Monday, 25 August 2008

Why Am I A Unionist?

I've been a Unionist since at least before the 1997 election when I would have been just 13 years old. Why I am a Unionist is not something I've ever given much thought to. Well given that the country seems to be marching ever more quickly towards a break up, it's time I wrote down why I'd prefer the Union to continue and why I think nationalism is not the way. I'll do that in a series of (rather long) bullet points:

1) Let's start with a trivial reason. Personally I'd be deeply upset to wake up one day and find the country of my birth, the United Kingdom, had ceased to exist. I know, even if it may seem silly, that I would not be able to think of "England" as the country of my birth. To find myself adrift without a state would be fairly disturbing.

2) On a more serious note, the future of mankind lies not in petty bickering between so called "nations" but in ever closer cooperation. If our species is to survive we must rise above our own "national" interests and begin to work together to create a world filled with hope.

Humans are, by their very nature, prone to tribalism, violence and petty arguments. But we have evolved a rational mind, one which can be used to overcome our inherent flaws. We must give up clinging to the concept of flags, a concept of "nations". And here you say "But isn't Unionism simply clinging to a flag/nation on a larger scale?". Not in my case it's not, as I would be perfectly happy to see the Union Flag removed from public buildings were it to be replaced with a European flag. Of course, this must happen only when the institutions of the European Union are sufficiently democratic, etc. etc. And then to see that replaced by some United Nations flag. I express my belief in Unionism as a belief in unity and cooperation between different groups of people, and my Unionism is not fixed to limited borders but embraces all humanity.

3) My real issue lies in the darkness that seems to dwell at the heart of the nationalist ideology. Scottish Nationalism seems to me to be little more than clinging to long gone injustices and racist hatred of the "English". English Nationalism seems mainly to be about present perceived injustices with regards to the way some of the Home Nations are treated plus an added element of an non existent "English" culture, which remains either ill defined or worse defined by bangers and mash and other such godawful concepts of "culture". Where is the uplifting, positive spirit of progress within these narratives? Nowhere, for the politics of nationalism, as we saw at the beginning of the 20th Century across Europe, are the politics of hate, conservatism and distrust.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want a world of just one culture, one colour nor of one mind. But I take issue with someone who suggests "England" has a shared culture or history and that "Britain" does not. What culture does someone like me, Kentish through and through, share with a Yorkshireman? None, except that which we share through the history of these islands. While I have no problem living under a political system within which our cultures can unite for the common good, I couldn't reasonably be expected to live under system that automatically assumes some deeper "bloodtie" between us. Kent and Yorkshire used to be in two different countries! Just as England and Scotland used to be separate countries. And thus we find the inherent problem with nationalism, they look back but only so far. If I were to suggest we all just live in tribes and act like druids, people would give me funny looks. But that is the sort of mindset the nationalists espouse in their outlook, but only to a more recent period of time. And thus people, for some reason, take them more seriously.

4) Back to a trivial reason. The symbols and icons of English Nationalism speak volumes of the sort of people who believe the English nationalist ideology. Richard the Lionheart was not fond of England. St George never even set foot here. The English flag is dull and ugly. The English Rose is a combination of two northern families' emblems, not exactly representative.

5) Should Scotland leave the Union they will expect certain things... a share of the army, oil etc. Alas I think they shall be deeply disappointed leading to further acrimony between the nations. This I feel would lead only to instability on these islands, unnecessary and dangerous.

6) If we should fail to be able to continue to live peacefully on these islands under one Government then that is a sad indictment on all the inhabitants. Yet another ray of hope shall be extinguished as these islands roll back towards the Dark Ages.

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