24/08/2011

hoots min, i'm deid

"It appears, then, that one must either accept patriotism in spite of its undesirable features or place oneself in the role of an outsider, whose claims about the national welfare have an uncertain status. The result for many is a chronic form of discomfort and a hope that the subject of patriotism can be kept out of political discussions".
- Stephen Nathanson

"[Post]modern national culture is the sum of all the interpretations of history by all the people living in the nation. "
- Michael Gardiner

"Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation."
- Alasdair Gray

My attempt to process Scottish culture in its entirety continues, taking in the canon, old shitey forgotten canons, a giant chunk of political philosophy, and a poke of Heideggerian shite. I'm reading about 200 pages a day, working as if not in the early days of a belting migraine. Carving my head into funny shapes:


First lesson: my sheer Scottish ignorance. I hadn't heard of Tom Nairn, James Hamilton, John Galt, Margaret Oliphant, William Dunbar, Tom Leonard, Willa Anderson, Angus Calder, Maurice Lindsay, Ethel Moorhead, Ossian, John McGrath - nor did I know Smollett and Carlyle were Scottish. I had dismissed the Scottish Enlightenment as hyped propaganda. I didn't understand Presbyterianism as a Scottish phenomenon. I hadn't read much with much sympathy at all.


Second lesson: Nationality is fucking complex. As a teen I did have a nasty theory of nationalism:

"Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under."
- HL Mencken

: that it was a crutch, an irrational and dangerous surrender of the self; that nationalists exaggerate difference in order to exclude others; that patriotism was directly related to racism and war; that Renton's soliloquoy was right-on; that Scotland's culture was debased and commercialised beyond repair; that a loud socialist universalism is the way instead. I've been slowly shedding this for five years now. It was grounded in foolishness, embarrassment, and an intolerant kind of tolerance.


Third lesson: Scots theory is actually interesting. The flyting-feuilleton air of it, if nothing else.


Distinctions to be emphasised:

  • Banal nationalism (local celebrities; whisky) v Formal nationalism (the anthem; haggis)

  • Nation ≠ Country ≠ People ≠ Culture ≠ Ethnie ≠ State's interests ≠ Cult of the Past

  • Ethnic nationalism ≠ Civic nationalism ≠ Instrumental nationalism ≠ ...

Essentialist nationalism:
A belonging which depends on a priori things (shared ethnicity, language, geographical location).

a. ‘Romantic’ (racist) nationalism: Hereditary membership. Discussion of identity is moot – since everyone ‘truly’ [British] understands that growing up in [Britain] automatically provides you with your sense of self. Individuals are uncomplicated, unitary, with an unbroken connection with their origins.

Corollary: The ‘authenticity’ of individuals needs to be defended against change and foreign incursion.

b. State nationalism: If you agree with the government then you’re in. (Mussolini, Jacobins)

c. Pan-nationalism: Goal of unifying some Golden Age ethnic block. See (a)

d. Religious nationalism

e. Diaspora nationalism: Emigrant communities’ phantom bedrock. Imaginary.


Modernist nationalism:
nation as a mentally constructed thing. An ‘imagined community’ binding varied people together. Necessarily dynamic (?)

a. Imperialism: Spread [Britishness]! Imagined community of citizens: supposedly values-based. Official nationalism: Elites tried to merge imagined-Britain with the wider empire. Isles extended over absurdly vast cultural space. Britishness as 'civilising' ideology.

b. Post-colonial nationalism: Resistance to cultural domination leads to movement for self-determination vs political domination. (Scotland has elements.)

c. Revolutionary nationalism: ‘Communism will take over a piece at a time.’

d. Civic / Liberal nationalism: Queer beastie. Constitutional statement about national identity; ethnic origin sidelined in favour of tolerance and equality. A voluntary identity. Nation goes on for 'democracy’s sake':

(1) social integration in a liberal democracy requires shared norms and beliefs (or so claims Schnapper)

(2) levels of trust required for democratic politics only attained among co-nationals (or so claims Miller)

(3) Deliberation requires perfect communication, possible only in a shared public culture (so says Barry)

(4) economic viability of specifically industrialized democracies requires one national culture (so claims Gellner)

Postmodern nationalism: There is no one Scottish worldview, no apriori conditions to be a Scot. There is a collective psyche, but it’s contradictory, hybrid and can't ever be wrapped up.

************************************************

"The rose of all the world is not for me.
I want for my part
Only the little white rose of Scotland
That smells sharp and sweet - and breaks the heart. "
- MacDiarmid

This is still not true of me, nor will it be. But I don't hate the sentiment anymore.


(c) Hugh Ebdy (2011)

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