Thursday, 18 September 2014

Well, it's a funny old day...

...and it feels like it's taken a lifetime to get here.  It's Referendum Day.

I was at the polling station before 7am this morning to join the queue to vote.  Everyone was very quiet and orderly.  I took my son with me to the polling station so we could make the marks together in the poll booth, because This is History.  Not many days are History.

Yesterday, I'd actually got quite upset thinking about finally going in to vote today.  After all that's gone before, it was a weird day, like a breath exhaled, no more to be said, the day before something huge that you couldn't quite describe - a funeral or a birth.  Two years of thinking about it, reading everything, listening to every debate on television, talking about it, speaking to people both north and south of the border, reading reports, ploughing through EU directives, pamphlets, literature, everything I could get my hands on or find to test my initial gut-reaction hypothesis.  Because it's very, very important to be sure and to question, to examine your own ideas and vision of what independence means, of what living the status quo means for everyone.  All the shouting and the haranging, and the relentless negative onslaught of the press and politicians, first threatening and chastising, then pleading and cajolling, to the extent where you felt like some sort of domestic violence victim.  It's been very, very intense, very personal.

What I have been very very struck with is how dedicated everyone has been to taking this process seriously, to informing themselves.  I've heard it said that the referendum was all a terrible waste of money which could be better spent on other things.  But this process has empowered people.  It has moved Scots away from blindly accepting the word of politicians, and voting simply because something has a one word label such as 'Labour' or 'Conservative' or whatever.  It has empowered and included pretty much everyone, people who have never been involved in the political process before.  It has asked them to think about what they want for themselves, their future, what kind of a society they want, to question and discuss not merely everyday money or corporate finance, but much much bigger ideas and values of democracy and social justice, and everyone has been equal in that questioning and that process.  That's an amazing thing to have given a nation.  You can't buy that kind of empowerment or political self-education.  It's made me proud to see it in action.

It's been such a learning curve, and that's why people have found it so very, very hard.  It hasn't happened before.  It's hard to put a finger on the point at which you realised it had begin to happen.  

How on earth did anyone make a considered choice before, with no internet or mass communication or televisions?  Because then, party politics came with neat labels.  Left and right, all parcelled up, disseminated from the top down, ready to consume. 

But this referendum is unlike anything else.  It's made me feel physically sick with the stress of it all.  You have to identify and choose your own values and parameters, and weigh it all up, become informed, set yourself your own course of study, your own journey.  Where do you want the journey to take you?  

That's why it's so personal, why you can't tell anyone else what to choose and you must respect their opinion.  I personally feel that it is a moral decision which I must be able to justify theoretically to my descendents in generations to come.  "So let's get this straight grandma - you chose to keep the weapons of mass destruction for what reason exactly?"  So any concerns over my pensions, money or my personal gain or loss or the difficulties or hardships I may personally face are irrelevant, because no-one will give a hoot about that in a hundred or two hundred years time.  It's only money and it's merely time.  This decision is long term, far far longer than me, so it has to be about big ideas of ambition and vision and goals and ideas, things bigger and more permanent than intransigent politicians or my bank account.  A concept and an ideal lasts longer than an individual.  If I considered it to be about myself, I would feel I was being myopic and solopsistically selfish.  So I have to say that after all the questioning and testing of my initial gut-reaction hypothesis, my decision still resoundingly stands.

And in the end,  it all boils down to two marks on a slip of paper.  Out of all the marks you ever make as an artist, those two are the most meaningful, and carry with them huge possibilities and consequences.

Today, it's very very quiet, as if no-one quite knows what to do.  All the sound and the noise and the argument has suddenly become a big, palpable silence, like the silence in the poll booth.  It's very odd. 

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