Nationalism and closed minds


If you glance back at the immediately preceding post on this blog you’ll find it’s a brief note about some of the online company kept by Dr Paul Monaghan, SNP MP. When I checked which constituency he represented I noticed that he had been head of planning and development for the old Northern Constabulary (abolished as it happens by his own party along with the other nine local Scottish police forces when they formed Police Scotland). Discovering that prompted a random thought that only involves Dr Monaghan tangentially, although it is applicable to many SNP politicians and other nationalists.

Northern Constabulary’s neighbouring force to the South East was Grampian Police, which covered the area I live in. At one time their roads policing division ran a civilian drivers’ course that the public could sign up for, a two hourly session each week for six weeks that honed your driving skills (mine certainly needed it at the time). It included a demonstration drive by a police instructor featuring a burst of speed at 110 mph on a country road where I felt as safe as I ever have on a public highway. I also quite enjoyed being told by the instructor when I was doing my own test drive to break the urban speed limit so he could get a better view of a dodgy youth in a banger ahead for a future home visit. It was good fun and all very instructive.

One of the lessons that has stuck with me over the years was about the importance of being aware of your environment. The police instructors taught a number of techniques to do this, for example scanning the horizon and thinking back to where you were on the road, identifying potential hazards systematically, while maintaining a disciplined routine of checking your wing and rear mirrors.

The point was this.

Both psychologically and physiologically as a situation becomes more hazardous and tense, we close down our peripheral senses to concentrate on the one perceived major threat. We focus increasingly and eventually exclusively on the speeding or erratic driver ahead at the expense of scanning the environment for other hazards. Try it. It’s easy to realise that you’re fixating on someone’s tail lights (will they turn red now?) at the expense of everything else, a tractor coming out of a side road, the kids playing with a ball at the bus stop, the weather, whatever.

The result can be disaster.

This reminds me of the behaviour of many in the SNP. They have a fixation on one thing ahead. Of course they don’t see it as a hazard although plenty of us understand it is. They close down their scanning of the environment, and the many other hazards it represents for them. They don’t see the threat of falling oil prices, being adrift from Scotland’s dominant trading partner, the fact that entry into the EU for a separate Scotland could be a long drawn out process, and so on.

Part of the avoidance of hazards is cutting yourself off from different points of view. I understand why you would disengage from someone who openly abuses you but why would you ignore contrary opinion? You don’t have to respond but you can learn a lot from it. This makes the online behaviour of some SNP politicians curious at best, like Paul Monaghan for one (which is where I started) who has blocked me on Twitter for no reason I’m aware of.

Monaghan is a qualified psychologist, which is even more curious as he should recognise the self-defeating nature of the behaviour I’ve described. But then, as a psychologist he could probably also explain to me the nature of religions and how some true believers will not hear of anything that challenges their faith.

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