The SNP is wrestling with a fundamental crisis of its own making, a profound loss of trust by the public in its honesty and methods, a crisis that that has spilled over onto its ability to secure independence, the principle it was entrusted to achieve. How it arrived at this situation is not the stuff of this analytical essay. Leadership is the subject, why we look to leadership for guidance, and why, when they are in a pickle, a leader’s authority can evaporate, we are blamed and become cynical about politicians.
To understand why we choose leaders, rather than decisions made by group and referenda, means going back a few thousand years of human history to see how leaders were formed and identified.
Down from the trees
Man has come a long way since he dropped down from the trees to venture out of his safety zone and sight of his group. (It might have been a woman, but not if protecting children.) In the journey he took he aquired survival skills, knowledge of things around him, a path to follow to the river and water, but not, it seems, develop an acute intellectual capacity. Listening to some people argue politics suggests we prefer to hold tight to our prejudices, beliefs, blind faith, myths, and received wisdom, in comparison to curiosity, challenge and new ways of seeing.
The first to abandon the safety of a tree at night and risk meeting a predatory animal, will have appeared fearless, perhaps reckless, to those still up the tree. When he first fashioned a spear to hunt and for protection, the group would have marvelled, the same when he lit a fire from flint, and fashioned a wheel. Given preference to tell the others what to do in their best interest, who should sleep under the tree in the midday heat, who should stand guard, they probably thought him clever, a good protector. He anticipated trouble and he helped them prepare for it.
Next came living in caves. The Paleolithic family who moved to a cave for shelter as a safe place to live, eat, sleep, concieve and bring up children, probably guarded it from other families, habital caves being in short supply. This, you could say, was the origins of the property owning society, only it was not a society then. It became a society as we know it once groups of families chose to inhabit a series of caves, man-made or natural, like those on cliff escarpments where ladders are needed to reach the first level, a method of protection from predatory animals and roaming hunters with clubs out to steal stored winter grain.
Once the mini-society was formed, a group leader emerged, someone who decided when to plant seed corn and when to harvest it, when fish were plentiful and when to gather berries from the woods. There may also have appeared a shaman, the man respected for knowing the reason of things, sickness, death, the afterlife, interpretating visions, bad weather and the night sky. A shaman would ask for rituals to create rain for parched crops, or to keep evil spirits away. Today, we call them political parties.
Hunting fast-moving food soon identified the one man who had worked out how to trap a wounded woolly mammoth in a pit, kill it there and then with spear and rock, and not be crushed by it face-to-face. His skill recognised, he gained ardent followers, gifts, special priviledges, first to eat regular meals, his protection the group’s incentive.
Those he led would feel lost and afraid if he died suddenly, or vanished from the group. If that happened they looked for another who showed similar courage and skills. The beginning of the charismatic hunter warrior began to take shape in minds, admiration for bravery painted on cave walls, often signed by membership card – a berry-stained palm print.
At some point, group superstition became a cult where people were put to work fashioning stone circles assumed to be special safe spiritual places, the origins of religion. One day a group member saw power in religion, not for the good of the community but for himself. He claimed to speak on behalf of the spirits in the sky.
In time, this organisation of the herd evolved into organised religion, with places of worship for the local society to pay allegiance to an unseen god or gods as an act of loyalty, a sanctuary some found a comforting illusion.
Social cohesion began with loyalty to a group, and moved on over time to tribes, and in Scotland’s case, clans. Though Scotland’s clans are often depicted as tribes constantly at war with each other, stealing cattle and valued possessions, the truth is much nearer a Scotland that found ways for small, self-supporting societies to co-exist. What can be said is, each clan had its own ways and means and guarded their traditions with pride.
Loyalty took the form of allegience to the clan. Your children took the name of the clan chief. The community looked after each other, and poetry, song and games arose from a sense of belonging. Food was bred in herding cattle, ground tilled for planting oats; people shared what they had. Clan loyalty saw you receive benefits in kind, protection, a roof over your head, a longer life than foraging for yourself, but the freedoms Paleolithic man enjoyed were not the same as those a Scottish clan held important.
Enter the exploiters and slave traders
One day, communities, profuse and widely scattered, decided power should be centralised. It reduced the wayward from causing chaos. Someone was crowned overlord or king, the tribes told to unite under his tutelage, servants of his domain. This was a new kind of loyalty, not based on territorial affinity, or family or race, but on identity of creed. Promises were made of equality, but not for the overlords, they were above all that.
Through time, the communities grew larger and became nations. A few, like Scotland, protected their territory against malicious incursion, Scotland against the Romans (when we were Picts), and then against English invasion, Vikings in between times.
Bigger nations took to war against smaller nations, to boost their wealth and conquer new lands, nations less organised, just as tribes did in distant times. The wars, which like all wars, started as attempts at extermination, gradually became campaigns of conquest. Loyalty was given to a general on the field of battle and then to a monarch.
The vanquished were not put to death (unlike Cumberland’s slaughter of Scots after the battle of Culloden), but instead were made slaves, or became the workers for the conquering nation. In all cases, loyalty to the victor was paramount, all sorts of sanctions and even imprisonment landed on the heads of dissidents or the rebellious.
Soon there were two sets of communities, those who remembered the old, freer ways, and those happy to adopt the new ways of their colonial masters.
The Scottish National Party Community
The Scottish National Party has always been a gathering of unlike minds yet settled on one single ideal, reinstating the freedoms of Scotland. It is a party of individuals from different social backgrounds with different life priorities, save one, the shared imperative of self-governance.
England, lost for an empire, plays contact sports with its neighbours as if they are its empire. In effect, Scotland remains a modern slave nation, thoroughly colonised to a degree that is both subtle and glaringly obvious.
Unfortunately, it is not obvious to many people in Scotland who feel they enjoy full freedoms, they can choose a car, which shop to buy produce, dress as they wish, choose the school for their children’s education, and pick and choose their leisure activities, none of which constitutes political freedom. Those are mere consumer choices, choices determined by manufacturers, corporate entities and advertising companies.
Happiness in the hands of the venal
Ever since the advent of slavery, the powerful have assumed their happiness is dependent on inflicting misery on the rest of us. Contemporary England is no different.
Staying in modern times for historical example, Scotland was offered a faux democracy, three political parties all intent on retaining the status quo, that is, power residing in their neighbour state, expressly London. It was if Sir William Wallace and Robert the Bruce never existed, never achieved a furlong of rights for Scotland.
English power saw no issue in the destruction of Scotland’s ship building industry or its steel industry. It did not recoil from using Scotland as a guinea pig for the Poll Tax experiment. More recently, it used an advisory referendum to haul Scotland from centuries association with our European neighbours. It obstructs Scotland’s exports to the east and to the west. It removes over sixty percent of Scotland’s wealth annually, imposes alien policies that cause hardship and premature death, and tells our inhabitants to be happy with our lot. England leads, Scotland must follow. Whom so ever is elected UK prime minister expects the dignity of his office is respected.
Today, under the Tory party, an England society is geared to destroy the legitimate hope of Scotland, a Scotland that wants to create a society that has as many outlets as possible to create joy and pride and splendour to human activity. This is what Westminster calls bad leadership.
Leaders are needed but not irreplaceable
Those profound impositions demand an elected leader of Scotland who is politically astute, fearless, and above all morally courageous. Scots prefer individual liberty, not conformity. England talks of ‘the country’, the state. The ‘state’ is an abstract concept. It does not feel pain or anxiety. The state, when you look closely, is nothing more than a governing minority. Call it the Tory party if you like.
The SNP finds itself in a crisis of its own making, faced by internal warfare among its own politicians and civil servants, while confronted by an England flexing its strength as if back in the imperialist 18th century. The party wants loyalty irrespective of how badly the party is performing. But a leader is the means to an end, not the end in itself.
History shows us some leaders can be good, some plainly disasterous and murderous. Who to trust? The leader to trust is usually the one preaching a society that brings happiness to the majority, not the few. As in all societies, we transfer our hopes and dreams to a leader, essentially an unhealthy indentification because human nature can let us down.
This is what analytical philosophy calls the ‘administrator’s fallacy’. By that I mean, people who think society is a systematic whole, parts held together like a jigsaw. Pull the pieces apart and cohesion is lost. (This was JK Rowlings argument, only she talked of threads and weave.)
To explain in party terms: in return for voter loyalty to the party, the party will secure benefits for the membership. This is a mechanical outlook. It is for the individuals and their communities, not the whole, that ultimate value is sought.
I mean, if a farmer in Barra is caught in a freezing winter’s gale, it isn’t the politician in Edinburgh who feels the cold. A political party is elected to seek ways to provide what it has promised the electorate, cheap housing and fuel, for example, but once in governance and set in its ways, deaf to the electorate, not open to spontaneity, it soon dismisses new ideas unless you are a loyal member delivering the approved message. The leadership wants to keep the old ways, youth to institute new ways.
The expression ‘troughers’ aimed at MPs who have become lazy and unproductive, has some truth to it. If in governance too long, they can forget what life is like for the rest of us as they shuffle papers on their desk, and sit at interminable committee meetings. vision and energy expended. They end up trying to fit people to the system, than fit the system to the people.
What I am saying is, the primitive instinct for adventure constrained, curiousity and the hunt obstructed, people will demand an outlet. Ours is independence, a free nation. We have had over 300 years of limits placed on Scotland, culturally, economically and in international relations. Our democracy is hobbled, ersatz, a copy of England’s, so watch what you say and how you say it. Do not get too adventurous.
The Tory party’s ideology and that of Labour too, is a dogmatic political creed, no different from the Communist party, or capitalism. The SNP has managed to avoid dogma because its central goal is to create a society where such creeds cannot exist. It promises to lead us not to a new land, but to a better society.
The SNP never promised reinstatement of self-governance will dispel evils. It has no false gods. What it promises is to liberate a nation so people can exercise free will, make decisions that are not derived from instruction imposed by its neighbour, create a healthy version of social cohesion. From all evidence, the current SNP administration has chased minor goals, experiments, as if intimidated by the thought of succeeding, that classic moment when in supreme victory the party leader says, ‘now what?’
‘Wheest for Indy’ is the preaching of moralists, self-discipline and cold showers, people who do not understand human nature. We have the will to reach our goal, only the folly of the party elected to achieve our hopes can trip up that quest and leave us in the bondage of an undesirable, fraudulant Union with a hostile tribe.
NOTE: This is a work in progress.