JK Rowling is right, Nats are deluded: she doesn’t know she is one

This week I have noticed that quite a few independence supporters have been sharing the following J K Rowling quotation meme.

Has JK come out for independence?

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Some people actually thought Rowling had come out as a supporter of Scottish Independence. This couldn’t be further from the truth unfortunately as Rowling was just using the quote to have a dig at that Melanie Phillips article on UK nationalism.

 

Here is the tweet that the meme above comes from.

 

 

J K Rowling

J K Rowling

 

Rowling is mocking Phillips by showing how easy it is to twist her argument to support Scottish independence. In doing so she is saying that nationalists are deluded to the flaws in their worldview.

There is obviously a truth to what Rowling is getting at. It is true that all nationalism is essentially about the empowerment of an artificially constructed entity that people are emotionally attached to. That entity is a homeland, and nationalism is the story we tell ourselves that binds the people that live there together.

Phillips was spinning a yarn to justify her love for and the continued existence of the UK and Rowling was pointing out that you can spin similar yarns about anywhere.

I’m with Rowling on that. Though, I do wonder why Rowling, as a creator of mythology herself, defaults to a position of nationalism being a solely negative force?

That feeling we call nationalism, national identity, patriotism, whatever you want to call it is ubiquitous. It is a universal global norm, an essential sense of belonging embedded in our DNA. An awareness of kinship that predates every nation on the planet. All human beings who have ever lived know exactly what it is and how it feels to have or desire a home. Nationalism may be demonised but it is as human and universal an emotion as we have, and it works. Our whole global system of nation states may be messy at times but, as far as I can tell it is the only viable option out there. Without nationalism this system would never have developed and it certainly couldn’t continue to exist.

If you accept this then you have to accept that nationalism isn’t inherently bad. A group of people, inhabiting a set geography, sharing a collective mythology is not in itself destructive. All countries rely on nationalism but the type of nationalism they develop and promote forces them to act in different ways.

It is the tone and context of the story told that produces varying outcomes. This is where JK Rowling’s comparison between British and Scottish nationalism is flawed. Each country tells a different tale and each tale is set in a different context.

Context first. The relationship between Scotland and the UK is different to the relationship between the UK and the EU. The UK is already a sovereign state within an organisation of sovereign states. Scotland within the UK is a region of unitary state.

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Therefor UK nationalism is currently rife in a place that is already sovereign whereas the goal of Scottish nationalism is to make that country sovereign.

The tale is different too.

The story that drives the currently in vogue brand of UK nationalism is one of isolation and deflection. It is saying we are better than other nations and working with them has dragged us down. It is saying, people coming here freely from those nations are holding our people back. It is saying we are better than you and we will achieve greater things if we do everything for ourselves.

The story driving Scottish nationalism is one of openness and equality. It is saying we want to be like you but no better than you. We want to stand should to shoulder with you and work together with you. We want you to be able to come here, enrich our society and feel that this is your country too.

All countries tell nationalistic tales but some of those tales are more laudable and beneficial than others. Scottish nationalists are on a quest for normality while the UK seems to be driven by a desire for exceptionalism.

At least Melanie Phillips and myself would admit that we are nationalists. Rowling, like many prominent unionists, seems blind to the fact that she is one too.

What after all was the 2014 referendum about other than choosing to buy into one nation’s tale over another? Rowling talks about nationalism being divisive, which it can be. However, the ideology behind Scottish nationalism is inclusive, what division we see is a result of there being at least two conflicting versions of nationalism on these isles. Two visions of what Scotland should be. A region of the UK or a partner with rUK?

Like it or not, everyone here has some skin in that game and it is a division that needs to be resolved before we can move on. You can’t solve the problem by wishing one part of it would go away. Doing so just hands victory to one form of nationalism and it might not be the form you want to flourish.

Some may have come to their 2014 decision by the narrowest of margins but hardly any would have come to whatever choice they made devoid of a sense of belonging to a constructed entity.

Rowling’s twitter feed is a testament to her UK nationalism.

If she didn’t clearly relate to one nation’s story over the other then her output wouldn’t be so blatantly biased. Instead of being open-minded she acts as a propaganda outlet for the campaign for the preservation of the UK unitary state.

Just look at the tweets below that she has sent in the last few months. All but one tweet that has covered the subject of Scottish politics was biased. The rest of them have a hard unionist slant.

Yet it isn’t positive tales of union she shares.

It’s screenshots of not famous independence supporters saying things that carry a hint of blood and soil. It’s support for unionist commentators who have fled twitter due to alleged abuse. It’s things that the Yes campaign said in 2014 that look a bit iffy now. It’s articles intimating that the SNP are running some sort of one party Stasi State.

Rowling shows she is a nationalist by disproportionately displaying the propaganda of one side. Lots of No voters say stupid stuff on twitter. Lots of Yes supporters are abused. Lots of Better Together’s promises have turned out to be false. The SNP don’t even have a majority government. Yet, somehow, balance does not find its way onto her social media sphere?

Instead she spends her time demonising the form of nationalism that clashes with her own.

Rowling is right about about nationalists being able to delude themselves. For most people it is a benign deception, an essential part of our identity that connects us to our kin, our place and the wider world. We should all be aware of the dangers as buying into the wrong story can lead to turmoil in this world.

Yet, surely it is a bigger danger to be blind to the fact that you have bought into the mythology at all?

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Bobby Hainey

Joint founder of Autonomyscotland. In my spare time I enjoy Road Cycling, Munro bagging and beer.

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