I confess that today I lost patience with a long-term friend – let’s call her Edna – who lives in the Borders. Although born there, and having gone to university in Scotland, she and her husband lived for a long time in South Africa before apartheid fell, then relocated to Leicestershire for some decades, before moving back to the Borders a handful of years ago. After two years of silence in the background on FaceBook (while I linked to connections relating to the Referendum…yeah, you can probably imagine the sort of thing), she posted a challenge to myself (and two others – one of whom was one of her sons), obviously because we had scurrilously and reprehensibly been supporting a Yes vote. Her (paraphrased) post was ‘a thought struck me as I got the bus back across the border from Newcastle tonight. As we are going to be thrown out of the EU with a Yes vote, what are we going to do with our passports? Noone seems to have thought about this.’ Having waited for some considerable time for some sense of engagement from Edna, I confess that I lost my patience reading that. Really – after two years…two weeks before the vote, you come out with such deeply uninformed nonsense as that?
I know this is not fair. I have read significantly more than 2,000 articles relating to the Referendum over that same two year period – but there was no sense here of someone coming forward seeking a counter view, or information, or dialogue – the lightest piece of research online would have expanded her information and shown how many planks of nonsense her query was resting on: the Home Office declaring some months back that we could have dual nationality, the ascendancy of Juncker negating his predecessor Barroso’s polemics about Scotland not ‘being allowed in’ – although the second may not be so prominent, the first is certainly not hard to find.
Then I noticed the comments underneath. One asking (perhaps somewhat humourously) if that meant that she might be voting ‘No’, and her ‘Yes’ friend chiming in saying that she was selfishly voting not for the future generations, but just for herself. Then her son helpfully directed her to the white paper Scotland’s Future for the relevant pages. The reply came back: ‘I don’t trust anything that Alex Salmond is involved in’. Such a cliché as a response of the ‘No’ voter – so I replied with the standard comparison of ‘not voting Yes because of Alex Salmond is like refusing to move into your dream house because you don’t like the wallpaper’. I then suggested the Wee Blue Book as a resource for her to look at, assuring her that Alex Salmond certainly did not have a hand in that. The reply came back the next day – ‘Can’t be bothered’. I have to say, by this stage, Edna was exhibiting a lot of the behavioural characteristics of a Troll – whatever answers are given, they are never enough, and then the Catch 22 for counter information, that anything from the Yes side cannot be trusted (because its all part of the Global Conspiracy of CyberNats), so only the No side can be trusted (no laughing at the back, there…).
I guess that this is the closest that I have come to the sentiment expressed in Peter Arnott’s brilliant and brutally eloquent viral blog ‘Dinner with No Voters or “What I wanted to say before the Pudding hit the fan”’. [If you don’t know it, then it is well worth reading at http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2014/07/17/dinner-with-no-voters-or-what-i-wanted-to-say-before-the-pudding-hit-the-fan/ ] That impatient anger, that desire to violently shake someone until they wake up and smell the coffee – and make them aware that they are going to have to take responsibility for it afterwards. And it will be neither pretty nor easy to do so.
I thought of a response. “Just vote No, Edna, and stop pretending that you are looking for an excuse not to. You haven’t been ‘bothered’ to inform yourself for the last two years – so I seriously doubt that you are going to be ‘bothered’ in the last two weeks. So go ahead and vote ‘No’ – just don’t ever pretend to yourself that your decision was in any way a remotely informed one.”
Then I wondered about whether this response in any way had a point. Should I just regard her as a lost cause, and leave it at that? We don’t like to give up on anyone here at ‘Global Conspiracy Central’ – and I was particularly close to her late husband (who I am very sure by now, despite his LibDem membership, would have been a quietly determined Yes supporter) – don’t I have a responsibility to continue to try to engage her? I guess not – you learn to read the signs, and the three that spoke loudest (use of ignorant Project Fear mantras discredited a long time ago, refusal to trust anything ‘associated’ with the First Minister, and then not being ‘bothered’ to read opposing information sources) screamed ‘committed No-hoper – walk away from the car crash and spend your time more constructively talking to someone with ears’.
I’m sure (more or less) that Edna was not attempting to ‘Troll’ myself and the other two – but the net effect, when the loss of time and distraction factors are considered, is identical. So maybe I should just let her be, and get back in touch after September – one way or another. But time is running out, and I have to focus on those who actually can be won, rather than those who perhaps do not even realise themselves that they cannot be.
“The very core of the fear in ‘Project Fear’ is fear of English vengeance. All the stuff about trade barriers and borders and passports and no one ever buying whisky again are predicated on the same thing: on the apparently inevitable consequence that they will hurt us if we dare. This expectation which informs all the dire prognostications of economic boycotts and general administrative bloody mindedness, even of proper fisticuffs over the assets – is based on an image of the English as petty, spiteful, nasty and vengeful. The No campaign seem certain that the majority stakeholders in the ‘greatest multinational family’ in history will react like vindictive children.” (Peter Arnott, June 2014)