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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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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Britain Is England Plus Three

“We would make a great deal with the United Kingdom because they have product that we like. I mean they have a lot of great product. They make phenomenal things, you know, and you have different names – you can say England, you can say UK, you can say United Kingdom, Great Britain. I always say, “Which one do you prefer? Great Britain?”‘
‘You know Great Britain and the United Kingdom aren’t exactly the same thing?’
‘Right, yeah. You know I know.’
– The 45th president of the United States of America in conversation with a disgraced ex-editor, in a week where people fell over themselves to correct the White House’s Twitter account

So… aye. That happened.

I didn’t attend any of the protests, because I was invited to a recording of “Any Questions” on BBCR4 (long story, more on that in a future post). I’m fiercely ambivalent on the subject of Trump protests. On the one hand, I certainly agree that humourous, peaceful, but sincere protest of the sort we saw across the nations today is good for democratic expression: it’s much better flying silly balloons, hoisting funny placards, and singing comic songs than engaging in the more unpleasant, dangerous, and counter-productive type of protest. On the other hand, I’m reminded of Cyrus Stuart Ching’s response to a particularly belligerent questioner:

A man in the audience began heckling him with a long series of nasty and irrelevant questions. For a while Ching answered patiently. Finally he held up his big paw and waggled it gently.

“My friend,” he said, “I’m not going to answer any more of your questions. I hope you won’t take this personally, but I am reminded of something my old uncle told me, long ago, back on the farm. He said. ‘What’s the sense of wrestling with a pig? You both get all over muddy… and the pig likes it.’”

The current president – or, rather, the machine which placed him there – thrives on anger and outrage and dissent. The narcissist doesn’t care what you say or think about them, only that you do talk and think about them. And the UK media are talking about them a great deal, to the point they have dominated the news for days – and believe me, the irony of me talking about them too is not lost. I’m gritting my teeth as I type this.

But here’s the thing: we aren’t being given the choice to not talk about them, because our state media won’t shut up about them. Through our state broadcaster, they are invading our people’s homes, making that connection to the disaffected, the dispossessed, the disadvantaged – and making new recruits for the supranational cause they serve. We cannot simply ignore them until they go away, because too many people are pumping the great balloon with the oxygen of publicity – supporters, neutrals, and opponents alike.

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There Is No Opting Out

Whoever you are, or want to be, you may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you.
Marshall Berman

Ever since I started this blog, people have decided to talk politics with me. (Imagine that, eh?) Strangers who know me by my muckle black beard, friends & acquaintances who came across the blog by accident, people I haven’t known for years who ended up on the campaign trail. It’s a great conversation starter: “What did you think of First Minister’s Questions?” “Did you see that shameful display in Parliament?” “What’s that politician talking about?” “Why are the party doing this instead of this, that, th’other?” “Did you see this poll, article, website, paper, video?” Some of the best are those people – old school friends, long lost family, famous people who knew who I was – talking about their journeys, and the journeys of their friends and families. It’s incredible. Then come the weird questions: “Are you running for council?” “Why don’t you run for council?” “Do you think I should run for council?” “When did you start getting interested in politics?”

When did you start getting interested in politics. I’m always grateful and very much appreciate all these recommendations, suggestions, and anecdotes. However, it stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of exactly what I’m trying to do. I don’t love politics. I don’t even like politics. I actually hate politics – and that, paradoxically, is why I’m doing this.

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The Young Palaeontologist’s Guide to Media Scepticism: The 2018 Taxonomic Tumult

Pretty much.

Last time, I provided a small example for how bad journalism can transform “this thing is going to happen” into “the exact opposite thing is going to happen” through scientific illiteracy at best and wilful ignorance at worst. Given the tumultous nature of science, politics, and current affairs, I’m going to find these comparisons quite useful.

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