Saturday , May 25 2024

An Indyref Romance: Harmony and Dissonance – Chapter 11

Jenny’s main subjects in her final term at university became Scottish independence and Russian language. She did both together. Effie was delighted with the results. The arguments were subtle, imaginative and at times devastating if only the person reading them could understand them. They talked regularly usually at Effie’s office, but sometimes Jenny made the trip out to the country. Only now she was eager to get back each evening so that she could continue her dance with Paul.

“How’s the blog doing?” said Jenny.

“Not bad,” said Effie. “It depends. Sometimes we get a lot of people having a look, sometimes not so many.”

“You’re still worried though.”

“We’re consistently ahead, but we should be much further.”

“But it’s just not possible. I simply can’t believe that half the population of Scotland could be nationalists.”

“Many of them don’t even accept that they are nationalists, or they muddy the waters by calling us nationalists.”

“I think I disproved that one.”

“You did. But it hardly matters. They don’t notice. And if they do, they don’t care.”

“But there’s hardly a good argument?”

“No, Jenny, there are many good arguments. They start by subtly changing the meaning of words. They complain if we use words like ‘secession’ or ‘separation’. They even don’t want to emphasise the word independence, rather Scotland will become independent almost without having independence.”

“But that’s nonsense.”

“Of course, it is, but it’s very hard to fight against people who want to change how ordinary words are used.”

“Like that speech Salmond made about England not being foreign.”

“Or how we’d still be British as the island of Great Britain would still include Scotland, even that the United Kingdom would continue as the Queen would still be the monarch just like when there was only the union of the crowns.”

“They’re trying to pretend that everything would be the same.”

“That’s what it amounts to. It’s a very clever campaign. Anything we say against them is being negative about Scotland. Our campaign is negative, because we’re forced to campaign for No. Imagine if the question had been such that independence required the No answer?”

“It would have been easier for us.”

“But the biggest problem is the mentality of all of us. We’re not just fighting against the nationalists; we’re fighting against how most of us have been brought up.”

“In what way?” asked Jenny.

“There’s going to be a world cup soon.”

“I know. I don’t really like football. Do you?”

“No, of course not. But I read about it a bit. There will be thirty two countries taking part one of which is not a nation state. Do you know which?”

“I don’t know. Scotland?”

“No. Scotland aren’t very good. England will be taking part in an international competition.”

“Why isn’t there a British team?”

“Something to do with the history of football and the fact that it began here. But you see the problem?”

“Yes. It makes it seem as if England and Scotland already have an international relationship.”

“It makes it seem as if Scotland is already independent. Most Scots, even No voters, think of Scotland as a country in the same way that France or Spain are countries. That’s the essence of our problem.”

“In what way?”

“Once you accept that Scotland is a country like France, it’s natural to suppose that Scotland ought to be an independent country like France. That’s the essence of their argument. We’re a country, therefore we ought to be independent. The vast majority of Scots believe that Scotland is a country or a nation, which makes the vast majority susceptible to the argument.”

“But don’t you think Scotland is a country?”

“Yes and we certainly must always argue that Scotland is a country or we’ll never get anywhere. But it’s just a linguistic quirk. For some reason, due to our history we ended up describing Scotland and England as countries even as nations. I don’t really know why. But there it is. Other countries that merged together like Bavaria and Saxony, or Burgundy and Aquitaine ceased to be described as if they were still independent.”

“So Scotland is a country, but really we’re the same as somewhere like Bavaria?”

“Quite so. But Bavaria, of course, does not play international football.”

“No, that would be rather silly. And I suppose we’d end up with rather a lot of teams if everyone did that.”

“But you see the difficulty? I have to be very careful about pointing out the truth that Scotland is a country only in a rather odd sense of the word. The nationalists portray this as me being unpatriotic about Scotland, but worse, so does my own side.”

“So you think No voters are part of the problem?”

“Indeed. Far too many No voters are lukewarm at best about Britain. They’ll complain about England during the World Cup.”

“Didn’t they win some time ago and they always go on about it?”

“We go on about them going on about it. Everybody gets angry and our country divides.”

“But Paul’s best friend is English. I don’t think Paul is anti-English.”

“I’m sure, he’s not and, anyway, it’s mainly low level stuff. The nationalists are quite well disciplined. But the root of all of this is that far too few Scots feel at all British, and to feel Scottish, above all else, is to feel not English. It’s just the same with Canadians. Five minutes after meeting a Canadian he’ll always say he’s not an American.”

“What can we do?”

“Very little. Playing the British card is very difficult, precisely because so few on our side have any real feeling about Britain.”

“While playing the Scottish patriot card works best for Yes?”

“Of course, it does. They have terrible arguments, but in the end, unless you accept that Scotland is in essence a region of the UK, you ought to vote for independence.”

“But no one thinks Scotland is a region.”

“Precisely. That’s why we have a problem. That’s why it’s difficult to argue our case with any passion. It’s just economics, the pound, the EU, technocrat stuff.”

“But still the majority are with us.”

“They are, but it’s with their minds, their hearts are with the nationalists, even if they’re not conscious of this fact. Every time you hear someone you know to be a No voter emphasise the differences between England and Scotland; every time you hear someone emphasise that they are Scottish as opposed to British. Each time this happens you’re hearing an argument for independence.”

“But we’re still going to win?”

“I expect so. But I’m not sure. Their blog sites get thousands if not hundreds of thousands of visitors. Have you ever seen their comment sections? Hundreds of comments. How many do we get? One or two if we’re lucky. There are more of us online now than when I first started, but it usually still feels as if we’re outnumbered.”

“Paul goes to his campaign group all the time. We have nothing like that sort of mass participation.”

“They’re going to spend all summer on the streets, and most of us will think it’s in the bag and we’ll do nothing. We’ll deserve independence if it happens.”

“Because of our laziness?”

“No, because too many of us in our hearts are nationalists. We think about Scotland in a way that makes independence possible, even logical. There’s not a thing we can do about this either. It will take decades to change this mentality.”

“You seem very pessimistic.”

“No. I still think we’ll win. It’s just I’m tired. I have my own academic work. I have this on top. I’m really grateful for your help.”

“It won’t be long before I go to Russia.”

“You’re looking forward to it?”

“I’ll miss Paul.”

“Things are going better?”

“Oh, yes! We’ve found some things we share. We’re growing closer.”

“What things?”

“I play him classical music. Things I like. Things that helped me understand how it all developed.”

“Does he like it?”

“Not always. Sometimes he hates it.”

“What have you been playing lately?”

“I started with some early twentieth century stuff. Erik Satie and Debussy, then some Stravinsky. We’ve just begun listening to Mahler.”



“Bit heavy going I would have thought.”

“I like music with words and it has such emotion. I want to open him up to different emotions.”

“You want him to feel the sadness of losing children?”

“No, of course not.”

“Then what, Jenny?”

“We’ve been watching films which deal with the soul in some way. Either a soul that’s no longer connected to a body, or a film that emphasises choice or unpredictability in action.”

“Like what?”

“Like Red River.”

“The western?”

“At the end we think that John Wayne is going to kill his adopted son, but he doesn’t; he chooses to forgive instead.”

“Why do you think choice is vital?”

“For me crossing the road proves the immortality of the soul. Because the freedom I feel is not a matter of physical causation.”

“There needs to be more than that, of course, but I can see where you’re coming from. It’s a foundation.”

“It’s building faith on the foundation of every day experience.”

“Are you trying to convert him?”

“No. How could I? I just want him to be open. Then who knows.”

“What are you going to watch next?”

“We just watched a Danish film. I wanted to practice a little trying to understand some of the words without reading the subtitles. It was called Day of Wrath.”

“I know about it, but I’ve never seen it. It’s by Dreyer, isn’t it?”

“To be honest it’s not only about practicing my Danish. I want him to get used to Dreyer so that I can show him Ordet.”

“Good Lord, Jenny! Are you sure?”

“You’ve seen it?”

“Yes. I think it’s the greatest film about faith I’ve ever seen. The first time I saw it I found the whole experience emotionally overwhelming. It was like taking part in a miracle.”

“I thought so, too. I didn’t have a clue what was going to happen. The Word is not exactly an informative title. Just my Dad said I should watch it and I did. I cried my eyes out for the joy of it.”

“But he doesn’t believe at all. He’s hostile. Isn’t that what you said?”

“He’s less hostile now.”

“You know him better than me. And what next with the music?”

“If he likes Ordet, if he even remotely gets it, I’m going to play him Das Lied von der Erde.”

“That’s Mahler’s Chinese Songs as a sort of symphony, isn’t it?”

“The last part I find terribly emotional and I hope it might be a special moment for us.”

“I hope so, too, Jenny, but don’t plan too much. Also don’t try to teach too much. He’s not clay to be moulded. Let him mould and change you, too.”

This post was originally published by the author on her personal blog:


About Effie Deans

Effie Deans is a pro UK blogger. She spent many years living in Russia and the Soviet Union, but came home to Scotland so as to enjoy living in a multi-party democracy! When not occupied with Scottish politics she writes fiction and thinks about theology, philosophy and Russian literature.

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