Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Equanimity or Equality - what are we actually seeking?

Adam Smith makes a clear and valid point in his 'Wealth of Nations' which is the importance in an effective workforce of a fair day's work for a fair day's pay based on productivity and profitability. This is an example of 'equanimity' where everyone is valued but is not necessarily equal. The ultimate experiment in Smith's equanimity was seen in play at New Lanark where all the workforce was valued, given the same opportunities, decent housing, access to education, health and other 'basic human rights' to help them thrive but were most certainly not 'equal'.

The converse of this is the ultimate aim of Marxism where differences in ability, productivity and contribution are not recognised being that the 'State' (as the people) owns everything and provides everything, all have the same wage, same housing, education, health - in other words all are 'equal' in a Marxist / Communist world. The flip side to Marxism is its unequal and equally unlovable politico-economic theory of neo-liberal capitalism which, when it comes to the crunch, is not that dissimilar in the fundamental point it retains power in the hands of a minority for the benefit of that particular minority as seen in the almost seamless shift in Russia from Marxist economics to neo-liberal capitalist economics - the same folk are still running the show in Russia - the folk at the bottom of the pile have seen little real change.

So what is it we Scots are talking about when we bandy about expressions such as 'We're aa Jock Tamson's bairns'?

Are we talking about equality or equanimity?

I would suggest the Scottish psyche has the idea and desire for equanimity fairly well hard wired into it. Further the idea of equanimity has long been a Scottish political driver which had greater voice in the Scottish reformation, was further expressed in the Great Covenant of 1643, the Claim of Rights of 1689 via the Scottish Covenant of the 1950's all the way through to the recall of the Scottish Parliament in July 1999.

The Scots, in general, are really pleased for a local man or woman who makes 'good' by their own efforts, by taking risks others in the community would not, seeing opportunities where others can not. As long as the local paragon remembers his or her roots, where they have come from and does not take on a 'fair conceit aa themsel's' they will be held as a good example whether or not they financially put anything back into their community. My own father, brought up in Edinburgh's Niddrie between the wars, made 'good', did well for himself but never turned away from his friends or his community. At his funeral folk who had gone to primary school with my Dad were introduced to me by my Aunty, all said the same thing - he never forgot where he started out, he never forgot his friends. Some had been 'posties' all their life but never resented my Dad as he rose up the old General Post Office management to a very senior position in Scotland. They were just pleased for 'Big Tam', one of us ordinary folk who did well for himself and his family.

This is what the politics and actions of equanimity are about, in my view. A society where the same opportunity is open to all with the wit, commitment and desire to seize them no matter where they come from. My father seized the opportunities, took the risk his friends might reject him, friends who by and large had no expectation of being anything more than 'posties', who had no interest in being different from their peers. Some, my Dad told me, were far brighter than him and had little problem working out bookies odds faster than a modern computer but had decided they were too stupid to go to FE or take the old civil service management examinations.

It is this innate sense of equanimity the SNP has successfully tapped into post 1999. It is this sense of equanimity that caused the Labour-Libdem coalition at Holyrood to bring forward its ground breaking Care Act (in the face of open hostility from the London based Labour Party) facilitating the sick, elderly and disabled to stay in their own homes and the refusal to bend to the multi-national insurance business over 'Pleural Plaques'. This is Scottish politics being effective when it remembers where it comes from and its traditions. It is the sense of equanimity which is seen in action in communities across Scotland on a daily basis whether it is 'Meals on wheels', Food Train or the plethora of different voluntary organisations for young folk - they are about creating and giving people an opportunity to thrive and to have self worth.

Do I want Scotland to have Marxist style 'equality'?

I trust I have made my view clear it is the last thing I would wish on Scotland, it would simply be a matter of jumping out of the frying pan into the fire and in effect leave the same folk in control as are now.

I want a future Scotland to be fair and even handed to all its people, to act with equanimity at all times - this, for me is the core message of the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment:

'That man tae man the world o'er will brothers be for aa that.'

The starting point is to accept we are not all equal in intellect, physical strength, wit or common sense but we all deserve to be given an equal chance, in our life time, to be the best we can be and respected by our society for doing just that.