Year-end reflection tends to end with an interior sigh – “not much attained.”
We recall the highs and lows, and try to salvage some sort of self-esteem from missed opportunities, lost friendships, losses of temper, that scoop of ice-cream that fell from the cone. Another year, another year older.
Along with thousands of my countrymen I grew despondent and depressed precisely on the dark morning of September the 19th.
Personally, there are moments I ask what’s the point of going anywhere, I’ll just end up back at home? Home for me this year has been a clothes rack, a single room, and juggling with tardy tradesmen in an effort to get my house built, preferably this century.
The Day of the Dead
This year one disappointment was exceptional – the crushing loss of my country to the rule of another followed by expected jeering from the victors. Worst of all, it was deceived by two Scots, Brown and Darling, who, promising the earth, delivered clay, and then neatly sidestepping brickbats and cries of treachery, announcing they were leaving public life to earn fat fees from lecture tours and company directorships, telling those keen to applaud how they betrayed their countrymen and grew rich.
It’s a fine meeting when a man can marry his hobby with his income.
One the positive side, the two Calibans left their Labour party naked to the elements, ready to be crucified by its largest group of traditional voters. The people of Glasgow had voted Yes overwhelmingly only to see themselves thoroughly cheated by the Labour party they had supported for generations, their loyalty grossly abused. They were not impressed. No one wanted to hear Labour’s tired old shibboleths anymore. Labour had to change radically or die. A yawn proves to have far greater effect than a contradictory argument.
In addition, the SNP saw its membership rocket from around 10,000 to over 100,000, a protest reaction to the near miss of independence, a vast army of angry enthusiasts for self-determination that will surely revolutionise SNP policies and practice.
A swathe of them are the young, the imaginative, and the energetic, a group not known for listening in silence to dry constituency business accompanied by tea and cheap biscuits. After two years debating a better society Scotland had been comprehensively politicised. The trick will be in harnessing that dynamism without letting it slip into factionalism.
Realising it had placed its trust in pathological dissemblers, the nation wanted a second chance to ‘punch above its weight,’ claiming it had been put in the ring with a frenzied grizzly by a crooked promoter who had run off with the contest purse.
According to analysts Labour voters thought the new leader of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon, was doing a better job than any political leader in the UK including their own, and by a huge margin.
Labour’s branch office in Scotlandshire elected one of the chief architects of its troubles to lead the party to an astounding victory in the General Election of 2015. He too was full of hope, or maybe soap. Jim Murphy promised to … well, you know how it goes.
As for ‘Devo-Max’ and illusionary new powers, Westminster’s Smith Commission made plain it was offering constitutional change by placebo only. Spurred by a sense of injustice the ideal of genuine self-governance suddenly reformed in the public’s mind, a real hope again, and possibly this decade. Could life-long independence supporters now pensioners hang on a little longer? Pass the monkey glands!
And the world marvelled how losers could win so much, and winners gain so little.
Some idiot student burned down Scotland’s premier work of architecture, the MacIntosh School of Art. Here was a salutary warning that creating ‘installations’ is no substitute for learning the skills of drawing and painting. To date, no administrator or tutor has been charged with negligence. And I stand by my prediction, that when recreated – no longer the original – students won’t be allowed back in. It will be deemed a museum.
As the year reached its end torture sanctioned by government in the name of the people stole the headlines. It wasn’t as if it came as a shock. There was plenty of evidence of its existence among democratic nations re-branded ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’
Torture memos from the Whitehouse were released in 2009, and even back then the revelations were not a surprise. Determined to establish a link between Iraq and al-Queda, the USA embarked on a process of rendition: arresting or abducting terrorist suspects, often on a mere whim or false allegation, and with the complicity of various governments, not least of which was the UK, spiriting the unfortunates by plane to a torture camp far away from prying eyes.
Some flights touched down at Scotland’s Prestwick airport to refuel. Independence would have rid Scotland of England’s corrupt foreign policies and given the ability to make international protest, a member of the UN. Westminster denied the flights held prisoners, and Scotland the liberty of mature government.
An inquiry into the CIA’s master plan proved Westminster leaders liars, when the US made public its findings – UK involvement redacted – in a bid for contrition and forgiveness. The report showed the viciousness and deceit of successive administrations. In recent times it concluded the triumvirate of Bush-Chaney-Rumsfeld to be the worst offenders, the men who declared enhanced techniques are not torture, having a man, for example, stand all day merely a method of muscle exercise in a confined space. “After all,” said Rumsfeld, “I stand at my desk all day. What’s the problem?” Chaney avered that the report was ‘full of crap.’ That probably referred to the involuntary defecation of prisoners during torture. Chaney, readers will recall, is the man who shot his best friend in the face when out hunting quail. He never apologised. Unbelievably his victim apologised for ‘getting in Chaney’s way.’
It was clear Bush went further than his predecessors authorising prima facia violations of international law, his successor, Obama doing his best to hide the evidence and reinstate some of its worst excesses.
British and Scottish apologists left their gin and tonic to explain terrorists, like communists of old, lurk under every stone and mushroom. Torture of some sort is justified because it elicits information that can ‘save lives.’ When the opposing nation captures and then hands back a British or US prisoner our leaders do not express surprise that their man were not tortured to extract information about US and UK terrorist campaigns. The paradigm of torture to save lives never applies to heathen cultures. They are ‘animals.’
We in the West are supposed to be better than everyone else, yet here we are as bad and often worse than the others. Historical amnesia undermines a nation’s honesty and integrity. It paves the way for crimes committed in the name of good security.
The great satirist, Jonathan Swift said, “Blessed are those who expect nothing, for they shall never be disappointed.” He had a point. We often expect too much out of our reality. On the other hand, perhaps those blues I spoke of earlier might just be the deepest blue of a Saltire flying unrestricted.
With 2014 drawing to an end we can only hope… time passes swiftly.