Saturday, September 6, 2014

Interview with “Wyndysascha”, Legal Student from London

Pearl of Tyburn:  I’ll now be speaking with “Wyndysascha”, a resident of the great city of London, England, capital of the United Kingdom. It’s nice to have you on board!

Wyndysascha:  Thank you!

P.T.:  Can you give a little summary about yourself and your background?

W.S.:  I'm British, of English and Scottish ancestry. I was born in England, baptized into the Church of Scotland, and moved to Scotland at a young age. I now live in London, UK, where I attended university for a bachelor’s degree in history, and am now studying for a second degree in law. Although I haven't always lived in London, I do consider myself a Londoner (and I find it difficult now to imagine living anywhere else - a typical Londoner's conceit!). I am also a recent convert to the Catholic Faith.

P.T.:  Could you please tell me what your British heritage means to you?   

W.S.:  I've always seen my heritage as one of a thoughtful, measured, civilized, yet firm approach to tolerance, fairness, liberty, and the rule of law. We don't submit to tyrants; but we also don't have blood-in-the-streets revolutions either (although we do occasionally riot and decapitate our king!). Nowadays, though, we seem not only to fail to live up to our own image of ourselves, but we don't even know what that image is.

P.T.:  Why do you think “Britain” is such a good thing?

W.S.:  The reason why "Britain" is such a good thing is because, no matter what the cause of its inception, the history of conflict between the nations of The British Isles produced an authentically "British" idea of liberty. No matter how hypocritical we are in applying it, that is what the Union stands for, and why it should continue - above and beyond all other considerations, the Union represents how different nations can co-exist in one state and remain at liberty.

P.T.:  What do you think of the assertation that nations should, as a matter of necessity, have their own states?

W.S.:  The nations of Britain don't necessarily need their own states; they just have to love our liberty enough that they force the politicians of the Union to work towards it. Things like the European Union are bureaucratic exercises, and simply can't evoke that feeling of loyalty. The United Kingdom, as with the United States, represents an idea, and an ideal, of how people should live and what we should be willing to fight to preserve. That we've got to where we are now is a failure to hold faith to liberty.

P.T.:  Could you clarify what you mean when you say “liberty”, as opposed to “freedom”?

W.S.:  I say Liberty, and not Freedom, for a reason: "Liberty", understood as a British concept, is the God-given right to quiet enjoyment of one's private and family life and the state protecting us as we need it to; "Freedom" always seemed to me to be the running-around shouting, do-whatever-you-want thing.  It implies a positive effort of will, not simply a tendency to mobbishness and licence.

P.T.:  What do you think the active moral responsibility of the Union is?

W.S.:  The Union has an active moral responsibility to remind the nations of why the Union is a Good Thing and what it stands for. It shouldn't be forgotten that the Union was created in a shady politician's deal that the people, at the time, were overwhelmingly opposed to. But that didn't stop us coming to realize what the true character of the Union should be: a coming-together of equals established so that subjects could live their lives peaceably, free from undue interference.

That ethos came from centuries of intra-British wars, turmoil, and upheaval, and our common battles against monstrous tyrants that would make us slaves in our own country. The Union could be the fruit of all that, and prove that the world should draw closer together, find common ground, and agree on virtues to uphold instead of flying apart, with everyone trying to look out for themselves. We could just give-up and call it a few-centuries-old convenience and be done with it, but I think we'd all be the poorer for it.

P.T.:  What’s your opinion on the monarchy?

W.S.:  The same historical connectivity applies to the British Constitutional Monarchy. It's very difficult to defend monarchy as an institution in the modern world (although not the need for a single strong leader of government, such as the US President). But the monarchy, traditionally, has been the source of authority for the law.  In The King's Speech, King George VI says that he's only the King if the people believe he speaks for them.

An overarching theme of British history is the reining-in of the Crown, so it didn't evolve into a Continental-style despotism but one rooted in the "ancient laws" of the people. People had to see the monarchy as a product of our ancient liberties: not as in-your-face as, say, the explicit American declaration that the government is the servant of the people, but rather an organic relationship where We were loyal to the Crown, and the Crown upheld the things that made Us, Us.

P.T.:  How do you think the view of the monarchy has altered in present times?

W.S.:  Now, because they have lost their sense of common nationhood and are ignorant of their history, people don't understand how the monarchy is a source of authority any more. That has a terrible impact on British ideas on Law, and so on the Union itself. Laws in this country derive their authority from the Crown, and because they are promulgated by the Crown-In-Parliament. If you don't think the Crown possesses authority, as the authentic voice of the ancient laws and liberties of the people, why obey the law?  We end up being a nation of laws obeyed purely through fear of compulsion, not one where laws are respected.

P.T.:  What are your thoughts on the importance and meaning of history?

W.S.:  I believe that "History" as a cultural enterprise (not merely an academic one) is the set of honest stories about the past that we tell each other to reinforce our sense of self and community. Despite what some in the Eighteenth Century thought, life cannot be a purely rational exercise. That's not how people function. We are under a positive moral duty to make sure that our stories are true and morally good: when we stop concentrating on honest history and stop telling these stories to our children, we eventually lose our cohesiveness.

P.T.:  What are your thoughts on the Braveheart craze?

W.S.:  It’s easy to stick people in front of a TV playing Braveheart and then tell them it's the end of the story. But it's not the end. A simple look at British history would show that the heart of the Union is about nations fired by their own sense of liberty and independence being able to come together and work in common cause. I'm not unaware of the irony that the virtues associated with unity and liberty arose out of intra-British conquest, oppression, and struggle but, having fought and hated and brutalized, by the Grace of God we now have a higher standard to hold ourselves to.

P.T.:  What do you think might have made more Scottish people see the Union in a positive light?

W.S.:  Scotland's current generation might be more well-disposed to the Union if they saw how the original unification of Britain, though unpopular, became popular over time because of the mutually-beneficial nature of the arrangement. The Union forestalled Scottish bankruptcy after the Darien Scheme's failure. It brought a greater measure of peace to the Isles by excluding continental interference in Scottish affairs.

The Union allowed Scottish access to English (then British) markets.  In short, the Union allowed Scotland to punch well above its weight on a world stage. Not only this, but Scots have always been more than capable of holding the highest offices of state in a British Union; Scots are not the oppressed minority that Scottish Nationalists would like to portray themselves as, but rather are and always have been active participants in the Union at all levels. 

P.T.:  What do you think of the nationalist presentation that other people view Scots as having been disgraced or suppressed by the Union?

W.S.:  The peddled idea that "other people see Scots as brought low and wallowing in self-pity, and the Scots see themselves in a similar way" is the worst kind of rubbish: Scottish Nationalists get to present Independence as a solution for a perception that barely exists outside nasty right-wing media and pub loud-mouths, or gloss over that it's one implausible approach to dealing with something best dealt with within the Union anyway.  If self-respect and a sense of nationhood are so dreadfully lacking in the Scottish people, why not try to tackle this supposed problem within the Union, the institution that offers greater stability, greater opportunities, greater access to a world stage?!

Furthermore, the Union has never subsumed "Scottish" institutions beneath "British" ones. This flexibility is part of what makes the Union work. Constitutional protection has always been afforded to a separate Kirk, education system, and so on. Legislation, boards of control and state departments have been established in response to Scottish concerns over Scotland's needs. Development of devolved institutions continues today. If one believes that Scotland should become an independent, sovereign nation again then of course it is laudable that the process is peaceful, and through the political process. But that the process exists, has an historical presence, and is a viable route for future change - even if that change is independence itself - is a factual rejection of the idea that "Britain" somehow suppresses Scottish liberty.

P.T.:  What do you think are the main issues at the heart of the independence debate?

W.S.:  The true issue at stake in the whole Independence debate is this: unless there's some sort of complete, fundamental change in the governance, public morals, and general education of the people of the United Kingdom, then the Union is doomed to fail eventually. The pro-union Better Together campaign is fighting on the technical downsides of Independence. But people want more than that. I'd bet that any number of people voting For independence are sensible, sceptical people who don't believe the Yes Campaign's promises to give them everything they ever wanted without having to pay anything to get it - they're voting for independence because they've been presented with a vision of the world that makes them feel like they're part of a community again.

P.T.:  What do you think is “the best form of government”, if any?

W.S.:  I believe firmly that any state can only derive its authority from the informed consent of the governed.  This, obviously, doesn't necessarily imply either democracy or a republic, still less any inherent value to referenda.  However, I question what authority an independent Scottish state would have coming into existence via a brief moment of mawkish pseudo-patriotism.  There are nations around the world who are brutally oppressed by governments and regimes, who have a legitimate argument to make that they'd be better off with their own governors and states.  No-one oppresses the Scots, nor are the Scots lacking any opportunities within the Union.  Other independence movements elsewhere are similarly shallow. Who oppresses the Québécois, for instance?  What opportunities for localised government and international standing do they lack?  Like the Scots, they live in mature, rights-respecting states with civilized flexibility out of which they've done remarkably well and, when bumpy periods are passed, probably will do in future.

P.T.:  What do you think of the way individual politicians and parties affect the debate?

W.S.:  The manipulations of canny politicians lead people to forget their own interests and (not a popular opinion, perhaps) their just allegiances and duties. Governments you dislike aren't a reason to fracture one's country: they're a reason to stick it out, campaign for your point of view, and take an active role in the process.  I dislike many aspects of Conservative Party policy, their fairly cheap and nasty approach to the poor being foremost.  I'd probably have similar feelings towards any future Labour or Liberal Democrat government.  But pretending that the Scottish nation is so utterly, fundamentally divorced in its opinions from any policy these parties could implement is Fiction, pure and simple. 

 Scottish Nationalists draw the distinction between "Scottish politicians" and "Westminster politicians" to foster the "us-and-them" mentality necessary to break Scots from the Union but that's politics, not some fundamental character of the Scottish nation.  It's rare to find someone who identifies wholly with their elected leaders - we laugh at our MPs' supposed ineptitude regularly, Americans have their "clowns in Congress", and so on - and all the "Westminster politicians" argument does is piggy-back on this sentiment.

P.T.:  How do you think a lack of true patriotism towards Britain has contributed to the Scottish nationalist movement?

W.S.:  Our sense of Britishness has decayed to the point where the Union may be about to split. The past sixty years of British history have been the systematic dismantling of emotional attachment to one's own country. "Patriotism" is, apparently, something for right-wing thugs; the left/centre-left sneer at anyone who thinks that there's such a thing as "British liberty". Say what you want about the nationalists, they’re not stupid: they understand "History" far better than the Better Together campaign appears to (the fact is that they're cynically manipulating that history notwithstanding).  Again: although the Union provides tangible, real-life benefits to its citizens, its raison d'être cannot simply be measured in pounds, shillings, and pence.

I'm not naive. I know that "patriotism" is something that is used by the wicked on the gullible. But it's not a bad thing in and of itself, if it's attached to a good and noble cause. Love can warp easily into a greater, more general evil because it's an emotion, which is why love has to be married to reason and virtue to endure.  Love of one's country can warp easily into terrible things.  This is the line that Scottish Nationalists are skirting.  They're using Scots' love of the Scottish nation to foster division rather than unity, or a unity that is narrow and parochial, and encouraging self-pitying reactive chauvinism rather than genuine national character.  These things are being set against an authentic, British idea of liberty - something that emphasises common ground between different groups - in favour of a weak, ivory-towered concept of national freedom that isn't so much written solidly in history but slides greasily off its pages.

P.T.:  Could you wrap up this interview with a summary of the main problem as it stands now?

W.S.:  The sum of the problem is that we are forgetting our history, our unique sense of liberty, and our belief that our nations have a common centre that organically emanates authority but also derives its authority from us.  It can only end in division, and "suspect government" that has all the trappings of "rights" and "democracy" but enforces a deadening cultural uniformity on us.  Scottish Independence won't see some glorious rebirth of the Scottish Nation: it will say to the world that one of the foremost partners in the great, historical Projects of Union and Liberty has decided that it's just not worth the bother any more.  We don't have long to impart this on the Scottish people, and I'll be praying that it's a vision they can be persuaded to cleave to.

P.T.:  As an aside, can you tell me a little about your personal interests?

W.S.:  I maintain an interest in British and American History. My period of study is the Long Eighteenth Century, as affecting Britain and her empire (especially in North America). I've probably sucked up too much Eighteenth-Century pamphleteering, as I'm a big fan of the constitutional forms and theories of the time: whether the constitutional, parliamentary monarchy of Britain; or the federal, checks-and-balances American Republic ('The Federalist Papers' being one of my favourite works).

I also follow politics and consider myself to be a middle-of-the-road centre-right pragmatist with an attachment to ideas of individual liberty. I enjoy playing games, especially strategy ones, and I also love playing 'Minecraft'. I’m in the process of taking up blogging about his new Catholic life, politics, and gaming against the backdrop of ‘Minecraft’ (, as well as producing videos and vlogs on YouTube. I also try to deepen my newfound Catholic faith whenever I can.

P.T.:  Thank you very much for putting down so many excellent thoughts for this interview. I wish you all the best.

W.S.: Thanks; you too! 

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