The last post was a bit dowlie for my liking. I was still upset about the situation with the McPherson Centre, and frustrated. Fortunately, a couple of things happened since writing that post which reinvigorated my belief in Scotland and her people.Continue reading
Vote is cast. Now we wait.
I have been deeply fortunate in my voting life. Each time I have voted, it was with full heart & soul, because I truly believed in what I was putting on the ballot paper. This election, I had the honour of doing the same. No lingering doubts, no nagging trepidation, no bitter reluctance: the lilac and peach papers received their marks promptly & proudly, before being cast into the black void of the ballot box with their fellows, where they will be counted in due course.
As ever, no matter who you’re voting for, use this power. If voting didn’t change things, very rich & powerful people wouldn’t spend millions (if not billions) on campaigning for yours. Newspapers & television stations wouldn’t spend weeks of their time trying to convince you. Even if its a candidate with no hope, even if it’s a party that won’t form the next government, even if it’s to spoil your ballot, your vote is a covenant with society – to show the kind of society you want to be part of.
That’s how I voted. That’s how I’ve always voted. See you at the polling stations.
I will sharpen the tone on the angel’s tongue
And wield a blow to unreality’s front
Illusions flow out from this mortal wound
As I wake to the sound of the lion’s roar
I use Facebook primarily to keep in touch with friends and family across the globe. I don’t spend much time scrolling or reading – in fact, sometimes I take far too long to respond even to comments & private messages.
A Wilderness of Peace usually involves politics, news, & other current affairs. For the most part, I’d like to say I’ve been fairly laid back, except in regards to matters I deem to be unjust or scandalous: in those cases I’ve been forthright & uncompromising. I know I’ve said some very strong words about very powerful people. But, I have never advocated violence, harassment, abuse, criminality, or anything that would – for example – breach Facebook’s Community Standards. Such actions are counterproductive to any of the causes I hold dear, and entirely out of my character.
Outside of polling days, I keep politics off my homepage: I set up a dedicated page to that blog for that reason. Every time I write a new post, I post a link on my blog. Yesterday, Facebook did not allow me to do this.
Other readers have contacted me, saying they could not post links either. After a bit of digging, I found some further information: a Facebook friend attempted to post a link, but their message was different from mine: “Your message couldn’t be sent because it includes content that other people on Facebook have reported as abusive.” I don’t understand why the message I received gave no information as to what was against Community Standards, but the message a reader received more specifically cited abusive content. What is going on?
To have your own website blocked with no explanation, let alone warning, on the grounds of something as serious as abuse is bad enough. But to not know why? With no opportunity to appeal, no route to identify the offending content & remove it, no way to make things right? I recognise that politics can be a tricky subject. But the idea Facebook’s solution to an abusive website (I have to think it’s a mistake, but how can I when I don’t know what specifically was being objected to?) is to simply lock it out without any attempt to contact the site in question?
The page for my Facebook is just called “A Wilderness of Peace.” It lists this blog’s address as the external website. You would think that there would be some method of contacting the page publisher with a short message explaining “this page has been found in violation of Community Standards,” and highlighting and quoting the offending content. That’s how other social media platforms work. Yet I’m completely at a loss as to not only who I’ve offended, but what I’ve written that was offensive – abusive, even.
To be clear: if I did write something abusive, I will not hesitate to remove it and apologise unreservedly. I invite the complainant to contact me via the comments to tell me exactly what they found objectionable, and I will see what could be done. It’s entirely possible that this is an automated service that misread the context of one of my posts – I do include quotations from some truly appalling sources without in any way endorsing them.
But if I don’t know what that abuse was, then what good can come of the situation at all?
Today we buried my great uncle. My grandfather is now the last son of his family’s generation.
I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have a family full of independence supporters, especially considering the relative diversity of my family. I have close cousins across the Great West Coast of Scotland Divide, as well as family born in England, Germany, Kenya, Singapore, and elsewhere in the world. We may not agree on everything – what family does? – but while I don’t doubt many families in Scotland had heated discussions about independence, even if we didn’t agree on this issue, we were still family, and still liked one other as well as loved one another.
My grandfather is one of the most fervent Yessers I know. He likened his journey to Yes as being like a lightbulb going off in his head. For him, it was “if we’re such a burden, then why do they want to keep us so much?” Ever since, he would debate and discuss independence with anyone and everyone, never failing to tell me about something he read in a paper or online, or ask about a law or article of legislation. He was talking independence to old friends at the shops, neighbours passing in the street: he’s even built up a repertoir as a cybernat that I could only dream of! He and my great uncle, too, discussed the matter a number of times, especially in the past few years.
A lot of folk are very sanguine – frankly, ruthless – about the generation gap in regards to independence. They think there’s a sense of inevitability to independence, that we just have to wait until the older generation die out, let time sort it out. It’s something I could never really countenance, even from a coldly expedient sake. I want independence because I believe it will benefit all Scots, even those who voted against it. There would not, and could not, be any sort of “purge” of non-independenistas from an independent Scotland, because it goes against what we’re fighting for.
We don’t have the luxury of waiting for demographics to sort itself out. There are people starving, freezing, dying in Scotland as a direct result of policies enacted by a government we didn’t elect right now. There are people who made this nation their home who were denied a vote in a referendum and need us to do everything we can for them right now. And there are people who’ve been campaigning for an independent Scotland since they were changing our cabinet ministers’ nappies right now. As the reality of the UK’s ultimate design – using leaving the EU as a smokescreen to destroy decades of social and economic progress to line their pockets and inflate their egos – we can ill afford to simply let time do the work for us.
Too many have died before seeing an independent Scotland. Douglas Crawford, Margaret Ewing, Douglas Henderson, Bashir Ahmad, Margo Macdonald, Jimmy Halliday, Billy Wolfe, Gordon Wilson, Robert Salmond, and countless more activists, elected representatives, and believers have passed away this century alone. Even when polls showed only some 20% of over-65s supported independence, that was still tens of thousands of our people who were willing to believe despite everything that has been put against our cause over the centuries. It isn’t about being impatient, it’s about doing what we can, when we can, for the people who need us most.
My grandfather told me something about his brother’s final days. His health had deteriorated terribly in the past year. He was nearly deaf and blind: all he could see were vague shapes and shadows, like the flames of a fire. I want my grandfather to see an independent Scotland, just as I wanted my great uncle, and my paternal grandparents, and so many more – to know that whatever that nation looked like, it would be a nation where their vote matters. Where they matter.
I don’t know how my great uncle voted in the referendum, but as I’ve said for years now, how you voted in 2014 simply doesn’t matter any more. Independence is not, was not, and will never be, solely for those who support it. It is for the benefit of all of us in this wonderful nation, whatever their age or creed or view on the constitution. We owe it to them, and to the generations yet to come, even if all they see are the flames of the fire.
Far beyond the sundown
Far beyond the moonlight
Deep inside our hearts and all our souls
So far away we wait for the day
For the lives all so wasted and gone
We feel the pain of a lifetime lost in a thousand days
Through the fire and the flames we carry on…
One of the blessings of friends in international places is being their guide to Scotland. A while back, a group of friends I knew from my Howard Days were visiting, and naturally enquired as to where are the best places to go and see in my homeland. Since they were literary folk, one of the must-visit locations was Burns Country.
Jings, it’s been a year, hasn’t it?
It’s been a quiet year in the Wilderness, but there were still some fond memories and popular enough posts. I aim to do better next year, as always. For now, I’ll take a look back on the most popular blog posts of each month from the year that was.
There were two amendments at the Autumn 2018 SNP Conference which I felt moved to speak on:
11. Whole-school approach to mental health provision
Conference acknowledges that 2018 is the Year of Young People and that in partnership with the third sector, the Scottish Government has tasked a group of 22 young people with gathering evidence and offering solutions on how young people’s mental health services in Scotland can be improved.
Conference acknowledges the challenges in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and welcomes the new CAMHS Taskforce, backed with £5 million of investment, to reshape and improve services and ensure that young people have access to support when they need it.
Conference affirms that investment in prevention is crucial if we are to tackle the root causes of mental ill health and notes with concern the Mental Health Foundation’s research that 33% of young people aged 18 to 24 in Scotland have experienced suicidal feelings because of stressful situations while 24% have self-harmed.
Conference believes that teachers need the right training and support to explore emotional wellbeing in schools to help prevent mental ill health from developing and escalating into crisis. Conference therefore backs the Mental Health Foundation’s campaign to create a “whole-school approach” to mental wellbeing by supporting mental health training for all teachers and support staff.
YOUNG SCOTS FOR INDEPENDENCE
JOSH MENNIE, ELECTED MEMBER OF
GRAHAM CAMPBELL, ELECTED
MEMBER OF NATIONAL COUNCIL
20. Adverse Childhood Experiences
Conference notes that across Scotland there are still many children who are growing up with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), a term that covers abuse, physical and emotional neglect and household adversity, the effects of which can cause chronic stress responses and have a lasting impact on children as they grow into adults.
Conference notes research which suggests that generally, but not specifically, instances of ACEs rise with the level of deprivation that a child is living in while understanding that there are no published studies to date of the prevalence specifically of ACEs among the general population of Scotland.
Conference notes what it sees as the benefits of early intervention and addressing ACEs and considers that such an approach has a positive impact on the person as well as society as a whole.
Conference further notes the view that, in order to mitigate against these experiences, a greater understanding must be achieved among policy makers and that focus should lie on prevention, resilience and enquiry and calls upon the Scottish Government to commission an ACE specific study of the Scottish population to determine how many people are affected and what steps can be taken for prevention and healing of ACEs.
GAIL ROSS MSP
RONA MACKAY MSP
I rarely consider speaking at conference, or at all, unless I feel confident in that I have anything relevant to impart and the experience necessary to justify my contribution. This was one of those occasions. I was not called to speak at either motion due to the great number of cards in support – a testament to the necessity and support for the two topics.
Seeing as it’s World Mental Health Day, I thought I’d cobble together the thoughts I had into a post.
Last week, another “movement” born of nihilism, misanthropy, and misery has taken lives. That this is happening 100 years after a major milestone in the ongoing global struggle for universal suffrage & equal opportunities only proves that we must constantly work hard to maintain that which we’ve fought for, or risk losing it all.
I don’t particularly want to dignify the incel (Newspeak for involuntary celibacy – note the use of celibacy, a word with a very specific religious meaning, as opposed to something like abstinence or continence) “movement” by using their term for their misogynistic ideology, because it would be disrespectful to the original creator of the term to use it in its twisted definition. Nonetheless, its obvious association with Orwell & its homonymic relationship to intel imbues it with a certain ironic power.
It’s an extremely frightening phenomenon to me, because I could imagine how so many could end up falling into its trap.
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.
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.