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)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What's the Gaelic for Firefox?

It is bound to be asked. Dè a' Ghàidhlig a th'air Firefox? If you thought that George W Bush was an eejit for saying that 'the problem with the French is that they have no word for entrepreneur' then welcome to the world of the Gael.  A mole deep inside Edinburgh's cooncil has catalogued some of the comments from the great monolingual fungus that is your average modern day Brit*. One claimed that Gaelic wasn't fit for the modern age because it had no 'word' for chilli con carne. Another whinged about why the publicity for the Cèilidh Culture festival should be bilingual. 'Don't the Gaels have their own word for cèilidh?' moaned Dùn Eideann cooncil's very ane Dubya.

Anyway, as I tuck into my veggie version of tiolaidh le feoil, I almost choke on my oxymoron to find out that someone has translated Mozilla's Firefox into Gàidhlig. But, before a lynch mob of Tax Payers' Alliance and Daily Mail extremists form an orderly queue outside Salmond's office, it should be pointed out that this appears to be the work of a dedicated volunteer techno-Gael. Good on him. With Google having adopted the ancient Scots' tongue some years ago, it means that Scots can now browse and surf almost entirely in the language that came here with the er... Scots nearly 2000 years ago.
Dè a' Ghàidhlig a th'air hairy skat loving nuns?

Even if only a few hundred bilingual diversity loving zealots like myself use it, it'll still be a step forward for Scotland and her culture. Why? Because there is no fckn value in just being like everyone else. I'm actually quite proud of Scottish Gaelic's contribution to the patchwork of global diversity. It makes the world a more interesting place. Any goddamn dork can just parrot American English.

In reference to the previous posting on Scotland's poverty of ambition, this has to be one instance where someone has got off their arse and done something. Something different, other than shopping at Primark or updating MyScab with inane bullshit. Agus, se siud fàth mo sgeoil. 

Meal a naidheachd air an laoch ud.

Download it here.

* I refuse to acknowledge a 'Scot' who decries his/ her nation's oldest indigenous tongue. To me, they might as well be Gerri Halliwell in her Butcher's Apron. Or David Cameron. Whichever is worse.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Scotland and the poverty of ambition

Admittedly, this is written after the Scottish national football team has plumbed new depths. Though without being too tribal in sporting terms, I must also acknowledge the continued failure of bawbag Britain's latest great white dope in the tennis world, Andy Murray. The main point not being that we rarely win at anything nor even the constant whinging at perceived inequalities on the playing field. No, the problem is that we expect to fail or are scared to conceive success. We are even satisfied to have a primary-school level carving of an Australian Christian wife-beater's interpretation of one of our national heroes exist at the foot of his monument.

Sport though is just that. It's bad enough when the playing field is our very nationhood and culture. There are numerous examples but here are a few that come to mind.

G'day suckers
First up has to be the reluctance - cowardice - of the Unionist parties at Holyrood to countenance a referendum on independence. This is bad enough but the idiocy of some Scots is depressing. It isn't uncommon to hear views such as 'I dinny want to be ruled by an Alex Salmond dictatorship' or words to that effect. Strange that people can't see that an independent Scotland would be ruled by whichever party that won the subsequent elections. Do they think the Republic of Ireland is run by a perpetual Sinn Fein government? Do the Norwegians only have Det norske Arbeiderparti at elections? Or do these amadain even have a concept of 'Norway' as a successful though small and socially democratic independent nation?

And while we're on Norway... Its often amusing to hear 'auld Socialist' types coming across all Daily Mail in defence of the Union. Apparently, an independent Scotland could not survive the current economic crisis. "It just wouldnae work...". I wonder which part of bankrupt Britain's massive £400billion debt could be construed as 'functioning' or 'successful'? Perhaps the saddest thing about all this is not that the Scottish Labour Party or Lib Dems are unwilling to test their pro-Union faith but that they cannot see the opportunity in this for their own parties and for Scotland. Whilst I may happily vote for the SNP or the Greens at the moment because they offer a positive change from a backward Union that has given us little in the way of dividend, I would welcome the chance to vote for a post-Union Scottish Labour Party that had along the way re-adopted some auld and basis principles. The current malaise is exemplified well by Scottish Labour's leader Iain Gray - a man who seems to have made a committment to mediocrity his vocation.
Forward with mediocrity and the war on teeth

If anyone doubts the lack of a Union dividend, they need only go to some of our housing schemes. Decades, indeed centuries, of London rule under different parties has changed little or nothing. Compare it to Norway. I wonder how many young men in Oslo had power drills taken to their skulls by gangsters recently? Or had chisels and knives taken to their groin and face? Maybe we should just compare their longevity and general health and well-being? Or count the number of teeth in your average Norwegian teenagers mouth? In short, just what the fuck is the status quo doing for our poor? Independence aint a magic pill but its a start. And Norway is a pretty good role model to emulate.

Norway too has an egalitarian approach to its two languages - Bokmal and Ny Norsk. Compare this to the usual whinging about Gaelic - most often followed by some vague reference to tax-payers' money and its status as a minority language. Hmmm... I wonder which other minorities should have services denied due to cost? Couldn't we just round all the minorities up into cattle trucks?  Fact is, Gaelic is ours and to those who deny that it has a place in Lowland culture, go and learn some and maybe then you'll see the mountain in front of you. Its like a Francist madrileno denying the Arabic influence in Spanish culture but being unable to explain the significance of Al-Andalus. Gaels are tax-payers too and as native Scots are surely entitled to services in our indigenous tongue. This should not be confused with efforts to reverse the erosion of the language - after centuries of repression and neglect. 

On this point, its dissapointing to see Edinburgh Council further postpone a decision on whether or not Dùn Eideann should have a stand-alone Gaelic school. Pure fence sitting. Arguments about cost won't wash. Our kids have to be educated. We might as well give them 2 or 3 languages in the process as let their minds' potential rot with mono-lingualism.

Lastly, and on subject of education, is the new 'Curriculum for Excellence'. This has been in the pipeline for years. Some though claim that they aren't prepared for it. Others claim that it is too 'vague'. Thankfully, some understand that it empowers the teacher to give children the necessary tools of enquiry and research. Why just teach children to memorise facts? Why not give them the skills to find out for themselves? I for one certainly welcome the new emphasis on exploration, reasoning and philosophy as hopefully it will lead to a gradual reduction of religious worship in schools. Why teach children to enquire and search for evidence while simultaneously telling them to 'just believe' a bunch of unprovable auld tales with absolutely no basis in logic?

There are other issues. From the suspicion of euthanasia (strange, but the churches are at the forefront of opposition to yet another advance in the understanding of, and steps to alleviate human suffering) to our inability to effectively and sensibly deal with the drugs issue - and this includes our harmful relationship with alcohol and tobacco.

In the next qualifying matches for the Euro Championships, it would be refreshing to hear the players talk up a win against world champions Spain - not only because we've practised and relearned the basics of passing and shooting but because we don't fucking fear success. Simply, if the laws of science say its possible, then go for it.