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Letters / The greater humanity

As the Yes and No debate rolls on the following from the beginning of a poem by John Donne may interest some of your readers:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were

Hopefully all the ‘yes yes no no no-ing’ will not reduce the sense of connectedness to a greater humanity Donne was getting at.

Overall national loyalty in the UK appears to be becoming less important while loyalty to our local communities and fellow humans globally increases. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-26885743 

Whilst that is welcome it could again change. For as long as nations exist they will have the means to powerfully distort our thinking.

No one chooses where to be born and nations are artificial, not natural constructions so it seems odd in a way they should inspire such interest. Of course there are cultural differences between Scotland and England, as the very different reactions to the death of Diana Spencer north and south of the border visibly showed.

England is not entirely just one place either. Many in the south believe the north begins somewhere below Birmingham. Some in Edinburgh similarly believe Glasgow begins at Livingston and so on.

There are also strong similarities between the constituent parts of the United Kingdom, sometimes under-emphasised. Fishing communities have more in common with others far further round the coast than they have with market towns much closer by.

Meanwhile many Catholics, Muslims and others across the land question usury and yearn for people-friendly economics. Who is to say if and when some differences should matter more than other similarities?

Politically though, David Cameron has everything to gain from splitting the union. Without the Scottish Labour vote our English friends (and Scots and Shetlanders in England!) would be condemned to a longer period of heartless xenophobic Tory misrule.

It is something of an irony that if the Yes camp wins Cameron also wins, and he will have pro-union Liberal MPs to thank for his victory.

But, longer term, the rest of the UK without Scotland could well go on to reform their outdated constitution. Overall, progressives in England might then go on to achieve great things through constitutional reform having tapped into their radical regional pasts rather than the great imperialist British bravado. How to know?

Ideally Scotland in the future will be a strong part of an improving Europe working for peace and the fairer economic practices and democratic processes peace depends on. That can happen with or without independence but there are no guarantees either way. Small minded, petty, selfish nationalisms; Scottish, English or British, threaten peace and limit our ability to work together for global solutions. Their lure is simple. “X-land for the X-landers!” – as if the last century hadn’t happened.

Internationalist in orientation, big hearted nationalisms emphasise similarities, common interests and common purposes and so are more likely to keep us moving towards the day “that man to man the world o’er, shall brithers be”.

The similarity between big-hearted English, British nationalists and Scottish nationalists should matter more than the differences and will do again, hopefully before too long.

To see bighearted Scots and Shetlanders split between camps is a sorry sight. None will have done wrong if they have voted for the greater good but the greater good cannot be secured with just one vote.

The best result, whatever the answer to the independence question, would be the emergence of a stronger determination to work together to improve the lot of others near and far and to improve the prospects for our planet and of the species we are lucky to share it with.

That future will assuredly still be there to work for after the referendum. Whether it can be secured is a bigger question.

Peter Hamilton
Berlin

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