To wit: The age of individualism -- our own age -- licenses everybody alive to suppose his own notions are The Answer. To Whatever. We get along as well as we do only because many see the license itself as bogus.
Not so the brainless wonders of the Scottish independence movement, who are hoping the voters of Bonnie Scotland, in a special election next month, will declare for separation from the United Kingdom. The idea of a divorce for no reason whatever -- no good reason -- makes no sense. But it's a very modern way of analyzing things.
Yes, let's just go off and do things our own way -- because our own way is, in the circular reasoning of the modern age, our own way.
As for the vote in Scotland next month, I exercise my right as a Scot in residence across the great water (because of the irreversible choices of long-dead ancestors) to declare myself: Nae!!! Nivver!!! The haranguers for independence are daft. Their little Highland fling deserves to fall flat.
As for the modern tendency to disassociate, to move apart from, to cease collaboration with, to center intellectual activity within tighter and tighter bounds -- that's not going away. Community, and the partial submersion of crotchets and quirks and inner visions, lacks a future. We're right; everybody else is wrong -- that's the future.
The ongoing division of the United States into red and blue chunks and segments is chiefly the consequence of "blue" America's attempts to coerce "red" America on matters of cultural policy -- abortion, gay marriage, secularism in public life and so on. But "red" America's understandable reaction -- often expressed as withdrawal -- has consequences.
A common view of anything is a rarity these days. Take marriage: Same-sex couples want to do it their own way, not so much joining the ancient and hallowed institution of bride and groom as moving down river from it, to memorialize their own view of membership requirements.
The dissolution of social life and cultural agreement shrinks the fund of common experience, common knowledge, common memory. After a while, nothing we've done together -- found a country, established a form of government, enshrined important mutual, as well as individual rights -- matters as much as the things we do apart from each other.
Once upon a time, the United States maintained, more or less, a common culture: sang the same songs, wore the same clothes, watched the same movies, laughed at the same jokes. The rebels of the 1960s called it "conformity": boring, sterile, deadly, they said. Well, we took care of that problem! So definitively that we no longer care whether preparation for American citizenship involves more than rote memorization of the Pledge of Allegiance. Even use of the English language seems optional in modern America.
No wonder the brainless wonders of Scottish independence get away so easily with their scheme to cut away Sassenach English influences and hunker down, north of Gretna Green, with their memories of Bannockburn and the Solemn League and Covenant.
Mental apartheid has its origins in the Reformation, when Christianity shattered into 100 fragments, each more righteous than the rest. But the heyday of fragmentation is our own day. As the Kingston Trio once reminded us, "The whole world is festering with unhappy souls. The French hate the Germans; the Germans hate the Poles." And so on.
Defeat of Scottish independence as a mental obsession -- even non-Scots must hope for that -- would re-entrench no human commonwealths, but it might remind us how paltry, if widespread, is the desire for little-bitty huddles of the likeminded, pulling their blankets over their heads, telling everyone else, "go away; don't bother us."
The culture of divorce -- of flagrant separation -- flourishes outside as well as inside the marriage culture. Hardly anybody, it sadly seems, wants any way but his own.
The modern world has greater, more terrible problems than the Scottish independence movement. But the movement's -- well -- movement helps show why some of our problems are the size they are.