Top of the Year, 2017

Thanks for all the well-wishes from everyone: I never like to jinx things, but I have been getting a bit better over the season.

So I don’t go all of December without a post, I thought it would be nice to have an end-of-year review of the Wilderness.

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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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Absent Without Leaving

I took a complete break from social media over the past two weeks. Part of this is because of my personal response to the 2017 Local Elections – in particular the Inverclyde result, which I still take very personally – and the aftermath. As of this post, there is still no new administration, and all we have to go on is hearsay. So, until the new administration is in place, I won’t comment on the election, the upcoming General Election, or anything overtly constitutional or political.

However, there was another, much more serious reason. It was a problem which was developing for months before the election, and came to a head in the last few weeks. As a resident of the area this problem affects, as well as a Community Councillor, I did a lot of work behind the scenes with others to find a peaceful resolution to a very tense and volatile situation. Several agencies, including Inverclyde Council, River Clyde Homes, and Police Scotland, were involved: I cannot thank them enough for their hard work and diligence in this very difficult situation. I am beyond relieved that this crisis looks to be over, and hope that all concerned can learn from this experience.

I hope I’ll be able to explain more fully in the future, though that may not be possible. Suffice to say, life was extremely interesting.

Wasted Years

Be like the Hairy-Chested Yeti Crab of the Hydrothermal Vents

Be like the Hairy-Chested Yeti Crab of the Deep Hydrothermal Vents of Antarctica

2016 was the worst, so the meme goes. So many deaths, so much political upheaval, so many things that just went wrong. My 2016 was not unlike any of the other 32 years of my life so far: good things happened, bad things happened, some great, some terrible. But there’s always something I remember each year.

So, as with last year, I’ll look back on the top posts of this year – 16 this time, in order of publication, while linking to some of my personal favourite posts.

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Why I Don’t Like Football


I used to be a very active child. Back when I was a wee guy, I ran. And when I say that, I mean I ran. I was like a wind-up toy, as soon as my mam or gran lowered me to the ground, off I went, tearing down the road as fast as my wee piston-like legs could carry me. It got me into no small amount of trouble, as I frequently found my poor mam or gran miles away, even as I kept running. Even today, I still remember the exilaration of running: the sense of leaving the world behind me, the sense of control over my destiny as I left adults coughing in my dust, the rush of endorphins and adrenaline pumping into my little brain. As such an active child, it seemed natural I would get into football: half the game is running, after all. Even if I didn’t have a particularly competitive edge, I would at least have fun playing, right?

Only I live in the West Coast of Scotland. I grew up during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Football wasn’t a simple game for me.

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The Complex Truth and the Simple Lie


There is a saying, often attributed to French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville: “it is easier for the world to accept a simple lie than a complex truth.” I kept this in mind during the 2016 Scottish Election campaign, when the possibility that services at Inverclyde Royal Hospital were to be closed was used in the election campaign of the Other Party’s candidate:

The source of these revelations was a leaked draft discussion document. The story should have ended right there, because by definition, a draft is a preliminary document which is written with the knowledge and intention that it will, in all likelihood, be changed in future versions. They are the armature on which the final, official document is built – and the final document can sometimes be revised so much that it is virtually unrecognisable from that first draft. It is for this reason that drafts are not published for public consultation – they are irrelevant, outdated, obsolete, and of no bearing on the final document.

The draft document contains phrases like “live within available resources,” “move without further delay,” “review transfer of trauma,” and “review provision of physical disability”. None of these phrases are contained in the final document, which was published in February 2016.

What has happened since the election is that a new document has been published. And that’s where things get complicated.

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