A Crisis of Identity?

Yet again, I’ve taken time out for another dispiriting wander through Twitter. Why do I do it? It’s like spending time in every cheap-ass carny show your friends ever dragged you to. The same ear splitting, incoherent  noise, the same tasteless thrills, the same eventual disappointment at how cheap, bitchy and ultimately unintelligible human opinion is.

The purveyor of this day’s tacky delights is that tiresome Yoon trumpet known as History Woman. I normally avoid her poisonous invective like the plague, but when she systematically trashes Scottish culture, I have to watch, like a bystander ogling a multiple car pile up, I can’t tear myself away. She seems to be of the opinion that those touchstones of Scottish History, Burns, Wallace and Bonnie Prince Charlie should be culled from our culture, because they made disappointing plaster saints (by implication, their English counterparts being cut from a superior brand of cloth). She seems to think we’re easily swayed by statues.

I have news for Effie Deans. You will find few more cynical, distrusting and averse to worship human beings than my fellow Nationalists. Cast a stone in any direction from any vantage point in a Scottish town and you’re almost guaranteed to hit a Scot whose expectations, especially where politicians are concerned, have been shaped by a lifetime of hard lessons in how many positions you can be fucked in by people who claim to love your country and its culture, and to have your best interests at heart.

Here’s a life tip for you, Effie. What makes Scotland special are its people. They are brave and they are beautiful. We don’t do grovelling. We’re not easily intimidated or impressed. We find the tears of a grubby child more alluring than that Old Folks Home known as the House of Lords. We can’t be bribed by shiny beads from the Great Panjandrum in Westminster any more. We know very well that real beauty is earned one painful mistake at a time, until the craft is perfected. We’ve also learned from bitter experience how shallow and unfulfilling Jockholme Syndrome can be. We’ve looked into that distorting mirror, and decided to be First Class Scots, rather than Bargain Basement English.

Come away from the Dark Side, Effie. No one is promising you Ermine, but the ability to sleep soundly at night is priceless.

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Authenticity

It seems my performance at the day job is suffering. I won’t bore you with the details, suffice to say that if things don’t improve, I may be looking for a new job. And therein lies the conundrum. You see, I think that the issue impeding my performance is founded on a basic quirk of my personality.

My personality is, to put it mildly, artistic. I am empathetic to a fault, tolerant of failure and non conformity,  creative, impulsive, terrified of routine and stubborn. None of which are likely to endear me to a large, monolithic organisation, and none of which I am likely to give up.

Here’s the difficulty: I can dissemble my true nature to my bosses, in order to keep a reliable wage paying the bills, but it will hurt my conscience and eventually cause me depression. In addition, no one can hide their true nature forever, so at some future point, I may find myself facing a pill too bitter to stomach, and simply refuse to swallow it. Even if I don’t self-destruct, there is, given the volatility of the economy, no guarantee of a continued employment until I reach retirement, so the net gain for all that deceit may be nil.

So it looks as though my present employer and me will be parting company. Which is a pity, because it paid just enough to maintain stability in my life. My only remaining choice is to try to ensure that my employer and I part company on good terms. So, I’ll play the good soldier, and do what I’m told, until I can manufacture an alternative which won’t lead to bankruptcy. And if I never have enough money to keep me comfortable, at least I will face the world on my feet, not on my knees.

 

The Death of Culture

What does it take for a culture to thrive?

The answer’s simpler than you might think. Participation is the essential element. Culture isn’t what a group of professors, historians, critics or even practitioners tell you it is, it’s what the common consensus decides it is.

Our society is currently driven by a Technocracy, and that’s a pity. Technocrats are great organisers – that’s why their pals in government are so willing to listen to them. But they offer a poisoned chalice. Like any lobbyist group, they’re driven by an agenda, and their agenda is profit. It’s all they understand. Sure, they can adapt someone else’s ideas to make them profitable. But it’s always someone else’s ideas. It never seems to occur to them that someone has to teach the “someone else” who has the ideas. Worse still, our Tory ruling elite seems to regard the encouragement of education for the majority as best limited to those skills required to deliver a docile and unquestioning workforce. So much for “free market competition”!

As a result, the Arts and Humanities, essential to foster creativity, have been systematically denigrated in our schools. The reality is, that they’re just as vital a part of learning as Literacy and Numeracy. The result is sadly predictable: endless generations of young adults turned out of education visually illiterate, lacking the confidence to create for themselves, or even to own an opinion and express it with confidence. The naysayers amongst you will now immediately point to Scotland’s thriving Game Industry, but it’s really the exception that proves my rule. Kids in Japan or China grow up learning to paint at the same time they learn to spell. It would never occur to them to regard Art as somehow a non-essential “leisure activity”, or the fringe domain of a few “gifted” individuals. For them, it’s an essential life skill. I’ll leave that thought here for a moment while I remind you just who’s currently handing us our asses economically, and allow you to draw your own conclusions.

We like to point to Renaissance as the fount of our artistic heritage. The truth is, that period was a hotbed of squabbling, fiercely competitive entrepreneur artists who constantly adapted their practice to attract patronage. It wasn’t enough for them that a thing be utilitarian – it had to be beautiful, too. We ponder like hypocrites over those works today, consumed by reverence, when we should be green with envy and determined to outdo them with our contemporary works. Dead artists are of no relevance to an era they didn’t live in and could never have imagined. It’s up to living ones to take up that challenge, and the only way we’re going to give them the opportunity is put Art back in its rightful place as an essential Life Skill. That’s going to take political will, so you’d better start demanding it of your politicians. The alternative is a slow lingering death for our increasingly inward looking, revisionist culture.

The Shy Consumer Problem

One of the most noticeable aspects of the previous Independence Referendum has been the lack of detailed, joined-up thinking about how to answer the inevitable barrage of Doubting Thomas questions from Naysayers. For example:

  • What will Scotland use for a currency?
  • How do we organise trade with R.U.K. and Europe?
  • How do we organise our military defences?
  • What do we want wealth and land distribution to look like, and how do we achieve that?
  • How do we correct the imbalance of opportunity for education and career advancement, which is currently so Middle-Class biased, that it’s beyond a joke?

There’s been a great deal of weeping, gnashing of teeth and downright accusation about these issues. Mainly because of the lack of reassuring details from the S.N.P.

But aren’t we missing the point here?

The whole reason for wanting Independence in the first place, is because we’re tired of the sick, corrupt and undemocratic processes of rule from Westminster. But if you’re going to put forward an alternate agenda, someone is going to have to create it.

That someone is you. Yes, Son (to quote TLC), I’m talking to you.

We’ve been spoiling ourselves lately, what with all of our twenty-four-hours-a-day Consumer Society, where all of the hard decisions are made for us by others, and everything is available, neatly packaged and awaits our purchasing decision. Well, it damn’ well just won’t cut it any more, I’m afraid. Having our politicians come up with wisdom from their God-like perspectives is the same, tired, smug, lazy, entitled sort of thinking that seen SLAB’s electoral prospects shit-canned for at least a generation.

We can’t afford to make the same mistake. If we want to build a better Scotland, we’re going to have to make the bricks ourselves. We have to start answering those questions. We have to take part in a national conversation, where it’s OK to be wrong, or look foolish. Because until we start telling our political class what kind of future we want to see, they’re not going to have the faintest idea of how to start achieving it.

We’ve already taken Step 1: the creation of public spaces like the various groups available on the Internet, to have these discussions. Now we have to start putting our own ideas forward, so that they can be argued over, and a consensus reached.

Until we do, our contribution to the Indy campaign is going to consist of “here’s tae us, wha’s like us?” platitudes, which serve nobody. Putting my money where my mouth is, I’ll start by laying out how I want Scotland to look:

  1. Redistribution of land, out of the hands of large-acreage estates and into the common domain, where it can be used for development. In particular, communities should have the opportunity, where desired, to bid collectively for the land on which they live and work.
  2. Our own currency, with our own Central Bank, to allow our government access to the tools it needs to control our economy.
  3. The encouragement of manufactures, wherever possible for sale to Europe, U.S. and Asia.
  4. Increased investment in carbon-neutral energy development and crucially, in the development of our National Grid inter-connectors for our cities, the Highlands and Islands, and even across to Europe to allow the sale of energy for profit. It is insane that we have such vast natural energy resources, yet we pay a dividend to the electricity grid whilst London and the South East enjoy a discount. This is an act of larceny so outrageous that no other nation would tolerate it.
  5. The creation of a modern military, with conventional weapons, and especially the creation of a Navy with the teeth necessary to patrol our sea lanes and borders. The pursuit of a multi-lateral defence accord with R.U.K. and R.O.I. (not to mention our European neighbours).
  6. The pursuit of Education-For-Life, regardless of wealth or social class, as a necessary end in itself.
  7. The establishment of a National Income for all, regardless of work status.
  8. Investment in Research and Development by government, not just by business.
  9. Investment in Arts and Culture. The relative neglect of this sector, which earns Billions in revenue for the nation every year, is frankly criminal.

This is not an exhaustive list, and I fully accept, that it is lacking in detail. But that’s what discussion and argument and counter proposal are for, so get on it! I’ll flesh out more detail, as and when I can work it out for myself, for further discussion.

The Bottom of the Barrel

Shortly before the recent election, the Lib Dems (presumably because I’d gotten on their mailing list by participating in an opinion survey) decided to love bomb me with a celebrity dinner. Their email, and my reply are below:

From: Susan Weavers [mailto:internalcomms@libdems.org.uk]
Sent: 04 May 2015 19:18
To: Derek Grierson
Subject: I won dinner with John Cleese!

Dear Derek,

You don’t know me – but I do have something interesting to tell you.

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from the Liberal Democrats asking for a donation. In return I could win the chance to have dinner with John Cleese.

Well Derek, I gave a small amount and didn’t think anything more about it. That was until last week when Lib Dem HQ called me to say that I’d won.

I couldn’t believe it – but they’re now arranging a date for me to sit down for dinner with John Cleese.

Derek, now it’s your chance to win dinner. The Lib Dems are running a similar competition, but this time you can win dinner with Hugh Grant.

All you need to do is what I did, make a small donation to their campaign. In return you’ll be entered into the competition and, like me, you could win.

Derek, you don’t have long – the competition closes tonight at midnight. You can make a donation right now, it will only take a minute.

Best,

Susan

Susan Weavers
Oxford

unsubscribe.
Published and promoted by Tim Gordon on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, 8-10 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE. Hosted by NationBuilder.

Dear Susan (if that’s your real name)

How nice of you to trade your judgement and principles for a free lunch. I do hope you enjoyed it. Please tell Hugh, and John, and Tom, Dick and Harry for that matter, that I would rather lose a limb than give my vote to a party of unprincipled shills who would sell out the poor to be in power. A sea change is coming in British politics. The old, the privileged and the corrupt have had their chance to run things. And have well and truly screwed the pooch (along with the rest of us). They’re not getting another chance. If you have a shred of humanity and you live in England, you’ll vote Green for a party that doesn’t pick on the weak. If you live Wales, vote Plaid. If you live in Scotland, vote SNP. The old hegemony of privilege and domination by London and its bankers is over. They’re just too stupid to admit defeat yet.

Get yourself on the right side of this argument. It won’t make you rich, but the ability to sleep soundly at night is priceless.

Yours sincerely

Derek Grierson

(a fellow human being)