Iron In Your Words

There’s a remarkable scene in 1976 revisionist western The Outlaw Josey Wales. It is, at least on the surface, a Southern Romance in the typical Lost Cause motif: a humble Missouri farmer joins a troop of confederate guerillas after his family is murdered, part of a series of violent conflicts in the Missouri-Kansas area; when the war ends, all except Wales surrender to Union forces – and all except Wales are massacred; so he becomes an outlaw and rides on to infamy.

Wales makes his way to Comanche territory, where he encounters the Ketahto leader Ten Bears:

Josie Wales: You be Ten Bears?

Ten Bears: I am Ten Bears.

JW: I’m Josey Wales.

TB: I have heard. You are the Gray Rider. You would not make peace with the Bluecoats. You may go in peace.

JW: I reckon not. I got no place else to go.

TB: Then you will die.

JW : I came here to die with you. Or to live with you. Dying ain’t so hard for men like you and me. It’s living that’s hard when all you’ve ever cared about has been butchered or raped. Governments don’t live together – people live together. With governments, you don’t always get a fair word or a fair fight. Well, I’ve come here to give you either one or get either one from you. I came here like this so you’ll know my word of death is true, and my word of life is then true. The bear lives here, the wolf, the antelope, the Comanche. And so will we. Now we’ll only hunt what we need to live on, same as the Comanche does. And every spring, when the grass turns green, and the Comanche moves north, you can rest here in peace, butcher some of our cattle, and jerk beef for the journey. The sign of the Comanche, that will be on our lodge. That’s my word of life.

TB: And your word of death?

JW: It’s here in my pistols and there in your rifles. I’m here for either one.

TB: These things you say we will have, we already have.

JW: That’s true. I ain’t promising you nothing extra. I’m just giving you life and you’re giving me life. And I’m saying that men can live together without butchering one another.

TB: It’s sad that governments are chiefed by the double tongues. There is iron in your words of death for all Comanche to see, and so there is iron in your words of life. No signed paper can hold the iron. It must come from men. The words of Ten Bears carries the same iron of life and death. It is good that warriors such as we meet in the struggle of life… or death. It shall be life.

– Josey Wales & Ten Bears, The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

The fact that such a nuanced depiction of Native Americans & the brutality of war came from the pen of one of the most infamous segregationists of the Civil Rights era is a surprising paradox (even if it’s easy to say how small government libertarians would light up). The United States has been wrestling with the legacy of its past for centuries – but it is words I think of today.

There is iron in your words. Iron = meaning, conviction, commitment. To say something with the intention of carrying it out. To promise, to swear. To vow.

We Scottish Independence supporters are all too used to the double tongues on the opposite side of the constitutional divide. The one which claimed a vote for No was a vote for “better, faster, stronger change” only to then say it was in fact “a vote for the status quo” – and then deny both: who terrorised Scots about being forced out of the European Union, then dragged out because a tiny majority in their larger neighbour was more important than the near two-thirds majority of their own: who, on today’s, ruling, now deny they ever said anything about this being a Union of Equals, that we are in fact One United Kingdom.

The facade of the Phoney Union has fallen at long last. There is no Union of Equals, no Family of Nations. There is only One United Kingdom. There is no Nation of Scotland – and that’s what you all voted for 8 years ago, even when the anti-independence brigade hotly denied it. The only justification you have in maintaining the people of Scotland cannot seek independence without Westminster consent is if you believe that Scotland is not a country. In their glee, many anti-independence mouths are speaking when perhaps it would be strategically impertinent.

But it’s to be expected from them, & they can be ignored. What cannot be expected, or ignored, is the failure of our supposed champions. We had 8 years to sort this out, yet only now we are learning the contempt of the UK Supreme Court for Scotland’s democratic wishes. And the reaction? To talk about it. Sometime next year.

8 years of this. 8 years of fine talk – about how Scotland will not be taken out of the EU against our will, about how Scotland’s voice will be heard, about how Scotland will not be taken for granted. Yet when all those things happened, it is incumbent on those who claim to champion Scotland’s democracy to prove the iron in their words. Now, when Ian Blackford or Angus Robertson or even Nicola Sturgeon make great announcements & proclamations, the response is laughter – because there is no iron in their words. They won’t do anything. They’ll complain, they’ll stamp their feet, they’ll gurn at the electorate apologetically – but deeds will not be forthcoming. Deeds I once believed were inevitable. In times past, when Scottish National Party politicians made bold statements, they followed through. For all the Westminster parties’ sins, even they could perceive the iron in their words.

And they would know – because all the UK have ever promised was devoid of iron. Promises of Devomax, Home Rule, Federalism? No iron. Vows to respect the Scottish Parliament? Ironless. Oaths to respect the will of the Scottish electorate? Completely devoid of ferrous content. So when someone comes to them with iron in their words, they recognise the (to them) alien substance – and know that bluffing won’t work.

The SNP need the iron back in their words of life or death. Otherwise, it’s just empty noise. And we have enough of that.

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Voting for Independence in the Inverclyde Council Elections 2022

As the election is tomorrow, I thought I’d do my bit to note all the pro-independence, indy-open, or at least indy-neutral candidates standing in each ward. Every ward except Inverclyde East (where all three candidates have been elected automatically) and Inverclyde South have enough candidates for independence supporters not only to rank above open anti-independence candidates, but theoretically take all the available seats. This happened in Inverclyde West in 2017, where 2 pro-independence candidates and 1 neutral independent were elected. This should be the goal of every independence supporter across Scotland. Considerations about “democracy” and “fairness” are moot, because for as long as we are part of the UK, “democracy” and “fairness” never enter into the equation in the first place. This isn’t overriding democracy – it’s ensuring democracy, real democracy, has a chance to actually manifest with Scottish independence.

I won’t explicate the order in which I will be voting, nor will I make any particular recommendations. I expect Alba supporters to put Alba first and SNP supporters to put their candidates first: there is no real way to “game” the Single Transferrable Vote system, so it is honestly one of the most authentic methods. You really do vote for your first choice first, and your last choice last. Even if you can’t stand any particular candidate, or refuse to support their party, you can at least place them above individuals & parties who are actively opposed to independence. I leave to others arguments about local issues. My argument is that if the power station fails, it doesn’t matter how many lightbulbs you change or wires you reroute in your living room – you need to get the power going at the source.

So let’s break it down.

The Local Is National

No major party, it seems, is without blood on their hands. The cruelties and atrocities committed under the UK Government Party’s watch are well-documented and ongoing. Thanks to past Prime Ministers, the Opposition Party can count tens of thousands of innocents within and without the UK’s borders on their red ledgers. The moral cowardice of the Coalition Party makes them party to everything the UK Government enabled during that brief five year term which ended up decimating what was once offering an alternative to the destructive two-party dominance of centuries past. Even considering that the Scottish Government was not truly a national government with the powers and responsibilities enjoyed by nearly every other nation on the planet, I took great pride in the party I voted for and supported being something different.

When the new First Minister decided the “Scottish Executive” deserved a name more deserving of the Parliament it stood in, Scotland went on to flourish under a Scottish Government. 2007 marked the beginning of great changes, lasting even through the atrocious Financial Crisis: the rise in homelessness was stalled and reversed to almost half its previous level, as was educational inequality and crime levels; A&E waiting times for the Scottish NHS were significantly reduced from the previous government; the worrying rise in drug deaths was slowed since 2007; votes condemning and refusing to consent to war and exploitation were constant even in the face of international pressure. You could accuse the SNP of everything under the sun, but at least – at least – the SNP never voted to send our people to illegal wars. At least the SNP never let thousands upon thousands of our people die through negligence, incompetence, or malice. At least the SNP were an exemplar, a glimpse, of what an Independent Scotland could be – the good an Independent Scotland could do. Even if you’re on the other side of the constitutional divide, they were a party of government you could respect.

It breaks my heart to realise that it simply isn’t true anymore.

The John Carpenter Blues

Man, this could’ve been such a good film…

One of my favourite directors is John Carpenter. Even the least of his films are imbued with his creative watermark. 1978’s Halloween is the blueprint for all subsequent Middle-American anxieties about youth turned into grim slasher horror; 1976’s Assault on Precinct 13 is a nigh-unbearably tense thriller that manages to foster deep isolation in the middle of a crowded city; I would argue that 1988’s They Live is more relevant & socially resonant now than even at the point it was first released. His Apocalypse Trilogy, most overtly in the 1987 science-cosmic horror (and one of my very favourite films) Prince of Darkness, posits multiple interpretations of the end of the world. The third of the trilogy, 1994’s In The Mouth of Madness, is a homage to literary horror traditions from Lovecraft to King. But it’s the first – 1982’s The Thing – which has remained in the public consciousness the longest, finding Man to be the warmest place to hide its creeping dread.

I can’t even begin to explain The Thing, a loose adaptation of John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There?” where the extraterrestrial, well, thing of the title manages to creep around everything from still-formidable Cold War Paranoia to self-destructive masculinity, fear of the loss of self to good old-fashioned existential cosmic dread, with a tightly-knit script, impeccable performances, brilliant production, and groundbreaking effects. But the most powerful – and most desperately sad – thing about The Thing is the erosion of trust in a close community. People who came to know one another, who relied on each other to survive in a deeply hostile environment that humanity was not equipped to inhabit without technology, started to betray each other and themselves in their rising panic about something that was not them.

You can see why it’s been so popular.

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Alba Because

“Welcome to Scotland” sign showing saltire flag emblem at roadside on Scotland/England border. Gaelic translation “Failte gu Abla” shown underneath in yellow text.

Ever since switching to Alba, I’ve made a sincere effort to be fair and even-handed to the SNP: it is obvious that the SNP are vital to the cause of independence, and I know my friends are no less dedicated to the cause than I or anyone else. But the question as to why I left does warrant more explanation, and I’m afraid it cannot be bereft of some criticism.

Many of my friends will be voting SNP/SNP (as I did in 2016) or SNP/Green (as many of my friends did in 2016) tomorrow. I voted that way because I thought they would deliver on the single, most important part of their manifesto:

We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people – or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.

Some would say the Pandemic is sufficient mitigating circumstances, to which I cannot agree, for what illustrates the pressing need for independence more than being trapped in an insane United Kingdom with a robber baron perfectly happy to “let the bodies pile high” so long as his precious finances are unharmed?

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West Scotland Alba Launch

I remember attending my first “Yes” event, all those years ago. I was pleasantly surprised at how many folk were there, all sharing a desire for an independent Scotland – but nonetheless, acknowledged the trials which lay ahead. It’s almost a decade since I started the modern, “real” leg of my personal journey. Back then, Inverclyde was predicted to be one of the lowest Yes-voting constituencies in all of Scotland, and everyone seemed to know it: the best we could hope for was that our complement would be enough to contribute to the national vote. As it ended up, of course, Inverclyde was the 5th highest Yes result in all of Scotland. Then we went from an Opposition Party stronghold to one of the top ten SNP gains in both UK & Scottish Parliament elections. Then we were the 30th-highest Remain vote in the entire UK.

Inverclyde seems to have a habit of confounding expectations.

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A Rat Called Mouse

In a time long ago, I was once privy to secret knowledge. Back in my film criticism/journalism days, I talked with directors, screenwriters, producers, all sorts of individuals: I knew a lot of folk who worked at various levels in the industry. I’m lucky enough to call some of them my friends – damned if I know how or why I found myself in their circles, yet there I was, an errant mote in the whirlpool of Important People. One of my favourite secret memories is when I received some… information. To protect my sources, I won’t say anything beyond that it was related to a significant milestone in popular culture – the sort of thing that only happens once.

I knew that, while some elements would surely be divisive, others would be received warmly, & some would have longtime aficionados leaping to their feet in delight. Oh boy, folk are going to love this, I thought. But I daren’t tell a soul what I knew – quite apart from betraying my sources’ confidence, how could I ruin something that means so much to so many? So, I went on forums, news site comment sections, Facebook groups, Twitter lists, and looked at what everyone was thinking about this pop cultural milestone… while I, privy to secret knowledge, cackled in glee like the proverbial Imp of the Perverse. Reading their theories, their hopes, their fears, all while I knew exactly what was going to happen. Then, the pop cultural milestone happened. Sure enough, some criticized a few parts – but the vast majority seemed to adore it. And I felt that kind of contentment, knowing that I never betrayed my source’s confidence for well over a year, waiting for this great event to unfold. Something of the glamour of prophesy, but for fun.

I wish I had happy secret knowledge like that again.

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Confusing their brains in college-classes

I try my best not to be too critical of fellow independence supporters, but sometimes I feel like I have to plant my colours to the mast. Such a day is today, where Neil Mackay hosts an interview with Andrew Wilson, former SNP MSP and currently (in)famous for the Growth Commission prospectus on an independent Scotland.

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