I’m no furra huving magasatapeep by hearing dear old Stanley Baxter backs Naw. I’m even happy to be told by an anglo troubadour that I don’t know any better than to think Braveheart was a documentary and, yes, he’s right – I did come out of the multiplex ready to hurl nachos at effete Englishmen. See me, see tribal. It would have been nicer though if he’d worn an Easter bunnet and a gingham dress and simpered: ‘Nice girls do it Better Together…’
But what really got to me was Simon Schama describing the Yes movement as a tribal identity which would destroy ‘expansive, inclusive’ Britain. Read those words again and remember who put the Go Home Foreigner vans on our streets, who elected wholesale UKIP councillors and MEPs, who openly denounces Romanians and Bulgarians and wants tighter immigration. Inclusive Britain sounds like the kind of out-of-time expression that someone who doesn’t actually live here could make. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/scotland/article4128355
And of course, someone who hasn’t taken the slightest trouble to examine what is actually going on in Scotland. Like so many others only fleetingly engaged, he is convinced he knows what the movement is without bothering to check – a not uncommon weakness in opinionated academics.
Tribal presumably refers to a type of blood nationalism that has never formed the heart of the SNP and which Scots have rejected. But that doesn’t fit the story Schama and the other denouncers have to tell. In following dozens of other countries into nationhood at the UN, Scotland is part of the shifting pattern of people and states away from the monolithic.
You might as well argue that if Scots are wrong to want independence, so were the Baltic states and that Soviet Russia should still exist. Does his tribalism jibe apply to Tibet trying to leave China? What does Simon imagine the optimum state to be? Is it Luxembourg, Malta, a conjoined Germany? When does a natural, human pride in nation turn into vicious tribalism? Perhaps that’s what took the British into Ireland, India, Africa and Asia to loot, exploit and subjugate. British tribalism is one of the most virulent forms of state violence in history yet Schama forgives the history (his subject) to say we should remain tied to the UK. Perhaps it’s looking at rich, multi cultural London that skews his perspective. Well, why shouldn’t we aspire to the same?
How tribal are we that we live in a multi cultural society and recognise the need for immigration and have it as a policy to invite more in?
Schama eviscerates his own reputation when he links a civic drive for self- determination with the Balkans and puts himself alongside the brain-numbing idiocy of George Robertson. The demand to run our own multi ethnic country is the same force ‘causing ethnic and tribal wars, immense massacres,’ he says. Does he mean the re-enactment of Bannockburn? It is one silly idea after another, each one revealing the well of his ignorance which leads him to the edge of bigotry.
Which brings me to an uneasy point. Schama made The History of the Jews and is himself of Jewish stock. It may be why he detests the idea of tribalism and ethnic discrimination which I can understand, although it’s no excuse for failing to find out if that really is at the heart of Scotland’s democratic movement. His mother was Lithuanian, so does he think Lithuania would be better off as part of the Soviet Empire and was it tribalism that inspired the Lithuanians to take back their independence?
And if there is a state founded on tribalism and identity it is surely Israel itself. The ethos of the movement to make it a Jewish homeland was founded on religious belief, on literal interpretation of the bible and the idea of Jews as the chosen people.
Only today I read the government in Tel Aviv will ‘push ahead with a rare change to Israel’s basic laws – which amount to the country’s constitution – to insist Israel is the nation state of one people only – the Jewish people – and of no other people’. Netanyahu said: ‘The state of Israel provides full equal rights, individual rights, to all its citizens, but it is the nation state of one people only – the Jewish people – and of no other people. And therefore, in order to bolster the status of the state of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, I intend to submit a basic law that will anchor this status.’
If Schama is worried about tribalism leading to wars, does he apply his template to Israel because it seems to me a much stronger candidate for a tribal society that leads to violence than Scotland does.
Frankly, I prefer Baxter’s account. He lives in England, has done well there and thinks we’re too stupid to understand that Braveheart was fantasy. In essence – too wee, too poor, too stupid. Seeyooyanumpty!