From the malarial swamps of Darien

September 18, 2014

It would be too easy to comment on the Scottish referendum tomorrow, or even late tonight when we know the result. It is probably the most significant vote in last hundred years or more and the Guardian front page (the opening picture) gives a good sense of that in respect of Scotland.  However I think the implications are far wider.  Over dinner last night in North Wales I said that I thought while a yes vote might not be the best result for the UK, it would be a great result for Europe.  I also said that we needed a few things to take place on these Islands which were (sic) less insular in nature.  Now it may seem paradoxical to suggest that the creation of more nations is good for Europe, but what matters here (a complexity concept) is one of granularity.  Its all about size and connectivity.

Put simply I think one of the roles that Europe needs to occupy is to provide a counter to the extremes of the USA and China which will otherwise, between them dominate a world increasingly subject to resource constraint, over population and climate change.   We are talking a bigger picture here!   For that to happen we have to balance the need for consolidation of financial and military resources with acceptance of cultural differences and engagement of citizens in government.  That means that Europe as a few large dominant nation states and a lot of smaller ones is not viable.  One in which those larger national states broke up into smaller culturally cohesive units is a very different proposition.  And of course the large nation states are only collections of continuing culturally cohesive units.  Think Bavaria, Catalonia, Wales, the old Kingdom of Naples and so on.

So if Scotland makes that move, it might start something wider, that overall would be better.   It might also break the little Englander mentality that been visible in this campaign.  The worst really is the assumption that England is Britain.  We saw it in the controversy over the England Rugby team (who already use the British national anthem) using the main British military honour as a symbol on their new strip.  Having realised that just maybe the Scots might not want to be an appendage to their larger next door neighbour we not have panic offers including the perpetuation of the Barnett formula for funding which is inherently unfair, especial to Wales.  The deco-max option that most progressive people wanted on the referendum was rejected by the British Prime Minister because in his arrogance be assumed the no vote was in the bag.  Now he has had to concede more, and may even loose his office if the Union breaks up.

The surprised response of the British establishment to the possibility that Scotland might leave is also instructive.  The press has been one sided to say the least and the entire establishment has been united (and one suspects co-ordinated) in deploying some of the nastiness of extreme scar tactics.  Its worth remembering that the reason the Scots had to volunteer to join in the Act of Union is the deliberate (one might say malicious) sabotage of the Scots colony in Panama, a visionary commercial enterprise by the way.  Then it all got tied up in the anti-catholicism the English establishment with the childless Queen Ann and so on.   The history of the creation of Great Britain is one of violent conquest in the case of Wales in the 13th Century and commercial imperialism in the 18th.  All of that before we get to Ireland, but that is a story for another day.  Of course from that we got the Hanoverian dynasty which was probably the most materialistic and inhuman dynasty in the bloody history of Britain.  We can blame Walpole for a lot, but its all part of a complex flow of events in which the Union was a key aspect.  We have had some nasty neo-racist stereotyping as well; the Tory MP who complained about subsiding the Scots the eat deep fried Mars bars being only one example of far too many.

To return to my overriding theme here.   We live in a world where finance and defines requires very large units.  For us that has to be Europe.  Yes, there was an opportunity to create an alternative involving Scandinavia and Australasia that many of us advocated at the time of British entry to the EU, but that is now past.  The little Englander mentality of too many in these Islands if it resulted in an exit from Europe would end up with us as a de=facto 51st State in order to survive.  So if we are European in that respect we need more autonomy over the day to day lives of our citizens in which choices can be made in context and with representatives actually known to the people who elect them, and thereby more accountable.  Fewer professional politicians, more people chose by their community.  All of that requires smaller nations.



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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

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