Tuesday, 17 January 2012

What is positive?

Whether or not you are a fan of his, or a fan of the beliefs he espouses, Alan Bissett's contribution to the debate is well worth listening to. It can be found here. Admittedly, to me this  an articulate version of the cloying ''I'm dead Scottish'' attitude that always makes me cringe.The reaction to this is telling. Plenty of Scottish Nationalists have posted this on their Facebook pages or on Twitter feeds saying that this ''sums everything up'' or similar. Really? It says everything he is against and nothing he is for (presumably the opposite of everything he is against but politics doesn't really work like that - or it shouldn't). I thought this was odd. 

Before anyone points out, I realise that Bissett is not campaigning - officially, at least - for the SNP. I'm merely talking about the reaction from SNP supporters and activists to it.

Given that the SNP, generally, are so positive in their campaigning (Or, more correctly, endlessly talk about how positive they are) it seems odd to be so positive about something so obviously negative. Indeed, it made me wonder: The SNP's message is often profoundly critical of the Union and is not viewed as ''negative'' by the media and populous whereas the Unionist campaign which is critical of the possibility of Scottish independence is seen as negative.

When one considers Mr. Bissett's contribution it is, of course, the general sort of soft-left truths that can usually be found lurking together. Illegal war(s)? Deregulated banking? Nuclear Weapons? Oh grow up man, surely you aren't that identikit.

Some parts of the piece are, of course, are valid. Some not. However, when one tries to analyse the piece the defence is launched ''oh, this is art, one shouldn't analyse it'' which will come as news to English Literature students the world over. Perhaps I should write future blogs in poetry form to avoid nasty comments and green-inked emails? If one titles something ''This is my contribution to the debate'' one is surely expecting comments?

I've bashed out a sort of opposing version of the poem. Would you say the below was negative?

People of Scotland, vote with your heart

Vote for calling an English student ''an English bastard'' on Queen Margaret Drive and justifying it as banter,
Make sure to get on your high horse if he dare say anything,
Vote for releasing mass murderers, vote for watching him live on and on and on,
Vote for a country where Roman Catholics can be assaulted on live TV,
And not be found guilty,
Vote for a lump in the throat when an Irn Bru advert appears
Vote for a throb in the pants at David Sole's slow march.
Vote for wearing ''Anyone but England'' t-shirts.
Vote for a language none of us speaks.
Vote for non-triangulating, positive campaigning,Vote for inserting obscene references into our national anthem about the English even when we aren't playing them,
Vote for a monetary union controlled by someone else - it is all Greek to me
Vote for an MSP who calls the Union Flag a ''dish towel''
Vote for attacking Supreme Court Justices

Vote for the arc of prosperity
Vote for blaming everything on the neighbours including always blaming everything on the neighbours
Vote for no foreign deployment of our troops but no cuts to the armed forces
Vote for secession but keeping all the bits you like - the monarchy, the currency, the NHS, the BBC
Vote with your heart

I think you've suffered quite enough. 
I do not write such doggerel to gain support for the Unionist cause (heaven help us all if that were the reasoning). I do it to examine what we consider negative or positive.

Clearly, Mr. Bissett's writing is better than mine. However, like his, though, my poem is profoundly negative. I don't think the Unionist campaign needs to be or should be negative.

What I'm attempting to highlight is the difference in how things are perceived. When is something positive? When is something negative? Given that my main critique of the SNP is that they have never put enormous detail to what an independent Scotland will actually look like, surely much of their message is negative? Or is it all ''everything will be better in an independent Scotland'' without giving us reasons why?

I am not opposed to negative campaigns per se. Negative campaigns often win. Winning matters in this zero sum game. I suppose my point is that perception matters. That's why the Unionists have to go positive - early, hard and often.


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