Of Sma’ Fowk, and A’ Fowk: Robert the Bruce

A common criticism of historical fiction, particularly historical cinema, is its focus on the Great Men and Women of history: the kings and queens, princes and princesses, lords and ladies, emperors and empresses. Stories about the common people seemed – rightly or wrongly – to be rarer than sagas about royal dynasties, mighty conquerors, and cruel tyrants. I’ve seen more than a few criticisms of Outlaw King which lament a question they never found the answer to: what were the common people fighting for?

That such a question is even asked shows the importance of cultural representation of this period in Scottish history.

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World of Fools

“It is sometimes the height of wisdom to feign stupidity.”
– Cato

Most of Scottish social media is abuzz with that Jeremy Vine thing. But there’s another Jeremy Vine thing which I’d like to share, because I think it’s very illustrative as to the tack the UK is taking us.

(If you haven’t read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series – at least the original trilogy – and I highly recommend that you do, then consider yourself warned. I’m not generally bothered by spoilers, but others are, and this article discusses a really awesome twist).

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Louie

It is with a heavy heart that we have to announce the passing of ‘Big’ Louie Pastore. A loving husband, dad, grandad, brother, son, brother-in-law and great friend to many.

Louie passed away at Ardgowan Hospice this morning surrounded by his family.

His memory will live on through his photographs and his contributions to Inverclyde’s arts and music scene.

His family would like to thank all the staff at Ardgowan Hospice for all their hard work in looking after Louie, and we would also like to thank everyone for their kind words and condolences.

“𝐼 π‘‘π‘œπ‘›’𝑑 π‘˜π‘›π‘œπ‘€ π‘€β„Žπ‘’π‘Ÿπ‘’ 𝐼’π‘š π‘”π‘œπ‘–π‘›π‘” π‘“π‘Ÿπ‘œπ‘š β„Žπ‘’π‘Ÿπ‘’, 𝑏𝑒𝑑 𝐼 π‘π‘Ÿπ‘œπ‘šπ‘–π‘ π‘’ 𝑖𝑑 π‘€π‘œπ‘›’𝑑 𝑏𝑒 π‘π‘œπ‘Ÿπ‘–π‘›π‘”.” (David Bowie)

Louie Pastore
Rest in peace
1962-2019

Louie Pastore was a very close friend to the family, especially my mother and father, who knew him for most of their lives. He was someone I wish I got to know better, because he shared a lot of interests, hobbies, and causes with me. We graduated from the same university course, where he went on to do teaching. He played music at the Spinnaker; he adventured all around Inverclyde looking for ancient artifacts and taking wonderful photographs; he contributed so much to the local community, through projects like Heid ‘o the Hill and Dark Side o’ the Clyde.

Louie was a big reason I became so invested in local history. I always had a great love and appreciation for Scottish cultural heritage, but Louie knew about the Roman remains at Lurg Moor, the prehistoric rock carvings at what is now Gourock Golf Course, and anything and everything archaeological in Inverclyde.

A great deal of the work I do, from occasional posts on this blog about local history & lives, to Gourock Heritage & Arts, is thanks to his shining example.

A man like Louie lived for his family, his tribe, his local community. I hope we can keep his spirit going.

Facing Facebook

I use Facebook primarily to keep in touch with friends and family across the globe. I don’t spend much time scrolling or reading – in fact, sometimes I take far too long to respond even to comments & private messages.

A Wilderness of Peace usually involves politics, news, & other current affairs. For the most part, I’d like to say I’ve been fairly laid back, except in regards to matters I deem to be unjust or scandalous: in those cases I’ve been forthright & uncompromising. I know I’ve said some very strong words about very powerful people. But, I have never advocated violence, harassment, abuse, criminality, or anything that would – for example – breach Facebook’s Community Standards. Such actions are counterproductive to any of the causes I hold dear, and entirely out of my character.

Outside of polling days, I keep politics off my homepage: I set up a dedicated page to that blog for that reason. Every time I write a new post, I post a link on my blog. Yesterday, Facebook did not allow me to do this.

Other readers have contacted me, saying they could not post links either. After a bit of digging, I found some further information: a Facebook friend attempted to post a link, but their message was different from mine: “Your message couldn’t be sent because it includes content that other people on Facebook have reported as abusive.” I don’t understand why the message I received gave no information as to what was against Community Standards, but the message a reader received more specifically cited abusive content. What is going on?

To have your own website blocked with no explanation, let alone warning, on the grounds of something as serious as abuse is bad enough. But to not know why? With no opportunity to appeal, no route to identify the offending content & remove it, no way to make things right? I recognise that politics can be a tricky subject. But the idea Facebook’s solution to an abusive website (I have to think it’s a mistake, but how can I when I don’t know what specifically was being objected to?) is to simply lock it out without any attempt to contact the site in question?

The page for my Facebook is just called “A Wilderness of Peace.” It lists this blog’s address as the external website. You would think that there would be some method of contacting the page publisher with a short message explaining “this page has been found in violation of Community Standards,” and highlighting and quoting the offending content. That’s how other social media platforms work. Yet I’m completely at a loss as to not only who I’ve offended, but what I’ve written that was offensive – abusive, even.

To be clear: if I did write something abusive, I will not hesitate to remove it and apologise unreservedly. I invite the complainant to contact me via the comments to tell me exactly what they found objectionable, and I will see what could be done. It’s entirely possible that this is an automated service that misread the context of one of my posts – I do include quotations from some truly appalling sources without in any way endorsing them.

But if I don’t know what that abuse was, then what good can come of the situation at all?

Whoever Wins, We Lose

I could actually weep for some of the people in our country:

I genuinely don’t understand the logic of anyone whose view of Scottish independence is affected by who is or might be Prime Minister, or which party is in government. It very much suggests they haven’t understood the question.
– Some Numpty On Twitter Who Already Gets Too Much Attention

It is everything to do with the question – because “who is or might be Prime Minister/party of government” is never our choice. It is the choice of England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland together. One of those countries outnumbers the others 8 to 1.

More than that, it isn’t just who is Prime Minister now, or who may be Prime Minister in the future – it’s every single Prime Minister in my 35 years of existence on this planet.

My first Prime Minister was so beloved of my fellow Scots that the Number 1 song in Scotland on the week of her death was “Ding-Dong The Witch Is Dead.” My second Prime Minister (even if he is, in retrospect, far and away the best in my lifetime) led the UK to financial disaster and aggravated the forces which led the UK to where it is now through his sheer incompetence. My third Prime Minister is a war criminal who conspired to steal Scotland’s resources. My fourth Prime Minister sold even more of Scotland’s resources to mitigate his cataclysmic mishandling of another financial crisis. My fifth Prime Minister, who cannot be mentioned in the same breath as pigs in polite company, presided over cruelties, scandals, and catastrophes that would give my first Prime Minister pause. My sixth Prime Minister has become a punchline.

Six Prime Ministers in my lifetime, and arguments can be – and have been – made for each of those six being the Worst Ever.

At least until Seven.

So who will that be?

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The John Buchan Way

I believe that every Scotsman should be a Scottish Nationalist. If it could he proved that a separate Scottish Parliament were desirable, that is to say that the merits were greater than the disadvantages and dangers, Scotsmen should support it. I would go further. Even if it were not proved desirable, if it could be proved to be desired by any substantial majority of the Scottish people, then Scotland should be allowed to make the experiment, and I do not believe that, England would desire for one moment to stand in the way.
John Buchan, Debate on the Address, 24 November 1932

I’m struck by the changing timbre of UK Government Party in Scotland. Back in the day, the party battled with the SNP over the votes of rural constituencies over who would defend their interests the best from a distant, uncaring, increasingly centralised Westminster: the Opposition Party, despite being born in Scotland, were for the most part not as interested in the reality of constitutional change as the likes of its own founders. So for much of the 20th Century we had the strange situation where the UK Government Party seemed more interested in highlighting & exploiting Scotland’s distinctiveness than the party of Keir “Home Rule” Hardie. One of the greatest activists for Scottish Gaelic revival in the last half-century was Iain Noble, nephew of Conservative Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Noble; Malcolm Rifkind, another SoSfS, lobbied for a Gaelic TV channel, only to be blocked by Margaret Thatcher herself; yet another SoSfS, Michael Forsyth, also campaigned for expansion of Gaelic television, and even attended the premiere of Braveheart in a kilt.

Then consider the above quote: this was said not by an SNP, nor a Socialist, nor a Trade Unionist, but a Scottish Unionist Party MP in the House of Commons. I thought it would be interesting to include the entire speech in a post. While there are some more familiarly Tory-ish bits and pieces (particularly the notion that Irish Roman Catholic immigrants to Scotland are “not Scots”) there are also several arguments & observations that wouldn’t be out of place on the most fervent independence supporter’s repertoire. Certainly it puts to bed the phoney demarcation between nationalism and patriotism put forward by the likes of Ruth Davidson, who even invoke Buchan’s words (as well as Orwell’s own oft-abused comments) as evidence for how far Scotland has come since those terrible old days.

It’s clear Mr. Buchan did not support Scottish Independence any more than he supported any nation breaking away from the Empire he worked so tirelessly to maintain. Nonetheless, the tone and reason in his arguments, acknowledging the genuine merit of the independence position, is a far cry from the patronising scolding of people who proclaim to be against all nationalisms (because their nationalism isn’t actually nationalism at all). Here is someone who recognises the democratic deficit, recognises Scotland’s identity as a nation rather than a region or province, and recognises that you are not going to make the problem go away by ignoring or suppressing it.

One wonders what happened to the party of John Buchan in the eight decades since he made this speech. The John Buchan Way isn’t just a lovely walk in the Borders: it’s a mark of respect & trust. It seems Ruth Davidson’s gang strayed far from the John Buchan Way a long time ago.

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Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

As predicted by nobody (except those who were paying attention) the European Elections were a resounding victory for Remain-supporting parties in Scotland – who won every single voting area, as well as more or less matching the EU referendum result of 62% of the vote – and an unmitigated disaster for them in the rest of the UK.

And amidst all the hand-wringing and caterwauling about what on earth the UK Remain Camp can do to solve this crisis, they actually exacerbate the problem in the process.

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