Friday, November 30, 2012
In two years, this day could be fkn huge. The mother of all independence days. In the meantime, pour yourself a Laphroaig and sing along.
First up, Frightened Rabbit. The sentiments of this song could only be more Scottish if they were sung with alternating verses in Gàidhlig, Pictish and Brythonnic.
Next up is the (haggard) face of new Gaelic music. Except, it's an auld song in English. The topic though is one that is still sadly current. As long as we still have native Scots living in damp caravans in Lochaber or Skye while the rich of many nations own acres of land, we won't be free as a nation. Independence is our chance to solve this injustice.
Lastly, we have a Sasannach and ex-Labour supporter reminding the current Scottish Labour leader that pensioners, the sick, disabled, unemployed and students don't wan't "something for nothing". Especially while London's governments, both Tory and Labour, plough £billions into war.
Slàinte mhath. Air adhart do Alba shaor aig a bheil ceartas na crìdhe.
Monday, November 26, 2012
Tired of the meeja coverage of Mick Jagger shaking his wrinkles with his fellow lovers of under-age lovers? As someone who was old enough to know what it was all about at the time, I still wonder why Bill Wyman didn't get the Gary Glitter treatment after he managed to get a lumber with Mandy Smith at the tender age of 14.
|Hesian, London 2012|
Never mind, I just wish I'd be able to have been present at the Basque Solidarity Sound System gig in Brixton last weekend. Raising money for and awareness of the blight of Basque prisoners in Spain, London and Edinburgh was the aim of the event. I can only hope that the likes of Hesian, Itziarren Semeak and Siroka make it up Scotland sometime soon.
|Union Jack? Thall is Cac.|
On the downside, we hear that Liet International has convened a mysterious 'committee' that has 'chosen' a predictably dismal and not so 'ùr-nosach' piece of music to represent Alba in the minority language version of Eurovision. In the past, the great unwashed got the chance to vote for the likes of Welsh ska-indie music or Gaelic indie music to compete with Basque language rock music or Latvian death metal. This time, the plebes didn't get a vote and Gaelic Scotland is taking one step forward and two back in terms of 'new' music. Hey-ho, let's not go...
Monday, October 29, 2012
On Oidhche Shamhna - the night before Samhain - the door between 'our' world and the world of the dead was reputed to open, allowing for all manner of supernatural beings to pass into the realm of the living. As per usual, it is an apt time to run an eye over the make-believe horrors that those in power, or those in the tabloids, deem to be a threat to our way of life.
Foreigners are usually a good bet. Especially those we see as immigrants - not 'ex-pats' like the English abroad - and asylum seekers. Last year though, saw 'the enemy within' take the limelight.
|Taking our jobs, having our babies, not going home.|
The implication obviously is though that these foreign parents are more than likely bleck. Or maybe Asian. Or.... SLAVIC!!! And sure enough, read further into this Metro report and we see 'Eastern European' immigration getting the neep-lantern treatment. Not only that but the shadowy 'Migrationwatch' gleefully dispute the official figures and are adamant that NONE of these Slavs intend to return home after a year or two here doing the kind of work that some Bwits are too lazy or incompetent to do anymore.
On a slightly different note, one has to wonder why the English-based Migrationwatch who seem to take umbrage at the migration of Slavs, Blecks and Asians are credible sources for the media whearas the likes of Settler Watch, Scottish Watch and Sìol nan Gaidheal who highlighted mostly white and well-off English migration to Scotland were slated as 'racists'?
Lastly though, its the horrors at home that we really have to worry about. And everyone from David Cameron to Ed Miliband to Johann Lamont has been warning about them.
It's those of us who want 'something for nothing'. No, not the MPs and their expenses. No, not the bankers. No, not the Royal Family. No, not the arms dealers. No, not those in House of Lords.
There are many but old people seem to be especially scary this year. Labour have suggested that they should pay for their travel, care and prescriptions. The Tories suggest that they should work for their pensions. What the fck these old folk have been doing all their lives, I don't know. But somehow, the entire population of pensioners has reached a ripe auld age without working nor paying taxes! Incredible! Are they all Barclays or Starbucks shareholders?
|Get on yer bike, coffin dodger.|
There are indeed two worlds and the spectres, hobgoblins and bloodsuckers of Tory and Labour take full advantage of that open door to keep their Westminster gravy-train on the go, to stockpile their weapons of mass-destruction and to keep that gap between rich and poor from narrowing.
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Apart from the crazy notion of standing on your own two feet and doing things in your own way there are many reasons to vote 'NO!' to Scotland running her own affairs. Especially if you're a sad auld 30-something virgin male who still lives with his maw and has yet to fly the coop to establish your own... er independence in the world.
I say this because there are those who claim we're better off staying together as a 'family' of nations. Now this may be a strange concept to such street-wise guys like Ed Miliband or Alastair Darling but I left home decades ago and yet still manage to maintain cordial relations with my family - the auld dear, brothers, aunts, cousins etc. It's just that I don't want to share a house with them.
|Please... stay at home.|
Now that's out of the way. Suppose you do vote 'NO!' What next? Scotland continues to run almost all things by herself but leaves the rest - including the financing of it all - to the likes of...
Ed Miliband??! The same Ed Miliband that those durty Tories have outed as a conservative?!
|Er... no, no and no.|
Aye, him. Not very inspiring, is it? No wonder he was roundly booed by the large TUC anti-cuts demo in London.
How about ye olde Black Dwarf then... Alastair Darling who's doing a swimmingly good job of keeping the anti-indies of Labour, LibDem, Tory and... Orange Order, BNP et al... together in the good ship Bitter Together. In his previous life as chancellor of the exchequer he presided over the collapse of many of Golden Britain's banks.
Oh, wait a minute... that Alastair Darling. The infamous 'worse than Thatcher' one mentioned here:
This really is shit. The 'socialist' alternative promising 'pain' worse than the Mother of a Thousand Dead. What else can London offer then?Alistair Darling admitted tonight that Labour's planned cuts in public spending will be "deeper and tougher" than Margaret Thatcher's in the 1980s, as the country's leading experts on tax and spending warned that Britain faces "two parliaments of pain" to repair the black hole in the state's finances.
|Whatever floats your boat...|
|...but mind this when the talk turns to morality and family values.|
London-based politics is knee deep in shit. Every few months seems to see a new sorry episode. Free rein given to greedy and corrupt bankers. Cameron's friends in the Murdoch media empire illegally eavesdropping on almost everyone - hey, they got a murdered schoolgirl's phone but not Savile's! Cops are paid by said corrupt journos. Cops kill innocent bystanders at demonstration. MPs expenses fraud on a mammoth scale - and they're still at it. The Hillsborough cover-up which includes top cops and yon auld witch Thatcher.
It's a revolving door of corruption and sleaze. Blair copied Thatcher. Guess who Cameron copied...?
So, if you aint gonna vote 'Yes' because as some claim, 'there are no really independent nations anymore', then will voting 'No' save us from this lot?...
Next... Halloween Horrors for 2012.
Saturday, October 13, 2012
The Scottish word for October is Dàmhair and describes the time of year when the stags would descend from the mountains and rut in the glens and straths. The political stags in the strath of London are also busy rutting at the moment and their descent has been a moral one.
The bewildering pronouncements of Ed Miliband's chosen envoy to Nof Bwitain, Johanna Lamont have been covered in gory detail in many different forums. Seems though as if her sudden swing from apparent-lefite to full-blooded Thatcherite was but a warm-up act for Miliband himself at Labour's annual lecture for the automatons.
Miliband rubbed salt into the wounds by not only demanding cuts - not to the war budget mind - but by imploring all us Bwits to submit ourselves to the One Nation.
Milibland's right-wing froth was the cue for Cameron's compassionate millionaires to again lay the blame for society's ills at the doors of the poor. The message was, once again, if you are poor then you are to blame and all you need to do is work harder. There was no carrot and Cameron presented the poor with the age-old stick of benefits' cuts. As far back as I can remember, London governments have been shaving £millions of the benefits budget. Thatcher and Major were enthusiastic slashers and the trend continued under Blair and Brown's Nu Labour chimera.
And the end result of three decades of cutting benefits?
Who knows? But there's still loads of dough left for new fleets of aircraft carriers and Trident missiles.
|Labour is bad for your health.|
This kind of response to the progressive idea of removing weapons of mass destruction from Scotland is typical of the tired and complacent Labour Party in Scotland. It was simply beyond the ken and wit of Jackie Baillie to imagine that the many hundreds of £millions we spend on Trident could be spent on something more constructive and peaceful. Trams for our cities? Equipment for our hospitals? Wind and wave turbines?
Lastly is the bizarre pronouncement that London will, in 2014, spend £50million on commemorating the start (!) of the First World War. In the absence of a royal wedding, jubliee or Team GB, London obviously needs another excuse to foist the Union flag and London's version of patriotic history upon us.
If my history serves me correctly though, twice as many Scots died in their role of cannonfodder in a what was basically a war between Europe's moribund imperialist elites. Something that is certainly worth remembering in the year of the referendum.
As for the LibDems... their unpopularity has finally been eclipsed by Jimmy Saville.
STUC report on cancelling Trident
Not in our name - report on campaign in The Independent
Sunday, September 30, 2012
In the past, the Iron Lady of Scottish politics has perhaps been unfairly treated. Say, portrayed as a sad auld jakie whose days of youth, vigour and radical action are long gone. However, now she has now wholeheartedly adopted the policies, excuses and even the language of the Tories. The taxpaying public are scolded for expecting 'something for nothing' and that we should apply 'common sense' to public finances. Lamont is going from a sad auld figure to a new Thatcher.
Much has been said in recent days of Scottish Labour's sudden and sickening lurch to the right - even mainstream journos on the BBC has expressed their shock and dismay - so there will be few words here. Even Angus Macleod of the Times - and no Jimmy Reid is he - questioned that if the elderly, the sick and students were to be means-tested for their benefits and entitlements then what next? The NHS?
I can point you to the erstwhile Jimmy Reid Foundation - poor Jimmy would be livid at the current position of Scottish Labour and Bella Caledonia for some good reading on this topic.
Suffice to say at a time when the UK government is pursuing projects that started under Labour or are still supported by Labour - including Johann Lamont - paying the PFI rents on schools and hospitals, such building aircraft carriers, renewing Trident, maintaining a fleet of nuclear submarines, maintaining the huge subsidies on nuclear power and continued involvement in foreign escapades such as Libya and Afghanistan, it won't wash to say 'we can't afford these public services.'
As always, it's a matter of priorities. We could choose to protect and enhance the lives of Scottish people through better public services - that we all pay for already - or go down the auld road of arming ourselves to the teeth in the spirit of Rule Britannia.
This also comes after Labour has joined with the Tories in Stirling Council and delivered...a council-tax cut! I'm not really sure how that will protect services in Stirling. For example, how will Stirling Council reduce class sizes with a reduced income?
Labour... are kaputt.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
No, not the book of the Old Testament much favoured by many latter-day cherry picking Christians, but the number of people who took to the streets to march for Scotland's independence.
As someone who was present on the march with another family enjoying the chance to support the 'Yes' cause in the Edinburgh sunshine, I feel more than qualified to pour cold water on the bitter reports of the occasion in 'our' press. The Scotsman has long been at odds with Scottish society - it earned the nickname of 'Daily Liar' by Highlanders in the late 1800s due the papers support for the landlords in the Highland Clearances. Even an exhibition by Edvard 'The Scream' Munch in 1932 Edinburgh was disapproved of. These days its not uncommon for the Scotsman to reprint 'news' from the Daily Mail - this article appeared in the Mail on Sunday last week before making it into a gleeful Scotsman the following day.
Sadly, the Herald also joined in snide-fest.
The march itself was a superb occasion. Regarding the numbers, I'd estimate at least 9000. Bella Caledonia deals with issue in more depth.
I did note the predictable comments of Scottish Labour which also bizarrely mentioned that the indy march was but a dwarf in comparison to the 80000 who demonstrated against the Iraq War. That would be the demonstration against.... er, Labour who took us into that illegal war.
On the other hand, it was by far the biggest demonstration in favour of Scottish independence ever. Who would bet against the next one being bigger still?
Numbers are only part of the story though. Myself and other marchers, including some from the continent, were pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming positive attitude on display. Despite people of all ages, of various nationalities and from different political backgrounds turning out, there was a convincing atmosphere of standing together for a common cause. Almost a smug satisfaction that you and your neighbour were participating in a historic act for the common good.
|Some Unionists adopt an Islamist approach.|
This attitude needs to be maintained. The Unionists have nothing to offer but negativity and scaremongering. Their cause is bankrupt. I've yet to here one serious argument for retaining the Union. Have heard various vague mutterings about 'a family of nations' but as everyone knows, any young person flies the coop as soon as they can. I love my auld dear. She's still family. But from my late teens, I've very much enjoyed relating to her as an independent adult.
While its obvious that not all Unionists may share all their views, the only ugly faces to show up on the day came from a small group of BNP or EDL 'football boys' who hung Union Jacks on a tree. Once again the Union Jack represents insularity, ignorance and hate. Just keep taking the rope boys.
Monday, September 24, 2012
Before the Clegg apology became a radio friendly hit with all the biting satire of a Hugh Grant rom-com, Kunt & the Gang put together this depraved and ribald classic. Lest we forget, likes.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Was a pleasure to meet some Basques on the independence march in Edinburgh. Some of their notable punk, rock, ska and hardcore bands will be over in Engerland's capital city in November to raise money for Basque prisoners in Spain. A worthy cause as Madrid's draconian way of dealing with 'the Basque Problem' is to lock up swathes of ordinary Basques - almost all of whom have no connections to violence.
Well worth supporting if you make it down. Otherwise, it would be a pleasure to see them in Scotland at some point - perhaps sharing a stage with our own indigenous rockers?
As collective nouns go, it could be worse. A fossil of Tories? A coffin of Tories? A toley of Tories? A bastard of Tories?
Whatever, bad Tories are ten-a-penny and no doubt most of them remain mired in a swamp of crypto-fascism. However, in this dark age of austerity when doomladen stormclouds such as the Tax Payers' Alliance and UKIP threaten to steal Tory votes and rain down free-market madness on the rest of us, it's refreshing, if not bizarre to hear a Tory attacking plans to save the NHS money by cutting expenditure on homeopathy.
|Carlaw - the touchy feely Tory|
Homeopathy along with its siblings of religion, racism and conservatism is born of illogicality and mundane human fantasy. Its central tenet is that like cures like. Maybe... though it's the bit where the 'cure' is diluted to impossible levels leaving only a 'memory' that makes no sense. And, if there is a memory, then what it is? Human bowels? The sewage system? Thatcher's wet mattress?
Backing this steaming pile of manure though is the Scottish Tories' very own loose cannon, Jackson Carlaw. Lothian NHS wants to stop giving £200K to mumbo-jumbo and use it elsewhere. Carlaw isn't amused though and has lined up voodoo dolls of Salmond et al for the Countryside Alliance to spike at will.
There may be more reason to Carlaw's faerie-magik than first meets the eye. New Health Secretary for England, the flamboyant Jeremy Hunt, not only wants to stop abortion and sell off the NHS but is a firm believer in homeopathy. Not only that but homeopathy isn't actually the 'nice' holistic solution that some may believe it to be. Apart from being a fraud, it's a multi-billion dollar industry. Sugar pill factories don't come cheap but someone in 'Big Pharma' is being well remunerated.
|Struan - methane producer|
What next though? A Tory campaign to divert money from the education budget to Nessie Hunts?
Manure is something that country boy Struan Stevenson is more than acquainted with. Interestingly enough his first name comes from the Scottish sruthan meaning 'little stream'. Struan has spent his entire life spouting a constant stream of shit, so much so that his face now resembles a cow's anus. Perfectly.
Of late, his favourite topic to defecate upon has been wind farms. He strongly opposes renewable energy being subsidised as if investment in the industries of the future is somewhat on a par with feeding new born babies into sausage machines.
|Dru Mitch - Fuck Da Police man|
I'm sure that its been observed elsewhere but were ordinary plebs to tell the cops to 'fuck off you lower class pleb scum', we'd see the inside of a meatwagon before you could say 'this is your thin blue line that has saved you from a kicking on many an occasional you ungrateful Tory prick'. Otherwise its a sad attempt by a middle aged man to 'get down with da yoof' by dissing the pigs NWA style.
Vote Tory - A.C.A.B?
Thursday, August 2, 2012
Compared to the Basque Country or even our Celtic cousins in Cymru, Scotland has a paucity of bands composing new material in her own language. Fortunately though, one of them is a well kent face on the international stage.
Dùisg is the second LP by Oi Polloi to be recorded entirely in Scottish/ Gàidhlig though the language has featured in various other recordings over the years, including a session for the BBC Alba program Rapal. The last one Ar Cànan, Ar Ceòl, Ar-a-mach broke some new ground for Polloi's mix of Sham 69/ Cockney Rejects type Oi! and Discharge-esque thrash. Added to that was some crunchy Killing Joke, bagpipes and traditional Gaelic song.
Dùisg continues in more or less the same vein but with the addition of keyboards here and there. It's probably their best yet - lots of catchy tunes, though some of them are delivered at a pretty hectic pace. Some great guitar hooks as well as some dark and brooding grinding hardcore. The Gaelic vocals as per usual are more the bastard son of Tom Waits and Pinhead from Hellraiser than Karen Matheson or Mànran.
Lyrics deal with some of the usual topics but also break new ground. Since when did you hear of a song promoting the use of LINUX? And, in Gaelic punk rock? Other issues dealt with in the Scottish tongue are police brutality (Dìon is Cuidich), increased state surveillance (Ar Dìleab) and the futility of capitalism (Dòigh Eile).
On top of that there's an essay on why Oi Polloi sing in Gaelic, a short story in Gaelic and an interview on alternative operating systems for computers. If you're lucky enough to purchase the album at a gig, you'll get a vinyl LP with A4 booklet, CD and patch all wrapped up in a reusable Oi Polloi shopping bag. Otherwise, contact them for a CD copy.
|Gaelic shopping with Oi Polloi|
Is this another step forward for indigenous Scottish music? Possibly but at best we're treading water in terms of producing new and challenging contemporary music in Gaelic. We're miles behind the Basque Country. Let's hope that those agencies charged with developing Gaelic put more money into exciting cultural initiatives for young people instead of wasting it on ill-thought out projects like MyGaelic. How about song writing classes in rock music for teenage Gaelic medium kids instead of just learning auld tunes for the fiddle?
The only slight complaint that I'd have here is that English translations are included. We need more situations where English monoglots are forced to learn at least some Gaelic and where Gaels are not compelled to translate everything they say, sing or write into Her Majesty's tongue.
A worthy purchase.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
For it is true. While Boris, Nick and Dave from the Condems may be taking the limelight and pressing the flesh in their red, white and blue Bedouin Tent in East London, it was Labour who did the spadework for the Great Satan Olympics 2012.
Little wonder that the sniggering anti-immigrant lizard boy that is Ed Miliband has not exactly been vocal in his condemnation of G4S - the latest in a long line of private enterprises to take the public shilling and fuck up big time.
|Do ya feel secure?|
JR, you'll remember, is the former communist and Irish-republican supporter who became an enthusiastic member of right-wing New Labour and was rewarded by being appointed Defence Secretary and Commander of the British Army in their illegal adventure in Iraq. Indeed, he developed a close and friendly working relationship with dead-eyed neo-con Donald Rumsfeld, not a man known for his efforts on behalf of the downtrodden, poor and oppressed. Whatever, it seems ironic that a Labour government would first appoint G4S to man the Olympic check-points before John Reid waltzes into a cushy 'consultant' job in same company. Illegal? Probably not. Does it stink? Aye, big time.
Whatever the noble aims of the first Olympics of the modern era, the London games are becoming known by a different set of values - security, corporate interests, tax breaks, incompetence, lists of proscribed words. The likes of Coca-Cola and McDonalds are being rewarded for their massive contribution to the wellbeing of humankind with tax breaks and the chance to operate free of competition within the Olympic zone with rivals being removed or threatened. This includes wee corner shops and schools.
For more on this, read Ian Bell's excellent piece in the Sunday Herald.
|Artist impression of Olympic Hampden|
Yes, Hampden Park - home for some minor Olympic fitba games - will be full. Glaswegians are very excited about it.
This despite two-thirds of the tickets being unsold.
The answer? Lower the capacity and give away tens of thousands of free tickets to bairns.
Not like London Labour to shift the goalposts. Never mind, at least Hampden's owners Queens Park can look forward to sell out crowds this season.
Stop the Tax-Dodgers.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
London has been a cesspit of corruption in many ways from crooked bankers to fraudulent politicians. Add to the cauldron, a liberal sprinkling of violent cops, a few 'unlawful killings' and a legal system that sees rioters banged up in days but killer cops set free.
Apparently, Tomlinson had a history of alcoholism and had been homeless. PC Simon Harwood on the other hand had a history of violence and a litany of complaints made against him regarding his use of 'excessive force'.
Of course, London's cops are not the only ones to use violence. Just as the politicians in Westminster are not the only ones in the world to lie and cheat. Bankers are by nature greedy wherever they are but London - under both Labour and Tory rule - gave them free reign. Some though, say in Scotland, wish to run their own affairs and do things a bit differently. Who could blame them?
|Hey! Can I join the Met?|
Monday, July 9, 2012
Have you ever heard of the Basque cringe? No. Doesn't exist. As mentioned earlier, on a recent trip to Euskadi I was struck by the self-confidence that the Basques seem to exude in whatever way they choose to express themselves.
Though it may not seem like it, the Basque language - Euskera - is still a minority tongue within the boundaries of their nation. However, concerted efforts by everyone from youth groups to teachers to politicians and punks have seen the oldest language in Europe take the momentum. Like Faroese or Hebrew that went from moribund to first state language, I have no doubt that it will become the first tongue of most Basques in the very near future.
I also note that many of the young bands incorporate aspects of traditional culture into what they do. It could be elements of tradtional Basque dress, instruments or iconography but it's there as a badge of pride and identity. Too many Scots see these icons as 'kitsch' and cringe from them or think they're best reserved for weddings or Hogmonay.
One reflection of the independent attitude was the channel Hamaika - one of at least three Basque language channels. It seemed to broadcast a daily gallery of music videos showcasing the breadth of Euskal musika. It was much to my taste with a lot of punk rock on show. Attitude and political awareness was there in spadefuls. Here's a taste...
Siroka are a current hit in the Tocasaid bothie of sound. This song which features a number of other Basque musicians deals with the shameful treatment of Basque political prisoners - from anarchists and pacifists to suspected ETA members - by the Spanish and French authorities.
Xarma are in a similar vein. This time with their female member doing vocal duties on a song against the persistent problem of violence against women.
Negu Gorriak are perhaps best known outside Euskadi. I picked up one of their CDs a few years ago on which they covered international punk, rock and hip-hop songs in their own language. Their Basque version of Minor Threat's 'Small man, big mouth' was particularly memorable. This was a band with a hard political edge and the balls to match. They formed in the 80s and were active at a time when the post-Franco 'democracy' of Spain was continuing the Madrid-centred repression of Basque people, and not just hardline ETA members. Remember the assassination squads of the 'Socialist' Madrid government? This quote from Wiki illustrates matters:
They were completely committed to the political movement, starting with their choice to sing only in Euskera and continuing through their way of work and the message in their songs. They decided to manage themselves and created the record label Esan Ozenki. They performed their first concert in front of Herrera de la Mancha maximum security prison, leading to problems with the government. They were renounced by the Guardia Civil general, Enrique Rodríguez Galindo for the lyrics of the song «Ustelkeria», which accuses the general and the Guardia Civil of being involved in drug trafficking. This was the first time since the end of Franco's regime that the government denounced a form of expression. These charges were dropped in 2001, five years after the group stopped performing together. In honour of their legal victory, the group performed three celebratory concerts to more than 30,000 people.Here's another article on Negu Gorriak by a Canadian author. I like the reference to 'decolonization movements'. Here they are taunting the Spanish authorities outside the Herrrera de la Mancha prison.
Onto more modern stuff but still with Euskera and politics at the heart of it, singalong punk in the vein of Rancid or Dropkick Murphys with heavy doses of ska is well represented - Itziarren Semeak:
Hesian are similar:
More fusion stuff and an interesting crossover of punk, metal and electro. Whatever, the medium is the message. Zein da Zein? are Primal Scream meeting Leatherface.
Lastly, when I was at school the Abrasive Wheels classic 'Burn the Schools' was popular with some of us. Here though is a pro-school singalong from Banda Batxoki. The schools though are the successful and multicultural Basque language Eskola.
Here's hoping someone can get Na Gathan or Oi Polloi in to entertain and inspire our kids in our own Gaelic medium schools. Gaelic punk rock could be the soundtrack of our independence...
Thursday, July 5, 2012
Having been in the Basque Country for the past few days, I've noticed much in comparison with the situation at home in Scotland from both the Spanish and French 'occupied' territories. As my visit has coincided with the final stages of Euro 2012 and the progress of Spain, the rather lacklustre support for the Spanish 'national' team has been palpable. Walking the streets of Bilbo and Donostia, you could be forgiven for forgetting that the tournament was even taking place.
In Bilbo, flags and banners celebrating the rise in fortunes of the local AC Bilbao - defacto Basque national team - are still everywhere, in shops, in cars and hanging from balconies. While there was cheering from local tabernas upon the Spanish victory, the flags and shirts of Spain have remained nowhere to be seen.
Posters on the walls remind you that 'this isn't Spain, this is Euskal Herria'. Though to be honest the indigenous culture screams at you. In Basque.
Language is and isn't a political issue. In Scotland, it just isn't. Scottish is far too often ignored by Scots and a glaring example of this is the 'Yes' campaign for independence. I'm not arguing for Scottish Gaelic to be 'promoted' by the Yes campaign. I'm arguing that it should be used. Scottish has shared a certain parity with English in as much as it's supported from different parts of the political spectrum. A language is a medium and the Yes campaign needs to harness any and every medium available particularly a language that is the anchor of the nation's culture and iconography.
The Basques on the other hand live their language across all domains within the Basque Autonomous Community - it's not just an adornment or prop for the tourists. The BAC apparently enjoys more power than any other non-nation-state on earth. It has huge industrial value and is wealthy by anyone's reckoning. It's easy to see why the monster of the Spanish state doesn't want to let it go.
In Scotland, I've noticed a new and predictable stooshie over the Scottish Government's plans to signpost all major routes in both English and Scottish. This wouldn't happen in Euskadi though it would seem as if the Basques are bold in most things they do once they are freed from the chains of Spain or France.
Even the new architecture is bold, individual and very much a statement of confidence. The Guggenheim in Bilbo is just one example. Basque nationalists in power at 'devolved' and local level pulled out all the stops to ensure that the city's revitalisation started here. Under centralist rule from Madrid, Bilbo would probably have remained a rusting industrial backwater in a 'region' of Spain. It's not only the Guggenheim though. Another example is the office of the health department in Bilbo newtown with its angular, idiosyncratic and mirrored facade. A behemoth of an old wine warehouse has been turned into a state of the art centre for culture and recreation which incorporates galleries, cinema and a glass bottomed swimming pool. Bilbo even has relatively new tram and metro systems - themselves works of art. Sure, all this costs money but what doesn't?
Most detractors of Scottish in Scotland are monoglots to whom bilingualism is a mystery. Occasionally though, some will embrace the benefits of bilingualism but insist that additional languages be 'useful' so that the outlay can be seen to be 'prudent'. Linguists however declare that there is no such thing as a 'useless' language though tinpot bigots argue that only big boys of English, Spanish or Chinese - the Walmarts, IKEAs and McDonalds - of the language world are worth acquiring.
This leads me to ask, 'why Dutch?'. Almost everyone in the Netherlands speaks excellent English. Why then do the Dutch insist on speaking... Dutch?
The Basques, despite being 'fiercly nationalistic' as some might put it, also embrace multi-lingualism and multi-culturalism. I would contend that the territory under Basque control is one of most colourful, welcoming and outward looking areas in Europe. The European Union's advice on language in education is that each member state should teach 'mother tongue plus two'. The Basques insist on 'two mother tongues' plus two.
However, the 'big nation' philosophy becomes more apparent once you cross the bridge from Irun into French Basque Hendaia. Here, some progress has been made in displaying the Basque tongue on some public roadsigns though it's obvious that the wrathful and jealous French god in Paris sees too much indulgence in languages other than French as sinful. Here, the use of Basque sadly reminds one of Scottish in Scotland - it is used sparingly but comes across as a 'prop' to paraphrase the linguist Joshua Fishman.
The shortcomings of the insular big nation with its siege mentality are also evident at the local SCNF station where the young lass on the ticket desk was unable to communicate in any other language than French. This despite the Spanish Basque country being only yards from her seat. Our pooled family tongues of Engerlish, Spanish and German fell on stony ground. Even an appeal to the auld alliance by using pigeon French-Gaelic failed.
Back in our Donostia-San Sebastian base, we watch one of the Basque language telly channels - Hamaika - which has an afternoon slot showcasing the varied Basque language music scene. It was pleasing to note many bands of the tuneful punk variety though metal, rock, pop and world music/ ska fusion was also present. Sadly, a similar program on BBC Alba which didn't feature fiddlers, songs written by dead poets, Gaelic choirs or religious music would be ten minutes long. Basque language punk is for another blog though.
The Basque Country, or most of it, is but a bawhair from complete independence. Even without the full complement of powers, it a shining example of the need to vote 'Yes' to Scottish independence in 2014. We could vote 'no' and remain a region with no voice or independent contribution of our own to the world community. We would remain tied to an inward looking and fearful big nation that remains in thrall to banks and big business, however corrupt. Or maybe we could use independence as a springboard for an open, progressive and internationalist nation that embraces our own languages as well as the cultures of others?
An elderly woman on a bus engaged us in conversation. I spoke in mistake-riddled Spanish. She replied that 'we have two idiomas'. 'So do we' said I. 'I know' she continued, 'and we're both at the same place'.
I was a bit puzzled and thought something had gone missing in translation. 'What place?'
'Independence', she replied.
Gora Euskadi. Saor Alba.