Friday, 19 September 2014

Some thoughts (from Australia) on the Scottish referendum

I'm beginning to write this after the polls have closed in Scotland, but before any votes have been counted.  As a person who does not live in Scotland, and who isn't aware of any Scottish ancestry (If you think I have a Scottish surname, you're spelling it wrong!), I didn't want my blog to affect the vote of anyone in Scotland.  This is a decision that the Scots need to make themselves.

I'm in two minds about the referendum.  The historian in me is excited.  I have this image of all these noted Scots worthies of past centuries (particularly those who suffered because of their Scottishness) popping champagne corks as they watch the results:  Robert the Bruce, William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, Charles I, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Robbie Burns.  Perhaps they'll pop the corks whichever way the referendum goes.  And, in a real way, either result will enhance the status of Scotland.  Either it will be a nation in its own right, or it will remain in the U.K. by the expression of the will of the Scottish people in 2014, rather than as a result of the actions of seventeenth-century kings or eighteenth-century politicians.

But, as a person of faith, I see something very different.  Most faiths regard nation-states with ambiguity at best.  As a Christian, I believe (as a key aspect of my faith) that all people are part of the same human community, without regard to their race, their gender, their sexuality, their language, their culture ... or the nation in which they happen to hold their citizenship.  We are all children of the same God.  (My friends of other faiths also make similar affirmations.)

For people of faith, national identity is something that is ambivalent at its best ... and destructive at its worst.  While (here in Australia), we have politicians talking about people needing to be part of something they call "Team Australia", I am convinced that the living God wants all people of faith, and all people of good will, to be part of "Team Humanity", first and foremost, well before we are part of any specialised national, religious, ethnic, racial, sectarian, or linguistic "team".

And so, I believe (as a person of faith and, I hope, as a person of good will) that our world needs fewer nations, not more.  I believe that our world needs fewer borders, not more. 

Looking back on those years in the late 1980s and early 1990s that saw the redrawing of the map of Europe, I found that the breakup of the former Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia, and the former Czechoslovakia were things that happened ... either violently in the case of the "ethnic cleansing" of Yugoslavia, ... or amicably in the case of the "velvet divorce" between the Czechs and Slovaks, ... or clumsily in the case of the old U.S.S.R.  But none of it was terribly inspiring.

What WAS inspiring was the democratic reunification of Germany.  People pulled down the Berlin Wall, sometimes with their bare hands.  People on both sides of the divide embraced each other despite their political differences.  People coming together are always far more inspiring than people dividing.  That's why people are more likely to drink champagne at a wedding reception than they are when a divorce is finalised.

As a result, I hope that the Scots have voted "No":  ultimately not because of anything to do with Scotland or with the U.K., but because our world needs more examples of communities of people saying to other communities of people "We're all in this together".

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Constructive comments, from a diversity of viewpoints, are always welcome. I reserve the right to choose which comments will be printed. I'm happy to post opinions differing from mine. Courtesy, an ecumenical attitude, and a willingness to give your name always help. A sense of humour is a definite "plus", as well.