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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Roman in the Gloamin: The Tautology of A Diverse Empire

Nature has willed that every man’s children and kindred should be his dearest objects. Yet these are torn from us by conscriptions to be slaves elsewhere. Our wives and our sisters, even though they may escape violation from the enemy, are dishonoured under the names of friendship and hospitality. Our goods and fortunes they collect for their tribute, our harvests for their granaries. Our very hands and bodies, under the lash and in the midst of insult, are worn down by the toil of clearing forests and morasses. Creatures born to slavery are sold once for all, and are, moreover, fed by their masters; but Britain is daily purchasing, is daily feeding, her own enslaved people.
Tacitus (attributed to Calgacus), Agricola

There was quite the rammy in social media a couple of days ago. No, not that one: I’ve said all I want to say on that subject. The rammy I’m talking about regards this recent (well, over half a year old) BBC video for 7-to-11-year-olds:

As far as I can tell, the argument seems to be between one group of people who think that the Roman family in the video are not representative of the Ancient Romans as a whole, and another group of people who think that the family represent the diversity of the Ancient Romans.

Now, you know me and the BBC. I am deeply ambivalent about it as an organisation: I started with great enthusiasm & respect for it, to downright anathema & disappointment, within what seemed like only a few years – coincidentally, as a teen watching the Iraq War unfolding. So I view this with the same sense of weary cynicism I now view shows like Blue Peter: a general sense of unease and distrust on every viewing.

Well, I got that watching this cartoon – but it probably wasn’t for the same reasons as those who criticised historians like Mary Beard. Rather, it’s for the disquieting ease by which folk can normalise conquest & colonisation, if it appeals to the right angle on their sensibilities.

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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.

This Election Is A National Emergency

You might not know it from some of my posts, but I’m an eternal optimist. Some say there are people out there who would never vote for independence: that they either identify too strongly with their British identity to even consider a vote that they feel could jeopardise it, or because they think Scotland is incapable of making a success of what literally hundreds of other countries around the world do right now, or simply because they believe themselves to be “anti-nationalist.” I refuse to believe that anyone can be immovably anti-Independence, any more than anyone can be immovably pro-Independence. We’ve already seen movement from both sides – people I could’ve sworn would never turn suddenly joining the SNP, and others who seem hell-bent on undoing decades of struggle for a cause we used to share.

Yes, of course it’s more useful – in a cold, tactical sense – to go to the undecideds and “soft” electorate on both sides. All we need is another few hundred thousand more than the last official record. But I worry about those we write off as inconvertible – those who we view as lost to the clutches of a mad party which has taken leave of any sense they had after the chaos of the EU Referendum result. They are going to shape the future of these islands.

This election is not like others that have come before. It is not a matter of parties, of policies, of the nuts and bolts of democratic governance. It is nothing less than a national emergency – a keyframe of the story of the 21st Century. It’s a moment that we Scots will, as ever, only be able to significantly alter in the event of a close contest. We have a way out. But what of our fellow Britons?

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Council 2017: Let’s Make It Happen

That’s the 12 champions Greenock & Inverclyde SNP have put forward to contest Inverclyde. With a bit of luck, a good deal of hard work, and the trust of our people, they’ll be the first SNP Council in Inverclyde history.

We – we, the people of Inverclyde – made history in 2014, as the fifth highest Yes voting constituency, a percentage of a percentage away from Yes. Then we made history again in 2015, when we elected our first SNP MP. Then, in 2016, we followed it with our first SNP constituency MSP.

Let’s keep the history going – because we’re a long way from done. We have plans for Inverclyde, and for Scotland: plans that fit our peoples’ desires, our peoples’ needs, our peoples’ hopes. We’ve been victims of circumstance for too long – victims of governments we didn’t vote for, of parties who neglected or mistreated us, of failings and inadequacies in the people who are meant to serve us.

We hope the people of Inverclyde, and Scotland, will join us as we change the course of our lives.

A Few Thoughts On What In Blazes Is Going On

In fierce anguish & quenchless flames
To the desarts and rocks He ran raging
To hide, but He could not: combining
He dug mountains & hills in vast strength,
He piled them in incessant labour,
In howlings & pangs & fierce madness
Long periods in burning fires labouring
Till hoary, and age-broke, and aged,
In despair and the shadows of death.
– William Blake, depicting post-Brexit Britain (probably) in The Book of Urizen

You know what? Forget my worries about being a Cassandra. I’m just going to call it like I see it. World’s mad enough as it is.

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