Friday, 12 September 2014

Independence - taking the 'Renton test'

Paul Mason asks whether those trying to stave-off independence for Scotland can address the 'Renton test'.

Mark Renton is the anti-hero from Trainspotting who in a landmark scene rails against his country's subjugation, alienation and lowly identity.

'So the Renton test is simple: can your argument sway somebody like this fictional kid? Can you even put it into language he can have a conversation with you in?'
Mason is largely right in seeing an absence of mainstream parties able to have a real 'conversation' with those like 'Renton'. That's obviously true of the Tories, but much more damningly the case with Scotland's 'heartland' Labour party. Beyond standard platitudes and urgings to 'defeat the Tories', it has no meaningful language, assurances or vision to offer 'Renton' or any other parts of its 'core constituency'. 

It's not just that they and the wider UK establishment can't comprehend or relate to him. It's the fear of what he might become, how his awareness gets transformed from alienation and animosity to assertive and optimistic radicalism.

The establishment don't just want the British state maintained because it suits entrenched interests around the political-business status quo. They're terrified that independence sows the seeds of something more 'dangerously' alternative on their very doorstep. That won't come immediately with a Yes, but it's a substantive, longer-term worry.

The fear is even more cringingly apparent with the Labour Westminster elite. I watched a news piece where a young girl took on Miliband while he was doing a grinning selfie during his stage-managed visit. She asks (I paraphrase): 'How can you defend all that spending on Trident while I cannae get a house to live in?' He grinned some more and looked awkwardly away, a perfect encapsulation of Labourite distance and abandonment. A politics apart.
Many of those alienated people are now being politicised outwith that sterile party politics, as we're seeing through the street politics of Radical Independence. The many thousands now registered to vote, many for the first time after being 'lost' in the system, aren't about to trek in anymore as Labour fodder.

I'd love to see Irvine Welsh do a Trainspotting follow-up - hopefully under independence - charting Renton's journey, how another generation has been discarded by New Labour, and whether the present one will have opted to 'choose life' through an assertive Yes for real change.

Encouragingly, Welsh now sees much greater promise in the new political generation. Essential reading, I'd say, for Paul Mason and visiting media others trying to 'find Renton'.

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