Monday, 28 December 2015

Loki on 'Utopia Scotland', problematic, but still a valued rant

A recent article at Bella Caledonia, Scotland: the Utopia That Never Was, by the writer/rapper Loki, has caused quite a reaction, much of it hostile. And with some justification. Yet, unlike so much mainstream media assault, this wasn't just more of the #SNPbad meme, or parading of that other facile 'One Party State' cliché.  

Loki appears, with earnest intent, to be addressing a certain 'conceited' SNP/Yes element: 
Yes, you, the morally certain, reactionary branch of the dead Yes campaign.  An obtrusive minority of unconsidered opinion that unconsciously exploits every political moment – even the ones where people die – in the singular pursuit of re-animating a corpse for one last blind lunge toward freedom. If Scotland is a cheap haircut you are its puritanical fringe. You intend to vote SNP twice next year because you love democracy.  You call the First Minister Nicola.  You think Braveheart is a documentary.  You have The National delivered directly to your ego and you live in a world where the next referendum is always around the corner – should the right crisis occur. What a paragon of virtue you are.  Except there is one thing you haven’t considered fully that I want to draw your hysterical attention to: the independent Scotland you dream of is actually no more moral, or just, than the Union.
While the Bella editors rightly defend Loki's piece as usefully provocative, there's a lot of over-caustic language and tendentious claims here about a supposedly sclerotic Yes movement, and what he sees as a high-minded indy mindset. It's over-generalised in many places, with some specious charges, notably the suggestion that the indy cause is still seen through a 'Braveheart' lens. Perhaps it still is by some. But that sits very marginally against the much wider maturing of a sophisticated Yes electorate. Some of Loki's raw claims here looks as insular as the 'Nicola' mindset he seeks to call out.

But while some commenters have taken rightful umbrage, Loki's article still has significant polemical merit in helping keep a check on 'comfort independence', most notably the idea that the SNP, for all its vital purpose, can be relied upon to pursue any kind of radical agenda. 
Of course, a vibrant left within the party's ranks have also been pushing hard over key issues like Nato, climate evasion, fracking, TTIP and a neoliberal/banker class EU. That's good. But who would deny there's some very big progressive ground still to be won? Even as the latest 'power transfer' unfolds, why aren't the SNP using existing powers much more assertively, for example over land reform, particularly given its mass popular mandate? 

Loki is, similarly, unsparing in his view of 'branch Scotland':
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Scotland: The Slightly Less English British Franchise. The Franchise where elites a little closer to home enjoy the perks of cronyism and privilege.  The Franchise where we remain plugged into the neo-liberal apparatus we, ourselves, identify as the root of the inequality all the masochistic Unionists apparently love. The Franchise where corporation tax is lower than it is in London.  The Franchise where you can still go to jail for possessing cannabis, but hey, didn’t we show those English twats who is boss? The Franchise where we still operate on the same moral playing field as the union we so denounce – politically, economically and militarily insulated by NATO and the EU – while believing ourselves to be morally superior.
Again, beyond some questionable assertions (is Scotland really more regressive than the rest of the UK on things like corporation tax and drug laws?), and the 'our moral superiority' overload, there's a number of uncomfortable truths here, if what we really seek is a radical form of independence, free, in particular, from NATO and failed state militarism.
Loki also slates readers of The National newspaper as 'paragons of virtue', which looks like a kind of inverse virtue egotism, even if it's a legitimate articulation of his own class experience, as outlined in the piece. Yet, as one Bella editor, Kevin Williamson, usefully asks in a reply comment, where might we actually go to find left criticism of The National? For all its vital worth in pushing the indy cause and giving a voice to the Yes left, it's still corporate-run media, with all the structural boundaries that entails.

This should be prompting deeper questions about the need for more radical media platforms. And, for all Bella's own valued part in such, and valid defence of Loki's piece, that includes open discussion of some of its own, at times, 'Guardian-lite tone' and questionable liberal pitches, as in the space it gave to a recent 'Truth about Syria' article.
Another 'more tempered' version of the Loki indictment can be found here. Again, all good, constructive argument, making the case for not having all our indy eggs in the one basket. It's important to be having that kind of stripped-down examination in this pre-indyref2 period. 

Loki's piece is most welcome in all these regards. As a left Yesser, who sees the movement, rather than parties, as the primary force for independence, it's good to have Loki's and other 'awkward' voices around. 

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