We live in a society which now largely operates under a mentality of self preservation, overriding historically what was the importance and value of community. Instead what exists is in many areas, is complete disenfranchisement – where the ‘us’ became the ‘I’, the ‘we’ became the ‘me’. Where within the Union, we couldn’t be further from being a united nation or ‘better together’ regardless of the outcome next September. Instead as a whole we are, and look to continue on a path of individualism leading to growing inequality, poverty, hunger and greed at the hands of only a few. How did this happen?
Largely thanks to the era of Margaret Thatcher the psyche of society became a mass of ‘I want’, ‘I know’, ‘I decide’ which has now become common place. But what happened to ‘we are asking’, ‘we are saying’, and ‘we should decide’? The encouragement of self success, individual ambition and ownership ensured that everyone was to become concerned only with number one. Today this sees the UK massively divided and under represented with the rich poor gap ever increasing, and a government that serves only the few. David Cameron’s “we’re all in it together” loosely translated into ‘we were all in it together until I walked into no 10’. It is no longer about serving the public as a collective people – after all, for the past 30 years the people of Scotland have never had a government they voted for, but instead the individual interests of a minority while the majority flails as a group of ‘I’s.
This means the UK government is able to relentlessly screw social groups such as the disabled, the needy, and the disadvantaged into the ground. Without the power of a largely unified population who see themselves as ‘we’, such minorities are left largely unprotected. For all our leaders wax lyrical about a ‘big society’ that needs to be more inclusive, we are instead becoming more exclusive in almost every corner of our lives. What used to encompass the private golf clubs, the Michelin Star restaurants, the spas, and the five star hotels is now true of local schools, hospitals, mid level jobs, adequate housing, decent food, voting rights, and now it would seem, social media.
An apparatus we all use in the belief it gives us social freedom with the ability to connect with anyone and everyone as one big community, it would seem has itself developed its own sense of narcissism, exclusion and elitism, and currently where this is amplified is within the independence debate.
The incessant bear-baiting and slagging matches on Twitter, Facebook and comments sections of media publications has become common place. ‘My’ point of view seems to be what dominates, in turn foregoing listening what others have to say and instead creating an environment of increasing anger and fragmentation. The judgement, assumptions and dismissive narrative seems to come part in parcel with much of the social media debate around those in various yes camps. Whether it be between staunch nationalists and the more conservative; SNP supporters and well, those who don’t like Alex Salmond. Those who want to keep the pound, others who think its economic suicide, old Labour and new, the hard nosed socialists and the ‘lefties’. The list goes on.
Embroiled in our own opinions, dead set on arguing our corner – the atmosphere has become toxic, destructive and largely counter productive. Surely the debate around independence has its basis in becoming united, united in a cause whatever your background, occupation, income, belief systems, ethnicity, or number of followers you have on Twitter and Facebook. Just last week Andrew Wilson wrote in the Scotland on Sunday that the people who think of their lives as “we” rather than “me” are far more likely to vote Yes – itself signifying that the perception of the UK is that of a nation of number 1s to the detriment of others.
Social media can and should be used to break down these very barriers imposed by the institutional elites to instead find that huge area of common ground. Fractious and divisive behaviour means that the identification with others – often what can result in collective action is unlikely to take place. And this is exactly what the ruling classes bank on – a nation so divided it cannot see the greater enemy for the multitude of individual ‘enemies’ online. Instead what is clear if not careful, is that we are in danger of excluding one another acting for the interests and arguments of ‘I’ rather than the collective ‘we’ in the quest for a yes vote next year, a result which could be detrimental to the cause. Surely instead we should be using the tools available to include as many as possible – a much more formidable force.
Through being governed consistently by a Westminster government since the 70’s that has systematically cut the welfare state whilst maintaining deregulation and the ‘fruits’ of a free market, we have seen those in society rapidly become less likely to have any kind of prospects or future, who cannot bank on the ‘I’ or ‘me’ and go it alone. The state has and is doing a fine job ensuring more and more are becoming isolated, with less freedom to speak out, be educated, earn a decent wage and live democratically – which includes the right to gather collectively and protest against measures believed to be in contravention with the basis of that democracy. The very reason so many are fighting for an independent Scotland. So why are we compounding this destructive reality by orchestrating the same kind of separatism and individualism via social media– the very medium that could be used to increase that freedom.
It would seem in this respect that the power is no longer coming from the top, but instead from one other. We now classify, judge, mock and belittle each other, without even needing the centralised institution of Westminster to do so. We are disciplining ourselves and each other whilst also being shackled by the very government we wish to expel. We should be breaking down the barriers of such control and not creating more.
Historically, we have lived in a society that knows how to adequately misdirect their population to the extent they largely no longer know any more who the enemy is. And it is not some unionist twitter handle you are arguing with over the last bogus statement Better Together has come out with. When a society is subconsciously directed in ironically orchestrating and spectating its own downfall – the Iago is slipping away unscathed. Scotland has a rare chance however.
This chance can allow for the old individualism and centralism to be transformed into a new collectivism. A unique ability to instead open up a society paving the way for inclusion and innovation. The building of a country that doesn’t base itself on judgement, but instead utilises all skills, whatever they may be that the population has to offer, to be more tolerant and informed.
So instead of being actively involved, propagating, or even acquiescing in a formation of a social media hierarchy that endorses judgement and exclusion, stop thinking from your own point of view, and start seeing things through the eyes of others for the common cause before we all become too self involved to notice the chance has slipped away.