Neale Hanvey: It's time to reframe current tribalism

I’m not speaking at the All Under One Banner rally on Saturday 6th May. This will likely elicit a cheer, ambivalence or perhaps disappointment in your mind. Yet those feelings are unlikely to be stimulated by any direct personal knowledge of me as an individual, they are much more likely linked to the associations you have made with me as a public figure and how the political choices I have made match with your own preferences. 

It’s fair to say that there has been significant polarisation within the Independence movement in recent years, and probably the one thing can all agree on, it’s a problem. What should also be abundantly clear is that unless we once again coalesce around the central objective of delivering independence, the cost could be catastrophic for Scotland’s future. 

I have thought about this challenge often since the events of 2019 and wanted to write this in the hope it might provide a helpful and constructive starting point for us to reframe the current tribalism and accept that like any movement we all bring our unique experience to the table, and most importantly that it should be okay to disagree.

A couple of years back I picked up Don Miguel Ruiz's "Five Levels of Attachment". My interest in the book was initially peaked because I (wrongly) assumed it was linked to psychoanalyst John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory of the social and emotional development of children. Whilst that was not the case, the book proved to be a great read nonetheless. 

For Ruiz the concept of attachment is rooted in the ancient Toltec teachings of Mesoamerica which are regarded for their wisdom on the nature of the mind and our place in the universe. By studying the Toltec ways, Ruiz developed a modern interpretation of those philosophical underpinning's. In short, the "Five Levels of Attachment" explains how societal constructs and materialistic desires can cloud our judgement, and it serves to help us understand our attachment to things, individuals and causes. 

It’s a useful tool to check your position on any matter, but equally it helps understand and appreciate the preferences and beliefs of others. It should go without saying that we will not agree on everything, but we all have a fundamental right to hold the views and opinions we are ‘attached’ to, failing to accept that or vilifying anyone who disagrees is a short road leading nowhere. 

If your happiness is overly invested in, and at the mercy of, a person, a football team, an ideology or a political party, and your are unable or unwilling to concede they could be wrong from time to time, you may be overly attached and Ruiz holds that this is not a healthy place to be.

In a nod to Kate Forbes MSP’s excellent column on freedom of speech, as movement we need less of the faux-trage from the perma-offended few and a fulsome embracing of Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s words "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it".

The five levels Ruiz describes go from no attachment or preference to examples of fanaticism that have led to suicide and murder. I believe the movement needs to rediscover its ability to welcome disagreement and debate, accommodate differences through democratic means and abandon recent attempts to shoehorn everyone’s opinion into a singular ‘approved’ independence supporter profile. We will not prevail where anyone who questions such an orthodoxy is shunned, or far worse, as many of our number can sadly attest to.

No single political party can or should define who we are or what we think. That is a feature of the London Parties and I reject that as much as I reject their political and economic dominion over Scotland.

I am proud that our movement is uniting this weekend and that all parties and none will share a platform in a renewed festival of ideas, opinions and optimism. As far as I am concerned we only have to agree on one matter. That an independent future for Scotland is the best foundation on which to build a better future for our people. We must never be afraid to question each other as that is the key to building a robust and unassailable case for liberty. 

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