Humans naturally form groups and associate. They identify with people similar in some way to them. Since Hunter-Gatherer times there have been “us” and “them”. This tendency is not always a bad thing. Nationalism has benefits, especially when protecting morally superior values of a group, such as the values of parliamentary democracy, freedom, individuality, and free trade seen especially in the English speaking world. Nations formed around ideas and a common history are wonderful entities and being proud of British, American, Texan, French, Japanese, Jewish etc. is perfectly fine with me. However, there is a certain movement of tribalism, especially that has been accelerated in the past century, that I find disturbing and that is holding our collective societies back by causing unnecessary division, infighting and national disharmony. In the interest of time, I’ll point to three areas of particular worry to me: prospective Scottish Independence, American race relations and the rise of UKIP in Great Britain.
I. Scottish Independence
There is absolutely no logical reason for Scotland to want to leave the United Kingdom. Scotland is one of the poorer parts of the United Kingdom, and receives significantly more in tax revenue from the nation than it contributes. It furthermore has been part of the UK for over 300 years, so it has no independent treaties with other nations. There are ethnically Scottish people living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and there are ethnically English, Welsh and Ulster-men living in Scotland. If Scotland were to go independent they’d have to get a brand new currency, raise taxes, they would obtain a national debt, would have to start from scratch on trade deals and develop a pension system to deal with its ageing population. This article from the Guardian does a good job summarising the economic problems Scotland would face on independence. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/feb/07/scottish-independence-economic-implications-niesr
So why does Scotland want independence? Pure and simple tribalism. Sorry to be so blunt but it’s true. Scotland has become a socialist “basket-case” because they’ve been convinced that be a Conservative is English which is bad and to be socialist is Scottish which is good. Never mind this English-Tory hating phenomena is a creation of the past 50 years, and that the first Tory PM, the Earl of Bute, was in fact Scottish, the nationalist movement have convinced Scots that to be Tory is to be a bad Scot. In fact, as late as the 1950s, the Conservatives had as many as half the seats out of Scotland; today only one. Because of ugly, English hating, nationalist revisionist history, poor Scottish voters are relegated to a choice between the awful Labour party and the dreadful Scottish nationalists, both of whom equally waste Scotland’s money and encourage it to be balkanised from the rest of the nation.
Before the Act of Union Scotland was a backwater, broke after a failed attempt at starting colonisation in the Darien venture. Unification with England benefited both countries, as it gave Scots a bigger platform to the world, with access to England’s colonies, England’s vast economic power and English industry. Great Scottish thinkers like Adam Smith and David Hume flourished in this United Kingdom to the betterment of humanity. Together for 300 years, England and Scotland helped create the greatest force for good in the history of humanity….But now, rage filled tribalists want to throw away a great nation because of a Medieval Bravehart or 18th century Bonnie Prince Charlie fantasy. Here is a good article I read recently about this strange Scottish hatred of Tories.
And the saddest part of it all, is England might be better off without Scotland because without Scotland Labour’s chances of winning an election without Scotland is very slim.
How sad to see the state of the once proud Scotland.
II. American Race Relations
I’m sure you all in Great Britain are very well aware of America’s chequered racial history. America had bizarre and oppressive racial laws up until the 1960s in many parts of the country, with legal segregation the most infamous example. However, what is so sad about America is that race is still the single biggest lightning rod in the nation. Nothing and I mean NOTHING, gets people, on both the right and left more in a tizzy then race. The Democrats have used race for sometime now, going at least back to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, of getting votes through a “divide and conquer” strategy. The right too, if you want to know a dirty little secret, is obsessed with race, as for instance some of conservative talk show host’s Rush Limbaugh’s language is at least intended to stir the racial pot or get a racial reaction, not to say he’s necessarily racist but he knows, as a good businessmen that race gets people listening.
Recently, there has been a big scandal about racist statements a creepy owner of the pro basketball franchise Los Angeles Clippers said to his mistress about Black Americans. These statements were recorded by her and show what a mean and prejudice man he is. The NBA has rightfully banned him from the game of basketball. But how big of a story it was, among Americans, and normally apolitical people, I find slightly disturbing. I also find disturbing Justice Sotomayor’s voluminous dissent in a recent case saying not having racial preferences for minorities is racist.
It seems that often the only policy that can get Americans worked up is tribal race divisions or rivalries. Here is an interesting article worth reading about America’s odd priorities. http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/04/28/heres-the-post-where-im-accused-of-defending-donald-sterling/
III. UKIP and Single Issued Tribal Voting
Now to the part that is going to enrage many of you. I know few of you are not going to read this entire article and just focus on this part. First off, let me start off by saying that I don’t believe the majority of kippers are racists. I think the Daily Mail’s leader got it exactly right on that issue: yes, some party members are racist and creeps, but most people are patriotic and rightly concerned about the United Kingdom’s well being. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2614611/DAILY-MAIL-COMMENT-Mere-abuse-wont-stop-voters-backing-Ukip.html
That being said, I do think the rise of UKIP is attributable to a tribalistic mindset. Why do I say that? Because the rise of UKIP is purely about immigration and the EU….THAT’S IT. It is not a holistic look at politics. Need proof of that? Look at recent confused beliefs of many UKIP supporters, many of them support Old Labour policies while the party at the same time pretends to be libertarian. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/01/ukip-british-political-compass-authoritarian-right.
It is really sad to me that a brilliant, articulate and charismatic man like Nigel Farage is not a member of the Conservatives. I wish UKIP was in the Conservative Party, like how the Tea Party is in the Republican party. If they were part of the Conservative party, the right would be way ahead in the polls right now, and we would be assured a referendum on EU membership because the Conservatives would be assured re-election. I know many of you don’t believe Cameron for some reason (even though his parliament did in fact pass a bill to set the 2017 EU referendum in stone through Commons) but I believe he is serious about renegotiating Britain’s position in Europe, as evidenced by his recent declaration that he would resign if the 2017 referendum was not included in a future coalition. (If one is needed, hopefully the Conservatives win a majority).
People are driven to UKIP because of there concern for the British brand. I agree with them that the UK should leave the EU and that immigration should be cut back on, or at least focused on getting skilled workers from places like Australia rather than Bulgaria. But voting UKIP, and being driven solely by a nationalistic passion, not only is self-defeating because it will elect Labour, but ignores the great progress being made on the economy: record employment, fastest growth in the G7 and reduction of the deficit among many other accomplishments. Although it is contrary to human nature, people need to look big picture when they vote, not just what gets them the most excited. Conservatives, while they often fall short, work for greater economic freedom and opportunity and will give voters a say on Europe. UKIP, though a channel for rage based tribal identification, is a useful idiot for Labour.
Hopefully one day politics could get out of the mud of race and group affiliation and be a debate about the proper running of government. Maybe one day.