The article to which the below is a response is now behind a paywall.
This is a link to an archived version.
Neil Oliver – the Scottish Cringe personified – pathetically pining for a time when politics was not such a test of his powers of comprehension. Harking back to the comfortably familiar. Painfully nostalgic for the old certainties. Unthinkingly devoted to the old order and the old ways. Pathologically fearful of change. A British nationalist ideologue whose entire political philosophy is formed of Daily Mail headlines.
But at least Oliver seems aware of his limitations. He acknowledges that his arguments proceed from what he himself calls “simple school playground law”. Strangely, however, he appears to expect that we should afford his primary school-level pronouncements a status such as would not normally be associated with anything so puerile. Perhaps he’s relying on the spurious authority that comes with being a minor TV celebrity. Indeed, the hope that he might borrow some credibility from being recognised as “that bloke of the telly” is pretty much all he has. For there is no grasp of political reality here. Nor, for that matter, reality of any kind.
When somebody refers to Alex Salmond as “yesterday’s man” you know they’re not relating as closely with the real world as they might. Salmond’s ubiquity is only perplexing to Oliver because dumb prejudice dictates that he discount the obvious explanation. Either that or he’s read Alan Cochrane’s comic novel, “Alex Salmond: My part in his downfall”, and mistaken it for a factual account of the first referendum campaign. Either way, Oliver cannot admit that Salmond remains a highly respected and very influential politician – as well as one of the most astute political operators around. Apart from anything else, he’s far too busy reading Salmond’s body language in what we might generously term “imaginative” ways. It seems that there is nothing the man can do or say that Oliver won’t regard as sinister.
But Alex Salmond’s status is by no means the only thing about which Oliver evinces an oddly childish incomprehension. The democratic process itself has him totally baffled. In fact, he doesn’t understand that democracy is a process. He facetiously asks why a second referendum with a Yes outcome shouldn’t – in accordance with school playground law – lead to a “decider”. And why this might not lead to a “best of five”? Or, ultimately, a never-ending series. He is too shallow-minded to realise that he is actually describing precisely how it works if one is adhering to fundamental democratic principles.
In principle, the process never ends. The people are always sovereign. (Although not according to Oliver’s British nationalist ideology, of course.) The people are always entitled to have the ultimate say. Oliver seems to think democracy is a joke!
As the grown-ups among us surely realise, the democratic process, as it relates to referendums, is actually endless only in principle. In practice, there comes a point where there simply isn’t enough demand for another referendum. That point would almost certainly come when unionists – as opposed to British nationalist fanatics – recognise the futility of trying to sell to the people of Scotland the idea of ripping newly won powers away from the parliament and government that they elect and handing those powers to a parliament that they have little or no part in electing.
Like most (all?) British nationalist fanatics, Oliver has never questioned the political union between Scotland and England. He has no interest in how it works and how it affects people. To him, it is as natural as an enduring geological formation. It is something almost divinely ordained. It cannot be wrong. So why even think about what it is? This is why we never did get that “positive case for the union” that was repeatedly promised during the first referendum campaign. You can’t make a case for, or against, something until and unless you understand it. And you will never understand it until you interrogate it. Oliver and his ilk are constitutionally (pun intended) incapable of asking any awkward questions of the union.
Nationalists are the people who don’t suffer those intellectual limitations. They are the people who have asked questions of the union, and found it wanting.
Oliver doesn’t understand that democracy is, and must be, a theoretically perpetual process. He doesn’t understand that, in relation to independence referendums, it would be brought to a halt by the impossibility of selling the union to the people of an independent nation.
A symptom of bigotry is the inability to perceive the inconsistencies and contradictions in one’s own arguments. Oliver insists that it would be wrong to allow the democratic process proceed to the point where it reached a practical limit. Or, as he puts it, until those in favour of independence get the result they want. But he adamantly demands that the democratic process be stopped because he and his fellow British nationalists have the result that they want. Ask yourselves! Which is inherently anti-democratic? Allowing democracy to proceed? Or preventing it from proceeding?
Oliver then tells us that he’s “schoolboy logic aside”. But to whatever extent this is the case, he is leaving in favour of a demented rant that confirms his vision of “Britain” as a divinely-ordained entity; amplifies his mindless hatred of Alex Salmond; and demonstrates his abysmal failure to grasp the arguments of the independence movement.
He sees independence as a destructive thing. He sees any challenge to parliamentary sovereignty, and therefore any assertion of popular sovereignty, as a form of heresy. He simply cannot conceive of independence as something normal. Although he must, as an educated man, be aware that independence is the default status of nations, he is nonetheless adamant that Scotland must be an exception. Although he never explains why.
He puts up his straw man representation of independence, then knocks it down by saying it is not disruptive enough to be “real” independence. He insists that independence is a destructive process, but complains that it doesn’t actually look like destroying very much.
He seems only to be capable of conceiving of independence as a form of isolation that doesn’t exist in the real world from which he has become estranged. He cannot accept that there may be an independence which is simply defined as the capacity to freely negotiate the terms on which a nation associates with the rest of the world.
Neil Oliver – the Scottish Cringe personified. A man supremely comfortable in his naivety and bigoted ignorance.Views: 13473
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