Research Topics and Speculation about Art and Public Space by Scottish artist Matt Baker

Saturday, 16 August 2014

I'm #YesBecause...Moments to be Alive

The sense that things need to change often lies just beneath the surface in many people – this might not be accompanied by a clear plan for a new direction – just a deep feeling that things could be better. Throughout history there have been moments…moments when an event happened and all that collective desire for change was brought to the surface (Civil Rights Movement in US, Mandela’s imprisonment in South Africa, Removal of the Berlin Wall, Women’s Suffrage, Second World War). Moments like these brought into being many of the foundations of our society that we are most proud of such as the Welfare State - which was originally not just ‘benefits’ but: Social Security (Family Allowance, National Insurance etc), National Health Service, Free Education, Council Housing and Full Employment

These are the moments that ordinary people chose a path of idealism for the better future of their fellow citizens and claimed their right to determine their own future. Nine times out of ten such people never intended to get involved beforehand – but just did what they thought was right when the moment presented itself.

Rosa Park's refusal to conform to racial segregation laws on public transport sparked mass public support for the Civil Rights movement in the US and eventually equal rights legislation

We look back at such moments as ‘history’ and somehow they feel remote, not like things we could do ourselves. BUT the vote on 18th September is such a moment – almost uniquely this moment has been brought about not by protest or bloodshed, but by democratic process. We have a chance to gather the need for change and set in motion a chain of events that could result in new ways and means in our society that future generations will look upon with the same pride that we have for the Welfare State.

It is human nature that, when the wind of change comes, those currently in power act to defend the status-quo. They do this by telling us that we will risk what we already have by demanding better and that we are not capable of understanding the great complexities of the world that we seek to change. They promise us small bonuses and inducements. 

We face this moment on 18th September because enough people felt unease about the direction our society was taking and feared for the future of our children and grandchildren. One of the key reasons for this unease was the erosion of the principles and parts of our society (eg The Welfare State) that have been created by similar moments in the past. If we listen to voices telling us to ‘get back in our place’ all that will happen will be a collective sigh of relief from those in power and then it will be back to business as usual. This moment will just be recorded as another failed attempt by a bunch of ‘misguided radicals’ to disrupt those whose sole aim in life is to accumulate wealth and power.

Any decision involves risk – the future is uncertain if we vote Yes or if we vote No.

If we vote Yes on September we are voting to begin a process of change in our society – and most importantly we are voting to go into that process WITH a democratic voice in the way we shape our future. The negotiations will be twofold:

  • To decide on the way Scotland governs, organises, resources and conducts itself for its own people and in relation to the wider world 
  • To agree a way of working in partnership with our nearest neighbours in the British Isles

This second part is perhaps the most crucial in the context of deciding to make Scotland’s government independent of the rest of the UK. What will happen will be one of the most important processes in the history of our society in Britain. All of the systems by which we live will become transparent as never before as decisions are reached about the way we share and the way we work together in the future (on defence, currency, immigration, education, health etc). Because of what is happening in Scotland just now and the way contemporary society works with so much access to information…this process will happen in public, because of this, the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland will also have a voice in the bigger conversation about their own society and the way it is organised.

Shifting the direction of our society could mean learning from the Nordic countries, there, the emphasis is on investment in making great people. Through welfare and education the Nordic countries have a motivated, confident and equal population who are then encouraged to make good careers for themselves....this in contrast to the current UK model that concentrates on making the best conditions for big business, with the theory that business will then look after people. The Nordic countries consistently outperform the UK in every rating for Quality of Life, Economy, Equality and Education....go figure.

A vote for Yes will bring about a process of reflection and action on the big issues of being human and how we live together for the benefit of all. Thinking positively and constructively about our future is a very different vision of the world from one of a perpetual fight to protect the little we have. History will judge us on our courage to seize this moment for change – a change for the benefit of all citizens of Britain – not just those of Scotland.

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