The Pendulum Swing

If you’re still here after I – rather baldly – stated my opinion that stopping indyref2 was the primary goal of the 2017 UK General Election, thank you for your patience. It’s about to be tested further.

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The Pit and the Pendulum

The irony is that Stranger Things (which also takes place in a little town in Indiana) is set before Eerie Indiana, but Eerie Indiana was made before Stranger Things. Only a matter of time before the 90s Kids have their day, mark my words…

I’d like to share a post-Hallowe’en Horror story with you. It’s a scrying, a divination, of one possible future. I don’t want it to happen. It needn’t. We can stop it. But for the purposes of a thought experiment, let’s gaze into Galadriel’s mirror at what a future happens when we let it. I’ve embellished it with some science fiction, horror, and fantastical elements.

Dare you ponder that which is story, and that which is real?

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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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The Tao of Independence

The leader who was elected 3rd in a 3-member ward, leading a council that lost the popular vote, who runs a minority council as if it was a majority.

Those 6 election results:
1992 (Clune Brae): 855 (47.4%). Elected (pre-STV system).
1999 (Inverclyde Six): 885 (56.3%). Elected (pre-STV system).
2003 (Inverclyde Six): 661 (51.3%). Elected (pre-STV system).
2007 (Inverclyde East): 2,122 (30.1%). Elected 1st round. 1st seat.
2012 (Inverclyde East): 1,607 (28.7%). Elected 1st round. 1st seat.
2017 (Inverclyde East): 953 (21.56%). Elected 2nd round. 3rd seat.

I try to be magnanimous. Really, I do. But there are times I wonder: do the people who campaigned for Scotland to stay in the UK truly have any conception of what we independence campaigners felt this time three years ago?

I’m sure some simply view it as another electoral victory, just like an election. Others may have an understanding, but don’t care: as long as they won, it’s ok. There are probably others who know all too well, and actually enjoy the fact 1.7 million Scots were utterly, completely heartbroken on the 19th of September 2017. Thus, even when they went from 53 pro-UK MPs to 3 less than a year later, the SNP have resoundingly & convincingly won the largest percentage of the vote in every election since 2014, they insist on reminding us: don’t forget, you’re still British.

Yet what of the people who truly made that possible – those ordinary Scots who voted against independence?

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The Country on the Edge of Forever

If you map it, it will come?

“My stories try to seduce the reader by disguising themselves as sensational entertainment, but are propaganda for democratic welfare-state Socialism and an independent Scottish parliament.”
Alasdair Gray

How many stories have you heard where the Axis won the Second World War?

Even before the war was over, stories of the Thousand Year Reich were published: Katharine Burdekin’s Swastika Night, written in 1937, started the trend which has almost become a subgenre in itself. Some of the foremost science fiction authors of the age, such as Isaac Asimov, David Brin, Fritz Leiber, & Norman Spinrad, wrote tales on this theme; some books, like Robert Harris’ Fatherland, were adapted to film; one of Star Trek’s most celebrated episodes (written by Harlan Ellison) featured this as a poignant dilemma. This has lasted into the new millennium: Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle was adapted into a hit series, as was Len Deighton’s SS-GB. It is understandable for so much fiction to revolve around this supermassive gravity well in our planetary history given the way the conflict shaped so much of humanity’s consciousness decades later.

What if we go to a Point of Divergence further back in time: what if the Confederacy won the American Civil War? Again, there are dozens of books on that subject, a mockumentary, and a recently-announced television series from the showrunners behind A Game of Thrones. Naturally, it’s more an American phenomenon, but it remains the deadliest war in United States history, and all the more bitter for its internecine nature.

How about further than even that – what if the Roman Empire never fell? Going on the alternative history database Uchronia, searching for “Roman”  yields 116 results (& another 77 for “Rome”) – that means 116 books, essays, or stories involving the Roman Empire or Ancient Rome. What if Elizabeth of England failed/was killed & the Spanish Armada triumphed?  Searching for “English” or “England” yields 94/129 results; “British” or “Britain” 189 /153 results.

What about Scotland?

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Lost Histories

I sometimes fear that
people think that fascism arrives in fancy dress
worn by grotesques and monsters
as played out in endless re-runs of the Nazis.

Fascism arrives as your friend.
It will restore your honour,
make you feel proud,
protect your house,
give you a job,
clean up the neighbourhood,
remind you of how great you once were,
clear out the venal and the corrupt,
remove anything you feel is unlike you…

It doesn’t walk in saying,
“Our programme means militias, mass imprisonments, transportations, war and persecution.”
– Michael Rosen, “I Sometimes Fear…

I volunteer with a local heritage & arts group in Gourock: a wee forum where people who are interested in our Burgh of Barony’s past can discuss our history, culture, and future. This can range from the not-too-distant past of the 20th Century, all the way back to prehistoric times, and even the geological composition of the very rocks. Little stories abound, from the innovation of the original Red Herring, to the diabolical warlock Auld Dunrod, and the thing buried under St. Ninian’s football pitch featured on an episode of Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World.

There are stories that aren’t quite so delightful: the death of Mary Lamont and others in the “witch-mania of Scotland”; the sectarian violence which cropped up again and again; the expulsion of Rev. Macrae by the Synod. One of the many hazards historians must navigate in the sea of history is that dark side of humanity: no town is without its sorrows, its hatreds, its evils. It can be very easy to repurpose shame or horror from your past into denial and outrage towards others.

I was struck by this facet of the events in Charlottesville: it’s illustrative in showing how easy it is for things to go wrong.

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Divide and Home Rule

A still from an American WW2 propaganda film. Guess the name.

I have a new article on Indyref2.scot on the subject of sectarianism in today’s Scottish political climate. It’s a subject I care very much about, and recent statements and political decisions have moved me to comment on them.

For folk like Murdo Fraser, Adam Tomkins, and Ruth Davidson, these comments are little more than trolls to wind up the Nats. Toying with these forces for political gain, safe in the knowledge that they won’t experience the consequences of such tensions’ inevitable conclusion, is just a game to them. It’s no game to me.