I had a colleague who could always be relied upon to calm a crisis – “we are where we are” he would say philosophically. It reminded me of a favourite phrase of mine - “man ist was man isst” – apparently “we are what we are” but the Germans are actually saying “we are what we eat”.
What is it about “ists”….? Feminists, individualists, socialists, atheists, royalists….fascists… You can literally hear the spit of disapproval if not outright abuse….The words are insults – hurled at people who are seen to be ….extrem…ists…advocating an extreme position.
When the referendum campaign about Scottish independence began – all of 2 years ago – the discourse was civilised – the terms “separatist” and “unionist” were avoided. A “unionist” for us in Scotland was a “royalist” – someone who saluted the flag…living out the last of his years in a bungalow in the south of England or in Northern Ireland.
About 6 months ago, on one of the rare occasions when I joined a discussion thread, I was roundly ticked off for using the term “separatist”. The rebuke was well deserved…..the millions of Scots who have in the past few decades become so disillusioned with the behaviour of British Governments are not extremists. Rather they have been given a rare opportunity by the referendum to take part in the sort of “Conversation” (and search for a new public philosophy) recommended in the tantalising conclusion of David Marquand’s recent book “Mammon’s Kingdom – an Essay on Britain, Now . And they are taking full advantage of that opportunity…..
Having said that, let us not be caught up in political correctness. What Scotland faces is “separation”. There’s nothing unusual about such a process – it happens to millions of people and quite a few countries. It’s usually painful – but many who have undergone the process of separation will testify that they feel so much better…..So why beat about the bush?
I find myself engaging in this semantic musing simply because I’m now trying to give a title to the little E-book I’m producing from my 40 odd blogposts on the Scottish debate. At first I thought of “The Scottish Debate – home thoughts from abroad” but, as I drafted the “Preface”, I found myself writing this sentence
“The booklet is simply a record of the reverbations of the debate which has reached someone who loves Scotland but who has been absent for 24 years.At the best of times, we hear what we want to hear; and, in my case, I am hearing the debate via the internet….with echoes from the memory chamber of the 1970s and 1980s”.
So I tried out “Reverbations” as a title – but it doesn’t make much sense.
But, as I was waking up this morning, the word “Separating” came to me….Not a noun – an adjective. Not a term of abuse but a description of a fact….
So sorry, I think we’ve reached the stage we need to call a spade a spade…..
I googled the phrase and came across a couple of other essays on the issue – what is separatism? and in praise of separatism
Also a discussion between two Scots