Loving England Again

Scotland wouldn’t be what it is today without England. That much is obvious: England is our neighbour on the largest of these islands; we’re more or less the same age; a northern branch of their ancestors, the Angles, are among the four peoples who founded Scotland.

It’s nigh impossible to live in Scotland and not have some sort of regular encounter with England. Our public broadcaster is primarily focused on England, with English opinions and interests and accents on the main news, the continuity announcements, all the way to the soap operas and property shows; we elect MPs to a Parliament in Westminster which controls a great number of our laws, frequently against our own representatives’ wishes; the vast majority of newspapers are owned outside Scotland, and regularly headquartered in England. While most folk in England can live their lives largely untroubled by Scottish opinions and interests and accents, we in Scotland cannot avoid England and the English even if we wanted to.

That’s our lot as part of a United Kingdom of England Plus Three.

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Ending On A High Note

These memes just keep getting more and more apocalyptic.

Jings, it’s been a year, hasn’t it?

It’s been a quiet year in the Wilderness, but there were still some fond memories and popular enough posts. I aim to do better next year, as always. For now, I’ll take a look back on the most popular blog posts of each month from the year that was.

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What Makes A Scot a Scot

He was the King of Scots who led the nation to its most famous victory on the battlefield and sent “proud Edward” and his army home to think again.

But although Robert the Bruce defeated the English at Bannockburn in 1314, it seems the historic triumph masked a hidden irony.

A new book by an eminent academic makes an astonishing claim: that Bruce was born in England.

The Scotsman (and The Telegraph… and The Times)

One thing about historians is that you’ll never find two that agree on everything, or even most things. History is as coloured by the interpretations of the historian as they are by the written sources, and I do not think considering it more of an art than a science diminishes it whatsoever. So, much like the notion that Mary, Queen of Scots spoke with a French accent, I feel my inner history nerd steepling his fingers and arching his eyebrows at the notion that Robert the Bruce was definitely, absolutely, positively, certainly born in Essex.

The academic said: “The truth may be unpalatable for some, for a chronicler from Southern England states categorically that Robert belonged to ‘the English nation’ and, more specifically, that he came into this world surrounded by the pleasant meadows, vineyards, grass and grain of Essex.
“There was a strong tradition in the South that Bruce was born in Essex, while there is no direct evidence he was born in Turnberry. In modern times it has been presumed Bruce would have been born at Turnberry, but the evidence points to Writtle.”
– Dr Fiona Watson (as quoted)

Not having the privilege of reading her book (yet), I cannot comment on the evidence or sources that Dr Watson proposes. It could be she’s unearthed some hitherto undiscovered chronicle that turns everything we thought we knew upside down. In the absence of such knowledge, however, I can only surmise that the English Chronicler referred to in the article is Geoffrey the Baker of Swinbrook, who is the source usually cited whenever the alleged English origins of Robert are mentioned:

Robert Bruce also died in this year. He left behind a son David who was seven or eight years old, and the Scots made him their king. His right of succession was as follows. Alexander, king of the Scots, had three daughters but no sons. The first was married to John Balliol, the second to John Comyn and the third to Robert Bruce, an Englishman born in Essex, After the death of king Alexander, with the consent of Edward king of England the Scots had appointed as their king John Balliol, the husband of king Alexander’s eldest daughter, and Balliol on behalf of the kingdom of Scotland did homage to the king of England and swore fealty to him. But later, at the instigation of the disturbers of the peace of the kingdom of Scotland, John Balliol renounced by royal letter and by noble envoys the fealty and homage which he been forced to give and promised various other forms of subjection which he was willing to demand from king Edward.Despite this, he nevertheless kept the kingship of Scotland, but not for long. For the king of England extended a long arm from Winchester and put to flight from Scotland John Balliol king of the Scots and his son Edward.
While the two of them were journeying to France, the English king seized the castles and fortifications of the Scots, and the Scots, in an act of nothing other than witless rashness, took for their king the husband of the second daughter of king Alexander, namely Robert Bruce. For he was a soldier to his fingertips, except that, failing in his ambition of becoming king, he abandoned his loyalty without which no warrior wins praise and dared to rebel against his natural lord.
The Chronicle of Geoffrey Le Baker of Swinbrook (David Preest translation)

Of course, if this is the “Southern English chronicler” Dr Watson refers to, then the Scotsman (and Telegraph and Times) are a bit behind the times, since Geoffrey the Baker’s account has been well-established since… well, the Middle Ages. As with dinosaurs, there’s nothing the press loves more than to present old news as some sort of bombshell new discovery.

In isolation, one could argue that this is fairly conclusive: as there is no known comparable contemporary evidence for Robert’s birth at Turnberry, the process of elimination leaves only Writtle.

Except…

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The Privilege of Nationalisms

You know what a globalist is? A globalist is a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly, not caring about our country so much. And you know what, we can’t have that. You know, they have a word. It sort of became old-fashioned. It’s called a nationalist. And I say, ‘Really, we’re not supposed to use that word?’ You know what I am? I’m a nationalist. Use that word.
Donald Trump

I call myself a nationalist, but my nationalism is as broad as the universe. It includes in its sweep all the nations of the earth. My nationalism includes the well-being of the whole world. I do not want my India to rise on the ashes of other nations. I do not want India to exploit a single human being. I want India to be strong in order that she can infect the other nations also with her strength. Not so with a single nation in Europe today; they do not give strength to the others.
– Mahatma Gandhi, Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda

GandhiNationalist

Most countries in the world today have the privilege of nationalism. That is, by their mere existence as independent, sovereign nations whose governments and territories are coterminous, they practise nationalism every day. They don’t call it nationalism, of course: they just call it normal. A country running its own affairs isn’t an “ism.” It’s just what countries do.

Donald Trump is abusing that privilege, because the United States is already a nation: the USA gets the government the USA votes for; the USA commands every facet of its national and international policies, every resource, every inch of soil; the people of the USA have full control over their own nation’s destiny, whether they realise it or not. Invoking nationalism in opposition to globalism – as if the globe and the nation are not interlinked by virtue of each other’s very existence, let alone the notion that the globe and the nation can both do well at the same time – is signalling to those who prefer to use nationalism over other words. Trump’s USA is, like the nations of Europe in Gandhi’s time, a nation that does not give its strength to others.

Those who would compare the nationalism of independent nations to that of ones which are not independent are equally complicit in this privilege. This is the privilege of nationalisms – the irony that you can denounce nationalism while practising it every day of your life.

The highest ranking politician of a country referring to themselves as a nationalist means very different things depending on whether their country is independent or not. Nationalism in non-independent countries has a bad name in large part because of nationalism in independent countries – usually, because the already-independent nation has a vested interest in preventing a piece of their country depriving them of people, resources, and territory. Hence the “all nationalism is the same” nonsense. Who could seriously argue that the nationalist movements of Gandhi, Garibaldi, Connolly, Kenyatta, Kossuth, Mandela, and Mazzini are remotely comparable to the nationalisms of Antonescu, Franco, Mussolini, Pinochet, Kai-Shek, Malan, and Milošević?

 

 

Or Nicola Sturgeon & Jacob Rees-Mogg, apparently.

Yet plenty do – because it’s easy to be against nationalism when you have a nation.

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Brave Hearts and Brave Minds

The late Andy Hillhouse’s depiction of Wallace is probably my favourite of them all.

The deeds of cruelty, massacre, violence, pillage, arson, imprisoning prelates, burning down monasteries, robbing and killing monks and nuns and yet other outrages without number which he committed against our people, sparing neither age nor sex, religion nor rank, no-one could describe nor fully imagine unless he had seen them with his own eyes.

But from these countless evils we have been set free, by the help of Him who though He afflicts yet heals and restores, by our most tireless prince, King and lord, the lord Robert. He, that his people and his heritage might be delivered out of the hands of our enemies, bore cheerfully toil and fatigue, hunger and peril, like another Maccabaeus or Joshua. Him, too, divine providence, the succession to his right according to our laws and customs which we shall maintain to the death, and the due consent and assent of us all have made our prince and king. To him, as to the man by whom salvation has been wrought unto our people, we are bound both by his right and by his merits that our freedom may be still maintained, and by him, come what may, we mean to stand.

Yet if he should give up what he has begun, seeking to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own right and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King; for, as long as a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be subjected to the lordship of the English. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

– Declaration of Arbroath

Braveheart is a film which I believe will become important in the history of Scotland. I’m extremely… ambivalent about Mel Gibson’s work, in that I both love it and hate it for several reasons. Yes, I know, it’s “Hollywood not History,” you can’t expect complete fidelity to current understanding of historical events, there are going to be changes for the benefit of modern audiences, et cetera. It’s become something of a potent symbol of the independence cause in Scotland – but strangely, a symbol applied by its critics more often than its supporters. Usually this takes the form of patronising articles that suppose modern independence supporters cannot tell the difference between Medieval and modern politics, that they’re over-emotional softies who let their hearts rule their heads, and that they’ve fallen prey to a Hollywood fantasy version of Medieval Scotland.

For my part, I think Braveheart was about more than Scottish Independence, or about the events of that war, or Wallace himself: it was about the forging and consolidation of national identity.

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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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Except for Voters in Scotland

Let me be clear: nobody, not me, not anyone, is expecting the SNP to give up on independence. That is what it believes in and it is a perfectly honourable position to take.
Ruth Davidson, before then demanding the SNP give up on independence

Democracy is not just about one vote once every five years or one vote once on a particular issue causing all argument on that matter to be considered legitimately shut down. That is not the way democracy works. Democracy is a dynamic concept. People who are on the losing side are not obliged to accept that their view has been lost for ever and they are perfectly entitled to continue to argue for it.
John Bercow

The people of Scotland should not have a second referendum on independence. But the people of the UK should have a second referendum on leaving the European Union. This is because we won the first referendum, and lost the second one.
– if pro-EU anti-Indy people were honest

“NOT YOU, SCOTLAND. *SKRONK*”

Since we really should be collecting all these, I thought I’d gather the ones I’ve come across.

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