Mind Over Manners

If you get rid of the midden of power control, special pleading, social engineering, fevered dreaming, spiritual zeal, do-goodery, vanity and dumb-thuggery, then, right at the bottom of politics, you’ll find its original idea, the founding purpose of governance: it’s to feed people, or perhaps to allow folk to eat their dinner in peace. It doesn’t need a manifesto or speeches or plebiscite or subcommunities or baby-kissing or flesh-pressing to understand politics, it’s just about breakfast.
– A.A. Gill

I don’t respond well to ultimatums. If I was ever in a situation where someone said “it’s me or the dog,” I’d pick the dog, precisely because the dog would never demand I make a choice like that. “My way or the highway” – the highway doesn’t insist I follow it. So when someone tells me “don’t donate/support/follow this individual, or you’ll hurt the cause of independence,” how do you think I’m going to respond to that?

This wasn’t No campaigners or champions of the British Establishment, by the way: it was other independence supporters, saying that I shouldn’t give my support, my time, or my money to another independence supporter, on the basis of their personal statements. Now, here’s the thing: I’ve made a point of being as welcoming as possible to all independence supporters, knowing fully well that people are going to disagree with each other – sometimes vociferously, as is their right and prerogative. I think every major pro-independence blog, site, magazine, or paper has said something I either disagree with, or find personally offensive, whether it’s specifically related to independence or not. Yet I still list them on my links on this site; I’ll still read, retweet, and support good articles; I’ll still congratulate them on work well done. I’m used to this in other areas of my life, be it Robert E. Howard scholarship, anti-sectarian work, or even something as broad as art & illustration.

I’m not going to shut out an independence supporter because I disagree with them, or because I find their opinions or actions offensive. I’m not going to suggest that anyone should adopt my approach, either: it’s up to you to determine who you interact with & support. All I can say is that my personal view is that I take great pride in the Scottish Independence movement being an open, inclusive, welcoming movement: ostracising or rejecting individuals or groups, even those who challenge your most fundamental beliefs and ideals, is not something I can get behind. As long as someone acts within the law, they are welcome – to be challenged, as well as accepted.

Those who know me well would be aware that I don’t tend towards using aggressive language, and that I rarely swear (except board game nights, naturally, then anything goes). I’m polite to a fault, and hate confrontation, which is why I find politics so frustratingly difficult to engage in – because in my experience, being polite and well-mannered tells you absolutely nothing about a person’s character.

And this is something that reaches far beyond the matter of Scottish Independence.

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The Boy Who Cried Fascist

“How did this happen?”

I keep reading this in articles, hearing this from talking heads, constantly this repetition of disbelief. All these journalists and commentators and analysts and “experts” who are utterly blind-sided by just how recent events have come to pass. I wrote a post about the false, illogical, and deeply insulting comparison of the Scottish Independence campaign to the worst elements of the Leave and Trump campaigns. Indeed, I found myself rather vindicated by the latest Question Time from Stirling, where Billy Mitchell (who, the BBC neglected to point out, was the UKIP candidate in the 2013 Coatbridge West by-election) actually seemed to agree with my central point:

Donald Trump was elected by the American people, and the people of Britain just can’t understand that the American people believe in democracy. And democracy has been lowered to mob rule; when you don’t like the decision of a referendum, you disagree with it, you go to court, & you get rid of it. The SNP should know this, because we had a referendum: we voted No, they didn’t like it. They had a referendum on Brexit, they didn’t like that, let’s go to court, we don’t like Brexit, and now they don’t like Trump!

Democracy has been overruled by mob rule, and those people have been on the losing side of every single election, and thank God I’ve been on the winning side of every one. Mob rule wins – no democracy, mob rule. The SNP were on the losing side on five different occasions: I’m the winner, they’re the losers, let’s get them out.

Everything he says is true. Well, apart from Trump being elected by the American people, democracy being lowered to “mob rule,” the SNP bringing the indyref result to court, the EU referendum being “overruled” at all, the SNP losingevery single election” (!?!) and most spectacularly, him being the “winner.”

Think he might be a bit sore about that lost deposit?

Think he might be a bit sore about that lost deposit?

But he is, indeed, on the “winning side” of the indyref, the EU referendum, and Trump, along with the white nationalists and supremacists celebrating this glorious change in the world’s political climate.

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How Easily We Forget

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I don’t need a red flower on my lapel to remember the tragedies of human history. You would think they wouldn’t be needed.

Yet apparently, they are. We as people need reminders of the senseless waste of humanity. We have poppies for the red ocean which watered the fields of Verdun, Ypres, the Somme. What do we have to remember the lands too defiled, too poisoned, too devastated, for even poppies to grow?

the-red-zone

This is the Zone Rouge, the Red Zone, photographed by Olivier Saint Hilaire. This was the name given to those areas of France which were so devastated by artillery fire in two world wars that it contaminates the earth to this day. Originally 1,200 square kilometres of this blighted landscape covered France: to this day, 100 square kilometres are still forbidden to entry. The water and soil was sick with arsenic, mercury, lead, and zinc. There are places in the red zone where 99% of all animal and plant life cannot survive.

Whole villages were relocated.  Even farmers from the presumed “safe” blue and yellow zones are killed by unexploded shells, while they work their “iron harvest” – the hundreds of tons of metal turned up by their ploughshares. Those who survive build military museums, memorials, and shrines from the detritus of slaughter, or help the French Government’s dedicated cleanup department. Some experts think it will take centuries to cleanse the Zone Rouge. Others claim it will never be fully clean.

There are Red Zones throughout the world as the products of human conflict, greed, or carelessness. Agdam; Centralia; Varosha; Pripyat; Namie. Gruinard Island. If it weren’t for the likes of Willie Macrae, we could have added Ayrshire and Caithness to the Forbidden Lands of the world. There are places in Scotland which still could be the next Chernobyl, or Fukushima, if we fail to be constantly vigilant.

One of those Chernobyls sails past my window, gliding through the Clyde. And the worst thing? Chernobyl was a power plant. Its purpose was to provide light, heat, and energy to people; to protect them from Ukainian winter; to keep them warm and safe. Trident submarines’ purpose is to kill, maim, destroy, annihilate. Even if it fails in the most catastrophic way possible, it is still carrying out the reason for its existence – to blight the land, extinguish life, and spread suffering. This is what I will never – can never – forget. All the politicians with their gentle words and teary eyes, promising to ensure this will never happen again, all while nuclear death lurks miles from hundreds of thousands of people.

That is what Benchmark 6 is. That is the shadow over Scotland.

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Benchmark 6 Crowdfunder

Speaking for Scotland Against the Monsters

skelmorThe number of times a Trident submarine has had some sort of calamity would be hilarious if it wasn’t so utterly horrifying.

How many times have you read, or heard, some variation of “Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t speak for me” or “the SNP don’t speak for Scotland?” Usually it’s by people who didn’t vote for the SNP. Frequently it’s by people who include non-voters on their side, making preposterous arguments that the SNP are in fact only representing a “tiny minority” of Scots when you include people who didn’t – or couldn’t – go to the ballot box.

I understand when people say that the First Minister, the Scottish Government, or the SNP as a party don’t represent their beliefs, interests, or policies. That’s the nature of party politics. But to say they do not speak for Scotland is rather confusing: for if the democratically elected First Minister, or the democratically elected Scottish Government, or the third largest party in the British Isles, do not speak for Scotland… then who, exactly, does? The next largest party in the Scottish Parliament has barely over a fifth of the popular vote. Same with the third largest, which has been plummeting every year since the Scottish Parliament reconvened. The former third largest party in the UK is now the smallest party in the Scottish Parliament, with less than a tenth of the voters’ support.

Much is made, fairly so, about the SNP gaining 95% of Scottish seats in Westminster based on 50% of the vote. Nonetheless, the SNP candidates in no less than 35 of those constituencies won on an overall majority – which means that 59% of all Scottish seats were represented by individuals with over 50% of the constituency vote. None of the three non-SNP seats were won on anything like such a majority – only a few thousand votes, and Scotland would be entirely yellow.

Nonetheless, social attitudes surveys show that there are situations where the response from those interviewed suggested a divergence between the electorate and the elected. One of these is Trident – and it’s something I think we seriously need to talk about.

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What They Do When They’re Scared

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I unfortunately caught a bit of Reporting Scotland yesterday. Scotland’s economy “failed to grow” in the first quarter of the year, because low oil prices put “a real spanner in the works”; unemployment was down, but so was the UK’s as a whole, so it isn’t that big a deal; yesterday’s thunderstorms cause transport problems, which naturally means economic chaos. Money, money, money. The price of everything, the value of nothing. This, concurrent with much crowing from British Nationalists as they contort George Kerevan MP’s statement about an independent Scotland needing to “cut its budget coat to fit its fiscal means” – surely a metaphor that could just as easily substitute “cut” for “tailor” or “alter” – into some sort of tacit admission that Better Together were right all along.

Then I learned about exactly how much money the BBC gains from Scottish license fees, and how much it spends here.

bbcscotlandfinancial-2That the BBC faces an existential crisis in the event of Scottish Independence is one thing: you could argue that even if the UK as we understand it now ceases to exist, the actual island of Great Britain would still be there. But here, we see exactly what the BBC thinks of Scotland – and how much it is willing to put back into Scotland. Scots contribute £320.1 million, only to get £98.1 million spent on “local content” – that is, Scottish content.

Bear with me for a moment while I talk about a weird internet series, and how it relates to the state of the BBC today.

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We Do Not Need It; We Will Not Use It

WeaponOfTheEnemy

Batman has endured for 77 years. He has undergone many evolutions, reinterpretations, and reinventions over those decades. But there are constants throughout those iterations – be they the bat-paraphernalia of gadgets, vehicles and costumes, or character elements like his early life & motivations. Batman is often considered a right-wing character for his use of force against a criminal “underclass,” Bruce Wayne’s benevolent capitalism, his lack of accountability and transparency to public bodies, his perpetual surveillance of Gotham’s streets, and implementation of fear against his enemies. Yet for every conservative signpost, I think an argument could be made for left-wing counterpoints: he works to apprehend criminals, investigates crimes, protects and defends the vulnerable, tackles the corrupt underworld of Gotham’s crime syndicates, and uses his wealth to shake up the social structure of his city. That Batman could be both right-wing and left-wing – as well as both authoritarian and libertarian – depending on your point of view is testament to his character. Sure, you can look at Batman as an affirmation of the excesses of fascist authoritarian governments – but you can also look at him as a symbol of greater things.

We don’t know why popular, dedicated and hard-working politicians are killed, until the police investigation is over. We cannot, and should not, lay blame at the feet of anyone but the assassin alone. Yet even if it transpired politics played no part in the tragedy, how can one not be “political” about the murder of a politician?

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294 – 276

Refugees Welcome

That was the vote yesterday for an amendment to the Immigration Bill.

A high-profile campaign for the UK to accept 3,000 child refugees stranded in Europe has failed after the government narrowly won a vote in the House of Commons rejecting the plan.

MPs voted against the proposals by 294 to 276 on Monday after the Home Office persuaded most potential (UK government party) rebels that it was doing enough to help child refugees in Syria and neighbouring countries.

The amendment to the immigration bill would have forced the government to accept 3,000 unaccompanied refugee minors, mostly from Syria, who have made their way to mainland Europe.

You’d think there’d come a point where you finally become jaded. Acclimatised. Used to it. This is what that party does – it washes its hands of its own humanity, when it isn’t trampling its own people into the dust. It’s never a shock. Never a surprise. But that never quells the emotions – the anguish, the fury, the resolve. It stings, it aches, it burns away at your guts and your soul. Every. Single. Time.

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