Category Archives: Politics

Writing and Politics.

Seems like as good a day as any to write about politics. Well, about writing and politics anyway.

In the Scottish Borders, political engagement is rife amongst the artistic community. The vast majority of those in the creative industries down here, particularly writers and musicians, are politically active one way or another, with those on the left outnumbering those on the right something like four or five to one. I won’t attempt to guess why that is – let’s just assume my explanation involves a long, self-aggrandizing list of the shared virtues of the creative community and the political left – but it’s an important and encouraging fact that the resurgence of engagement by Scottish voters is also paralleled amongst our artists.

I’m not saying that art itself should be politically motivated. But I do think it should at least be politically aware. Orwell famously wrote about the impossibility of remaining an “artist” in a fascist state, of somehow rising above the murky political landscape, of keeping your mind clean in a dirty world. There are plenty of reasons why that’s not practical, but there are just as many reasons why it’s not desirable.

Politics isn’t about elections and parties and constituency boundaries and legal precedent. Politics is simply the science of how we are to live together. That’s one of the most basic values we as human beings have to think about. It’s so core to having a coherent worldview, so vital to our sense of who we are (collectively and individually) and where we’re going, that without it there’s no basis to anything we do. I guess what I mean is that anyone who is “not bothered” about how human beings agree to treat each other really has no business writing. They don’t have anything to say.

Everybody has got their little internal checklist of what it means to be a “proper” writer. Snobbish and exclusive things, sometimes, like having an agent, or a proper income. Me, I think being serious about reading and serious about writing are all that’s needed. You definitely don’t need to be serious about politics to write something good. That’s only for if you want to write something important.

Oops.

Well, as Ring Lardner once said, if I guessed for a living, I’d starve.

Obviously, I didn’t have the swell time last Friday that I’d previously prophesied. I was about to say that none of the 45% of us did, but that’s not the whole story, is it. The 55% of folk who voted No didn’t seem to be having much fun either. Yes voters have a lot to be unhappy about, but at least we didn’t just get completely punked by our own political leaders. Anyway, let’s be honest; all the energy, drive, vision and commitment was generated by the Yes campaign, and when their heads went down (as they temporarily did) the life was sucked out of everything. For a while.

I have friends on both sides, like most people, so I won’t do any finger-pointing. All I’ll say is that two weeks ago we were living in the most politically engaged country in the western world, and today we’re once again a reluctant adjunct to benefit cuts and phony wars. I doubt that anyone, anywhere, is celebrating that.