Today is the second last post in guest week on Let’s All Hold Hands and Talk About! Each day a different writer has given us their perspective on Scotland’s Referendum on independence. In this post the kind and generous Dave Slater asks of us that we extend kindness and generosity to others in these the final days of campaigning, and after the result comes in. Dave is an intelligent, dedicated and resourceful father, husband, minister, and friend. Having known Dave since I was around 8 and having shared all sorts of adventures (such as taking towels with us to the opening night of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) he has been a great role model and it was fantastic to have him marry my wife and I earlier this year. So over to Dave…
Someone once said, ‘All you need to be a success is a good original idea, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be your original idea!’. [My memory suggests it was a Doctor Who writer of the early 70s but I am not entirely sure.]
Having been invited to contribute as a guest blogger, I have tried to come up with ideas, thinking they were original – only to discover they may have been original, but they weren’t [only] mine. So herewith a blog of (someone’s) original ideas!
I work in a sector, an institution, where we have collectively decided to be neutral on the independence vote. Not for us, however, the gagging of civil service ‘purdah’; individuals can still speak out about their own views – although when a group decided to speak together, ‘as members of that institution’, eyebrows were raised.
Where now for neutrality? Of course the only way to be truly neutral is to be entirely indifferent: a view which I have heard expressed is that it doesn’t matter what sort of settlement or which brand of politicians, they’re all in it for themselves or we’ll end up in much the same boat regardless.
But few really seem to believe that. It’s a polarised and polarising campaign, where large numbers feel strongly, passionately about their ‘No’ or their ‘Yes’.
The trouble is – we’re all human. We have capacity for good, for generosity. We also have a darker side. Theologians might refer to sin, or fallenness. Evolutionary scientists might talk about a ‘selfish gene’. Politicians might recognise a minority element. Philosophers might talk about the triumph of emotion over rationality. Whatever it is – we don’t always get things right or behave or act the way we should, or even the way we think we should.
Different columnists will give you different views and this blogger is no different! Some say it has been on the whole a positive campaign, robust perhaps but generally well-conducted. Others that it has been the most bitter, nastiest campaign they have ever been involved with (source: an elected politician). As with many things, it will depend on the company you keep or the places you spend your time.
I have mostly kept out of public discussion – but have had some civil, if not very deep, conversations, with those of the contrasting viewpoint. However I have done a lot of reading online as well as a little interaction – and it’s fascinating to see how in this debate, as many other online debates, we have one glaring tendency.
We always put the most positive interpretation on our own views, but take the worst understanding of our opponents views.
Yes, this is a sweeping generalisation and no, I’m sure not everyone is like this all the time. But it seems to me that in conversations we have over significant issues, we could do worse than to police our own interpretations. To seek gently to clarify what it sounds like the other person means, and to thoroughly review our own output (or even more fundamentally, to ensure we have engaged our brains before we put our mouths in gear). And perhaps, if needed, to have the humility to say ‘I’m sorry, I got that wrong’, or ‘I must have misunderstood you, could you expand a little?’
To, in a word (well, two), both speak and hear in ‘good faith’. To have a generosity of discussion, of interaction, of interpretation.
For whatever the outcome of the referendum, surely what will be needed in great quantities thereafter, both between ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ voters, and between Scotland and [other parts of/the remaining]* UK, will be good faith.
* delete as applicable