I spent last weekend with family in Aberdeen and found it hard to contain my frustration while watching news coverage of the public’s response to Nicola Sturgeon’s letter to Theresa May requesting a Section 30 order.
Typical vox pops on the question of a second independence referendum included:
‘Ach. I’m no interested in politics.’
‘I don’t like speaking about politics, it just creates confrontation and division.’
‘I don’t want another referendum, it’s too soon – I don’t have the time’.
Following my initial confusion over what exactly these people did in the 2014 independence referendum that occupied so much of their time (this random sample did not look as if they had spent evenings knocking on doors and delivering leaflets), it became clear that one of the great challenges facing the independence movement does not come from the official opposition but from the politics of indifference.
The views shared in these vox pops masquerade as being ‘above’ or ‘outside’ of politics but, in fact, only help to safeguard the status quo.
Historian and activist Howard Zinn wrote, ‘you can’t be neutral on a speeding train’. Politics in the UK and US in the past two years, perhaps more so than in the previous half century, fits the description of a ‘speeding train’. Neutrality is not an option – you must pick a side or find yourself complicit in the status quo.
Tacit support for the status quo, and the belief that whatever happens will not directly impinge upon your life, only comes from a place of privilege.
For those who bought their house at a bargain rate from Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980s or were born at the right time to enjoy a final salary pension, the dire situation of politics in 2017 may not appear to pose a direct threat.
But what about everyone else? Failure to act in a situation in which others are at risk, even when you find yourself in a safe position, is still a failure. Even worse, it is selfish.
Ahead of the next independence referendum, staying outside of politics is no longer an option. Sides must be taken, with those claiming political indifference called out by their real name: supporters of the status quo.