England as a Colony

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England’s saddest hour

What a strange time we live in. Narcissistic celebrity MPs strut and pose for personal gain. The times are precarious, the scene nauseous, the principal characters repulsive.

Tory serial dissembler Boris Johnson describes the United Kingdom as a colony of Europe. England, the nation that possessed the greatest empire known in civilisation, a colony? Scotland is a colony and to some extent Wales, but England? What could he mean? He meant England is a colony of Germany. We are privy to a wave of English self-absorbed unhappiness over their self-inflicted troubles.

Boris and his ilk get off with mouthing nonsense because Theresa May is not a strong leader. In fact, she has no personality at all. To this day, I have no idea who she is or what she stands for, her principles are apt to switch week by week.

Who’s the colony here? Us or you?

Scotland as a colony of England is rejected by those who believe in Britain as the best place to live. They cannot accept the notion of political and civil constraint because they judge freedom in superficial ways, in choice of goods and schools and which beer to drink, proof to them they live in an open and free society.

To our history: over 400 English regiments garrisoned to quell the natives, the banning of Scots and Gaelic languages, no tartan or Highland dress allowed, no owning anything that could be construed as a weapon, outrageous taxes levied against the populace, destruction of infrastructure, and eviction from land tilled for generations.

Today the Scottish Anglophile either does not see or warmly welcomes any number of political and cultural restrictions patrolled by an antagonistic media and menadious, aggressive unionist politicians.

Self-abasement

As a creative writer my imagination goes into overdrive. I get troubling images of a German dominatrix dressed in Nazi uniform, whip in hand, standing astride a tied and gagged England, Mr Al Bion grovelling at her feet squealing, “Hard Brexit, hard, harder!”

An outrageous idea? Why are they putting themselves through this hell, and the rest of us? It wasn’t so long ago that we watched a television dramatisation of Len Deighton’s fanciful 1975 novel SS-GB, Britain as a Nazi colony. And there was a series set in Guernsey under Nazi occupation, Enemy at the Door. Why those subjects when we have so many others to choose from that convey contemporary issues? Do Little Englanders really feel the EU was edging us into that nightmare scenario?

British autocracy welcomed fascism in the 1930s, in Italy, Germany, Spain, and England. Surely that authoritarian doctrine fitted comfortably with the English class system of survival, expanded to protect their possessions and privileges against invasion by revolutionary Bolsheviks.

Our own King George V couldn’t bring himself to save his own cousin and his family, Tsar Nicholas II. At first he wrote asking that Nicholas be given sanctuary in England, but later withdrew the offer realising Nicholas might confuse the British proletariat enough to see him as contender for the Crown; best leave Nicholas and his family to the mercy of those dreadful socialists. (You won’t find that uncomfortable detail in the English version of Wikipedia’s history of the Russian revolution.)

Is class at the root of the English malaise? It has its tentacles in so much else in society. Could it be the English aristocracy will not defer to European superiority in anything? No earl, baroness or knight was ever underdog to a Herr, Señor or Signore. Perhaps England feels in joining the Common Market it married beneath itself.

End of an empire

Is England’s diminishing influence analogous to the Roman empire? Was the end of the Roman empire glorious or a whimper? Without doing serious research I know from 485 BC (Rome itself had fallen in 476) the Senate was based somewhere in Constantinople, its power whittled down to patricians no longer allowing commoners to take part in the government. They then took control of all civil and religious matters, rather in the form of Westminster excluding Scotland from Brexit negotiations while it disassembles the welfare state that Scotland wants to protect.

Civil wars erupted all over the vestiges of the empire between the traditionalists and the republicans. I have in the back of my mind one of the final acts of the Senate was to agree a statue could be erected to a minor senator, rather like Tory MPs who suggested there should be a statue to Margaret Thatcher. (I’ll stop here before scholars mug me on detail and divert readers from my analogy.)

If ancient historians are to be believed, the Roman Empire lasted just over 2,000 years from the days of legendary founders Romulus and Remus. A rough calculation of the British empire’s days might be 300 years beginning from the Act of Union until 1945.

If we take the formation of the United Kingdom as we know it from Ireland’s independence in 1922, then against all effort by it neighbour, Scotland is likely to regain freedom as the UK reaches its 100th birthday in 2022. A hundred years, not much of a run to mull over, not even for a friendly game of county cricket.

Teaching other nations how to live

I am sick of hearing Englishmen telling me how to live. I hear it in televised news, in radio discussions, read it in the press and on Twitter, patronising bollocks about why my country needs their input. The condescension isn’t only aimed at Scotland. It is tossed at any country England’s parliament decides is today’s existential enemy, or impoverished socialist state that should have known better than to reject extreme capitalism.

England is falling apart at the seams, stuffing all straw, their argument straw men, and I’m told better to be British than Scottish. One day they display an attitude of superiority, the next they express an inferiority as part of a Europe. They cannot come to terms with the approaching reality of becoming a small country. English decency, a quality ordinary English were once famous, is junked for xenophobic nationalism and bigotry.

If England cannot exercise its fantasy of showing other nations how to impose law and order it has decided it isn’t going to be a friend to those nations. Over the past decade we watched Westminster replace blacks and Asians with Brussels as whipping boy. The thinking is as obvious as a pimple on your nose: all bad things afflicting British hegemony will vanish overnight if we get rid of Brussels bureaucracy and out of the European Union. If there’s a better example of mass delusion I’ve yet to see it.

How could England descend so rapidly from the nation that taught other nations how to live civilly and play good cricket, to one of inferiority faced by a productive and prosperous Europe? Is England a defeated nation in the image of one of its past colonies, “on its back, trotters in the air”? It’s an amusing concept.

Britain in bondage

I am unable to get my head around Boris’s Britain surrendering to the disgusting domination of an erotic EU. “The EU is pursuing a similar goal to Hitler, a powerful superstate”, he said in 2016, telling us that as far as he was concerned the EU is Germany, and Germany is still the homeland of the Nazi.

Third-rate Tory MP Nicholas Ridley (who remembers him now?) lost his post describing the EU monetary system as “a German racket designed to take over the whole of Europe”. Tory and Labour politician have lined up since to tell us Europe is a land of control freaks. They backed it up with so much hot air you could refloat the Titanic with it.

Ridley was condemned by the perceptive who understood he spoke for a large section of the Conservative movement. People such as Ridley, and Enoch Powell with his ‘rivers of blood’ speech, were the precursors of Nigel Farage and Tommy Robinson, the neo-fascists we thought one-off cranks. How wrong we were.

They’re behind you! No they’re not! Yes they are!

Everything that afflicts English society now it brought upon itself. Everything – destruction of its national health service, communication systems in too few hands, the encouragement of national banks as gambling casinos, poverty and illnesses such as rickets not seen since the Fifties, corporate monopoly of everything, gross financial inequality, food banks, massive over-spending on hubristic projects, the rise of Scottish and Welsh nationalism, shambolic, painful exit from European cooperation, war after war to give England a false sense of purpose feeding its delusion as a world power.

Scotland is the last colony of the British empire resisting England’s overweening, volatile love-hate relationship. We ought to have been the first to leave its political debauchery. Independence from England’s sadism and self-pity can’t come soon enough.

NOTE: This essay is Part 2 of The English Nationalist’: https://wp.me/p4fd9j-nbC

 

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Posted in Scottish Independence Referendum, Scottish Politics | 7 Comments

Car News: Buying a Banger

A weekly look at all that’s rotten in the car industry, and a few good bits

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Dealer or private seller, the sticker price isn’t the actual price

There’s an old adage among restaurant owners which says always eat where the chef eats. That advice can be applied to almost any profession, always go to the doctor your doctor uses; always use the hairdresser your hairdresser uses; always use the funeral director- no, hold on. That one doesn’t fit.

What is true is, buy a high mileage old car your car dealer will buy for his own use. If anybody knows a good, safe bargain, a car dealer knows. ‘I’m looking for a cheap reliable second-hand car, got any ideas?’ is the most asked question I get from friends who know I know from bitter experience the minefield that awaits the unwary buyer.

Three basics to guide you: first choose a car for your needs, second, buy one with a known dependable engine, and third, buy a car least prone to rust if kept outside. Add to that, never buy a smoker’s wheels. You can’t get rid of the nicotine pong.

No matter how uncomfortable you feel, haggle with the seller to get the price down, and always have £500 set aside as a contingency for replacing worn parts. Sellers sell when there’s one repair too many for their budget. They all have a lower price they’ll agree to.

Check the car’s history to see when the last service was done, if over a year budget for a new service. Check tyre wear, and look for signs of leaking oil. It might be a cheap thing such as a cylinder head gasket, or expensive. the gearbox. All interior marks on plastics or fabric tears can be repaired, all dings and dents in the bodywork can be fixed if you’ve a mind to do it.

Space is limited here so I’ll concentrate on family vehicles. My choices assume you have at least two bread snappers and a cordless hoover in the form of a dog.

The models I recommend – not diesel! – are either the one before last or two before the current style. Car makers learned quickly how to exploit our need for one-upmanship; even a mild redesign to nose and dash has us hankering for the new model and ditching the old. Most people avoid the old model, the smart buyer’s opening for a bargain. Some old models can be uprated with the new headlights and grille, but if you’re not concerned with fashion, save your money.

None will punch a hole in the wind, so don’t expect them to cause gasps of envy from neighbours. On the other hand, your neighbour will have burned thousands of pounds in VAT and sudden devaluation buying a brand new car, leaving him to ponder the smug look on your face. The cars I recommend are fine and dandy in snow and ice. They are all practical, designed for harassed parents with more duties than there are hours in a day.

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The venerable Toyota RAV4, forerunner of all SUVs – lots around to choose from

Toyota’s RAV4. Okay, hands in the air admission. Regular readers will know I’ve owned a few, all three door variety, but the five door is a fine dependable car to own. There are 1.8 and 2 litre engines, manual or automatic. Toyota runs a discounted parts and service for older models to retain customer loyalty, but the engines are easy to fix by competent mechanics. The rear seats fold down or can be lifted out – a pain to store – offering a vast loading area. You can get two child seats in the back plus one youngster who doesn’t need a seat. 35 mpg is attainable in town, more on motorway journeys. The oldest model hangs the spare wheel on the back door, the newer one inside. Interiors wear well but spend time looking for those with leather. Anything between 100,000 and 110,000 thousands miles should cost no more than £4,000 fully loaded. Over that mileage look at £1,500 or less. A talented Mexican furniture maker I know has one now passing 350,000 miles and it’s still going strong. (Alternative: Honda CR-V – not as handsome as a RAV but as cheap as promises made to Scotland by Westminster.)

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Almost any Volvo is worth a look – this is the XC70 estate

VOLVO XC70. Scotland used to be Volvo’s biggest market outside Sweden. These days we’ve swapped estate cars for SUVs, a shame because an estate is better value. In earlier days I used one of Volvo’s stately barges for every sort of task, to shift children, go long trips, carry stripped pine doors, flagstones, shopping, and get to London and back. It never ever let me down. Bought by Ford in the Nineties, resold when Ford got into debt, Volvo downsized its cars, a good thing in my opinion. Their proportions are better now. 10 years use is as nothing to a Volvo. Load area is huge; you can shoot ducks in the back. A 2009 Volvo XC70 D5 automatic with 125,000 miles, full history and important cambelt change at 100,000 miles is the one to look for. Don’t pay more than £5,000. (Alternative, Skoda Octavia Estate 1.5. One of VW’s bargains even new. The unassuming choice.)

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The Subaru Outback – a classless car with some oomph in its belly

Subaru Outback. A young friend asked me to find an estate car yesterday to replace the Ford heap of junk that had given up the ghost at the side of the motorway. It was a happy parting of the ways. It had caused him a small fortune in breakdown repairs. A quick scan of the second-hand pages in the Autotrader’s internet site discovered two being sold off by Scotland’s Forestry Commission. They’d seen hard days driving up and down and over forestry track in the Highlands, but built to last with a rugged engine they needed only an interior clean and exterior polish to make them sparkle. His budget was £5,000, his above average annual use over 15,000 miles. I bought one for £3,750 and a full tank of petrol, only 72,000 on the odometer. A very happy father of two, he’s yet to see a part needing replaced after a year’s use. (Alternative: Skoda Yeti. Yes, another Skoda, not as fast as the Subaru but amazingly versatile especially in four wheel drive version.)

GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS

The spy in your car

New car safety laws proposed by the European Council will require all new cars to be fitted with data recorders that will log information such as the car’s speed or the state of activation of the car’s safety systems before, during and after a collision. No divorce from the EU will block the innovation because the cars we buy are, for the most part, made in Europe, the few made here destined to be sold in Europe. If approved by the European Parliament, the laws will require all new cars to have intelligent speed assistance systems, a good compensation for the brain matter missing in bad drivers. ISAS will inform drivers of prevailing speed limits and, when used in conjunction with cruise control, automatically adapt to the speed limit. It will not be possible “to switch off or suppress” the speed assistance system. The Black Box is a-coming.

Winter lights

This is the time of year when you discover how many stupid drivers have one headlight beam pointing up to the night sky, or see any number of show off drivers blinding you headlights full-on plus fog lights, and not forgetting the driver who dislikes headlights altogether, who relies on the Pole Star as guide. Blind drivers are sometimes in modern cars where the dash illumination comes on automatically soon as the key is turned, fooling the unwary into assuming front and rear lights are switched on. The rest are idiots driving without due care and attention. The one light up, one down syndrome is a mystery. Why don’t they notice when behind a car in slow moving traffic? Get yer lights fixed!

Death of wing mirrors 

Audi is sounding the death-knell for traditional wing mirrors by replacing them on its first ever electric car with all-seeing hi-tech video cameras and screens. The new Launch Edition of Audi’s e-Tron SUV is the first mass-production car to ditch conventional reflective mirrors and replace them with a live video stream on screens inside the vehicle. Instead of the driver looking through their windows into wing mirrors, the £82,240 five-seater SUV has replaced them with streamlined side-mounted video cameras and a live feed embedded inside the doors. The cameras automatically adapt their view to cope with motorway driving, turning and parking. The driver can even use the touch screen to zoom-in on specific trouble spots. £82,000 for that facility? How much if I just turn my head left and right and do without the cameras?

 

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Posted in Transportation | 8 Comments

Shoplifters – a review

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A game of happy families

Among the also-rans and drift plastic of so much Hollywood trash how pleasurable to bring reader’s attention to a five star film, the last of that ilk I reviewed ‘Son of Saul‘ the riveting study of Hitler’s death camp. I gave it five-plus stars. It is that rare thing, a film of high originality and searing truth.

This year, 2018, the winner of the Palm d’Or in Cannes hits our screens, surely Best Foreign Film when the Oscars come around. Shoplifters is not an American independent production, nor British, nor European but Japanese. Like their cars, the quality of their films is reliable.

There were expressions of surprise when this quiet, gentle work of art from Hirokazu Kore-eda won the fabled prize, but that first impression soon faded into acceptance that the finest films can slip past us without us spotting their lasting qualities immediately, especially when surrounded by work of a similar strength.

Shoplifters is a human drama of the kind Scots filmmakers are apt to make but inject too heavy a dose of miserableness – usually focusing our attention on a youthful individual or small cast surviving in poverty surroundings, the work invariably autobiographical. Kore-eda describes his film as “socially conscious”. Sounds Scots to me.

However, Kore-eda is first and foremost concerned with adult issues, constructing low-key nuanced studies of human nature. He came to prominence in the mid-Nineties, over the years delivering wee gems as passively as he films them.

Shoplifters rises easily to the giddy heights of a masterpiece. You will not find any action men, cold killers, adulterers, gun toting psychopaths in his story, only two very gentle and understanding police officers.

Kore-eda has been steadily amassing a fine portfolio of carefully crafted studies of human nature and behaviour in crowded domestic situations, people faced by forces they can barely control. He began his career in television and has since directed more than a dozen feature films, getting on with his day job, you might say, including Nobody Knows (2004), Still Walking (2008), and After the Storm (2016).

I first noticed his work when he won the Jury Prize at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival for the superb Like Father, Like Son. I found Shoplifters to be flawless.

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The epitome of the family unit – or is it?

The film creeps up on you. It yields its pleasures stealthily. Kore-eda follows his character’s everyday routines, so that his narrative proceeds at the winding pace of life. Knowing this should not put readers off seeing the film. Every little scene grips you. The accumulation has you rooting for each and every one of them.

We are presented with, what appears on the surface, a well- adjusted happy family. They live on the edge of an unfashionable corner of Tokyo in a house barely big enough for one person, nevermind the five that live there somehow finding space for all public and private things we have to do in a group. They get on with humdrum duties, brushing their teeth, waiting in line to use their one bathroom, going to work, not going to work, facing redundancy, shopping, cooking, reading the newspaper, watching television, telling each other anecdotes of the day’s encounters.

The story is a concoction of real-life incidents Kore-eda collected over years. He’s a story-teller par excellence. Based on true news items, Kore-eda’s collection centers around an atypical working class household, an ordinary family, one that’s fallen on hard times.

The father, Osamu (Lily Franky), works as an odd-job labourer, but he and his young son Shota (Kairi Jyo) still have to pilfer groceries from the supermarket to survive. Osamu (Lily Franky), the pater familias, is a master shoplifter now training his teenage son to follow in his footsteps. Osamu’s wife, Nobuyo (Sakura Ando), works at a bar is also adept at thieving. Her sister Aki (Mayu Matsuoka), works at a peep show for an online pornography company dressing up as a schoolgirl, short black skirt, white Bobby socks and all. Granny is addicted to pachinko slot machines, eats sloppily, and mourns the proliferation of liver spots spreading over her skin.

Life takes an unexpected turn when they find a young child, Juri (Miyu Sasaki) cold, hungry and miserable, playing alone on a first floor balcony. Thinking her rejected and beaten by her parents – they over-hear violent squabbling from inside the apartment, the child quivering in fear – they take her home. You and I might call that kidnapping. The family call it adoption. Either way it is stealing.

To our surprise, revealed one scene at a time, we see almost every minute of their daily lives and how one interconnects with the other once they’ve taken Juri in as the newest recruit. Gradually, through offhand comments and occasionally surprising actions, the connections between these individuals start to seem a lot less cut and dried.

Are Osamu and Shota, who are well-coordinated shoplifters, actually father and son? The son seems remote from his father, uncertain of him. And is there a darker past between Osamu and Nobuyo, who seem so affectionate and tender toward each other? As the story unfolds we begin asking more questions of what we are witnessing.

Kore-eda eases us into this affectionate environment on the margins of society and then slowly, subtly unpicks every weft and weave of the tapestry he’s taken time to create. He portrays all this in a low-key perambulation, refusing to give us any high drama, or sudden shocks. No one is in despair screaming blue murder.

This is not soap. This is a family finding life is against them, one disaster after another.

Hirokazu Kore-eda

Hirokazu Kore-eda with his Palm D’Or

Quite frankly, this is so beautifully observed, so universal in its application, I found myself tearful too many times. The cast members never seem to be acting. The youngest children, especially, are quite wonderful. They play as if seasoned movie stars. The last time I saw child actors play so naturalistically was in Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves.

We are privy to the six central characters internal yearnings while together they’re warm and funny, enjoying each others’ company, questioning each other’s day and motivations, separate they’re exhibiting personal doubts and uncertainties.

Lily’s Osamu is the good natured Ando’s Nobuyo is pragmatic. Kiki brings a luminosity to grandma. (The revered actress died soon after the film’s completion.) Matsuoka has an introspective hopefulness, especially when she bonds with a nice-boy client she’s met in the porn rooms who might make a good partner. Both Jyo and Sasaki bring quite breathtaking depth to some the film’s most powerful moments.

Society calls these people criminals. They are not criminal. Again, we call them immoral and anti-social: they lie, cheat, steal and swindle; they inveigle little Juri into their schemes. To my mind, their motivations in welcoming the girl are above reproach. She is an abused child, after all, and they want to make her happy.

This is not Dickens’s Oliver Twist led by Fagin. This is life as most of us have experienced at some time or other and hopefully escaped. Some of us never do.

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A typical family on a day’s outing at the beach

Kore-eda allows the actors to tease out complex characters with the greatest emotional economy. Sakura Andô is particularly strong as the mother, a hugely funny woman who enjoys a good laugh and giggle, who will work any angle to get by. Scenes shot at a seaside retreat are poignant, a lasting memory for family that is, at base, expressing eternal unhappiness. This is a very humane little masterpiece.

The great Japanese master Akira Kurosawa solved the resistance of the American market to japanese films, in particular his own, by buying a cinema in Downtown Los Angeles. From that moment on his undoubted gifts were recognised in the west.

To our shame Shoplifters is playing in one cinema in Edinburgh in the whole of the UK.

  • Star Rating: Five stars
  • Cast: Lily Franky, Sakura Andô, Mayu Matsuoka, Kairi Jyo
  • Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
  • Writer: Hirokazu Kore-eda
  • Cinematographer: Ryûto Kondô
  • Composer: Haruomi Hosono
  • Duration: 1 hour 42 minutes
  • RATING CRITERIA
  • 5 plus: potential classic, innovative. 5: outstanding. 4: excellent. 3.5: excellent but flawed. 3: very good if formulaic. 2: straight to DVD. 1: crap; why did they bother?
Posted in Film review | 4 Comments

The English Nationalist

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Nigel Farage, hard core English nationalist to his string vest, married to a German

I am apt to describe colonialism as English for the conspicuous reason it was none other than England that built one of the greatest empires in human history, erecting their Union Jack logo on the perimeter fence of each new land bank they had possessed with force or a string of cheap beads.

True to type, some opportunistic Scots signed up as skilled tradesmen, brickies, sparkies, chippies, barmen, to help the English build their whiter than white Jerusalems, and we sacrificed a few of our best guarding their adventures in the property trade.

When did the Englishman’s Englishman first appear? I submit it appeared from the hand and imagination of William Shakespeare, but he had a wealthy sponsor, a Scotsman.

Scotland’s history as a nation begins around the 12th century, England somewhere in the middle of the 14th century. English historians aver England is the oldest nation on the planet – well, they would, wouldn’t they? – but it wasn’t until William Shakespeare dipped his quill into a pot of ink that a definition of an English patriot began to be recognisable.

Musical chairs

Some years ago I produced and directed a musical about the 1922 General Strike. Guy Wolfenden composed the score, some rollicking good tunes too, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s musical director.

Guy had a very English sense of humour, droll. I gave him a recording of Billy Connolly, a gift returned. Cambridge educated, he wrote, “I can see this man is very funny, but I cannot understand a word he says.” Guy taught me a lot about staging musicals and even more about Shakespeare. He taught me Shakespeare made the English, English.

In Shakespeare’s tragedies we get a shape emerging of Englishness. There is in all of them a collective sense of belonging to a land worth fighting for. He gave the Englishman a recognizable identity. Will Shakespeare created the English man’s identity, he designed English exceptionalism.

You understand why English promote their national playwright so assiduously dedicating not one theatre company to his work but two, and three theatres, the RSC in Stratford upon Avon, and two in London, the National Theatre and a recreation of the Globe Theatre at Bankside.

For all the romantic aura that surrounds Shakespeare the rebel poet and playwright, Will was a royalist. He became a royal servant, his company given the prestige of being appointed the King’s Men. This had a significant influence on his work.

Is there a Scotsman in the house?

In the grand tradition of dumbass Scottery, it was a Scot who commissioned Will to fashion a likeness of the finest Englishman in his plays, a Scotsman who wanted to make England and Scotland one land, James the VI of Scotland, and the I of England and Ireland, son of Mary Queen of Scots, progenitor of the Union of the Crowns ending centuries of Anglo-Scottish rivalry. (He got that last bit wrong.)

In his nine history plays Shakespeare left us with an indelible impression of Englishness in the form of the heroic adventurer and the heroic failure. There’s the schemer and there’s ambitious above his ability. His English men are as well-rounded as his women.

Women are depicted as cheery floor scrubbing wives, hard bitten feisty lovers, demented princesses, passive aged wives of kings, scheming wives of kings, or magical fairies, but it’s his men who stand out in the memory, with the exception of Lady MacBeth.

Will’s Englishmen listen to the advice of clowns, they ruminate on their fate, they fight for England’s honour, they make futile gestures for the sake of a warped ideal, and they don’t need Johnny Foreigner to tell them how to do it.

England my England – so bug off, Jock

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day!”

Henry V, in Act IV Scene iii 60–67.

The word England appears over 200 times in Shakespeare’s Elizabethan plays, a record for any prodigious playwright in any age. (Count them!) Once Jimmy Five O’One takes the throne, Will tones down the ‘England above all else’ rhetoric and substitutes ‘Britain‘.

‘English’ appears over 130 times in his early plays reduced to under 20 in his Jacobean work. Once the Jacobean era is in full swing ‘Britain’ features almost 30 times, before that only twice. This is a writer who knows which side of his bread is buttered.

Will Shakespeare gives us Englishmen as comical, thick farmhands, vain courtiers, salty sea captains, earls and sons of earls, kings of conscience, feckless princes, fat and thin men quathing mead in Ye Olde Coach Tavern, joky, opinionated, slapping the buttocks of serving wenches men of bluff and bluster, characters predating Nigel Farage, Prince Charles and Carry On films by four hundred years.

‘English’ – now you see it, now you don’t

Sublimating English into British takes a lot of careful placing and skill. Shakespeare made it work very successfully. This brings me to the two great wars.

Most of the First World War was England against the Ottoman Empire, a war to protect the British empire, really the English empire. (Glasgow had its own Empire where many an English comic died an agonising death.)

Returning infantry from the trenches, profoundly disenchanted with the blunders of incompetent, vain generals who caused the deaths of millions, saw Churchill invoke the patriotism of ‘the indomitable Brit’, Tommy, Taffy, Mick and Jock, a mythical image created to encourage enlistment in another European war.

By 1945 England and Britain had become synonymous but in reality both meant England. Neither Scotland nor Wales had any say in how the war should be conducted, just as we have no say in withdrawal from Europe. Brexit is an English decision.

In post-Brexit Britain, House of Commons MPs quote Shakespeare’s Henry V speeches, “once more unto the breach, dear friends, one more”, invoking patriotism of old. It reminds us of Lawrence Olivier’s 1944 stage-to-screen adaptation, a propaganda catalyst to inspire us to protect Blighty against the ‘Hun’.

Does he speak English?

Of course, any definition of an English nationalist cannot be sustained if it includes people with a skin tone darker than a caramel. English are not colour-blind.

The French, England’s auld enemy and Scotland best ally, are as bemused by English cultural contradictions as we are. They know it took William the Conqueror and a few thousand Norman pals to make England English, in a Norman sort of way.

The Bayeux Tapestry tells the story of England’s birth. Covered head to foot in heavy chain armour with a huge bronze helmet on your head protecting every part of your skull, ear nose and neck included … you get an arrow in your eye killing you instantly.

That’s ironically comical. And it’s very English, Harold, an heroic failure.

The Union is dead

That contract England made with Scotland worked well for the building of an empire, but it is worthless now faced by the rise of Scottish and Welsh nationalism, aided by a sour handful of ugly Northern Ireland MPs, pushed on by the sheer crowd pleasing confidence of republican Ireland.

Coinciding with discontent in the nations of Britain, the rise of English nationalism is inevitable. I for one do not begrudge England its chance of revolution.

The English are looking for a community of St Georges, where the Tolpuddle Martyrs can mix with Gordon of Khartoum, and Scott of the Antarctic can sip a tin of tea with Sir Ranulph Fiennes, all wrapped up in endless boozy nights singing ‘Rule Britannia‘, that cultural contradiction the French so enjoy.

Contemporary Englishmen, the pundits, the British state journalists, the man in the street, each argue we must allow English to recreate their own democratic community in their own image. Fair enough.

Seventy years of increasing prosperity and peace a member of the European Union has little or no meaning for the neo-Englishman. His greatness rekindled, he’s a knight of the realm waving a plastic toy sword, the Rees-Moggs, who stand tall, unbending against a tide of refugees and migrant workers, all the time being terribly nice.

All outward ambition gone

England gave up the desire to rule France having raided Scotland’s wealth and forests to fund that goal. Symbolically England is doing that self same thing again in the form of dumping the EU to reduce their multi-ethnic community to English-only.

That the dishonest and deluded among them have cherry picked all the worst qualities and ideals in their headlong rush to be English is their error to remedy, not ours. Perhaps this essay should be entitled ‘The English Patient‘ after Michael Ondaatje’s novel. It will take time to find reason again for there are enough good English folk capable of that fairness they were known for who will manage to clear the air of the worst of it – one day.

Meanwhile the English prime minister runs around the country blind to all around her, a rabbit with myxomatosis, bumping into walls, making incoherent squeaks of Britain’s renewed greatness, when all the time she is talking about England. 

“Who will speak for England?” shouted the Daily Mail headline. English people are choosing to be English. We should be happy for them. We Scots have a different society to fashion, truly democratic, inclusive, though we share similar feelings of patriotism.

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FURTHER READING:

Published elsewhere on this site is a few informative essays on British colonialism.

Posted in Scottish Politics | 11 Comments

Car News: New Cars

A weekly look at all that’s rotten about car ownership plus some good bits

LA motor show

The Los Angeles Motor Show, same ole, same ole

The Los Angeles Motor Show is in full swing. Two things stick out: few saloons are being bought just as in the UK – SUVs everybody’s favourite – and though strapped for cash General Motors is exhibiting models their stand hardly gets attention. (I’m reporting this via friends at the stands.)

This month General Motors announced thousands of redundancies. They might seem far away to harm us but the big three US manufacturers have fingers in car ‘n parts pies all over the globe. In truth, auto makers have been churning out far too many cars for too long, locking themselves into ambitious it will never end profit goals.

What happens in the US of A happens here. Readers will remember GM sold off Vauxhall to the French recently, a good old Blighty company, who are now busily shifting production to France to avoid the icy blasts of Brexit.

GM will cut 14,700 jobs in their North American factories, more than 6,000 blue collar workers in their Canadian plant. Cuts include 15% of GM’s 54,000 white-collar workforce, over 8,000 people, and come as 18,000 workers are asked to accept voluntary redundancy. The reality is halted careers, impoverished families, and dashed hopes.

Capitalist priorities tell us what happens next. On shedding loyal workers to protect the boss’s humongous pay packets and bonuses and fat shareholder returns, the company’s shares rise, and so it was with GM. Share prices rose 5.5% on the news. There’s nothing greater to gladden the heart of a city investor than a few thousand lives tossed onto the scrapheap.

Trump was the man who promised the car workers life would be better when he stopped foreign automobile imports and steel with higher and higher tariffs, a man who has done nothing constructive in his life; everything he touches is regressive. Trump held a rally close to GM’s Lordstown plant in July and told workers not to sell their homes because “jobs are coming back”.

This week Trump said, limply, “This country has done a lot for General Motors. They better get back to Ohio, and soon.” And soon means, there’s no rush chaps. It has echos of George Osborne telling crooked banks they had better get their houses in order … and they had fifteen years to do it, sp don’t cancel that month in the Seychelles yet, boys.

With not a shred of irony the company’s boss Mary Barra said the tariffs on imported steel imposed earlier this year by the Trump administration cost it $1bn and counting. $1 billion that should have gone into creating cars fit for the new age. Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac only good as old classic cars you can buy and sell quick for a premium profit.

Buyers took note that increases in saloon (sedan) prices were poor value against owning an SUV. You get extra headroom in an SUV but little extra leg or luggage room. Business me in the US as well as here are not renewing the lease on their current company vehicle because it’s cheaper to buy one released from a lease agreement. A few more toys and a new designed nose isn’t enough to entice the wary and the pocket shy.

I was particularly impressed by one worker, failing to hold back tears, telling how he had lost his GM job three times in the past and each time pulled up stakes and moved home and family to rejoin GM at a new plant. Now for the fourth time he was getting the heave-ho, on this occasion without any hope of another job.

Workers face the brutality of being dispensable items – a GM factory in Ontario

The company has begun a long and expensive transition to a new transportation model that embraces electrified and automated vehicles, many of which will be shared rather than owned. They lagged behind the move to cleaner vehicles, allowing company’s such as Tesla to lead the way. Now the worker pays the price for management’s extended time playing golf on the fairway.

Rivals Ford and Fiat Chrysler have curtailed US car production already. Ford plan to stop building nearly all cars in North America.

Back in the Los Angeles the Car Show has lots of shiny tin metal. Despite falling sales the show goes on. BMW shows off its aggressive new grille; Porsche reminds us the 911 sports car remains one of the most coherently beautiful designs in the automotive world yet bigger and fatter with each new version; to complaints their cars are bulky, Lexus responds by designing an uglier SUV than last time. Most of the cars have been seen elsewhere. The only vehicle worthy of attention genuinely new is an electric pickup.

Outworldly nothing changes, inwardly it’s all change.

BMW X7

BMW’s thrusting new kidney grille, and lots of wheel spokes to collect dirt and dings

GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS

Edinburgh considers electric charging points

I expect other Scottish cities to follow suit: A pioneering plan to introduce a citywide network of electric vehicle charging points is under consideration by Edinburgh councillors. The City of Edinburgh Council and Transport Scotland claim Edinburgh is the first city in the UK to put forward such an ambitious and comprehensive Electric Vehicle Infrastructure business case, prepared for them by the Energy Savings Trust. (I wonder if they’ve thought of adapting the electric gubbings at the base of lampposts rather than add more street clutter to pavements?) By 2023 Edinburgh hopes to install 211 new charging points at a cost of £3.4 million. (No idea why that odd number.) Most of these charging points will be “fast chargers” for on-street residential charging, although there will also be some charging facilities for taxis and at park and ride sites. 

Death wish pedestrians

Another dark, dank and dingy winter enfolds around us, another load of death wish pedestrians challenging cars, buses and trucks to a game of Squashed Hedgehog. This week alone, notwithstanding stresses caused by disjointed disciplinary committees, I almost hit three folk each wearing all-black head to toe stepping off the pavement left field. My wee Smart car has very thin windscreen pillars but that still doesn’t offer enough visibility to see people dressed as if Benicio Del Toro hunting South American drug lords in the night, totally oblivious of traffic. For god’s sake, wear reflective hi-rez armbands, jackets, head torches, even LED lit trainers soles will help. Dear Scottish Government – make safety wear mandatory!!! (Sorry about the Tory bit.)

The mad M8

Does any reader use the M8 for daily travel or used it lately? Tailgated by White Van Man is the norm. You overtake a big rig and choose a distance ahead to move back to the inside lane only to see Mr Grim Reaper a foot from your boot, face contorted in an expression a rugby player in a scrum will envy, trying to push you faster than the speed limit. Once you move aside he’s onto the next driver. Tailgating is illegal, but give me jam-packed 20 mph city roads to the race track of the M8. Last trip I took to Glasgow and back left me drained.

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Posted in Transportation | 8 Comments

A Heinous Crime

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Will blood letting on the alter of political expediency cause the sun to shine again on Scotland’s independence and the crops to grow?

Anti-Semitic? Who is the accuser?

This part of the article calls upon Fiona Robertson to resign, the SNP’s Women’s Rights and Equalities convener. I am of the opinion she is unfit for the important post she currently holds. I shall return to this issue later. The second part is a Petition to the SNP to get its house in order, a section authored by others who feel as I do.

In all the manufactured hullabaloo that emanated from the GMB union bosses and Labour’s blundering Scottish branch, calculated to deflect criticism from their anti-Scotland antics, no one appears to have noticed that Wolfson expressed mere anger at my questioning of her behaviour and comments. Her lack of a specific allegation of malice aforethought begs the question: why did the SNP react so ineptly and cowardly in assuming there was cause for concern?

On what basis did the SNP’s Disciplinary Committee suspend my membership, ultra vires, and without me present or actually a member of the SNP – and yet agree upon a verdict of guilty? Who in that committee is qualified in law?

In essence, my essay – written in two parts, the second entitled ‘Fascism, Us and Them‘ – stated a few obvious truths, namely that a union exists to uphold the civil rights of its members, there to spread wealth among the weak and the disenfranchised, and yet we have the glaring contradiction of a Unionist organisation operating in Scotland telling the populace to forego their civil and constitutional rights by voting against their own interests – self-determination. This is hypocrisy as legend writ on a union’s banner.

The women taking time off to protest lost pay – a seriously bizarre method of attaining pay equality – they mobilised to show frustration at the alleged length of time Glasgow council is taking to work out a complicated but a fair and equitable system of settlement.

Is there a similar Scots-based union manufacturing unrest operating in England and if so, why? The subtext of my article was the worrying adoption, consciously or unconsciously, of neo-fascist language seeping into our every political discourse.

The fault, dear Brutus…

To my mind the fault lies with the SNP. And that is a very sad thing to have had to say.

For one thing, the party ought to have been quicker off the mark in spotting the GMB’s tactics in regard to the women’s strike. Were the SNP street smart they would have drawn the GMB’s fire power. Instead they left the beleaguered but industrious executive of Glasgow’s council to repeat impotently their avowed support for pay equality, a mess left by the previous Labour administration supported by the GMB.

Even Wolfson made clear they had had ‘twenty meetings” with council officials by October, a considerable number of discussions by any count clearly intended to reach an agreeable solution. We got media glee at the sight of a group of women protesting their situation is the entire fault of the SNP.

The council, I must add, is utterly devoted to women’s rights. Was a two-day loss of pay rally the only way the GMB could show annoyance? Of course not. The more strikes seen to happen in Scotland, the more opponents can claim we are the same society beset by the same problems as England, so let’s not determine our own future.

The principle

Normally I stay back from this sort of affray for reasons of dignity and to help defuse the controversy. I’ll have no choice soon when legal counsel take over the process of action against key individuals, but there’s a serious principle at stake that needs expressed now.

The principle under attack is this: if every individual named and smeared by our opponents is to be taken out and shot by our own side for the sake of political expediency, who can blame the enemies of democracy from keeping a list of prime targets until each name is crossed out in red, their strategy deemed a success?

The brutal tactics of the British State know no limit nor decency.

Fiona Robertson

I call upon Fiona Robertson to step down from her post as Women’s Rights and Equalities Convener. She does not have the acumen or the experience to command the post.

Her attack on my integrity is both scurrilous and lethal. I regard it as defamation and have reported it as such. Her blog undermined cool logic by all sides, inflaming the issue out of all proportions.  She created a false validity where none exists.

Her preposterous psychobabble was quoted and argued extensively in the Twitter sphere causing countless people to stray into defamation. Her tweeted protestation that she did not report me to the SNP is disingenuous in the extreme.

Her deconstruction of my essay is the work of a fantasist. In attempting to seek out and prove the impossible by conjuring unconscious thoughts and prejudices out of thin air, and portray them as inherently evil, she promoted herself to an SNP expert in Freudian and Jungian psychology. She has no qualifications for that role.

I need cite only one example of her hubristic ineptitude. She claims my reference to the genesis of the GMB in east London is a ‘dog whistle’ – a sly all-encompassing fascistic use of language that I deplore. She is telling people what to think. 

East London is where a number of boiler maker factories existed. The GMB began as a boilermaker union. Unless she can prove otherwise, any number of boilermakers working there in that trade were not Jewish. Nobody can claim my reference is anti-Semitic. Indeed, what has Robertson to say to the author of Wikipedia’s page on the GMB which supports my innocuous statement of that union’s early history?

I shall go further – those who say one should know a Jewish person by their surname are almost certainly the same who think you can tell a Jewish person by their facial features. That despicable ideology is not too far away from sewing a yellow star to their jacket.

For someone proclaiming herself a supporter of human rights Robertson violates mine.

And the rest…..

I predicted what the SNP’s decision would be and alas was proved correct. We hope to create a better society than now; in this case the SNP show us they prefer the old ways.

They have precedent for sacrificing loyal supporters. Michelle Thomson was crucified and yet had done nothing wrong. Then again, I am in good company, the SNP expelled Alex Salmond back in the days when he was an outspoken, energetic young politician.

Thus, truly humbled by the support received from people I didn’t know existed let alone followed my literary work, I do not think the SNP is in any mind to admit it has made an error of judgment. Nevertheless, I reprint the letter below from those shocked at the SNP’s unconscionable reaction to assassination attempts by our common enemy.

The Petition

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE SNP AND THE WIDER SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT

In writing this joint statement we, the undersigned – bloggers and other influencers in the campaign for Scottish independence, affirm our commitment to independence and to the unity of the independence movement in its entirety.

It is not our aim to cause discord or to encourage members of the SNP to cancel their memberships. We hope only to raise our concerns and to ask that the Disciplinary Committee and the leadership of the SNP reconsider their decision, and we hope sincerely that the contents of this letter will be taken seriously and in the spirit in which they are intended.

Yesterday the decision was made by the Disciplinary Committee of the Scottish National Party to rescind the party membership of Gareth Wardell, the well-known and much respected author of The Grouse Beater blog. This decision was made as a result of an article he published addressing the issue of the GMB, a London-based trade union, acting in Scotland to deny people their democratic rights.

Owing to the author’s reference in the blog to the Nazis’ attitude to trade unions in the 1930s and 40s and his quotation of the term “the Jew” – in the context of citing Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf – the leadership of the GMB union accused him of making an antisemitic attack on Ms Rhea Wolfson, who, unbeknownst to Mr Wardell at the time of writing, is herself Jewish.

We agree without reservation that antisemitism and all forms of racism, prejudice, and discrimination are always wrong. The campaign for Scottish independence is an open and inclusive social and political movement which welcomes the participation and activism of everyone who believes independence is the best option for the future of our country. However, after much discussion and careful consideration, we do not accept Grouse Beater’s contribution was indeed anti-Semitic or racist or discriminatory in the least.

It is our firm belief that his words were deliberately and opportunistically taken out of context and weaponised against him and the entire movement in a concerted attack by the union, members of the Scottish Labour Party – to which the GMB is affiliated, and elements of the anti-independence tabloid press.

Frustratingly, this unjustified accusation was taken up by and supported by a number of high-profile people in the SNP – most notably Ms Fiona Robertson the SNP’s national women’s and equalities convener. In an article published on her own blog titled: “Holding Ourselves to Our Own Standards”, she made the claim that “most people… are not people who have enough background experience of anti-Semitism to make that judgement.” Yet she herself, without any qualifications in racism or antisemitism in particular, is – apparently.

Misquoting and wholly misrepresenting Gareth Wardell, Ms Robertson went on in her piece to offer a somewhat problematic definition of antisemitism and from this establish her case that he was sending out a “dogwhistle” to anti-Semites and racists:

The explanation is as follows: if you are writing about a union leader who is Jewish, bringing up Hitler’s view on unions – that they were dangerous because Jewish people controlled them – and then specifically talking about the Jewish union leader implies a link. Otherwise there is no reason whatsoever to start quoting Hitler. It essentially says ‘Hitler believed that Jewish people controlling unions was bad, and this person is Jewish and is controlling a union in a way I don’t like.’ The link between those two dots is ‘so maybe he had a point’.

“Bringing up Hitler’s view on unions,” even when speaking to a Jewish person, is not in and of itself anti-Semitic. This is at best a tenuous grasp. Gareth Wardell at no point claimed unions were dangerous “because Jewish people controlled them.”

This much is a serious misrepresentation of the point he was making. On this Mr Wardell was clear; that this was Hitler’s view, and that the Nazis used this pernicious belief in order to undermine and attack trade unions – which he describes as one of the “cornerstones of democracy.”

Ms Robertson concludes this argument by suggesting that Mr Wardell’s conclusion is that “maybe [Hitler] had a point.” This assessment, sadly, suggests only one of two things; either Ms Robertson has failed to understand the article she is critiquing or is guilty of malicious intent. The Grouse Beater article implies no such thing.

It is reasonable to conclude, given the position of Fiona Robertson in the SNP, that her opinion has become the uncritically accepted opinion of the party’s leadership and has therefore informed the judgement of the Disciplinary Committee and its decision to expel him from the party.

We, the undersigned, hold that both this judgement and the decision to cancel Mr Wardell’s membership of the party are unwarranted and utterly unacceptable. This decision undermines freedom of expression within the party and the movement, and seriously damages the trust that we depend on, that the party will not dispose of us in order to satisfy a perceived need in the political leadership in the movement to appear above reproach.

Signed 

Craig Murray, David Hooks (PoliticsScot), Jason Michael (Jeggit) MacAlba, Mr Malky, Tommy Sheridan, Tradasro, WeeDetour, Ken McDonald (Managing Editor iScot), Peter Bell, Indy Witch – Margaret Lindsay, Eddie Macdonald, Andy Ellis, Alicia Murray, Deryck Rossborough, Bernadette S., Ken Scott, Nevyn, Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh, Janie (Dissolve the Union), Caroline (Freedom Woman), Professor John Robertson, Matt Vallance (Socrates MacSporran), Margaret McGill, Karen Fisher, Ann Christie, Piers Doughty Brown, Stuart Teadley, Lynn Middleton, Iain MacGillivary, Ian Brotherhood, Hugh Wallace, Valerie Rettie (TenaciousV), Fearghas McKay, Ramona McMahon, Arthur Stramash, Danyal Khan, Graham Turner, Terry Ferguson, Bill (ScotsSolomon), Professor John W.Robertson, David Mooney, EU.Linda, Tomas O’Braonian, Marion Scott, Suzanne Robertson, James A. Mcvean, X.Stick, M. Cooper, Brian Robert Joyce, Jammy Dodger, Fiona Kabuki, Patsy Millar, Gordon Bain, A.B. Allan, Helen Yates, Jim Dewar, Gordon Doyle, Tracy Cairns, Highlander Patriot, Gordon Adam, Elaine Mackenzie, Morag Kerr, George Trist, Rab Paterson, Chas Anderson, Dubh Stiubhart, Dave Llewllyn, Anthony Little.

Posted in Scottish Politics | 61 Comments

Taming Power

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The Union doesn’t exist. It hasn’t existed since Westminster stole Scotland’s oil

When the new culture, the new society has been established in Scotland we shall look back at all the puerile spats, frantic, inane trolls, unionist fabrications and manufactured disputes and insults with a comforting warmth knowing we surmounted them all. We might allow ourselves a tinge of regret that we got involved with a few fanatics instead of ignoring them. And before readers cheer too loudly, I include odd supporters of the SNP one would not wish to associate for fear of being seen as irrational or ill-informed.

Indeed, my first ever attendance at an SNP meeting in 2013 – there to observe – I encountered not one but two members resolutely set against Scotland’s independence. In such moments of horror I am apt to wonder if man has any right to exist. It was if they had gotten onto the wrong train going to the wrong destination but were so stubborn that they insisted on getting their money’s worth determined to see the journey to its bitter conclusion.

Boring stuff

Anyhow, not being much attracted to the boring but essential business of branch meetings I lost interest in the sameness of discussions, repelled when Angus Robertson managed to swing the SNP to seek membership of the USA puppet force called NATO. Why seek to overthrow one schizophrenic tyranny only to welcome another? I slunk away to fire enthusiasm for liberty expressed in soapbox essays. Wisdom is not only intellectual, we need emotion to propel action.

Occasionally I read of supporters who think the party will disband soon as independence is reinstated. Why will that happen? Contrary to popular belief, the SNP is disinterested in brief power. Momentary expediency isn’t in the veins of a political force that has waited patiently for almost 100 years to show its mettle.

Now that the SNP has held power for a decade and more, with independence in sight, what it must guard against is thinking any criticism of Scotland’s renaissance is an attack on that renaissance or indeed on its governance. It has to embrace dissent that isn’t hell bent on destruction but strives for construction.

The SNP seeks a wider point of view than mere governance of a small country. I want Scotland to join the world of nations, so does the SNP. I mean by that, the world beyond and including the European Union. I want us to achieve internationalism not by tartans and whisky exports and Scottish movie stars, and not by having to ask England’s permission for leave of absence from the UK to take a walk outside the garden gate.

Bring a note from your parent

Why ask Westminster for permission for anything? Look at the state of England now – what a mess.

To follow England’s lead or sit back and let their racist, intolerant ideology infuse our daily existence puts the future of our very society, our community at stake; we have very little time left to raise Scotland to a nation state again, to defeat the forces of unreason that wish us to remain servile and provincial.

Scotland be advised:

For the first time in 800 years Ireland has greater power than England. Simple arithmetic: shoved aside in the past it was isolated.

Now Ireland has twenty-seven states rooting for it. A small country inside the EU has superior influence than a large one on the outside. One decade Ireland is highly prosperous, the next in debt to the EU the butt of arrogant Englishmen, the next back on its feet again and fighting fit – how fortunate to live in an independent nation.

You’re throwing away your sovereignty, cry unionists, chucking it out by leaving the grip of the UK for the membership of the EU. Well, that’s fine by me, for it is pertinently obvious we shall be in a superior position to organise and handle interdependence with England when we have twenty-seven other states minding our back.

Dunkirk spirit

In a shopping mall car park I got into a brief conversation with an owner of a French car. Out of left field I heard him say, “I hope the French get it in the neck for what they’re doing to us over Brexit”.

Doing to us? England voted to leave France and all EU states. What was he talking about? Dunkirk? Did I really hear the spirit of Dunkirk outside Tesco’s? Was he about to ask me if I owned a small boat and could he commandeer it to Calais? Was he worried about Brit expats, their potential loss of pensions deserting the EU and wanted to bring them home to safety and endless editions of Coronation Street?

Have you heard the prattle from the Tory 1922 Committee? Did I really hear chief Brexiteers invoke the hundred years war as a cri de coeur for English hegemony? Jacob Rees-Mogg and his medieval knights must keep suits of armour in their lobby halls. Do they forget Scotland was on the other side?

You don’t need to be a student of drama to recall Shakespeare’s Henry V riding out to battle at Agincourt warning that we Scots will use the moment to attack England’s northern towns. And that we certainly did. Scotland was allied to France. By all accounts that seems to be the SNP’s model of  campaign – wait to see how the ravages of Brexit affect the downtrodden English and then strike while they are in disarray chasing rats for dinner.

Do we have to wait until Brexit does its worst? How many small nations had to wait on a neighbour state falling apart before declaring their independence? The historic tendency is to demand autonomy after years of colonial rule.

What we witness is England’s determination to hold tight to its last vestiges of empire, the Union between Scotland and England, and their utter indifference to Scotland’s rights. And they don’t much give a damn about Ireland either.

The Hundred Years War might resonate in the breasts of a few English folk but it has damn all relevance to Scots and Irish.

A very English revolution

England is undergoing a seismic shift in its identity. At the moment it defines its self solely in terms of not being Johnny Foreigner. It has yet to define what it is to be English, and where England should sit at the world’s round table. They are going through a very painful rebirth of navel gazing, retreating from the world’s stage, insular, chronically uncertain of who they are and where they want to go. How long this phase will last is anybody’s guess. What it signifies to me is the death rattle of a broken UK.

We Scots have held on to our identity over three centuries against all the odds and know our urge has always been outward. Our revolution is of a different sort; no amount of jeering and booing from Westminster and Whitehall can dispel that unified outlook.

A natural state of being

Social cohesion demands a code of behaviour, a set of values, principles too, preferably a combination of all three if a community is not to disintegrate and become the play thing of a tyrant or a foreign power. If that togetherness is to be effective, that oneness that rejects ‘them and us’, it has to be deeply felt. The great majority must feel it a natural state of being.

Once a conqueror steps in and imposes his will free thought is threatened. When that happens national pride is all that left to sustain the wish for democratic empowerment. Hence, there is nothing bad or evil in small country nationalism that fights for the civil and constitutional rights of its population. Simply put, when empowerment gives us the opportunity to participate in what governs and shapes our lives the result is happiness for the majority. We will have tamed power.

Courage and hope

Those of us who lead Scotland out of its second-rate colony status need courage and hope, the two qualities unionists attack mercilessly day in, day out. In fact, you can reduce a large percentage of our opponents arguments to those two targets. Absolute control and a pathological requirement of conformity compels the colonial to tie down and weaken courage and to dispel hope.

A better Scotland awaits, free of fear and domination, a place where the creative spirit is alive, motivated by the impulse to construct and not suppress or possess. A new society is possible, it only awaits our determination to create it.

 

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Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments