Friday, December 10, 2010

The battle for the Winterval Number One!

Lets face it, the auld pagan tradition of Winter Solstice was usurped by those with a fancy for a Middle-Eastern version of the ancient death/ re-birth belief. Some would argue that we return Xmas to its original roots by sacrificing a lamb or two to ensure that springtime will return. Far be it for me to suggest that Nick Clegg or the newly evil Vince Cable get flung on the fire but for starters, how about joining in the traditionally crass and consumerist effort to get your fave song to Number One?

To have a chance, the chosen song should be downloaded from I-Tunes or the Wikileaks hating Amazon in the week starting December 13th.

My current fave is Captain Ska with Liar Liar.

Coming up close - a pun that would delight Knut - is Kunt and the Gang with the Nick Clegg Story. Facebook page here.

And lastly, a long shot maybe, but my transferable vote goes to the auld punk classic Banned from the Roxy by punk legends Crass. Fouled-mouthed anger from 1978 that paved the way for a whole raft of DIY politics, art and philosophy. Buy it here and leave a comment supporting Wikileaks. Sing along to the lyrics here. Here's Crass frontman Steve Ignorant leading the carol singing at Edinburgh's Liquid Rooms recently.


This December, let's keep Christ out of Xmas and indulge in some pagan consumerism. 

Do they think guitars and microphones are just fucking toys?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

This is not Norway

Snow chaos. Is it a punishment from god? Or is it a punishment from the last Labour/ Lib Dem administration in Scotland who put our infrastructure in the hands of private companies such as BEAR Scotland? And, in the case of the railways... is it the Tories who left our trains and rails to freeze in the hands of numerous private companies? Or is it the current minister for gridlock Stewart Stevenson who 'controls' Scotland's transport but can't read weather forecasts?

Like I've said before, oil wealth and independence isn't a magic pill but... since when did Norway come to a standstill?

"Snow? Dinny ask me. Fckd if I know. I'm waiting for orders fi London."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Nick Clegg for Xmas Number One

Actually, its Kunt and the Gang and the Nick Clegg Story, to put it mildly in case anyone chooses to be offended by certain Old German words. K&TG are having a pop at the Xmas number one slot and attempting to have the most offensive Paganmass chart topper ever. It probably stands as much chance of succeeding as the globally unpopular England did of staging the 2018 World Cup. Nevertheless, its heart is in the right place and it deserves to be circulated by the new prole media.

View it on YouTube here.
Its also probably the best article ever published in the Caledonian Mercury.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Scots tonguing for St Andrew’s Day

What could be a more fitting way to celebrate Alba but choosing a few nuggets from our vast linguistic wealth – both celebrated and despised? This is a subject that deserves more scrutiny as it seems as if Scots are as confused and generally backward about language as they are about religion. Even the terms used for the languages are confusing.

The original ‘Scots’ was of course Gàidhlig, being the Celtic tongue of the Scotti who settled Argyll almost two thousand years ago. Gaelic was referred to as ‘Scottice’ by monks writing in Latin until around the 1500s. And then, Anglo-Saxon divide and rule really kicked in. Perhaps one of the first major pieces of strategic genius by the Sasannaich or Anglo-minded Scots against Scotland’s nationhood was to rename their language, Inglis, as… Scots! Almost overnight, the original language of the Scots became foreign – Erse, Gaylick, Celtic, Heeland, Heedrum-ho-drum etc despite having left its influence in virtually every corner of our land and having never been solely confined to the Highlands – for example our earliest extant written Gaelic is from Aberdeenshire and remnants of poetry in the Gallowegian Gaelic still exist.

The Beannachd de Righ Alban being read to King Alexander by the Ollamh Righ Alban.

Hence, I tend to make reference to Scots Gaelic and Scots English. This is partly due to historical pedantry on my part and partly due to the fact that it’s difficult to tell where ‘Scottish English’ and Scots/ Inglis/ Lallans separate. This fact being acknowledged even by J. Derrick McClure in his book ‘Why Scots Matters?’

Despite that, both these tongues contain a wealth of wit and humour and provide a key to unlocking both past and present culture. There is absolutely no criteria for choosing these words and phrases other than that I find them amusing or interesting. I’m also willing to read other such nuggets in the comments section below.

Scots Gaelic:

Cuir do chorrag nad thòin is leig fead – put your finger in your arse and (make a) whistle. A phrase that Celtic fans should aim at their chairman, John Reid, though to be honest, Reid’s recent pronouncements on morality are as profound and honest as this anyway.
‘S fheàrr sgur na sgàineadh, ach ‘s fheàrr sgàineadh na deagh bhiadh fhàgail – It’s better to stop than to burst, but its better to burst than to leave good food.
Na gèill is tu beò – Do not yield while you still draw breath. Have seen this both on a poster in Acha Mòr, Leòdhas as well as on the wall of an Anarchist Centre in Edinburgh.
brochan – can mean ‘a mess’ or porridge. A woodland at Killiekrankie is called Coille a’ Bhrochain as Robert the Bruce is reputed to have stopped by there to eat porridge from a shoe.
Mac na Bracha – ‘son of the malt’ and a reference to single-malt uisge-beatha. Hence the name of the blog on the subject.
Baile nan Trodach – the original Gaelic name for the village of Temple in Midlothian. The ‘Township of the Warriors’ referring to the Knights Templar who once made it their base.
thall’ is cac – away and shite. Oft used in conjunction with the Butcher’s Apron as in Oi Polloi’s angry Gaelic rant of ‘Union Jack – Thall is Cac’. A song of the same title was performed by a Leodhasach punk band of the 80s.

Union Jack...

Scots English:
dreich – onomatopoeic or whit?
The guy’s erse wis knittin socks – the man was somewhat frightened.
glaikit – not to be used about John Reid, he’s got a PhD he has.
bawbag – the thin bag of skin in which a man’s clachan are held. Is Scots English the world leader in terms of base abuse? I’m sure Spanish could give it a run for its money. Any linguistic evidence of this or otherwise is welcomed.
jakie – ‘Lord Foulkes’ though to be honest, we’ve aw got one in the family. Part of the ‘Union dividend’ – even dark and formerly depressive Finland has got to grips with its booze culture. They don’t have the Old Firm though…

These lists are by no means exhaustive and a dram or two of a smoky Bunnahabhainn is sure to trigger a flood of others. To be continued no doubt.

John Reid v. James Connolly - you be the referee

So, the combined might of John Reid, Neil Lennon and the Catholic Church have combined to bully Hugh Dallas and Dougie MacDonald from their respective positions in the Scottish football pecking order. One of them told a white lie regarding a correct refereeing decision while the other passed on a photo which mocked the cover-ups of child abuse within the Catholic Church.

John Reid by the way is the ex-communist, now known by the modest title of the 'Baron of Cardowan'. Labour's one time bully-boy and party 'hard man' was incensed by all of this and held a grim-faced press conference at which he all but challenged his victims to come-ahead if they thought they were hard enough. John Reid may be the Baron of Cardowan but he's hardly the laird of the moral high-ground - he has form as a bit of a sex-pest amongst Labour's women and didn't cover himself in glory with Labour's warmongering adventures in Iraq. At best, he was fully involved in an illegal war. At worst, he is complicit in war crimes. Whatever privileges the British State can bestow upon the Baron of Cardowan, a sense of perspective ain't one of them.

Reid was a one-time admirer of Edinburgh's James Connolly - Irish republican hero, socialist and international trade-unionist. This past indiscretion proved no barrier to Reid when working in partnership with NATO, the right-wing Bush regime and  in his friendship with Serb war-criminal Radovan Karadžić.

"I love a good box, Don"
As Reid is so fond of a square-go, let's see how he compares to yon Jimmy Connolly. 

Connolly - escaped poverty by joining the British Army at age 14
Reid - left behind a working class background to become Secretary of State for Defence
Connolly - became an active trade unionist
Reid - became consultant for Group 4 Security and chairman of Celtic FC
Connolly - campaigned for women's rights, "the female is the slave of the slave"
Reid - pestered a female Labour MP for sex, "I want to have sex with you, I want to f*** you, you want it as well."
Connolly - went to Belfast to support Protestant and Catholic workers in the dockers and textile strikes
Reid - went to Belfast as the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland/ British Governor General in the Six Counties
Connolly - went to the US to help organise the internationalist trade-union, the IWW (Wobblies)
Reid - went to the US to meet Donald Rumsfeld and address the Pentagon in support for Bush and Blair's illegal war in Iraq
Connolly - was executed by the British Army while tied to a chair following his part in the Easter Uprising of 1916
Reid-  'commanded' the British Army in his role of Secretary of State for Defence and oversaw British troops in Iraq where torture by US and UK troops was used on captives and between 100,000 and 600,000 Iraqis were killed.
Connolly - shared platforms with Irish socialist Larkin and Scots' Red Clydesider, John Maclean.
Reid - shared a platform with US neo-con Rumsfeld as well as a jaunt to a luxury hotel as a guest of Serb war criminal Karadžić.
Connolly - inspired John Lennon to write the song 'Woman is the Nigger of the World'.
Reid - inspired Neil Lennon to bully Scottish referees.

The Baron of Cardowan, a red, white and blue Clydesider - probably more damaging to Celtic FC than Inverness Caley Thistle.

I'm no hard enough to fly these flags at Parkheid.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Satan's music, condoms and reasons to lose your religion

I wonder what the term 'a week is a long time in politics' would be if it were transferred to religion? After all, biblical literalists have attempted to wriggle out of their fantastical delusion by claiming that 'back in God's day, a day could've been.... a thousand/ ten thousand/ a million years long as we know it'. Funnily enough, this is just speculation -  'god' neglected to share this wisdom with his bloggers who scribed his word many moons ago. Just when was 'the day' condensed into the handy 24-hour package that we use in modern times?

Whatever, it seems as if god has tweeted some new commands to different branches of his many churches on earth this week.

Last week, the use of condoms was a sin. AIDS was a punishment from god for those who indulged chiefly in homosexual activities (am not sure if it applied to lesbians) but also those who fancied a lumber or two before getting hitched. Now though, condoms are cool! According to the Pope, it is now a moral responsibility to bag your bratwurst in order to deflect god's anger should you wish to stick it into the wrong oven at the wrong time. As I write, the Vatican is rushing out its own brand of condom, coated with holy lubricant.

Not to be overshadowed by the Antichrist, our cheerful friends in the Free Kirk have decreed that music is to be permitted in their churches. Last week, having a strum of a gee-tar or even a toot on the chanter would've landed you in hot bother, for eternity. But now, Calvinists too can get all happy clappy. Is it a desperate attempt to bolster their dwindling congregations with cool and hip McFly-esque interpretations of Leviticus? It certainly brings the auld joke to mind...
Why are Presbyterians against sex standing up?
It might lead to dancing.
At your local Free Kirk... Koombaya mah lord.
Joking aside, if these hardline Christian heidbangers had not seized control of Gaelic speaking areas some two centuries ago, some of Gaelic's famous puirt-a-beul/ mouth music may not have been born. Not long after the London government decided that the bagpipes were, er... instrumental in formenting nationalist sentiment amongst the clans, the god-squad moved in to decree that music was itself an instrument of Satan. Therefore, the fiddle, Jews' Harp, clàrsach, melodean and any other music maker of the day joined the bagpipe on the bonfire. Like modern-day drugs' laws, it didn't work though and soon the cèilidh house was jumping to fast tongue-twisting nonsense lyrics and vocables that people could dance to. It preceded rap and RnB by 200 years.

It is precisely because of all this nonsense that people are turning their backs on organised religion. However, should you need that we push to send you on your way into a godless life then here's some good stimuli.

  1. The Bible - many atheists maintain that most Christians have never read it. How can any sane person defend its mountain of contradictions, rich vein of hatred and disturbing perverse view of human relations? Even more incredible is that some people want to force this filth on children. So, next time you're in a hotel, steal the one you get free in yon bedside cabinet. Read it.
  2. David Attenborough - if Dawkins is a bit too aggressive then the British Isles' favourite naturalist and all-round genial grandfather figure will soon have you nodding in agreement with his warm brand of reason. I love his quote refuting the 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' train of religious delusion, "They always mean beautiful things like hummingbirds. I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in east Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball. The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator."
  3. Richard Dawkins -  a man who is genuinely irritated by mumbo-jumbo and the refusal of others to recognise evidence. His anger, turn of phrase and general all-round intelligence makes for great reading. Of the Catholic Church and its obsession with circuses like Lourdes, he says "If you want to experience the medieval rituals of faith, the candle light, the incense, music, important-sounding dead languages, nobody does it better than the Catholics." 
Ave maria...

Sex, drugs and the Free Kirk...
Smite-me-not condoms...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A multicultural wedding!

Further to the previous posting on multiculturalism, I feel it is only proper that we rejoice in today's news that the German Prince Wilhelm is to marry his English rose of a girlfriend. It is believed that the wedding will take place in a place of worship used by adherents to a Middle-Eastern faith known as Christianity. Central to this faith is the marriage ceremony which makes it illegal for the bride to copulate with or bear children by another man. Yet another ingredient in the melting pot. It appears the Prince Wilhelm is destined to become 'defender' of this faith. It is hoped that this will be a peaceful matter as Christians have, in the past, resorted to violence - either against other nations or internally against those suspected of witchcraft or following a rival football team.

Members of Glasgow's Germanic Christian community celebrate the Royal wedding by engaging Her Majesty's' Constabulary in street combat.

Indeed, in Glasgow, Shiite Christians who swear allegiance to Imam William of Orange often engage in bloody clashes with their Sunni Christian enemies. Scotland's Sunni Christian community were buoyed this year after their spiritual leader Oberstammführer Benedict visited Glasgow to incite them to campaign vigorously against homosexuality, abortion, women's' rights and masturbation. Ironically, Benedict also rejoices in his German bloodline.

Wilhelm's brother has chosen his wedding attire.

The BBC has replaced coverage of job losses and the student sacking of Tory HQ with in-depth analysis of the entire revolting spectacle. The sinister right-wing Tax Payers' Alliance has responded by meekly asking the Royals to keep the bill down to a reasonable £30m or so.

So far, the silence from the Daily Mail and certain members of the Scottish blogging community regarding the waste of taxpayers' and BBC license payers' money on the frivolities of an extended family of foreign scroungers has been noted in the corridors of sanity.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Politics, mortality and architecture

Earlier this week, one of the last great tradition bearers of Gaelic culture in Wester Ross died. Donnchadh 'Stalker' MacMhathain - Duncan Matheson - was many things. A thatcher, stonemason, craftsman and font of knowledge on the old way of life - including illicit whisky distilling. He was reputed to be an excellent poacher too. Stories on all of these subjects were often regaled in the idiomatic local Gaelic of Kintail to film crews, academics, Gaelic students and most importantly of all, local schoolkids such as the tale of local outlaw and illicit distiller Ailidh Mal.

A man of the soil certainly, but I doubt if he had time for the well-bred poshos of the Countryside Alliance, a group of people whose accents, if not politics, hark back to the lairds who drove our people from the land, replaced them with sheep and left their houses to fall into ruin.

Aye, death is natural. We all go the way of Duncan Stalker. But can natural death in old age be equated to institutionalised repression or official neglect that sees native indigenous languages beaten out of school-kids, local people unable to live in their own community and rich lairds dictating to local communities on matters that affect their lives and livelihoods?

Whatever conservatives and revisionists may say, people did not 'choose' to leave the Highlands during the clearances, unless escaping famine and forced 'relocation' constitutes freedom of choice. Equally, can it be argued that Gaelic simply 'died' when most native Gaels over the age of 50 are likely to have been punished or rebuked somewhere in their educational life for speaking their mother tongue?

Anyone can just go with the flow. Others don't. Some people form bands and produce challenging music. Some learn and use minority languages. Some bring up their children bilingual. Some people get involved with credit unions or charities. Some people learn their grandparents' language and design houses of the kind their grandparents may have lived in.

While searching for info on the late Duncan Stalker, I came across an interesting article written  by one of the architects involved in Skye-based company Dualchas. If you ever thought that architecture could not be revolutionary, read it:

On Skye we met homeless and dispossessed people who were living in conditions worse than what had probably been endured for over a hundred years.  An old shepherd who kept his clothes in a plastic bag to stop them getting damp in his dilapidated caravan.  He had been kicked out of his tied cottage when he retired from the estate where he had worked most of his life.  There was a young woman whose child was in care but who would not get her child back until she got decent accommodation.  She too lived in a caravan. In Skye there was a feeling of a community on the slide.  By contrast in Ireland the pubs were packed, the communities thriving.  But even then, back in the early 90s,  the beautiful landscape was being despoiled by inappropriate housing – alien to the landscape. However, at least Donegal had people. It was obvious that poorly designed kit houses was not the issue facing rural Scotland and Ireland as many architects seemed to think. It was the economy, the land, the people, the culture.  Politics.
The full article can be read here:

Donnchadh MacMhathain - clach air a chàrn

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A new bogeyman for Halloween - multiculturalism

The ancient festival of Halloween - Oidhche Shamhna -  is another relic of our Gaelic past. Literally, it is 'the night before Samhain' and 'An t-Samhain' in modern Gaelic simply means November. It was thought that on the night between the death of summer and onset of winter that the door between our world and the netherworld opened. This allowed spirits to pass between both worlds. In Scotland, young men would impersonate the dead by blackening their faces or by wearing masks, sometimes made of animal hide, and carry a 'samhnag' or neep lantern.

Many folk enjoy a good laugh on Oidhche Shamhna but most of us have long since relinquished belief in ghosts, witches and goblins. Some though have conjured up new fears. It's not just the Daily Mail with their daily checklist of bugbears from home-grown dole scroungers to foreign asylum seekers. It's not just Lady Harriet Harman and her 'ginger rodent' abuse of a Scottish politician (imagine if she'd referred to a black politician in a similar vein?).

A few years ago, Gaelic journalist John Morrison laughed at the 'British' suspicion of multiculturalism on a Gaelic TV political debate. To paraphrase him, 'The British drive German cars, drink Belgian beer and French wine, watch American telly on Japanese technology, eat Italian, Indian and Chinese cuisine, holiday in Spain or Turkey etc... yet are suspicious of foreigners.'

Sadly, some bloggers who really should know better have gone all Daily Mail. Not cool.

From smalltown Ayrshire, comes Dark Lochnagar - a former Scots nationalist who now bemoans the lack of awareness of  'British culture' amongst our youth, hates socialism (I guess the latest stats on Norway's "Social Capital" must be sorry reading for him), feels threatened by gays and transsexuals (!) and rants about jobs going to immigrants. The only thing that differentiates this blog from the Daily Mail is the use of 'colourful' language. SubRosa is another such blog. Here ex-DDR opportunist turned Thatcherite German chancellor Angela Merkel and her recent scaremongering regarding the 'failure' of multiculturalism is praised.

What this failure is, we are not told. Playground stories along the lines of 'I heard about a gang of Muslims roaming the streets...' are regaled. Who knows? Maybe there is a kernel of truth in this. Though, the only gangs of aggressive violent and religiously inspired knuckledraggers I've met in Kilmarnock have been Orangemen and Rangers' fans. Perhaps this is a 'failure' of multiculturalism? After all, the Orange bigots commemorate Irish political battles and worship a Dutch tyrant who defended a Semite faith - his homosexuality shouldn't be an issue though the Orange Order doesn't usually come across as gay-friendly.

To John Morrison's paraphrased quote above, one could add... a German language and royal family, a set of laws and parliament rooted in ancient Jewish folklore and popular music which it seems is itself a melange of black African-American and Gaelic Presbyterian cultures. The Gaels too, for all their indigenous status in Alba, are not of 'one culture'. Did the Gaelic-speaking forest dwellers of Perthshire or Badenoch have the same 'culture' as the guga-fishers of Port Nis in Lewis? A shared language perhaps, but I'd argue that the everyday 'culture' was different. The modern Hebridean Gaels too share blood from different corners of the earth and the evidence of different cultures assimilating successfully is patently obvious - from language to art to tools to  religion to architecture and this doesn't take into account the Asian travelling salesmen of the 1930's (who learned Gaelic) or the recent English, Asian or Germanic settlers who have made a home in the Western Isles in the past decade or two. The Gaels have 'Celtic blood' that is mixed with that of the pre Indo-European Picts, the Norse, the Romans and Spanish. Hey, aren't the Spanish themselves of mixed Basque, Roman and Arabic 'blood'? I guess all this can get quite confusing for bigots who decry immigration and the mixing of cultures. I refer to 'blood' here but in scientific terms, as mentioned in my previous post, the biological term for all these people is Homo sapiens.

Are there problems though? Maybe its the Scots themselves. After all, we were the immigrants and asylum seekers for much of the past few hundred years. Maybe its the backward Brits abroad who refuse to speak Spanish on the costas? There can be problems but they are often religious in nature and with religion, anything can be justified. The main barriers to some people integrating are the Orange Order leaders, the Catholic priests, Wee-Free ministers, Baptist pastors, the Muslim imans and Jewish rabbis. Intolerant, self-important and conservative bigots on all sides do hinder progress. I object to any Muslim faith-school be set up in Scotland but equally I object to Catholic schools and the interference of the Kirk in state 'non-denominational' schools.

But what about nature? Take one look at a group of young kids playing together and its obvious that skin colour, hair colour and eye colour are irrelevant. Even linguistic differences will eventually be ironed out. Importance is only attached to these features by adults and their artificial constructs.

Nature decrees that there will be conflict between people though this is as likely to be within a family or between warring clans from neighbouring glens as it is between people of different 'cultures'. If we can't find a foreigner to fight with we  then home in on single parents, Gaelic speakers, gays or lesbians, cannabis users, people on social security benefits, someone in a different church, a follower of another fitba team, folk with red hair, the disabled, travellers, hippies or maybe 'indecent' popular culture, be it youngsters in hoodies or Marilyn Manson.

However, human civilisation has learned to defend itself from much of nature's uglier attributes and intolerance of immigrants and racism should go the same way as infant mortality, TB or being devoured by wild animals.

Our lives have always been multicultural and are even more so in today's small world. To the likes of SubRosa, Dark Lochnagar, the BNP, English Defence League and Daily Mail... get over it. Live with it. Enjoy that pizza. Have some nachos. Nibble at haggis pakora. Listen to some Salsa Celtica. Chill out. Or, see a doctor and get that tight sphincter of yours loosened a little.

Footnote - for a good laugh, see The Croft's account of an English BNP activist and  'white settler' who became an immigrant on the Isle of Lewis. His search for racial purity fell on stony Celtic ground. Scroll down to the comments to the bit where the Gaelic speaking islanders - white Scots who preserve an ancient indigenous way of life suddenly become 'inbred' when they object to this bigot in their midst.

Finally, another link - Native American Celts

Horny-handed Harman goes racist

No, black skin is cool. But ginger Scots I simply can't abide.
Harriet Harman, New Labour's fragrant English rose and horny handed daughter of toil - her aunt is the modest 'Countess of Longford' and she herself was educated at the £20000 a year St. Paul's Girls' School -  has shattered her PC image by calling Lib Dem chancer Danny Alexander a "ginger rodent".

There is of course NO biological difference between the 'races' - a black African is exactly the same as a white Gaelic speaking Barrach, namely Homo sapiens. As a species, it doesn't matter whether a person has white skin or brown skin, blue eyes or green eyes, pink lips or red lips, brown hair or 'ginger' hair. We are all the same biologically. 'Race' therefore is an artificial construct. It makes no more sense to discriminate on grounds of skin colour than it does to discriminate on the grounds of a person's cuticle pigment or colour of nostril hair.

Danny Alexander is a bumbling idiot and political opportunist. The fact that he has red hair is irrelevant. Equally, the fact that Harriet Harman is a stuck-up upper-middle-class condescending harridan is irrelevant to the fact that Labour has done little or nothing to eradicate poverty in Scotland and continues to be a petty, conservative and redundant hindrance to the health and wealth of our people - be they black, white, blond or 'ginger'.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Small means more in the wealth of nations

This week has seen the publication of the Legatum Prosperity Index which seeks to measure the wealth of nations based on a number of factors and not just GDP. Not surprisingly, wee countries do well with our old friend on the North Atlantic rim Norway coming out on top. Backward Britain doesn't make the top ten, though its position at number 13 does give it some kind of 'respectability'. However, given that Iceland - a country with a population roughly the same as Aberdeen and which Brit Nats tell us is 'bankrupt' - is a slot above.

The small nations of Norway, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Ireland and Iceland all make it above the 'UK'. We are often told that Scotland 'could not survive' as an independent nation or that we are 'better off' being tied to war-sodden London. Exactly what the benefits are of being 'united' with a corrupt, fat, xenophobic, class-ridden and perpetually warmongering larger neighbour, I do not know. What is obvious is that many small nations - even those without our oil reserves and geography thats perfect for renewable-energy -  are not only 'surviving' but thriving.

Legatum Prosperity Index
The proof of this pudding is that the inhabitants of these countries not only live longer than us but are actually happier. Oil money may not necessarily buy health and happiness but neither does the UK's war budget, public service cuts and largesse enjoyed by corrupt or incompetent bankers.

Without regurgitating all the info, some points about Norway do stand out.
  • Despite a surplus of health, wealth and happiness not to mention a healthier respect for the environment than most nations, only 13% of Norwegians consider themselves religious. Marriage is also less common than in most other countries. More proof perhaps that religion and progress do not often share the same bed.
  • Despite having harsher winters than Scotland, Norway is 4th in terms of health.
  • Not surprisingly given the relatively egalitarian use and distribution of Norway's wealth, crime is a very low and people actually feel safe. Maybe the absence of  a scaremongering Daily Mail and pack of rabid tabloid wolves is also a factor.
  • The egalitarian vision of Norwegian society extends to 'remote' rural areas. Those who live in small villages beside the western fjords are equally entitled to good public transport, excellent schools, good provision for the elderly and so on. While I don't have proof of this, I'd imagine that right-wing tabloid whinging about tax payers' money being spent on 'teuchters' or other 'minorities' is rarely heard in Norway. This report seems to state that Norwegians are happy to see their high levels of taxes transformed into excellent public services for all.
  • Most importantly is 'social capital'. To quote:
An unparalleled 74%* of Norwegians report that other people can be trusted, the highest such rate in the world. In a 2008 survey, a high 43%* of people had donated money within the previous month, and a very high 38%* of people had volunteered. The 46%* of people who had helped a stranger in the same time period is also above the global average. Nearly 94%* of Norwegians say that they have someone they can rely on in times of need. This strong social support is present despite potentially low access to familial and religious support networks: marriage rates are below the global average, at 52%*, and reported religious attendance is just 13%*, the second lowest rate in the world.

No-one is claiming that Norway is some kind of communistic/ anarchist utopia - slaughtering whales aint cool and I'm in two minds about Black Metal. But for anyone interested in the everyday well-being of fellow humans and therefore who seeks to eradicate poverty, - are you listening Unionist Labour? - create meaningful jobs for people not based on war or weapons as well as seeking to protect the environment by ploughing oil wealth into renewables then Scotland should follow Norway's independent lead a.s.a.p.

The index can be accessed here. Happy reading.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Time to go French - against the cuts

It was always gonna be like this. If Labour had got in, Alasdair Darling promised that the severity of the cuts would've made Thatcher blush. As it is, we have the great ConDem twins of the bloated Westminster family, Cameron and Clegg. Meanwhile, banks that were bailed out by the state and that are now owned by the state are still paying their chiefs inflated salaries and bonuses.

Who said that capitalism works? The auld Eastern Bloc had shoe mountains apparently, that accrued due to policies that saw people working never mind the demand or use for the product. Bankrupt Britain meanwhile is building up piles of aircraft carriers and other instruments of war - solely to avoid redundancies. The fact that these people could easily be occupied producing technology vital to Scotland's renewable energy future is lost on the London government while the likes of Scottish Labour are too docile or cowardly to back such a move. War is always big business in Great Britannia.

Presently, the French are kicking off big time. If we have any sense, we'll follow. If we're serious about mending the broken economy, lets tax the rich first. These are the fckrs who got us into this mess. Should health workers, teachers, binmen and other public service workers pay the price with their jobs?

The EIS - a good example of a non-politically aligned and powerful union - in conjunction with the STUC have organised a march against the cuts. But this ain't only about education. That much is clear.

Click here for info on Saturday's march in good auld Dùn Eideann. Meanwhile, watch "crypto-communist" film director Ken Loach give Michael Heseltine some lessons on morality and the economy on the recent Newsnight broadcast. Its also worth remembering that socially-democratic and independent Norway don't have a national debt and therefore don't need swinging cuts to balance the books. What is Scotland doing wrong?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Signs of Lowland Gaelic in Gleann Iucha

Reversing attitudes can be as difficult as reversing language shift. But I fully subscribe to the idea that sees a little progress as better than none at all. Better that than metaphors of rain wearing down mountains over millennia. The corrosive power of rain is a fact but is of no use when talking about a minority language struggling against institutionalised ignorance to reverse centuries of repression and decline.

Therefore, the erection of bilingual English-Gaelic signs at Linlithgow railway station is a battle won in the war against the erections who parade their ignorance and bigotry in the pages of the Daily Mail and readers' comments of the Scotsman.

Some may say that 'Gaelic has no history' in Linlithgow but cannot offer proof of their assertion. Whether or not Gaelic was the 'dominant' language of the entire Scottish mainland is difficult to prove or disprove. What is certain though is that Gaelic speaking populations - be they kings, lairds, monks, migrant farmers or just land working peasants - have left their mark in the form of many placenames all over the Lothians.

From 'Placenames collected by Iain Mac an Tailleir'.

Furthermore, as Scots, Gaelic is an inseparable part of our nation's fabric. Our national iconography is almost entirely Gaelic in origin - think of whisky and tartan (it should be noted that the Victorians only adapted an ancient design), the bagpipes, Wallace and Bruce ( who also commanded Gaelic speaking armies whose 'sluagh-ghairm' was 'Albannaich'), the clàrsach, shinty, our personal names from Douglas in the Borders to Mackay in the North and of course our placenames. 

Is there any corner of Scotland that does not have a ben, glen, drum, loch, corrie, bal, dun, knock, kyle, strath, camus, inch, ard, auch, ault or craig?

Historical presence is only one reason though for bilingual signs - English is not the 'native' language of most of the world but it can be found in almost every airport. The 'usefulness' of a written or spoken language can be measured in many ways. I'd argue that for every passenger that notices the Gaelic sign and realises that this area has another identity other than 'British' (in the modern sense) the value of these signs increases. Even more so if they then go and research it all. 

Even without that value, I'd argue that the handful of taxpaying Gaelic speaking locals are entitled to see their, and Scotland's, mother tongue displayed next to the English wherever possible and practical. After all, for centuries Gaelic speakers received nothing in return for their tax money other than the right to enlist as cannon fodder for the British Army and to have their children beaten for speaking their home and community tongue. Strangely though, Gaelic was found to be very useful when attracting Gaels to the Highland regiments that fought on the front-line of London's many global conflicts.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to use spoken Gaelic whenever possible. I'll get my window on the world's current affairs from BBC Alba, Radio nan Gaidheal and Eorpa. I'll browse with Firefox in Gaelic and surf with Google in the same tongue. My address will read Dùn Eideann instead of Edinburgh. My kids will go to the local Gaelic unit/ school and read Tormod a' Bhocsair's output alongside JK Rowlings. The linguistic melange that is global English is not under threat. My actions add to my knowledge of my environment and therefore enhance my life. More than selfish gain though, it's another stane in the dyke along with the others that are placed there by those who seek to protect the earth's biocultural diversity.

From 'Spoken Here - Travels Among Threatened Languages' - an entertaining and mind-opening journey into the wonder of the worlds' linguistic wealth. Buy here.

* Iain Mac an Tailleir's 5-part collection of Scottish placenames can be downloaded, along with many other language resources/ goireasan cànain by clicking here.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Shaved women and bald punks - its Crass the album

Ex-Crass frontman and Irvine Welsh lookalike Steve Ignorant brings the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to support him on vocal duties at Edinburgh's Liquid Rooms. Its The Last Supper and hundreds of balding paunchy middle-aged punks bounce and scream along with 'screaming babies, shaved women collaborators...'. And it looks like Steve is trying to stifle a grin.

Comparisons with Teddy Boy conventions are easy. This however brings back all kinds of vivid memories of the time - the early 1980s. A dark age that it seems will soon be revisited upon us by the new twin-headed ConDem Thatcher of Cameron-Clegg. In 1984, Crass finished their career by closing their set at a striking miners' benefit gig in Wales with the song 'Do They Owe Us a Living?' and by revising their pacifist views in the face of increasingly brutal state attacks on both striking miners and Stonehenge hippies. At the time, I was a young teenager who travelled to Hearts' games on a supporters bus half full of striking miners from one of Midlothian's pit villages. At a time when local communities were fighting against Thatchers' cops, the black communities in inner-city England were doing the same and everyone from Crass to the BBC film Threads warned of impending nuclear annihilation, the chances were that this stuff would shape your life.

Crass were and still are an institution. They lived the real message of punk - Do It Yourself. They had no or little truck with managers, record companies, promoters etc and relied on themselves and a network of ordinary people to propagate their 'music' and message. As far as punk music goes, this aint Green Day. Yet, despite the absence of nice tunes, major record company and professional distribution networks, their debut album 'Feeding the 5000' went gold. They were more than a band - they were a collective that produced music, artwork, anarchist propaganda, political pranks that saw the Whitehouse, Westminster and Kremlin involved and spawned thousands of imitators. They kicked started the dormant CND movement and gave new energy to issues such as feminism, animal rights and anarchism. In contrast to the simplistic nihilism of other but still relevant punk groups of the time, Crass became seen as po-faced and were followed with an almost religious zeal by some.

This lead to Crass influenced bands berating others for not following the 'true path' of the DIY punk ethic. Chumbawamba threw paint over Joe Strummer because his CBS record label were a subsidiary of an arms dealer. Chumbawamba then signed to EMI - another company with dirty fingers in dirty pies. Chumbawamba did though distribute much of their fee to local community groups. Chumbawamba in turn were criticised by other bands such as Oi Polloi - who in turn neglect the DIY ethic and use Rupert Murdoch's MySpace, though unlike Chumbawamba, have no money to show for it. Should people still care about these baw-hair issues? Or should we just stop pretending to care and accept imperfections, especially in well-intentioned individuals?

Whatever, thousands of middle-aged men and women who may not still clad themselves in black are still living the ideals of Crass. They are still involved in challenging independent music, they are nurses, they are teachers, artists, bicycle engineers, they fight against racism and for diversity, they learn and use minority languages, they open up animal sanctuaries, get involved in community land buy-outs, reject the shackles of religion, involve themselves in community education, write real investigative journalism and much more. The roots may be anarchist, socialist and libertarian but there's more sustainable enterprise come from this movement than anything our bankrupt and corrupt financial institutions and MPs have inspired.
But back to the Last Supper... there was also irony in songs that are more than 30 years old such as 'Banned from the Roxy' still being relevant today. In the week when all of Scotland's main parties presented the London government with their case for retaining the manufacture of aircraft carriers in Scotland, we can only wish that these politicians had Crass' simple - but not incorrect - message drummed into their skulls:  

"Defence? Shit, its nothing less than war, and no-one but the government knows what the fuck its for".

Likewise, the anti-war anthems  'Sheep Farming in the Falklands' and 'Mother of a Thousand Dead' could easily apply to today's perma-war adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The influence of Crass is far reaching. Bjork, the Shamen and One Little Indian Records. Artwork and ideals for Tackhead. Banksy can be seen in the pre-Photoshop collages of Crass' graphic artist Gee Voucher. Even smooth crooner Sade was a friend. In recent years both David Beckham and Angelina Jolie have been photographed in their t-shirts. Ironic too as Crass never produced any of their own merchandise though obviously others lined their pockets with the symbol that shows the snake of capitalism eating itself.

There was plenty of merchandise on sale last night though. Crass polos, T-shirts and a new autobiography of Steve himself. Times change though and ideals can mellow without being forgotten. In 'The Story of Crass', Steve talks about one typically vicious tirade that he wrote as an angry idealistic punk rocker in which he talked of how parents fuck you up. Years later, he regretted this after seeing his folks through mature eyes as just two ordinary working class human beings who tried their best. If Steve Ignorant makes some kind of living out of this tour, then good.
Thanks for the memories.

For a richt guid read, try The Story of Crass, here at Amazon.
Steve Ignorant's new book The Rest is Propaganda, at his own website.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Commonwealth Games' city mired in poverty, filth and violence

It really doesn't befit a modern day economy or a democratic nation that aspires to bridge the gap between rich and poor. But this city was once part of the British Empire and though the crumbs of colonisation fell to a fortunate few most were left to the queue for work, die in industrial accidents, die of disease and live in squalor. In the slums are the grandchildren of those who fled famine, clearance and repression.

The rich of this city can be seen in their favoured nightspots or shopping at some of the numerous designer boutiques in the city centre. On the outskirts though, where the 'stylish' rarely go, tens of thousands are crammed into damp substandard housing. The homeless are visible under bridges or standing at refuges and soup kitchens. Malnutrition is rampant and in some parts of this 'vibrant' city, your average man will be fortunate to live beyond 60. Thousands of city dwellers attach themselves to various religious sects and violence along sectarian lines is commonplace. Crime, corruption and vicious gangland violence are also rife. At one time, the murder rate was higher than in Northern Ireland during the 'troubles'.

A visiting dignitary commented that 'here people live in houses that we wouldn't keep our dogs in'. *

Yet to this city come the Commonwealth Games. In 2014.

Will there be a dividend? Maybe for the few. What is certain is that there has been little if any 'dividend' from Glasgow's supposed status as the 'second city of the empire'. Sure, grand architecture came our way, but for the many, life changed little. Decades of voting Labour MPs into the local council and into the Westminster parliament have achieved little. Flocking to Papal masses and marching to commemorate debauched foreign tyrants like King William of Orange at best distracts us, at worst breeds new misery.

Local politicians and media have their heads in the sand. Some, like journalist Roxanne Sorooshian from Glasgow's Herald newspaper are more offended by Gaelic-speaking schoolkids (?!!) than the poverty around her.

Our nation's dirty laundry is no secret though. Tourism guides can now see beyond the 'Glasgow with style' hype with its focus on designer fashion and culture. And while Glasgow's contribution to our culture is not in doubt, references to the violence, poverty and 'grim hinterland' are a reminder that the Scots Parliament has much to do.

The posited solutions... Independence? A re-connection with our land, language and culture? Community ownership of land? Better education? Eating berries?

There are no magic pills but looking north for inspiration is a start. These possible remedies range from...

the big scale - Norway is a relatively young nation that has used its oil wealth wisely and not sent it to another nation whereby it goes to feed a habit of warmongering and arms accumulation.

to the easily achievable -  investing in top quality education where children are encouraged to explore their environment, engage with traditional and practical tasks from gathering food, chopping wood to cooking, embrace languages and develop inquiring minds and constructive attitudes. The new Curriculum for Excellence is a positive step but is there the political will from all parties and funding to see it succeed?

to the ludicrously simple - Finland has dealt with similar issues to ours - alcoholism, depression, short life expectancy - by readopting traditional land-based practices such as gathering fresh fruit.

The alternative option of voting Labour for the status quo is a road to nowhere.

*Sulian Stone Eagle of Nova Scotia's MicMac tribe came some years ago to oppose the plans for a Harris superquarry and lent his support to the Pollock Free State protest at the M77 motorway extension. He visited some of Glasgow's schemes and compared the poverty he witnessed to his own tribe's reservation in Canada. For more info, see Alistair McIntosh's site here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Who do you think you are? Vatican special!

Historic. Two elderly religious figureheads meet in Edinburgh to discuss their shared German blood and to joke over minute differences in faith. Conversation was stilted at first, but a perusal of the Vatican Family photo album soon loosened the jaws of Herr Ratzinger and Frau Saxe-Coburg.

We are thrilled to march down memory lane with them!

Forgive me father for I have SSinned.
What happens here, stays here, OK Frau?
According to Pius, Adolf's confession was rather long.
Then off we went to the Costas on an Opus Dei package deal to meet cousin Franco.
...and wave them like you just don't care!
Jugend will be jugend. Reich?
Not just a boys' club you know.
Hitler knew he had the church right behind him.
Adolf in da House!
Everybody in the house say 'Heil!'
'Onward Christian Soldiers...'
Twas a hun time for all.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Pope and Paisley in Scotland - who next?

All we need now are some Islamic heid-the-baws calling for heads to roll because of some slight perceived offence and Scotland will, for a day at least, be back in the dark ages. And all of this because of some folk tales from the ancient Semite traditions.

The Pope and Ian Paisley, despite their public image as mortal enemies, have more in common than one may think. More than just fetish for a Middle-Eastern death cult and others' sins of the flesh.

For a start, both are likely to say, 'these poofs put me off my pint'. Though it may be translated into Biblical patois along the lines of 'sodomites are an abomination.' It is however, hard to understand which blawhard and bigot is tougher on 'sodomy and on the causes of sodomy'. Paisley notoriously launched the ludicrous 'Save Ulster from Sodomy' campaign in 1977. They leafleted outside schools and one Eireannach I know was one of the pupils who received one of the leaflets. He was too young at the time to know what 'sodomy' meant but Paisley and his disciples were determined to thrust it in his face regardless. Likewise Pope Benedict, though his days of 'on the street' anti-gay action were probably in his far-off Hitler Youth days.

It is strange for both of these bigoted hypocrites that other people's private lives are of so much interest to them. Especially when they both have turned a blind eye to instances of their own clergy spilling their 'holy water' into places where the sun don't shine. The child abuse scandals within the Catholic Church are as shameful as they are numerous. But, it seems that auld Paisley has got form on this front too.

To quote the current Irish Central magazine:

I'm sure Paisley is familiar with the bible admonition that "Let him without sin cast the first stone."

Back in 1973 a full-time missionary in Paisley's church, Valerie Shaw, approached Paisley with horrific news. A senior administrator at the Kincora orphanage in Belfast and a close ally of Paisley named William McGrath was abusing boys at the home.

Paisley ignored Shaw and refused to investigate.

In January 1980 the Kincora scandal broke amid allegations, later proven of massive abuse of children at the home.

Paisley knew the ringleader McGrath very well and McGrath had accompanied him to many meetings.

He denied Shaw had told him about McGrath years earlier, but under pressure later admitted he had been told of her suspicions.

This is the man who now proposes to attack the pope on the same issue.

Fortunately, the pilgrims that follow both these dinosaurs are dwindling in number, though for sheer delusional stamina, they'd beat any Ethiopian long-distance athlete. And then browbeat the poor fellow on his choice of god (s).

Should anyone seek any truly fascinating as well as amusing insights into the world of Abrahamic delusion as we know it then I can thoroughly recommend:

Another apple that I've yet to pick from the tree is:

The question remains. Will any of Scotland's politicians have the courage to seek to stop all religious worship - brainwashing - in our schools?

(Btw, the Benedict Condom image comes from NQB and the sophisticated montage work is believed to be the work of crack graphic design experts deep within Edinburgh's Lib Dem HQ)