Being exceptional

If you want a bomb proof career, if you want to sail through life without being negatively affected by the consequences of your professional choices, then get a job in Conservative politics. For a bunch of people who are always banging on about how the market rewards success and penalises failure, they’re very good at ensuring that precept doesn’t apply to themselves. This is precisely why the Benighted Kingdom is in such a mess, because the British establishment has rewarded itself with immunity.

George Osborne and David Cameron ruin the country by putting their party interests before the nation’s, and they walk off into lucrative positions. Theresa May’s advisor Nick Timothy, who advised her disastrously poorly, spends a fortnight in the political wilderness nursing his wounds with a compensation payout of £35,000 then bounces back with a very paid column in the Telegraph. That stickler for correct titles The Disgraced Former Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox got the boot for confusing his job with a promotional scheme for his pal Adam, and a short time later he’s back negotiating with Donald Trump on behalf of some chlorinated chickens. Ian Duncan lost the campaign for the Perth seat in the general election, but within a couple of weeks he’s given a peerage and the job in government that he was going to get had he been elected. Why bother with democracy when you’re a Tory. The list goes on and on. This is what happens when you operate your country on the basis of a national myth of privileged exceptionalism. It means that some people get to be more exceptionally privileged than everyone else. And it sure as hell isn’t going to be anyone on the number 60 bus to Easterhouse.

Exceptionalism runs through Unionism like the lettering in a stalk of rock, and the lettering says “know your place peasant”. Britishness is the stiff upper lip that stiffs us. Britishness is the comfortable lie that tells you you’re special, but the only thing that’s special is the way it rips you off. Britishness is that impossibly handsome guy on the internet who chats you up and tells you he loves you, but it turns out that the photo is fake and he’s really a toothless horror with body odour who wants you to have a threesome with him and Donald Trump while you whisper strong and stable in his ear because that gets him off.

British exceptionalism is what brought about Brexit, because Britain’s so special that it can have all of the advantages of EU membership without being bound by the rules or contributing to the costs. British exceptionalism is why foreigners who live in the UK are migrants, but British citizens who live in a foreign country are expats. British exceptionalism is the belief that nothing bad happens to the rich and the comfortable in Britain, and that much at least is true. The bad stuff happens to the people on the number 60 bus to Easterhouse, and the rich and the comfortable don’t care. British exceptionalism means they don’t need to.

Britain is so special that it doesn’t need to plan for Brexit. Planning is for little people. British exceptionalism means the expectation that it’s the Irish who will design and implement a new border regime between the Republic and the North so that Britain can continue to escape the consequences of its own actions. British exceptionalism means anger and disbelief when the Irish tell Westminster that it can sort out its own problems.

It’s exceptionalism that leads the Westminster government to believe that it can walk away from the EU without any deal being done at all. It’s the insane belief that no deal isn’t the worst deal of all, and that Britain can continue to avoid the fallout from its own nuclear implosion. Britain wants to take back control by having no control at all.

There are ways in which Britain truly is exceptional. It’s exceptional in its inability to house its population, exceptional in the way in which homes are treated as investments and stand empty while citizens sleep in cardboard boxes in the streets. Councils design street furniture with barbs and spikes to prevent people sleeping on it, while we are doing nothing about the causes that force so many people onto our streets. Britain is exceptional in the way in which we train ourselves to walk past the evidence of poverty and deprivation that is sleeping on our high streets and blame the poor for their poverty while giving a free pass to those who enrich themselves at the public’s expense.

We’re exceptional in our PFI schemes that force schools to pay thousands to replace a leaking tap while not providing buildings that are fit for purpose. We’re exceptional in the way in which our train services are run by nationalised companies, it’s just that they’re nationalised companies belonging to other countries and the profits that they make here are used to subsidise railways for Dutch commuters. The only way in which Britain is truly exceptional is the way in which its citizens are systematically ripped off.

British exceptionalism is what leads Unionists on social media to howl in outrage that EU citizens might be allowed a vote in a Scottish independence referendum, while they accuse independence supporters of xenophobic nationalism. But then their exceptionalism means that British nationalism isn’t nationalist at all, not even when it’s demonising foreigners and actively seeking a country that’s isolated and inward looking.

Unlike British nationalists who are so special that they’re not nationalist at all, the campaign for Scottish independence doesn’t seek a Scotland that’s special. Scottish independence supporters don’t demand a country that’s exceptional, a country to which the normal international rules of cooperation do not apply. The desire for Scottish independence is the desire to live in a Scotland that’s a normal country. It’s a determination to build a better country than the exceptionalists of Britain – and that doesn’t require any exceptionalism at all, mere adequacy will do it. If we aspire to exceptionalism, let it be an exceptional care for all our citizens, let it be an exceptional welcome to all those who do us the honour of choosing Scotland as their home, let it be an exceptional effort to be a force for peace, justice and equality in this world.

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0 thoughts on “Being exceptional

  1. Britain has been brainwashed very very subtly over many years,streets/statues/forests etc etc all named after the royalty or their hangers on,it,s inserted into all of our subconsciouses so much so tat it hardly even registers.

  2. Excellent, Paul, as always. I particularly agree with your view on the “exceptionalism” of homelessness and poverty in the UK as a whole. It is nothing short of scandalous, imho, that housing stock is treated as an investment and deliberately kept empty while thousands of people sleep rough every night. If I were a politician with the potential power to change this state of affairs, I would not be able to live with myself if I averted my gaze and allowed it to continue. Those who are doing that at this moment are beneath contempt – the situation can be rectified if only the political will is there. I hope and trust that in an Independent Scotland that will will be manifest.

      • “Aye, there’s the rub …” When you converse with people – even when you contact individual MPs – you could be forgiven for believing that EVERYONE felt that way … but so far that has not translated into any kind of action. We can only trust that Independence will enable us to bring about the change. Westminster is too far gone and will NEVER change.

        • The problem you see is that if we are not ‘open for business’ to the world and allow anyone, from anywhere to buy property here and not live in it then bad stuff happens or maybe good stuff won’t happen (neither of those things will happen to ordinary people mind, just the rich and influential).

          Other countries, like New Zealand where I grew up has laws regulating the sale of land to foreigners (Maori may well find that one ironic even while they support it). A number of rich and/or famous (Shania Twain) Americans have done so as bolt holes from Bush/Trump but each and every one has required ministerial approval. Not all are successful.

          Every one makes the media and causes a political argument. In the full glare of public view. Everyone knows where Ms Twain’s spread is (above Wanaka) as a result.

  3. Problem is there are many catastrophically hit by this but they keeping voting for those who cause them to be catastrophically hit.

    • But why do they keep voting for them? It’s beyond comprehension that they should do so in Scotland, the only part of the UK that actually has a choice at the moment; the only part of the UK that has a way out of the Brexit mess; the only part of the UK that actually has some hope for the future!!

      I read a comment on Facebook that the Scottish Government is incompetent. If that is so, what word can we use to describe the UK Government?

      • What Noam Chomsky calls “Manufacturing consent”: Use of Propaganda.

        Was it a mistake that the UK Gov’t didn’t use their powers to control immigration? It was a deliberate policy to generate anti-EU headlines for years, to demonise migrants so they were ‘forced’ to run the referendum. And then, was it accidental that the ‘remain’ campaign was lacklustre? that grass roots campaigners were not able to get a platform, that the lies were not effectively addressed? that EU nationals couldn’t vote? It was quite deliberate. and those in charge were rewarded handsomely by their masters.

        The narrowness of the vote was a shock, and then it went a bit wrong with the snap election, but Corbyn is being helpfully anti-EU, so no great problem there.

        They aren’t incompetent; they divide and conquer and because that won’t work on the EU they try and make them the ‘Enemy of the People’. they want a neo-liberal paradise for their chums, who will reward them with fat salaries.

      • I believe it’s called “cognitive dissonance”, AnnieM. People have a fixed set of beliefs (i.e. Tories good – SNP / Labour bad) and when the facts fly in the face of their fixed belief, they choose to ignore the facts rather than re-examine their belief, even when it is to their own detriment … I would feel sorry for them were it not that their wilful blindness harms all the rest of us!

  4. Appalled to read Martin Hannan’s article in Thursday’s National and find that much of Scotland’s history has been taught wrongly – “it’s all about 18th and 19th century British propaganda”. Fortunately, Catriona Stevenson has established the “History Police” on the website of her company Clyde Coast Tourism. She wants “people to be aware of what’s going on around Scotland with regard to our history being trashed.” We’ve always been told that history is written by the winning side but this, it seems, is modern day British rewriting of our history – and by people who benefit from tourism in Scotland.

    Time we were in control.

    • I agree completely, Jan. When I first came to Scotland (as a tourist) I knew nothing of Scotland’s history as it actually was, because I had learnt my history in England. I started to buy and read books about Scotland’s history written by Scots and was utterly gob-smacked by the complete disconnect between what I was reading and what I had been taught. After 25 years living in Scotland my disgust at the way English folk are taught about Scots and their long and illustrious history has only increased!

      • Actually, when I did Higher History at school, we were taught about the Tudors and the Stuarts – the Stuarts being post Union of the Crowns, of course – and British constitutional history, being parliamentary history from the 18th to 20th century. In all this, Scots only ever got the occasional walk-on part. We were always minor players. Like others, I had to wait until leaving school to begin to learn about Scottish history from my own reading.

  5. Pingback: Being exceptional | speymouth

  6. Paul, the raw emotion in this piece is incandescent. I applaud your gift for articulating the truth. I only wish more people could leave their cave of fear, selfishness and hate.

  7. Great article. Explains the rottenness at the centre of British society in such a powerful way. Agree with what peoplee are saying about Scottish history. We were never taught the truth because it was a way of keeping us in our place. We are getting better informed and that must continue until everyone in Scotland knows our true story. Stuart McHardy’s ‘The Future History of Scotland’ is an excellent start to debunking the myths we have been fed.

    • As a child I had my education in Berwickshire, Northumberland and Hampshire. Needless to say the subject of history very rarely mentioned Scotland. Like others I taught myself as an adult. As the victor writes history never read the history of the British empire as it is about greed, incompetence and self congratulations. No different from all empires.

      There was mega levels of exceptionalism here too.

  8. Deny their history destroy their culture/language use the tried and trusted blandishments of titles and lands hey ho you have total victory,look at the latest ex left winger Sir “Big Yin” the “venus fly trap” still working perfectly.

    • This has always been the long game , ask anyone in their 50s through to their 70s exactly what they remember of scottish history , what they personally were taught about our royal family , our crown jewels , the sovereignty of the scottish people is not and never will be for sale .
      We dont , and never have needed a referendum to dissolve this union , and certainly not one involving a hostile government of what is increasingly becoming a foreign country .

  9. Och, there you go again, Paul; enough of this inspirational writing already.

    You’ve got me up in the ‘box room’, rummaging through the detritus of my life, my Sanctum Sanctorum, store room of books, VHS videos, audio tapes, and paints, brushes and sketch pads, all patiently awaiting my resurrected interest.

    My Treasure Trove is much more fun and time consuming than Google or Wiki any day of the week.

    I have unearthed Orwell’s ‘Inside the Whale and other essays’, the 1957 Penguin Edition which I bought in my formative youth, probably ‘63, ’64, for the sum of 4/6d. (I omitted ‘princely’ since 4/6d is an astonishing 42 ½ pence in ‘New ‘Money. You can’t buy a bar of chocolate for 42 ½ pee these days.)

    Orwell and Chomsky are getting big licks among the chatterati on the Ethernet these days, and rightly so.

    This from Orwell’s essay ‘England your England’.

    “As I write, ( Ed. 1940 London) highly civilised human beings are flying overhead trying to kill me.
    They do not feel any enmity against me as an individual, nor I against them. They are only ‘doing their duty’, as the saying goes. Most of them, I have no doubt, are kind hearted law abiding men who would never dream of committing murder in private life. On the other hand, if one of them succeeds in blowing me to pieces with a well -placed bomb, he will never sleep any the worse of it. He is serving his country, which has the power to absolve him from evil.
    One cannot see the modern world as it is unless one recognises the overwhelming strength of patriotism, national loyalty. In certain circumstances it can break down, (Ed. Northern Ireland, the Toxteth and St Paul’s riots e.g.) at certain levels of civilisation it does not exist, but as a positive force there is nothing to set beside it. Christianity and international socialism are as weak as straw in comparison with it. Hitler and Mussolini rose to power in their own countries very largely because they could grasp this fact and their opponents could not.”

    I’ll give you, dear reader, a moment to absorb this from the pen of an Angry Young Middle Class Englishman twenty years before there were angry young men dramatizing kitchen sinks Oop North.(sic)

    It may be argued that the Brexiteers are hell bent on whipping up the ‘overwhelming strength of patriotism’, (Brown and Darling were big on being ‘patriots’ weren’t they?) and ‘Dunkirk’ the movie, may have been rushed out to garner ‘national loyalty’, where normally ‘kind hearted law abiding men’ and women, see it as their patriotic duty to beat Polish plumbers to within an inch of their life, or wizened old bleached blonde harridans are comfortable screaming abuse at another vcustomer in Lidl for wearing a certain item of clothing.

    They are ‘doing their duty’, protecting England from the Foreign Foe, in their sad cataract impeded eyes.

    England is at war, and so is Ruth Davidson in her khaki flak jacket.

    ‘We’ must all pull together now that the ‘British’ people have decided to ‘take back control’ and banish Johnny Foreigner from this sceptre’d isle.

    Aye, right.

    The Luftwaffe will be dropping leaflets all along the Clyde declaring: ‘For you,Tommy zee Eu iss over.’

    ‘England’ is about to go on to war time footing.

    The EU is the enemy at the door.

    Orwell didn’t write ‘Britain Your Britain.’
    He didn’t write ‘UK Your UK’ .

    It would never have occurred to him that these isles are made up of 4 separate nations.

    Britain is England, in his eyes. We are rarely given a passing thought in any of his considerable and ground-breaking body of work. He was an ‘exceptionalist’ par excellence.
    In many English eyes nothing has changed in the intervening 77 years. Britain is England, and we are regions at best, colonies in fact.

    62% of us voted Remain, Ruth, Kezia, and Wullie.

    Isn’t it about time that you started fighting for Scotland?
    Go on, be good Scottish ‘patriots’ for once in your lives?

    From the SNP’s Official site:

    “UK citizens living, working and travelling in the other EU 27 Member States of the EU] all currently enjoy a range of specific rights to live, to work and access to pensions, health care and public services that are only guaranteed because of EU law. There would be no requirement under EU law for these rights to be maintained if the UK left the EU.
    Right now we have the right to state-provided healthcare in other countries on the same basis as those who live there. Since 2007-08 this right has saved people from the UK around £1.2 billion. Without this right, holidaymakers could have to pay the full cost of necessary healthcare when they take ill in Europe.
    Key sectors of Scotland’s economy are at risk. Our food and drink sector employs 8,000 EU nationals – 11.3 per cent of all those employed in the sector. Twenty thousand EU nationals work in the tourism sector – 10.8 per cent of all employees.

    Free movement is vital to our public services. Around 17 per cent of EU nationals are employed in public administration, education and health.”
    The Tories have committed to ending freedom of movement in March 2019.

    Labour committed to ending freedom of movement. Senior Labour figures have criticised Labour’s position on free movement as being the same as UKIP’s.

    Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has argued for ending freedom of movement, saying he has “serious doubts that EU free movement is tenable or even desirable.”

    The SNP strongly supports continued membership of the Single Market, including freedom of movement.”
    As a non English Brit I refuse to let this happen to us.

    ‘Bye, England, keep the aspidistra flying.

    Too long? I know, I know.

    • Jack, I am trying very hard to get the image, of plant pots sailing through the air in some kind of manic volleyball, erased from my mind. Your comment ‘keep the aspidistra flying’ is priceless.

  10. Well said. Great writing.

    For me the real villain continues to be the britnat media, including of course the bbc. At least it’s fun watching the EU run rings around the Westminster britnats.

  11. 28th March 2017: MSPs in the Scottish Parliament (which includes Ruth, Kezia and Willie, who seem to have exceptional selective amnesia that they were in attendance on the day or indeed the result of the vote) voted by 69 to 59 in favour of seeking permission for a Referendum before the UK leaves the EU.

    Ms Sturgeon says the move is needed to allow Scotland to decide what path to follow in the wake of the Brexit vote.

    But the UK government has already said it will block a referendum until after the Brexit process has been completed.

    Prime Minister Theresa May, who met Ms Sturgeon for talks in Glasgow on Monday, has repeatedly insisted that “now is not the time” for a Referendum.

    Her Scottish Secretary, David Mundell, has said that the timescale could include “the Brexit process, the journey of leaving and people being able to understand what the UK’s new relationship with the EU is, so they can make an informed choice if there was ever to be another referendum”.

    I think we have since gained an understanding of where exactly Scotland stands and are capable of making an informed choice in this most equal Unions, after all, we are now the most listened to, most powerful of devolved administrations in the world, indeed, so powerful, that the Supeme Court has since ruled that Scotland does not even require to be consulted, due to some more exceptional wording that just happened to slip in there….

    So to recap, there is a mandate, following that democratic vote in the Scottish Parliament, for a vote on Scottish Independence… it certainly would be exceptional to choose to ignore this…. but the Supreme Court also ruled that to ignore ‘Conventions’ (which to date the Westminster government has selectively / by exception chosen to do i.e. ignore those Conventions that require devolved administartions to be consulted).. well they also ruled that if you choose to ignore those Conventions /and the polical situation, you do so at your peril.

    There is no doubt we are living in exceptional times.

    • Patience, we have reached the point of no return. The Unionists and Fifth Columnists Up Here know that.
      We shall be free, and withing the Brexit two year window.
      If they try to stop us, well, who would be dividing the country then?

  12. I would really like to know, why, and what laws or anything else constrains Scotland from dissolving the Union! Maybe the dug knows?!

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