The Dark Man of Cheddar

Cimmerians. These people were descendants of the ancient Atlanteans, though they themselves were unaware of their descent, having evolved by their own efforts from the ape-men to which their ancient ancestors had sunk. They were a tall powerful race, averaging six feet in height. They were black haired, and grey or blue eyed. They were dolichocephalic, and dark skinned, though not so dark as either the Zingarans, Zamorians or Picts.
– Robert E. Howard, “Notes on Various Peoples,” The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p348-349

Then when I was about twelve I spent a short time in New Orleans and found in a Canal Street library, a book detailing the pageant of British history, from prehistoric times up to – I believe – the Norman conquest. It was written for school-boys and told in an interesting and romantic style, probably with many historical inaccuracies. But there I first learned of the small dark people which first settled Britain, and they were referred to as Picts. I had always felt a strange interest in the term and the people, and now I felt a driving absorption regarding them.
– Robert E. Howard, letter to Harold Preece, 20th October 1928*

Prof Mark Thomas and Dr Yoan Diekmann at University College London analysed the sequences generated at the Natural History Museum to establish what Cheddar Man looked like. It was previously assumed that Europeans developed paler skin many thousands of years before Cheddar Man, so he was thought to have had reduced skin pigmentation and fair hair. The results however, indicate that whilst Cheddar Man had blue eyes, he also had dark coloured curly hair and ‘dark to black’ skin pigmentation. This means that the lighter pigmentation now considered to be a defining feature of northern Europe, is a far more recent phenomenon.
– The First Brit: Secrets of the 10,000 Year Old Man Press Pack 

The recent news about Cheddar Man will come as no surprise to people with an interest in anthropology, or even ancient history. Britons with dark skin & black, curly hair have been recorded since the Roman period, with early 20th Century folklorists such as Margaret Alice Murray, David MacRitchie, and G.F. Scott Elliot detailing stories of the early inhabitants of the British Isles.

What is perhaps more surprising is the reaction to that news.

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The Problem With “Meritocracy”

It’s a fraud.

Sure, the idea of meritocracy is sound: that the people most qualified to do the thing should be the ones who get to do the thing. In fact, it sounds like basic common sense. But when we’re dealing with people who are selfish, paranoid, and desperate to hold on to what they have over other people, it frequently becomes something else entirely. People like this are perfectly happy to cheat to get what they want: to buy high IQ scores, to plead their way into university, to rely on their famous relatives’ influence, all under the guise of “merit.”

Hence how Toby Young, a person who would be struck off the register if he was a classroom assistant, who won a place at Oxford as a result of a clerical error and his distinguished father’s intervention, who just happens to be a close friend to people in high places, was (briefly, thank heavens) appointed to a position of enormous influence over the education of millions of people.

Folk all across the political spectrum have thoroughly denounced the UK Cabinet’s appointment & subsequent defense of said appointment, proving this is not just another lefties vs righties bunfight, but a seriously bad judgement by a government practically making an Olympic event out of bad judgements. Many have, quite correctly, excoriated the inexcusable comments Young has made in regards to women, children, and minorities – but in the process, I can’t help but feel that something much darker and more terrible has been allowed to slip by unnoticed.

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Top of the Year, 2017

Thanks for all the well-wishes from everyone: I never like to jinx things, but I have been getting a bit better over the season.

So I don’t go all of December without a post, I thought it would be nice to have an end-of-year review of the Wilderness.

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Remember In Your Own Way

1 ‘Be careful not to parade your uprightness in public to attract attention; otherwise you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven.
2 So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you; this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win human admiration. In truth I tell you, they have had their reward.
3 But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing;
4 your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.
5 ‘And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them. In truth I tell you, they have had their reward.
6 But when you pray, go to your private room, shut yourself in, and so pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.
7 ‘In your prayers do not babble as the gentiles do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard.
8 Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

– The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 6

Every 23rd of August, I commemorate the death of William Wallace. Sometimes it’s something public, be it a simple post on social media, or an article. Others, I simply take a moment to reflect, read a section of The Scottish Chiefs, or one of David Ross’s books. I have a broad enough sense of humour to laugh and make jokes about Wallace, but not on that day, and not about his death. I don’t expect all Scottish nationalists, independence supporters, republicans, or whatever mast of the ship with which you align, to do this; nor do I think it should be mandatory. Freedom includes the freedom not to observe or commemorate anniversaries: I’m only interested in how I mark the occasion.

Similarly, I do commemorate the deaths of all those who lost their lives in war – all deaths, be they soldiers or civilians, human or animal, in the immediate carnage of battle or in the aftermath of sarvation and disease and ruin. But I do not wear a poppy; I do not watch the Cenotaph processions; I do not listen to politicians and civic leaders and celebrities pontificate. I remember in my own way.

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The State Is Not The People

The Government of Catalonia declared independence. The international response has been overwhelmingly negative.

I empathise deeply with all those frustrated & outraged by this state of affairs. But if there’s one thing to take away from all this, it’s one simple fact: the State Is Not The People. The State is a construct to serve the People: when it does not suit its purpose, then the People reserve the right to change their State, as enshrined in the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This was reiterated by the current UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order following the Spanish Government’s reaction:

The right of self-determination is a right of peoples and not a prerogative of States to grant or deny. In case of a conflict between the principle of territorial integrity and the human right to self-determination, it is the latter that prevails.
Alfred de Zayos, professor of international law at the Geneva School of Diplomacy

It’s easy to be shocked at the sheer hypocrisy of the representatives of nations like Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Georgia, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Serbia, Ukraine, and the United States to withhold recognition of a new state given they owe their entire existence to then-illegal measures – even more so for Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, and Portugal, who you’d think would retain some memory of why they’re not currently part of the Spanish Empire. For these nations to deny Catalonia the recognition their forebears fought, bled, and died for, is the height of cruel, merciless, horrible irony, even as they implore a government which has already sent tanks and truncheons and bullets to see the “force of argument.”

But we must not allow ourselves to lose sight of the bigger picture here.

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When Territorial Integrity Meets Self Determination

On September 29, 1977, a decree was issued establishing a provisional Catalan autonomous government through an adaptation of the 1932 Statute. On October 23, 1977, the seventy-seven-year-old Josep Tarradellas returned to Barcelona after an absence of thirty-eight years; and on the following day, Suarez presided over an event in which Taradellas was installed as president of the Generalitat. Tarradellas was certainly not trusted by everyone, but nevertheless he was overwhelmingly perceived as the legitimate Catalan leader. Tarradellas was the son-in-law of the legendary Colonel Macia, the first president of the Catalan government, and he had proudly borne the standard of the Generalitat during a lonely and austere exile. Taradellas did not participate in the anti-Francoist opposition; he considered himself to be above parties, and to be the “spiritual leader” of Catalonia. In return for the re-establishment of the Generalitat, Tarradellas pledged Catalan loyalty to the monarchy, acceptance of the unity of Spain, and respect for the armed forces.
– Laura Desfor Edles, Symbol and Ritual in the New Spain: The Transition to Democracy After Franco

The past few days have been quite an eye-opener for me. For one, it’s a bit shocking to put a name to the people who would follow the Milgram Experiment. I absolutely understand the need for the Rule of Law, and conceptually, I can understand folk who might sympathise for the rights of democracy who nonetheless feel that this wasn’t the right way to go about it. But I feel that once violence enters the equation, all the authority of legality and law are forfeited. All of it. As I’m firmly of the belief that it is the duty of all independence supporters to support the right of self-determination of all peoples who seek it, I was already deeply sympathetic to the people of Catalonia long before we saw those horrible pictures and videos: this only seals the deal for me.

But just like in Scotland, there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye, and a little corner of Iberia could shape the course of a continent – even the world.

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