in the wake of last week's referendum in scotland and new zealand's general election the day after, i have been reflecting on what the word "national" means today.
the encumbent governing party in new zealand, just returned for a third term, is called "the national party". it's a right-wing party, increasingly neoliberal in all respects. they have spent the last 6 years busily adjusting our tax system to reduce the burden on the wealthy and corporates, and dismantling environmental legislation in order to open up our waters to deep sea oil drilling and our national parks to coal and other mining. they have allowed fracking to begin in new zealand, and to have the toxic waste from this risky practice to be spread on farmland and consumed by farm animals. they want to introduce genetically modified plants and animals to our carefully-protected ecosystem and they are busy negotiating in secret a trade deal with the USA that will give multinational corporations the right to sue our country and override our democratic laws. it's hard to find anything they have done that is truly in the "national" interest.
meanwhile in scotland, the SNP (scottish national party) championed the vote for independence; the word "national" in their name stands for putting the national interests of scotland firmly in first place, instead of being second class citizens under an english government. when the polls began to show a lead for pro-independence, the tabloid media (owned and paid for by ... ) began a concerted campaign of denigrating the SNP. the "national" in their name, apparently, is the same as the "national" in the BNP - which equates to the "national" in nationalsozialismus - the nazis. nationalism equates with facism, ergo any party with "national" in their name must be facist.
it's a pity this bit of information didn't make it to new zealand, as the nz national party have much more in common with facism than the SNP. but it did make it into the minds of frightened people in scotland, who perhaps even believed media reports that under independence food prices would soar and the IS would use scotland as a recruiting ground for islamic jihadists. this might still not have been enough to generate the swing to the "no" vote: rumours of vote-counting fraud are doing the rounds in social media. i have even been asked whether there could have been any fraud in new zealand's election; i immediately said "no", but then thought ... could there have been? it seems so bizarre, and wrong, that the election went the way it did.
i am left confused about what people understand "national" to mean today. it doesn't have to mean facism. care for and pride in one's country doesn't require hatred and intolerance for all other nations. surely we are more intelligent than to believe the simplistic binary approach of the tabloid media - the word "national" encompasses many perspectives. nz's national party are neoliberal millionaire businessmen while scotland's national party are socialist working people. they have about as much in common as the results of the two votes have in common with the real needs of our countries.
here is some post-vote commentary from scotland and new zealand: