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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… As Ithers See Us: The Most Terrifying Thing H.P. Lovecraft Ever Wrote

It figures that the best Lovecraftian fiction set in Scotland tends to be written by Scots like Cameron Johnston and William Meikle.

The Rose of England

At morn the rosebud greets the sun
And sheds the evening dew,
Expanding ere the day is done,
In bloom of radiant hue;
And when the sun his rest hath found,
Rose-petals strow the garden round!

Thus that blest Isle that owns the Rose
From mist and darkness came,
A million glories to disclose,
And spread BRITANNIA’S name;
And ere Life’s Sun shall leave the blue,
ENGLAND shall reign the whole world thro’!

H.P. Lovecraft, The Scot, No. 14 (October 1916), 7. (Yes, seriously, that HPL writing about the Rose of England in a magazine called The Scot)

Among my many offline projects, one subject I’ve been researching is Scottish Pulp. Scotland has its own rich history with pulp fiction, and the Americas’ ancestral links to the hame country mean there are plenty of stories of Scotland and Scots to be found in the pages of Weird Tales, Astounding Stories, Argosy, Adventure, and beyond.

One recurrent theme: American authors tend to like the Scots and Scotland a lot more than most Scottish authors. Even some of our greatest pulp authors seemed incapable of completely shaking the Cringe, or the more insidious and pathological “Caledonian Antisyzygy.” There are obviously cultural and historic considerations surrounding the age of pulps (two World Wars in particular), but the inferioritists who belittle Scotland and the Scots in fiction do not restrict their disdain to the Scots themselves. Just look at how a film about Scottish history that won 5 Academy Awards, 5 ACCAs, 3 BAFTAs, a Golden Globe, & a Writer’s Guide of America Award (among many others) is viewed by so many (though not, clearly, everyone): the Braveheart effect long predated that film.

Scotland does not have its own distinctive film industry or its own broadcasters, and our theatrical, musical, & literary institutions are heavily dominated by supposed “British” sensibilities to this day. The advent of radio and television broadcasting meant that this “British” culture – one as alien to the vast majority of English people as it was to the Scots, Welsh, and Northern Irish – could be projected into every household with a transceiver with an immediacy and power impossible with print. Thus, in the 20th Century, we often looked to those creators who are outwith that particular sphere of influence to present an outsider’s interpretation of Scotland and the Scots, be they members of the grand diaspora or not – from Talbot Mundy’s Scottish adventurers and Harold Lamb’s Nial O’Gordon to Diana Gabaldon’s 1990s’ novel (now turned television sensation in the 21st Century) Outlander.

On the other hand, sometimes you get folk like Howard Phillips Lovecraft.

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Accentuate the Positive: Mary Queen of Scots

It’s received wisdom that Mary Queen of Scots must’ve had a French accent:

It will almost certainly have considerable ­appeal as a rattling good yarn but its relationship with history will almost certainly be purely ­accidental. It is no coincidence that the producers have the young Mary speaking in English ­received pronunciation; the real Mary spoke French with a ­pronounced French accent to her death.
Professor Tom Devine, about Reign

Marie’s Scottish subjects greeted her with some suspicion. She had been raised in France and spoke French as her main language, speaking English only with a heavy French accent.
A Historian Goes to the Movies, about Reign

French architectural styles at home, the desirability of French education for Scots abroad, military and economic ties, all combined to produce the feeling that even if a French upbringing for their monarch was only to be countenanced because of the extreme dangers created by the Rough Wooing, it was not unnatural in the way that an English upbringing would have been. A French accent in Scotland was a good deal less unacceptable than a Scottish one in England.
– Jenny Wormald, Mary Queen of Scots: A Study in Failure

Why would you want to have this Scottish warrior queen who loves her country? She fled Scotland so how much did she really love it? She was French, she felt really French. I have only come across letters from Mary in French. It feels like there is this strange nationalistic feeling behind this film, with a Scottish warrior being bullied by an English queen. That is not what happened.
Dr. Estelle Paranque, about the upcoming Mary Queen of Scots

No one is trying to deny that Ronan’s Scottish accent is good. She’s great. But… Mary Stuart was raised in France. She was more French than Scottish when she arrived there as an adult to rule. But she would have arrived having a French accent. In most movies featuring Mary Stuart, she is portrayed as having a Scottish accent for the sake of not confusing the audience.
The Lazy Historian, about the upcoming Mary Queen of Scots

Mary was 5 years old when she left Scotland for France. She spent the following 13 years at the French court where she eventually married the Dauphin and was briefly Queen Consort of France. French was her language of choice all her life — most of her personal letters are in French, and the poetry she wrote is in French. Yes, of course, she spoke and read English fluently and also spoke and read Scots fluently (this is not just the dialect, but a language variety spoken in the lowland area of Scotland, distinct from the Gaelic language spoken in the highland areas). But it’s pretty damn likely Mary would have spoken English or Scots with a French accent. Not the other way around!
Frock Flicks, about the upcoming Mary Queen of Scots

It seems logical. Mary’s mother, Mary of Guise, was French, and Mary herself spent the years 5 to 18 in France where she ended up betrothed to the Dauphin, so obviously she had a French accent.

Right?

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Gone Both Ways

I presume, because the standard visual representation of the English language is that particular flag, its inclusion indicates to tourists that this map is in English. Of course, this isn’t much help when half the historic sites in Scotland have this flag flying, does it?

As far as possible, the public annals of the two countries should be revised. Errors and irritating expressions must be expunged (though in this matter our own histories are not so provocative as those of our neighbours), and a new history of Britain should be written with the utmost regard to accuracy.
– Sir Thomas Craig

If it wasn’t clear before, it should be beyond doubt now. The UK Government is hellbent on leaving the European Union without a deal, thanks to a mixture of complete cowardice on the part of pro-EU MPs of their party (save 14 honourable exceptions), the trademark negligence masquerading as incompetence of their former Coalition partners, the absence of 20 and the rebellion of 5 Opposition MPs. We cannot trust the mainstream media to take a stand, because they’ve been so blinded by the Golden Mean that they will grant a platform to actual fascism in the name of “balance.”

When the disgraced White House Chief Strategist taunts the “liberal elite” and calls Tommy Robinson the backbone of “this country” – the same Tommy Robinson who is openly funded by the same extremists who championed the current president – and even goes so far as to incite mass violence, you know what he’s talking about. This is the same man who met another would-be Prime Ministerial candidate with fascist connections. The same man who met with powerful & influential people in Scotland. The same man who approved hysterical smear stories against the Scottish Independence Movement and the SNP on his site – including one that called the current Scottish Justice Secretary an “Islamist-linked radical.” You know, those guys who some people compare to Scottish Independence supporters, despite most of them vehemently opposing Scottish Independence.

You may wonder where all this is heading. Well, I have a dark imagination.

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Who Decides?

Our membership of the European Union is a decision we take as the United Kingdom, and that’s why, in the referendum, every vote counts the same. We don’t count them in constituencies, we don’t count them in districts, every vote’s the same whether it’s in Stornoway or St. Ives. It’s a decision for all the people of the United Kingdom, and we should take it on the merits of the European Union Debate.
Liam Fox

I grappled with this question when I was Environment Secretary. I would talk to my opposite number, Richard Lochhead, and he would sometimes come to Brussels and we would discuss the matter in question beforehand. However, the position always was, and remains to this day, that it is the United Kingdom as one country that is negotiating.
Hilary Benn

We must leave the EU as one country not just because it preserves the Union but because it is the best option for jobs, businesses and trade across the UK.
Stephen Kerr

So did London vote to Remain but that is irrelevant as it was a national UK decision in which the majority voted for Brexit
Lord John Kilcoony

We voted in the referendum as one country, and we need to respect it as one country.
Dominic Raab

We entered the EU as one country and we will leave as one country, whatever the European Commission might desire.
Jacob Rees-Mogg

That is a very good point, we voted as one country.
Kwasi Kwarteng

It is important that we now move forward together as one country, very clear in what we want to see in our future relationship with the European Union, and that we go into the negotiations with that confidence.
Theresa May

“The UK voted as one county, the UK will leave as one country.”

This is a common refrain we hear – usually, but not exclusively, from those advocating to leave – when one brings up the fact that no less than two of the four constituent nations of the United Kingdom voted to remain. This is simply because the huge population difference between England and the other three means that even a mere 53% vote in favour of leaving in one nation completely overruled the 55% and 62% votes in favour of remaining in the other two.

But who, exactly, decided that this should be the case?

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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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