Fifteen Months of Suspense

Center your country in the Tao and evil will have no power. Not that it isn’t there, but you’ll be able to step out of its way. Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself.” ~Tao Te Ching, Chapter 60

I’m not playing the “how many seats will the SNP win tomorrow” game. I didn’t play it in the last election, or the one before that, or the one before that. For all I pride myself on being calm and dispassionate in my analysis, I cannot extend this to pondering which seats will go where – especially not in this election.

I cannot bear to think about a social democratic candidate failing to win their seat, because of some misguided and futile attempt to frustrate the democratic mandate of the people of Scotland. I cannot stand the idea of Scotland contributing to the extremist takeover of the UK Government. At the Inverclyde hustings just a few days ago, the candidate with the red rosette insisted to us that “Brexit is happening.” There was nothing we could do about it, it seems: the decision was made, we have to suck it up and get on with it. Capitulation to a gerrymandered, likely compromised poll which is being used as an excuse to destroy decades of advancement.

So, Brexit is happening – but an independence referendum is not happening. Even after the disenfranchisement of the people who will be most affected, the choice to leave the European Union is represented by 0 of 32 Local Authority areas in Scotland – but it’s happening anyway, because The British People Have Spoken, which means the People of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Gibraltar have to do what the People of England want. A Scottish Independence Referendum proposed for this exact situation – from a manifesto the current Scottish Government was elected on by a historic turnout – is not happening, because the parties elected by most people in England don’t want it.

The truth is, when you look at it in every way except seat numbers & the regional list, the SNP have a greater mandate for an independence referendum than even the 2011 landslide. More people voted SNP – indeed, more people voted SNP than voted for any party in a Scottish election ever. A greater percentage of voters voted SNP in their constituencies, leading to the SNP winning 59 of 73 constituency seats – a Parliamentary landslide unmatched by any UK election. To say the SNP have no mandate is as grotesquely anti-democratic as to say the SNP didn’t win the 2016 election. Which is something party leaders have actually stated.

But even the issue of Scottish Independence, something which I have no reluctance in saying is utterly paramount to politics in Scotland, pales in comparison to the nightmare brooding on the horizon.

This election reminds me of one of a passage from Hitchcock’s conversation with Francois Truffaut:

Alfred Hitchcock: To my way of thinking, mystery is seldom suspenseful. In a whodunit, for instance, there is no suspense, but a sort of intellectual puzzle. The whodunit generates the kind of curiosity that is devoid of emotion, and emotion is an essential ingredient of suspense.

In the case of the switchboard operator in Easy Virtue, the emotion was her wish that the young man be accepted by the woman. In the classical situation of a bombing, it’s fear for someone’s safety. And that fear depends upon the intensity of the public’s identification with the person who is in danger.

I might go further and say that with the old situation of a bombing properly presented, you might have a group of gangsters sitting around a table, a group of villains…

Francois Truffaut: As for instance the bomb that was concealed in a briefcase in the July 20 plot on Hitler’s life.

AH: Yes. And even in that case I don’t think the public would say, “Oh, good, they’re all going to be blown to bits,” but rather, they’ll be thinking, “Watch out. There’s a bomb!” What it means is that the apprehension of the bomb is more powerful than the feelings of sympathy or dislike for the characters involved…

FT: I’d like to have your definition of the difference between “suspense” and “surprise.”

AH: There is a distinct difference between “suspense” and “surprise,” and yet many pictures continually confuse the two. I’ll explain what I mean.

We are now having a very innocent little chat. Let’s suppose that there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, “Boom!” There is an explosion. The public is surprised, but prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequence. Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware the bomb is going to explode at one o’clock and there is a clock in the decor. The public can see that it is a quarter to one. In these conditions, the same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: “You shouldn’t be talking about such trivial matters. There is a bomb beneath you and it is about to explode!”

In the first case we have given the public fifteen seconds of surprise at the moment of the explosion. In the second we have provided them with fifteen minutes of suspense. The conclusion is that whenever possible the public must be informed. Except when the surprise is a twist, that is, when the unexpected ending is, in itself, the highlight of the story.

Hitchcock, Francois Truffaut, p73

I sometimes feel like this election is a grand expansion of that conversation – from fifteen minutes, to fifteen months of negotiations. While we’re all talking about policies, personalities, and all the rhetoric that comes by, there’s a terrible something tick, tick, ticking away, just out of earshot. And I feel like one of the characters who knows that there’s a bomb, but doesn’t know where it is, when it will explode, or even what kind of bomb it is – and, worst of all, doesn’t know if anything can be done to disarm it.

Ever since the 2014 referendum, the other parties have been desperate to get back to normal. Back to when the “threat” of independence was safely fringe: back to when the NHS and the EU and the ECHR were safely ensconced in UK law and society: back to when politics weren’t crazy. So it’s all the same he-said-she-said, misrepresentation, partial reporting, and constant banging on about stopping something that’s already been passed in the Scottish Parliament… and I just want to scream “STOP. You shouldn’t be talking about such trivial matters. There is a bomb beneath you and it is about to explode!

Consider how important everything is in this election, this national emergency – the NHS, social security, foreign policy, defense, liberties. Now consider what could make even those things seem trivial, at least in comparison. Forget a bomb: we might as well be holding a hustings on the Titanic. Where we should be putting all our efforts into saving as many lives as we can, we’re arguing about who gets to be the new captain of a sinking ship.

This isn’t about Brexit, or Trump, or Russia, or climate change, or the Koch Brothers, or any one thing – this is about the driving force behind all those things. This isn’t conspiracy, it’s a basic acknowledgement – we’ve let the world go to hell. All of us. It will take all of us to fix it.

What can a wee nation of 5 million people do to stop it? We can do what we can where we are.

According to Taoism, suffering is caused by resistance to the way the world is – by fighting against the inevitable, that which you cannot change. Effort without effect. For something so great and vast as the challenge we see before us, it would be easy to say that this is the way the world is. But it is not. “There is no alternative” is the falsehood: the way the world seems to be is, in fact, the resistance against the way the world truly is. It is that contradiction which makes it so painful.

According to Sri Aurobindo, Ānanda, “bliss” or “happiness,” is the natural state of mankind. Non-resistance does not mean passivity, apathy, nonchalance – it means exactly that. The people who are causing all this suffering, misery, and destruction in our world are the ones who are resisting the natural order. How can they not? War, poverty, pollution, cruelty, hatred – all are choices.

We are not the resistance – we are the true way.

When the government is muddled
The people are simple;
When the government is alert
The people are cunning.

It is on disaster that good fortune perches;
It is beneath good fortune that disaster crouches.

Who knows the limit? Does not the straightforward exist?
The straighforward changes again into the crafty, and the good changes again into the monstrous.
Indeed, it is long since the people were perplexed.

Therefore the sage is square-edged but does not scrape,
Has corners but does not jab,
Extends himself but not at the expense of others,
Shines but does not dazzle.
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 58

3 thoughts on “Fifteen Months of Suspense

  1. Brian Powell says:

    The big issue is that they say the union must be maintained at all cost but they have no idea what to do to fix what is happening within the that ‘Union’.
    Scottish Labour said that all are important but it come down to the vagaries of what is happening in England and even there that cannot put right what is happening. At most they can fiddle with the system for the time they are in office then the Tories get back in and reverse what they don’t want.
    We can change the system permanently.

    • Machrihanish lad says:

      Please Forget a bomb: we might as well be holding a hustings on the Titanic. Where we should be putting all our efforts into saving as many lives as we can, we’re arguing about who gets to be the new captain of a sinking ship.’


      “The people who are causing all this suffering, misery, and destruction in our world are the ones who are resisting the natural order.’


      We therefore require a Sage.

      And the means by which the Sage can be heard – because

      The Titanic is really under the control of the good ship global media dot com. Few if any would consider JC to be a sage but just look at, from day one, the Blairite and US/UK media vendetta (BBC et al) simply on the basis that he may express, from time to time, a few sage like opinions. With no free press there is no democracy – and, win or lose GE2017, in the near future we only have the catastrophic iceberg that’s Fox’s successful bid for Sky to look forward to..

      Anyway, we’ll see if tomorrow is full steam ahead?

  2. […] be whole, we must take our gigantic melancholies and our gigantic mirths. We must be the true way. Maybe then we can truly call ourselves One […]

What're your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.