The Case For Banning Books

Banning books is a terrible thing, so I thought. I’m the sort of guy who still gets upset about the Library of Alexandria, the Maya Codices, and Scotland’s own National Records, so you can imagine how I feel about symbolic desecration of cultural heritage. Even though Ray Bradbury wasn’t thinking of censorship when he wrote Farenheit 451, the power of his narrative made it incredibly applicable – especially since the practise of burning literature still goes on, and many books are still prohibited on the basis that they might be dangerous, especially to those with suggestible minds.

Book banning & burning is a fixture of dystopian literature. After all, if people read subversive books, they may think subversive thoughts. They may find inspiration, even hope, within pages that whichever oppressive regime wants to redact from humanity’s collective consciousness.

But what about when it’s those oppressive regimes who are getting their inspiration from them?

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Dreaming for a Blue Sky

Why is it that humanity is divided into different nations and ethnic groups? It’s because each group has its own mission. We can compare these missions to different colors—there is blue, there is yellow, and there is red. The different colors blend together harmoniously and enhance each other, creating beautiful new colors. In the same way, different ethnic groups have their own missions, and as they accomplish these missions, they help each other and bring about great harmony in the earthly world. However, when human beings enter this physical world, we forget about these heavenly missions, and instead begin to turn against each other. We become selfish, interested only in protecting our own country or group. If our color (mission) is blue, or red, or white, we only want to protect our own blue, or red, or white nation. When we have experienced this to the very limit, we finally realize that it can go on no longer.
– Masahisa Goi, “Be Honest With Yourself,” from Living Like The Blue Sky

Masahisa Goi was born on the 22nd of November in Tokyo. He grew up in a family with nine children, where he pursued his love of arts, literature, and music in his education. He worked his way through school with the aim of becoming a teacher, overcoming ill health and stress through esoteric practises like meditation, yoga, and martial arts. He was working as a cultural activities coordinator at a manufacturing plant when Japan entered the Second World War.

He was 28 years old when Hiroshima was destroyed.

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Nobody Here But Us “Populists”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s certainly been a good few years for rubbing your eyes, shaking your head, looking at whatever you were drinking, and then pouring it down the drain.

Because you’d have to be drinking some sort of unspecified purple liquid to think that England & Wales voting to leave the EU was anything but the triumph of what most media and political folk inaccurately label populism, and that the UK is “one of few states in Europe without support for a “populist” party.”

Just like Spain. And Portugal. And Greece. And all the other countries that don’t have a “populism” problem.

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Time To Say Goodbye to the Electric Eye

There was a time when I loved the BBC.

Growing up, there weren’t many opportunities for me to watch live television: for a number of years, we didn’t have a television in the home at all. Therefore whenever we visited friends and family, live telly was a special treat. We’d watch Star Trek with the grandparents – repeats of the original series, and the UK premieres of Star Trek: The Next Generation on BBC2; sometimes we’d catch Dòtaman on days off from school, or City Lights, The High Life, or Red Dwarf if we stayed up late; big events like the Proms and Hogmanay Live were essential viewing. But most of all, I remember the documentaries and current affairs programs – Natural World, Horizon, Panorama – because they were the “adult” programs. As a precocious wee Aly, I was indeed very interested in being very grown up.

Some of our family and friends worked at the BBC, and in the 1990s, I got the opportunity to visit BBC studios with the rest of the family. I couldn’t wait: back then, the BBC felt like one of those wonderlands where ideas and dreams came to fruition. Even though it didn’t have quite as many rides or attractions as Disneyworld or Universal Studios, it was more than enough for me to see all the cameras, the lights, the scurrying crew, the chattering headsets, the flickering monitors with analogue countdowns. This, thought wee Aly, was where they made Jackanory, Blue Peter, Record Breakers, Tomorrow’s World, Natural World, Horizon, The Living Planet, The Trials of Life, Lost Worlds Vanished Lives, and a host of other programs that informed, inspired, and enthralled. Best of all, David Attenborough himself was present! While we never got an opportunity to meet him personally (We did, however, get a chance to meet Philip Schofield, who was as warm and friendly as he was on television) it was amazing enough seeing him as they filmed Going Live! from afar.

The BBC continued to be a positive thing in my life growing up: I’ll never forget when Hartbeat was interrupted with breaking news of a ceasefire in some war off somewhere (much as I wanted to see the rest of Hartbeat, knowing a war was over was good news); seeing the Scottish Parliament opening ceremony; watching that first episode of Walking With Dinosaurs. Then Iraq. Then Hutton. Then the Gaza War. Then fascism. Then the internal scandals.

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What Dominic Raab Did Say

The more I’ve learned about politics, the more I’ve learned about the divergence between public perception and the reality. To those who work closely with them – their staff, their constituents, their friends & family – politicians are people, just like anyone else. But to those who don’t know them so well, politicians are entities that seem aloof, distant, beings beyond their influence. Some politicians do their best to bridge that gap: others make it their business to widen it.

For a while, my personal perception of politics seemed to be most like Yes, Minister: certain honourable exceptions from all parties aside, politicians were bumbling, well-meaning morons being manipulated by coldly calculating civil servants who were the true masters of political life. For all the dark undertones and bleak sense of inevitability, there was a charm and wit which made the horror of Westminster strangely cosy, comfortable, relatable.

Then it started to seem more like The Thick of It. Again, exceptions aside, politicians were incompetent, cowardly, corrupt, self-centred morons being manipulated by coldly calculating spin doctors and media tyrants who were the true masters of political life. While it pulled no punches in the language and depiction of the worst side of politics, the charismatic characters nonetheless managed to appeal.

Nowadays? It feels like we’ve stepped into the dimension of The New Statesman, a world where (once more, exceptions aside) politicians are cruel, callous, deluded, mendacious monsters who will stop at nothing for their own myopic personal gain, wreaking untold havoc and mindless chaos in the process for what seems like no rhyme or reason.

Look at the people leading the UK’s “negotiations” to leave the EU and tell me I’m wrong.

Credit to Tom Pride, who proves I’m not the only one who thought of this…

A supposed screenshot of a message supposedly posted by Dominic Raab MP made the rounds yesterday. It was a cunning fake, given that its contents were depressingly believable, especially to weary Scottish Independence supporters.

To make amends for this affront to Mr Raab’s dignity, I shall use this post to provide things that Mr Raab has actually said about Scotland, and our place in the United Kingdom.

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Accentuate the Positive: Mary Queen of Scots

It’s received wisdom that Mary Queen of Scots must’ve had a French accent:

It will almost certainly have considerable ­appeal as a rattling good yarn but its relationship with history will almost certainly be purely ­accidental. It is no coincidence that the producers have the young Mary speaking in English ­received pronunciation; the real Mary spoke French with a ­pronounced French accent to her death.
Professor Tom Devine, about Reign

Marie’s Scottish subjects greeted her with some suspicion. She had been raised in France and spoke French as her main language, speaking English only with a heavy French accent.
A Historian Goes to the Movies, about Reign

French architectural styles at home, the desirability of French education for Scots abroad, military and economic ties, all combined to produce the feeling that even if a French upbringing for their monarch was only to be countenanced because of the extreme dangers created by the Rough Wooing, it was not unnatural in the way that an English upbringing would have been. A French accent in Scotland was a good deal less unacceptable than a Scottish one in England.
– Jenny Wormald, Mary Queen of Scots: A Study in Failure

Why would you want to have this Scottish warrior queen who loves her country? She fled Scotland so how much did she really love it? She was French, she felt really French. I have only come across letters from Mary in French. It feels like there is this strange nationalistic feeling behind this film, with a Scottish warrior being bullied by an English queen. That is not what happened.
Dr. Estelle Paranque, about the upcoming Mary Queen of Scots

No one is trying to deny that Ronan’s Scottish accent is good. She’s great. But… Mary Stuart was raised in France. She was more French than Scottish when she arrived there as an adult to rule. But she would have arrived having a French accent. In most movies featuring Mary Stuart, she is portrayed as having a Scottish accent for the sake of not confusing the audience.
The Lazy Historian, about the upcoming Mary Queen of Scots

Mary was 5 years old when she left Scotland for France. She spent the following 13 years at the French court where she eventually married the Dauphin and was briefly Queen Consort of France. French was her language of choice all her life — most of her personal letters are in French, and the poetry she wrote is in French. Yes, of course, she spoke and read English fluently and also spoke and read Scots fluently (this is not just the dialect, but a language variety spoken in the lowland area of Scotland, distinct from the Gaelic language spoken in the highland areas). But it’s pretty damn likely Mary would have spoken English or Scots with a French accent. Not the other way around!
Frock Flicks, about the upcoming Mary Queen of Scots

It seems logical. Mary’s mother, Mary of Guise, was French, and Mary herself spent the years 5 to 18 in France where she ended up betrothed to the Dauphin, so obviously she had a French accent.

Right?

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Gone Both Ways

I presume, because the standard visual representation of the English language is that particular flag, its inclusion indicates to tourists that this map is in English. Of course, this isn’t much help when half the historic sites in Scotland have this flag flying, does it?

As far as possible, the public annals of the two countries should be revised. Errors and irritating expressions must be expunged (though in this matter our own histories are not so provocative as those of our neighbours), and a new history of Britain should be written with the utmost regard to accuracy.
– Sir Thomas Craig

If it wasn’t clear before, it should be beyond doubt now. The UK Government is hellbent on leaving the European Union without a deal, thanks to a mixture of complete cowardice on the part of pro-EU MPs of their party (save 14 honourable exceptions), the trademark negligence masquerading as incompetence of their former Coalition partners, the absence of 20 and the rebellion of 5 Opposition MPs. We cannot trust the mainstream media to take a stand, because they’ve been so blinded by the Golden Mean that they will grant a platform to actual fascism in the name of “balance.”

When the disgraced White House Chief Strategist taunts the “liberal elite” and calls Tommy Robinson the backbone of “this country” – the same Tommy Robinson who is openly funded by the same extremists who championed the current president – and even goes so far as to incite mass violence, you know what he’s talking about. This is the same man who met another would-be Prime Ministerial candidate with fascist connections. The same man who met with powerful & influential people in Scotland. The same man who approved hysterical smear stories against the Scottish Independence Movement and the SNP on his site – including one that called the current Scottish Justice Secretary an “Islamist-linked radical.” You know, those guys who some people compare to Scottish Independence supporters, despite most of them vehemently opposing Scottish Independence.

You may wonder where all this is heading. Well, I have a dark imagination.

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