Quite cross today.
It’s my own fault, I’ll freely admit. I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a post on the ways in which British people get confused about Britain. You know, how we constantly slag Americans off for using ‘Britain’ and ‘England’ interchangeably, or assuming we all live within five miles of each other and everybody knows the Queen, yet we cheerfully refer to ‘Great Britain’ as though it’s a nation and castigate each other for referring to the flag as the ‘Union Jack’ even when it’s being flown on land…
I’m conscious that, if it’s to have any relevance at all, such a post would have to be written soon. I remain strongly of the belief that the upcoming independence referendum will spell the end of the Union of Scotland and England. I have absolutely no doubt about this whatsoever, and I regret it enormously. As a Scottish-English halfbreed, I have no desire to see my parent nations sever their historic, mutually beneficial ties. Separation would, I’m convinced, be of no true benefit to either side, except as a point-scoring exercise for nationalists.
Yes, Scotland and England have spent a lot of time at war. We’ve not, prior to the Act of Union, been terribly good friends. But if, after three hundred years, we still consider that a reason to be hostile towards each other now, then there’s really no hope for any of us. The British have historically been pretty grumpy with France and Germany in turn – but now we’re friends. And that is a move forward. Don’t we want to move forward?
A pro-separation website called NewsNetScotland runs through the various objections that pro-union sources have offered and dismantles each one. How well it does this doesn’t honestly concern me, except as far as its argument over one of the central points – that of nationalism – goes like this:
“If nationalism was indeed so unremittingly evil, then these people ought to be arguing for the abolition of the UK and its merger into a European superstate as a prelude to one world government. In the real world we live in, the ‘nation’ rightly or wrongly is the currency unit of sovereignty.”
Wrongly. It’s wrongly. Because nationalism, while not necessarily ‘unremittingly evil’ is most definitely backward and anti-progressive. And the suggestion that I should be arguing for the abolition of the UK and its merger into a European superstate? I would. I do. I argue against Scottish nationalism for the same reason that I argue against English nationalism, or anyone else’s: nationalism is a bad thing.
If the option was presented to me, then yes, I would most definitely vote in favour of the UK becoming part of a single European state; and subsequently I’d eagerly for that European superstate to abolish itself and merge into part of a single world community – because unity is better than division. Always, everywhere, and under all circumstances, unity between people is invariably the preferable option to take. No, it wouldn’t be easy. Yes, there would be friction between the constituent peoples of that single nation as they struggle to find ways of resolving their various differences in the pursuit of that unity, especially if, in doing so, they sought to preserve the cultural and spiritual diversity that would give life to the union. It would mean hard work, communication and a willingness to listen to other people’s point of view. But hard work brings rewards. I would always, always, rather be a part of a co-operative system, however flawed, and work to improve it for the good of all involved. So the European Union isn’t perfect? Maybe not, but it’s a step in the right direction – and if we’re involved in it, we can make it better.
Ah, but nationalism gives us an easier choice. With nationalism, we get to complain about something called ‘national identity’, and put that above every other consideration, and then go and stand outside and pat ourselves on the back for being special. ‘National identity’, however nebulous it might seem if we ask someone to describe it, gives us all the excuse we need to wash our hands and turn our backs. And while that helps nothing, and improves nothing, it doesn’t take any effort.
Admittedly, it doesn’t offer any rewards, either – but what you’ve never had, you won’t miss. So it’s easy for nationalists to appeal to our sense of self-interest. Why shouldn’t we just concentrate on ourselves, huh? Why should we go out of our way to understand others? Why – heavens forfend! – should we change our ways to accommodate others? They should do things our way, or they should get lost. And who, I ask you, wouldn’t prefer to live in a world where you can keep entirely to your own kind and need only consider others in terms of what you can get out of them.
Well, I wouldn’t, for one.
Nationalism is not a virtue. It’s a millstone around humanity’s collective neck, and always has been. This is the only national flag I really want to see:
 – No, it’s not. ‘Great Britain’ is the island on which can be found Scotland, England, Wales and Cornwall.
 – ‘Union Jack’ and ‘Union Flag’ are both acceptable, perfectly correct, names for the UK flag, wherever it’s being flown.