Defining Yes and No

 

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Psychologists tell us the mental process called rationalisation is a term which actually does not mean ‘being rational’.

We seek to justify our irrational beliefs or attitudes with high-minded motives. This leads to the No voter principle that somehow self-governance will only result in chaos because protest does more harm than good. All revolutions overturn the status quo. I can’t imagine Trotsky in the pub with Lenin saying, “This revolution idea, the Royal family are going to be ever so upset. Is there not another way we can get out of abject poverty without storming the Winter Palace?”

Psychologists suggest the real reason people voted No may be cowardice. They believed what they wanted to believe because it made them feel comfortable and safe. We rationalise the discreditable motive by inventing a creditable reason.

A profound difference.

Scotland wants to re-join the international community as a mature nation state, no longer given growth retarding injections to keep it ever needful of a nanny, whereas England looks inwards preferring isolationism: east, west, England’s best.

That said, we had better be able to define what we mean by ‘better in Europe.’ To me it means cosmopolitanism, disappearing borders, common institutions, harmony, and shared prosperity.

Semanticists can always make it clear to you that black is white.

  • Fanatical unionists are guaranteed to show,
  • That ‘Yes’ is but a nearer form of ‘No.’

Scotland the fascist state

Defining is imperative when throwing abuse around. Take the ubiquitous use of ‘fascist’ thrown around Twitter every day. It can cover brutal repressive regimes, the authoritarian, the anti-socialistic, militaristic nationalism, various types of communism, or the democratically elected government of Scotland. Those who bandy it about like sweeties actually mean fascism as practised by Germany, and probably Italy during the Second World War. They forget Franco’s Spain where half a million ex-pat Brits reside without paying their taxes.

To define Scotland ‘enjoys the greatest powers of any devolved nation’ actually means fewer rights than the people of Quebec, Gibraltar, and in many regards Northern Ireland which is almost an autonomous state by itself. According to extreme unionists, Scotland is not a nation but a subsumed province. That’s their definition of 1,000 years of history.

Exactly what do you mean by, ‘what do you mean?’

I recall the BBC political interviewer Gordon Brewer asking an SNP panellist to define what he meant by a ‘fairer and more just society.’ As the SNP politician stumbled over what he thought was obvious to everybody, it was obvious to me he had not thought it through beyond that slogan.

A common lack of definition heard often is over ‘values’ – our beliefs. Those values, we are told, are ‘values’ shared by people in the North of England, ‘so what’s so special about Scotland?’ – as if those living in Newcastle and Leeds are a nation state unto themselves, one with lochs and mountains.

It is true we share a common humanity – put crudely, the leveller ‘we all use the toilet’, but that is not the same as political ambitions, or definitions of liberty, equality, and fraternity.

We’re told we have full democracy. What is the definition of full democracy? It seems to mean one thing to a unionist, another to an independence supporter. The former tells us genuine self-governance is impossible if Scotland retains the pound sterling. But what is his definition of self-governance? Sharing the pound sterling does not compromise basic freedom of choice. We choose which currency we wish to use. And we choose how to spend that money and our taxes. Interest rates fixed by the bank of England still leaves an independent Scotland with options as to how to mitigate anti-social constraints.

The democracy we are supposed to be delirious about doesn’t include keeping all we earn, vetoing wars Westminster instigates end-to-end, or having the right to administrate welfare. We are suppose to be sanguine about England exercising those powers because we are incapable of making grown-up decisions.

I know my mind!

The point of this stroll around definitions is, we ought to know what we’re discussing before we discuss it. The philistine attitude to art, “If I think it’s nice, it’s nice” is a denial of understanding, a surface, bombastic, go by the looks, assessment of things.

When a political opponent dives in with the blunt dismissal of an absolutist, acting like a frog leaping from a safe lily pad into the beak of a waiting heron, he has forgotten to ask for, and acknowledge he understands, our meaning.

When we use abstractions, words like democracy, freedom, capitalism, socialism, or communism, be sure our meaning and theirs is clear. If it isn’t, don’t argue, move on.

It was French philosopher Voltaire who said, “Before I will discuss anything with you, you must define your terms.” And so should we.

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11 Responses to Defining Yes and No

  1. More food for thought, Gb. Thanks.

    I’m rather enjoying these ‘mini lectures’ of yours. As someone not of academic background, it’s useful to be given these little intellect-sharpening tools.

    I don’t believe that people should be taught what to think but it can only be good for those of us with all these thoughts and ideas bouncing round the insides of our skulls to have some useful pointers on ‘how’ to conduct critical thinking.

    Being only 3-4 years truly politicised, it’s still a work in progress for this man. As a young policeman I was taught to remember ‘definitions’ in relation to criminal law, but the application of ‘definition’ extends way beyond that sphere as I’m increasingly realising.

    Whilst it’s very easy to get emotional about an issue we feel passionate about it’s clear that we will convince more people if we are clear about the definitions of our own case and terms and fully understand those ourselves.

    That’s what I’m taking away from this at least. As you allude, it’s like learning to interpret a work of art. And of course, as in drawing, the real skill goes beyond the mere technical; yes, learning to use your medium correctly is one thing but learning to look closely at your subject and interpret every aspect, every nuance of form, light and shade is quite another.

    Thanks again!

  2. Grouse Beater says:

    If you continue with comments of that quality you’ll be out-doing my essays!

    Except for the distasteful Rowling-Spanner spat, there’s not much going on in Scotland’s politics that isn’t banal repetition. I’ve not properly released this one onto the internet … will give it my usual ‘objective scrutiny’ after a few hours.

    WordPress has altered its layout making the search for a short link almost impossible, hence I have to wait until somebody tweets it to a friend, allowing me to see the short link on their tweet.

    Maybe trail it after midnight, plus a review of the new movie ‘Trumbo’ – two for the price of one. Good to hear from you, as ever, Max.

  3. daibhidhdeux says:

    Tweeted, as usual.

    Max, you, too like Grouse, are a philosopher in its widest Classical and Enlightenment sense.

    Always a joy to visit here:)

  4. hettyforindy says:

    Really enjoyed reading this thanks. I am a bit obsessed by Tarkovsky right now, particularly his diaries and interviews, having seen the films already.
    He has much to say about art, in all it’s forms, his words are incredibly honest. This documentary, with footage of the making of his last film, The Sacrifice, is not to be missed, it’s mesmerising. At 1hr41, it is long but worth the time spent.

  5. Grouse Beater says:

    You’re my first Tarkovsky fan!
    I liked The Sacrifice a lot! His camera technique got overtaken by the three second edit emanating from Hollywood, a style that all but destroyed a generation’s capacity to concentrate for more than a few minutes. (I think stand-up comics have benefitted from this sad trend.)
    The documentary is narrated by our own Brian Cox. Nice.

  6. hettyforindy says:

    Thank you. I hadn’t noticed, T seems to relish time stretching in his films.
    If you haven’t seen it, it is fascinating to watch how The Sacrifice was thought up, and made. Truly an artist who really thought about the depth of sincerity in his work. Rembrandt of course was a genius with paint and etching tool, my fave artist of all time.

    I was recently reading about Goya, my next fave artist, but learning about how in those days, as now, with some, he had to utilise certain kind of techniques for speed, it may have undermined the quality, I think. Such is life for artists, unless they reject the commercial, shallow, and fashionable wants of the uneducated public.

  7. Grouse Beater says:

    Well, we can say this, if Goya ever had to cut corners the result will be difficult to spot. He started from a sublime standard.

  8. hettyforindy says:

    Absolutely, and in fact his work was still top class, talking of class, I get the feeling he didn’t really like painting the rich at all, but had to make a living, his illnesses were so dreadful too. Amazing artist.

  9. hettyforindy says:

    Oh and yes, Brian Cox is excellent at the narration, it’s all the better for that.

  10. Para Handy says:

    Excellent point about what to teach people, Max. Teach people how to think, not what and the world will be a better place.

  11. papko says:

    When we use abstractions, words like democracy, freedom, capitalism, socialism, or communism, be sure our meaning and theirs is clear. If it isn’t, don’t argue, move on.”

    I think that sums it up really, but the devil is in the detail, and “be sure our meaning and theirs is clear ” is very vague.

    Surely lawyers have been debating since the dawn of time “what is meant by “.

    You could take anyone of those words and read a library of books on each of them and still not agree with someone who has read the same number, let alone someone who is plugged into to the TV all day. I see a lot of interventions in this EU referendum, from businessmen wanting the “facts “, Sir Tom Hunter, and Peter Hargreaves in particular, (both worth circa 1 billion?).

    They want it laid down on a piece of paper, so they can peruse the “facts “, the Govt has supplied figures, with the aid of 2000 civil servants and a host of academics (my guess) and their “facts” are challenged, the Govt confesses, they want us to stay in so assume that role .

    Why does not Billionaire Hargreaves, commission 200 accountants, lawyers academics to find out the facts and lay the matter to rest, at what cost, 10 million pounds? (For a Billionaire this figure is equivalent to the average Scot spending 2 grand, 1% of his net worth.) I would imagine the 2/3rds of Scots who own their own property, and the 80% of Scots who own their own vehicle have spent similar sums deliberating their decision to make a big purchase.

    My point is, if “The FACTS” were so important they could be sourced at a cost, whatever happens they will be contested, and therefore undermined.

    I can conclude, they say they want them but they do nothing to get them, perhaps its posturing or raising reasonable doubt.

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