basque area are prepared to use violence to secure their vision. Steven Grosby (p116) sums it up, “…the uncivil ideology of nationalism continues, often tragically, to have a hold, with varying degrees of intensity, on the imagination of humanity.” Read of the events of the Balkan Wars.

In all cases above, each see themselves as culturally unique in some way with different traditions, as an ethnic body. However, Alice Roberts in her book, Celts (p268) opines that there is no “…‘pure’ ethnic identity, from a genetic point of view.” She later concludes, “We’re all genetic mongrels.” In other words we are all part of a bastard race.

Throughout our history slavery has been a part of our society. People were traded all over the known world. I think of Rome which had an abundance of slaves, who did not scatter for ‘home’ when the empire collapsed, rather they were assimilated. Our history is full of conquests, of much rape and pillage. Slavery was a part of the economics of the old world as it is now with the despicable underworld of people traffickers.

Francis Fukuyama is unequivocal, “It is certainly correct that nationalism was a by-product of modernization, and that specific national identities were socially constructed.” The question is by whom? We can hopefully agree that it was not the march of the peasantry that consolidated Germany, or bound France, or Britain. Conquest, power, dosh (£ $) that was the key motivators. The peasantry did march but as enslaved soldiers of their masters.

A little bomb was left for others to get excited over by the writer Ernest Renan, cited by Fukuyama (p196) when he states, “Forgetting, I would even say historical error, is essential to the creation of a nation.” Hmm!

Nationalism has proven to be a tool in the hands of the unscrupulous, the elite and political class. They call upon it as a sheep dog to corral support for their next enterprise. Pride, a deadly sin, stirs the necessary response to action. Across the way, emotion rides past giving ‘the finger’ to intellect, rationale and reflection, who lower their heads.

1Francis Fukuyama   Political Order and Political Decay


Scottish Independence

th[6]It would be very refreshing to have an open debate about the social and economic consequences of Scotland becoming an independent nation. Alas, I fear that pride will raise its ugly th3RCPL0FMhead and logic and reason will leave the room before the debate begins. Nothing is achieved by pride; it twists logic to its own shape.

Pride is a blinding emotion that overrides the attributes of an intelligent mind. It blinkers the thought processes, inhibits thinking and thus reasoning. Unfortunately, pride will stop many people from examining the pros and cons in a systematic and rationale manner.

O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us

To see oursels as others see us                 Burns

From what I have read the overwhelming majority of the economic indicators point to the Union as being more beneficial to the Scottish economy. In response the Scottish National Party (SNP) leave too many questions unanswered or partially so.

  • Ken Macleod, president of the UK Chamber of Shipping asks the question about the future of shipping and the funding it will receive. The SNP reply was, “funded by existing arrangements”. That means by the UK tax payer. Not very likely – not very independent!
  • On energy the SNP say that the UK subsidies to the industry should be maintained as a UK wide energy market. Not very likely – not very independent!
  • The most damning and damaging kick in the teeth comes from the SNP insistence on keeping the pound sterling (£). The answer to that has been made abundantly clear. The Treasury at Westminster would insist on holding the purse strings.

In response the SNP claim that it would be more costly to have ‘transaction costs’ across borders. However, Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors while accepting business would not welcome such costs; they would ‘pale in comparison’ with that of an unstable currency.

In addition, Alan Savage head of Orion Group (oil) is quoted in the Huffington Post. He complains that Alex Salmond’s refusal to come up with a currency plan B as a ‘nightmare’ for him to resolve. Therefore we may assume the same will be true for many other businessmen.

Currency unions are fraught with pitfalls. In 1993 money flow from Slovakia (the weaker partner) caused the collapse of the Czech – Slovak currency union in just 33 days. As everyone is now aware the Euro (€) has had € billions spent to save the currency and several countries are still not over the worst of it yet. Meanwhile Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University has warned that many in the ‘Yes’ camp are sceptic about a shared currency. Something needs a good cleaning!

Why would a party adamant about independence insist on maintaining the auld enemy’s currency; unless of course the alternative was not worth contemplating!

A similar problem exists with the question of joining the EU. According to BBC Scotland Politics, four top judges looked at the possibilities and three said that the Scots would have to apply for membership.

P Layden QC of the Scottish Law Commission suggested that because the UN accepted Russia as a successor state that the EU could accept the break- up of the UK similarly. You will have to excuse me but I think that is pride talking or a solid dose of politicking at work.

  • The UN is a completely different body with a completely different outlook on the world.
  • Russia remained as one State. It lost its empire!
  • Russia was and still is a world power and its voice can still be critical in shaping world events.
  • By recognising Russia the UN was accepting that outside of the scope of the UN, Russia could be a highly dangerous rogue state. It’s the old maxim – ‘keep your friends close but your enemies closer’. In terms of world cohesion Russia can play a pivotal role.

The EU in contrast is a very different political empire. When the States of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia broke up the new nations had to apply independently. Why should Scotland be any different?

Nonetheless, the SNP claim they can negotiate a ‘seamless transition’ into the EU 18 months after a ‘Yes’ vote. (op cit) However, Professor Armstrong of Cambridge University describes it otherwise,“legally implausible and incredibly politically risky”. And of course more recently we have Jose Manuel Barroso who more pointedly states that it would be, “extremely difficult if not impossible” for Scotland to join the EU. (Andrew Marr BBC) If we go back about a year the Economist stated, “Scotland joining the Euro without an existing separate currency cannot fulfil entry conditions”. (Economist.com/blogs)  That is what some may term a double whammy!

Some arguments have me confused. Mr Lockhead suggests that Scottish farmers could benefit considerably, to the tune of €1bn between 2014 / 2020 as part of the EU. The UK Government point out that the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) budget has already been set. Therefore it does not envisage any member states agreeing to such a settlement.

Moreover, the SNP plan for a ‘seamless’ reintegration suggest a time line of 18 months after independence, that would bring Mr Lockhead’s  farming time line more towards mid 2016 before discussions begin.  It seems they are out of kilter on this one. Who’s right?

The oil debate is a crucial one for many of the separatist camp. But… there’s always a but! Professor John Paterson suggests that decisions on the oil have to be made via international law. The estimates of reserves are also a bone of contention; it all depends on how you read the small print. The most recent report by Sir Ian Wood suggests there could be up to £200bn to be made, with the right investment and if the major companies play ball together. We could see 4bn extra barrels if his plan works. Unfortunately this is a Plan of ‘IFS’ and ‘BUTS’; it relies on too many variables. In the tax year 2012/2013 revenue was £4.7bn but this was down 40% on the previous year. Coping with such volatility when the cost of social welfare is so high could cause a big problem.

There is a need for massive investment either through tax concessions to the big players or direct from the government. Either way you have to pay! A problem for business investment is the currency they deal in; hence Alan Savage’s comment. Research shows that Maritime services generate around £1.2bn for the Scottish economy and support some 75,000 jobs; this includes North Sea oil & gas shipping. After independence will these jobs be open to competition and at what cost to the individual and industry?

Another telling blow to the ‘Yes’ campaign comes from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) who savage the SNP White Paper on the basis that it, “failed to address fundamental issues about state, public sector and personal pension plans”. Furthermore there was, “no clear plan” to deal with EU regulations that require cross-border companies, charities and universities to pump £billions into their pension schemes. The ICAS also point out that there are fewer tax payers for each OAP in Scotland; so the question must be asked as to who picks up that tab.

The economic reality for the whole of the UK is that the South East is dominant. The Labour party only recently announced it was planning to build four (4) new cities around London to cope with the population surge. This coupled with the job prospects tells us that situation will continue for the foreseeable future. Most jobs created in the last two years have been in the South east. Somewhere in the region of one million Scots live and work in the rUK; simply because that’s where the work is, or abroad. I’m afraid that is the economic reality.

There seems a high degree of reliance on the UK in the SNP planning. So why are the SNP embarking on this venture? Is it because they envisage a Scotland awash with riches? An act of nature seized upon as a raison d’etre for separation. But by how much will the ordinary punter benefit? After independence will there still be hundreds of thousands of people on the dole/broo? Will there still be slum housing? Will older people (OAP) still suffer the indignity of deep poverty? Will children suffer likewise and face a poor education system? These questions and many others could fill pages. The question is, can they be answered honestly and with some surety for the future?

Don’t worry about the rich or politicians, they have the ‘me’ gene and will look after themselves. Look around the pub and ask yourself how many punters will be financially better off! When you walk past a school have a look and think to yourself how many weans (children) will be taking the high road and the low road out of Scotland to find a future elsewhere? Who really has the welfare of, jean & jimmy close to their heart and a cup of more than pride to share?thE0VF3GN7

I came across a sentiment that I found very apt. It was a comment on a Scotsman article by someone with the non de plume ‘Ancient Wisdom’:

“What price freedom when you’ve just moved into a different jail”? Scotsman.com 14/2/2014

Are Scots really being offered independence by the SNP or is the whole exercise one of manoeuvring for more devolved power? That is why pride must be examined; for leaders down the centuries have used nationalism to secure their armies. Pride is a brilliant and well used manipulative tool that has sent millions to their death. Little wonder that the ancients characterized pride as a deadly sin. Pride in the context of nationalism is a killing word.

Take a moment to consider the words of Richard Aldington (English) after his experiences in World War 1:

“Nationalism is a silly cock crowing on his own dunghill”.


Take a look at Ireland and the IRA, years of killing and massive disruption. What difference did it make to the lives of ordinary people? ……NONE! But the leaders all got good jobs! Say nae mer Jimmy!

Thinking sometimes gives people a headache but better a sore head than a migraine!