Friday, March 18, 2011

Great Great Britain seizes the moral high ground over Libya

Great Britain with its thousand years of democracy finds itself once again perfectly placed to be the world's polisman. Of course, Uncle Sam has to give the nod first. Let us explain why Great Britain has the moral authority to rid the world of all bad people like the very very bad Colonel Gaddafi. Gaddafi thinks that he can oppress his own people AND do business with us. Who does he think he is? China? Saudi Arabia?

For a start, Britain would never clear its own people of the land, especially for reasons of profit or ethnic hatred.
The Clearances in Uist, 1895
Nor would Great Britain shoot its own people while they demonstrated for basic human rights.
Bloody Sunday, 1973
Even dirty hippies living on the edge of society would not be subject to violence at the hands of the British state.
'The Battle of the Beanfield' 1985

Though dirty striking miners with left-wing tendencies did occasionally provoke the police into suppressing their dissent by any means necessary as they were called upon to do at the so-called 'Battle of Orgreave'.
Orgreave, 1984
Our parliament is lead by honest and accountable politicians. This duckhouse is the symbol of the probity of the 'Mother of Parliaments'.
A necessary expense for London MPs
And our leaders would never join forces with religiously motivated extremists to wage an illegal war on a third world country.
Repeat, would not enjoy a 'special relationship' with a country that covertly financed terrorist groups such as the Contras in Nicaragua.

CIA manual - part of US 'covert' warfare against Sandinista Nicaragua
Were atrocities against innocent civilians ever to have occurred then that of course is a matter of great regret. Rest assured though that no breaches of international human rights law take place today.
Guantanamo Bay, still home to 172 'detainees'

Britain is so assured of its morality that it would take swift and effective action against any nation guilty of human rights abuses. Be it China...

Bodies of student protesters, Tianamen Square, China, 1989
 Or in democratic and capitalist-friendly Russia...
Massacre of Chechen 'rebels', 2000
We are also confident that Great Britain's friendship with nice Saudi Arabia is having a positive effect on human rights there. Particularly in its attitude to women.
'Be thankful you're not getting stoned'.
Lastly, Great Britain would never tolerate the maintenance of a dynasty of unelected persons living at the tax payers' expense.

Gone are the days when our government was run by a privileged clique of white Eton-educated rich men.
Cool Britannia was never... so cool.
Please remember all of this if you read of claims that Great Britain is wasting £billions on another foreign war while the economy withers and thousands lose their jobs. Please remember to stand in respectful silence when the coffins come home. Our boys die for you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Singalong anti-nuclear

Even if you can't read Scottish, you know what it means. Our complacency broken, its time to roll out the anti-nuclear power campaigns again.

Once in generation it seems as if we have a major nuclear accident. One too many. And even if these major accidents are few and far between - low level radioactive leakage seems to be regular and the cost to the taxpayer of subsidising nuclear power is enormous. Then there's the question of what to do with the waste. I remember Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight with his trademark incredulous frown asking the then chair of British Nuclear Fuels if he was 'seriously proposing that we bequeath to our grandchildren tonnes of radioactive junk'.

Generations are often marked by their tunes. So, where are all the anti-nuclear power tunes? Nuke war has got a few. But atomic energy? Well, perhaps my 5 minutes of half-hearted research wasn't thorough enough but I managed to dig up a few examples - all from the 80s it seems. And all from the 'anarcho-punk' genre. The anarchist strand of punk music didn't quite change the world but its impact was to be seen in movements such as CND - given the kiss of life by Crass - and the animal rights movement. Unfortunately for some, it was also the mother of all chastity belts. The Pope would've been proud. No condoms needed as adolescents were consumed by marching for CND and against vivisection, reading veggie cookbooks, squatting and latterly by getting filthy and growing dreadlocks. Though this was mostly by those who later graduated to a job in banking. Sex was viewed with frustrated suspicion - maybe it was 'sexist' to chat someone up? 

Anyway, Edinburgh's anarchos Oi Polloi seemed to shout most about nuclear power. Songs like Resist the Atomic Menace, No Filthy Nuclear Power and Go Green provided a soundtrack for protest trips to Torness to rage against nuclear power stations that Labour gave us before they opposed them before they advocated them again.


Loanhead based noise-merchants AOA also got in on the act with their split LP with Oi Polloi. AOA also came from an area where the miners' strike was at the heart of the community. Today it may seem as if environmental activists and 'spokespersons' all speak with the same kind of Oxbridge accent. AOA weren't of that ilk.

Flux of Pink Indians emerged out of the Crass-inspired wave of punk. They were responsible for memorable anthems such as Tube Disaster but also for the weird and pretentious, though superbly titled, 'The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks'. Flux later produced the Buddhist-inspired 'Uncarved Block' on their own Little Indian label which also gave us the likes of Bjork and the Shamen. Here though is their own anti-atomic anthem.

Lastly is Discharge. Again, very influential - certainly on thrash metal bands such as Metallica and Sepultura. Lyrically, they are best described as 'uncomplicated' and 'straight to the point' though 'repetitive' may also be apt. They definitely had a bee in their bonnet regarding things nuclear though to be honest, war was by far their biggest bugbear. 'The Possibility of Life's Destruction' is open to interpretation though. Here are the lyrics. All of them.
Can you hear the sound of an enormous door slamming in the depths of hell
The possibility of life's destruction
Can you hear the cries of pain the mournful sound
At present, Scotland's SNP minority administration government is committed to making Scotland nuclear free. Should the election in May see the uninspiring former radical Iain Gray become first minister as head of a Labour-lead government, then Scotland could once again become a nuclear dustbin.

Time to hit the streets.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tsunami of ignorance

"These people speak Japanese." 

Amazing but true... London BBC plumbs new depths in insularity in their coverage of the impending nuclear crisis in tsunami-hit Japan. While helicopters hover over the stricken countryside, our well-spoken English correspondent tells us that one of the main problems in gaining information from the local populace is that they are... Japanese speaking. And thus, the navel-gazers of Englandshire are rocked by a quake of higher magnitude that than which hit Japan - these people actually exist without the English language!

While David Attenborough extols the wonders of Madagascar's flora and fauna it seems as if the BBC has sent Germano-Hellenic Prince Philip to marvel at the plight of those yellow and slanty eyed foreigners. 

Phil the Greek, "Come ahead all you slitty-eyed Jock jigaboos and wops"
And then, the Beeb's helicopter returned to more urban areas where islands of Engerlish are often to be found. As people stuck on top of buildings and bridges signalled their need for rescue, the camera crews of the British Broadcasting Corporation had another priority - film first, rescue later, all the while hoping that it doesn't overshadow news of the royal wedding. But while we Brits were reassured that we are too clever to learn others' languages we at least were able to identify language as one of the cultural markers which differentiates Japan from Engerland. 

Meanwhile, back in yon green and pleasant land, a nation of Daily Mail readers awaited their next visual feast amid dire warnings that a Scottish media service would be... 'narrow and insular'.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Aye can? My Erse.

Its census time and the onslaught against our indigenous culture continues. The auld myths about Scotland and her cultural roots are being trotted out by everyone from the  General Register Office of Scotland to Newsnet Scotland. It is often said that 'divide and rule' is the best strategy of the aggressor. And thus, we were divided. Scotland became, not the Celtic kingdom of Alba, but a nation divided between 'Highlands' and 'Lowlands'. This took time though and this distinction between Highland and Lowland only emerged relatively recently. Highland was 'Gaelic' and Lowland was... well, what was Lowland? The Anglo-Saxons brought 'Inglis' and Inglis it was until it suddenly became 'Scottish'. What then of Scottish? Scottish became Gaelic, Highland or even worse 'Erse'. More than divide and rule, the Scots found themselves identified by another nationality and thus dispossessed.

The Lowlands therefore became the sole preserve of Inglis/ Scots - even though at the time much of the Lowlands was still Gaelic speaking.  

Scotland then became 'Northern Britain' and eventually the powers that be, in a fit of irony, even decreed that Inglis was just 'badly spoken English'.

Historical extent of Gaelic expansion
This supreme piece of anti-Scottish spin-doctoring and cultural airbrushing provided the perfect springboard for centuries of repression starting with the Statutes of Iona, continuing with the Clearances and the education act of 1872 that permitted the forcible Anglicisation of Gaelic-speaking children and communities until the present day when one can still read derogatory comments about 'Erse' and 'garlic' in the comments sections of the Daily Mail and Scotsman. It can allow the likes of Marilyne Maclaren - Edinburgh's education chief (!!!) - in her attempt to hinder the establishment of a stand-alone Gaelic medium school in Edinburgh to claim that Gaelic's place is in 'Argyll or the west Highlands'.

The 'Aye Can' website - a product of the General Register and the ironically named 'Scots Language Centre' - which seeks to help people determine whether or not they speak 'Scots' states:
Are Gaelic and Scots different things?

Yes. Scots belongs to the Germanic family of languages (which includes Dutch, German, English and Swedish) and has traditionally been spoken in the southern and eastern parts of Scotland known as the Lowlands.

Gaelic, on the other hand, belongs to the Celtic family of languages (which includes Irish and Welsh) and has traditionally been spoken in the northern and western parts of Scotland known as the Highlands.
At best, this is a collection of half-truths. At worse, it is anti-Scottish. A good example of this can be found in the 'View from the Wasteland' blog which also states that the 'flag of our country is the Union Jack':
Yet ours is a rich language , spoken by plain men and men of learning for many centuries . John Barbour wrote in Scots for the Scots King when the English monarchy and aristocracy spoke French and English was regarded as a rural patois . Let it be remembered that , such was the strength of the Renaissance in this country , The Aeneid was translated into Scots before it was into English . This is no ill-spoken rustic dialect .

It would be tragic were it to disappear . Or , worse , be killed by the onslaught of meejah culture and aggressive Gaelic promotion .

I am a Scotsman . I speak Scots , not Erse .

The Census , due on the 27th of March , asks questions about our fluency in the guid Scots . It is incumbent on all who love our country and its heritage to answer truthfully and support oor mither tongue .
The idea that the Lowlands was devoid of Gaelic culture was certainly a new one to the last native Gaelic speakers of Arran in the 20th century:
"Some years ago I heard Gaelic speakers in Arran describe the
entire stretch of coastland from Galloway to Ayrshire as part of the
Gàidhealtachd. They knew some of the place-names of that region in
their Gaelic form; it was traditional knowledge among them that the
Gaelic language had been spoken there in the past; and they assumed
that, just as in Arran, it had survived to the present day."
To sum up, the Gaelic perception of the Lowlands is in
essential agreement with that of the medieval Scots writers who regard
the Gaels of their time as 'contemporary ancestors', people who
preserve the language and culture which were once shared by all. But
from the Gaelic point of view, we the Gaels are the disinherited, the
(John MacInnes, The Gaelic Perception of the Lowlands, "Gaelic and Scotland/Alba agus a' Ghàidhlig", ed. Wm Gillies, Edinburgh University Press, 1989)
Coronation of King Alexander III on Moot Hill, Scone on 13 July 1249. He is being greeted by the ollamh rìgh, the royal poet, who is addressing him with the proclamation "Benach De Re Albanne" (= Beannachd Dè Rìgh Alban, "God's Blessing on the King of Scotland"); the poet goes on to recite Alexander's genealogy.
This is not to paint Scotland/ Alba as a monolingual nation. I'm unsure if such a concept exists. Even the relatively linguistically 'pure' Iceland has a smattering of Gaelic placenames, handed down from Celtic monks who reached the islands before the Norse and latterly by Gaelic-speaking slaves brought there from their homelands of Scotland, Man and Ireland. Some seek to muddy the waters by highlighting Pictish and 'Welsh'. Though the minute someone speaks of 'Welsh' in a Scottish context, one should treat their arguments with the same amount of salt you'd give to a Daily Mail article. Brythonnic which was closely related to Gaelic was spoken here and is evidenced in poetry - Y Gododdin - and in placenames - Niddry for a starter. However, Watson in his 'Celtic Placenames of Scotland' states that 'there are more placenames of Gaelic origin around Peebles than those of Brythonnic origin'. The strange conclusion for some though is that 'Welsh' was spoken in the Lothians but not Gaelic. Were pre-Celtic Pictish, Brythonnic or Norn in the Northern Isles still to exist then their survival would be equally important. I get the feeling though that even in that situation, we'd hear the same complaints from the same people.
"It was during this period, probably from about AD 960 onwards,
that Gaelic came to be current in Lothian: there is some evidence that
it extended beyond the present boundary of Scotland." Page footnote:
"Gaelic place-names are found in the north of England."
("The Celtic Placenames of Scotland", WJ Watson, published by Birlinn)
So, what of Scots? There is no doubt that a northern branch of Anglo-Saxon did develop separately to that spoken in much of England and that it too has a place in our culture. Most of us still speak it to some extent, though I'd argue that for most us, it has become very much diluted and not only by 'standard' English but by recent inputs from Hispanic, African-American and American English. I'd argue that 'Scottish English' would be a more suitable and honest term for this tongue.

This is not acceptable to some though - including some nationalists who have now started to revise history by claiming that 'Scots' and not 'Inglis' was historically spoken in Alba. As mentioned, 'Scots' was a term that was pasted onto 'Scottice' in the 1600s and even today is not a universally recognised term by its speakers - Lallans, Doric, Scotch or the more regional Shetlandic are as often heard. Possibly because some see these Anglo dialects as being sufficiently different from each other to qualify as languages in their own right.

The cumulative effect of this romantic airbrushing, historical revisionism and aggressive anti-Celitc prejudice is that many Scots do feel that Gaelic is 'foreign' to them. Ask them to explain their local placenames and they're stumped. Ask them what the daily language of William Wallace and the Bruce was and you might get a shrug of the shoulders and the reply, 'English?'.  Ask them the source of the icons which give us our Scottish identity - even accounting for Victorian remixes by Walter Scott et al - such as bagpipes, whisky, tartan, the clans, the Stone of Destiny, ceilidhs, shinty (and arguably golf), the toponymy of lochs, bens and glens... and you'll get another shrug.
I once witnessed a folk singer in a Highland Perthshire pub being questioned by a German on the meaning of the line 'tha tighinn fodham' in the auld pro-Jacobite song 'Rise and Follow Charlie'. He looked puzzled for a few seconds and then replied, 'well, they're just kind of... Scottish sounds'.

The new Scotland? Forward with ignorance? Is it any wonder that tens of thousands of our youngsters tend to identify with an 'Old Firm' view of their lives in Scotland - Irish, Ulster Scots, British, English, Irish Catholic, proddie, 'Norn Iron' and Orange. Anything but Scottish.

Let us continue to speak our own form of Anglo-Saxon. Let us marvel at the words and use them in place of 'standard' English. Let us embrace the diversity of our new communities. But, we should be under no illusion that it was Gaels who gave us our nation, our iconography and much of our nomenclature. We should also ensure that it does not go the way of Pictish or Brythonnic.
"We look in vain for any hard and fast 'Highland Line' in the
minds or actions of these landowning families of the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries...
This essentially mixed situation, quite the reverse of black and white, characterised in the late medieval period and in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the gradual disappearance of the eastern Gàidhealtachd. The contribution of the 'western Gàidhealtachd' to the history and culture of Scotland may in some quarters have been sadly misunderstood and underrated, but it has never been in danger of being lost to sight. I would like to balance west with east by highlighting what I believe to have been the historically and culturally permanent contribution of Gaelic language and social organisation to the east of the country and the lowlands in general."
(GWS Barrow, The lost Gàidhealtachd of medieval Scotland, "Gaelic and Scotland/Alba agus a' Ghàidhlig", ed. Wm Gillies, Edinburgh University)

Update - Does Scotland and Gaelic needs enemies when its own people are this ignorant? Due to complaints, it seems as if 'Aye Can' has changed their tone... and made it worse. It now reads...

Gaelic, on the other hand, belongs to the Celtic family of languages (which includes Irish and Welsh). In recent centuries Gaelic has mostly been spoken in the northern and western parts of Scotland.

Have the Top Gear team taken control of history at the 'Scots Language Centre'? 'Recent centuries' would see Gaelic spoken in much of the Lowlands including Fife and Galloway...