Why I am voting YES to Scottish Independence

A few days ago I was asked to answer three questions by the Bogata Post – my cousin works there – regarding my stance as a “Yes” voter in the upcoming referendum on Scottish Independence. The piece hasn’t appeared yet, but I thought I might as well post what I wrote just to some of my views into the mix. Here it is…

twibbonI’ve been trying to put all of this in some form of elegant prose for quite a bit of the evening, but I figure I had better just get on with saying my piece in as concise a manner as possible, and leave the rest for you to judge. Before I answer the three questions, I feel that I should first state that I am not Scottish, but was born in Northern Ireland and have lived in Scotland for 10 years. This background makes me naturally quite jumpy when the issue of nationalism comes up – whether we are talking about Irish Nationalism, UK Nationalism or Scottish Nationalism. I deplore politics that is based upon “helping our own first”, or “defending what my grandparents fought for” and other such tropes. It took A LOT for me to come round to the idea of Scottish Independence. With this in mind, I’ll now quickly turn to the three questions posed.

  1. Why are you pro-independence?

I am voting for Indpendence because I see this as an amazing opportunity to effect change that could be immensely positive for every person living in the British Isles, and to a lesser extent those beyond this small group of islands.

Recently I bought into the #YesBecause hashtag on Twitter and posted two tweets which pretty much sum up my attitude:

“I’m #YesBecause UK politics is broken, and Independence provides the only real opportunity for actual change for everyone on these islands.”

“I’m #YesBecause both Scotland & rUK need to leave Empire behind once and for all and look to a peaceful, sustainable future of co-operation.”

To expand further on these soundbites, the future that I want for Scotland and the rest of the British Isles is one where we no longer try to play at the ‘big boys table’, where we have the courage to leave nuclear weapons behind us, where we prioritise welfare and helping those most in need, where we open our borders to those in need across the world and where we are willing to accept a much less comfortable standard of living in order to make real change for the better for everyone on the planet. The future I want is one where we care for the environment, promote equality across society, and participate fully in wonderful boundary-breaking and peace-building institutions such as the EU, rather than consistently and beligerently sitting on the sidelines refusing to compromise or change.

I am under no illusions that Independence will bring the idealistic future that I want overnight, or at all… but I do know that if Scotland votes for Independence from the United Kingdom it will force the United Kingdom to re-assess its identity, values and priorities, and provide the people of Scotland with an unprecendented opportunity to start the democratic experiment afresh in the twenty-first century, with the benefit of hundreds of years of hindsight. It might fail… but if we don’t take the opportunity we will never know. I know that this idealistic vision invites the response “yes, but how can you effect all this change if the country has no money?” And to that I would simply say a) money isn’t everything b) money hasn’t exactly helped the UK, as far as my priorities are concerned.

  1. What has the atmosphere been like in the run-up to the vote- any tensions between the two sides etc?

This answer will be much shorter, I promise. In terms of the political ‘debate’ – if we can call it that – the atmosphere has been particularly ghastly. Both sides simply shout at each other. Both demand factual answers to questions that cannot be answered in a situation where neither side will admit that a) their position might not win b) they might have to negotiate with the other ‘side’ even if they do win. The Facebook pages of both campaigns are some of the worst cesspools of the internet, attracting the kind of abusive comments that one would expect… on most websites, to be honest.

In terms of the way things have been portrayed in the media, I am utterly frustrated by this. IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT THE ECONOMY, FOLKS. In particular, IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT “THE CURRENCY QUESTION”. As far as I am concerned, and as far as most folk that I speak to on both sides of the debate seem to be concerned, the currency issue is far down on our list of concerns… yet the media has decided that this is what the debate hangs upon, and thus reports everything within that light. It also doesn’t help that the UK media is part of the UK status quo, and like any businesses which have UK-wide markets, they understandably want to avoid unpredictability and maintain things the way they are. Understandable, perhaps… but not great for unbiased reporting.

In terms of things on the ground, apart from a few clear exceptions I would say that the ‘debate’ has been pretty good-natured… except that in my opinion no one is really going to change their views. Everyone has differing priorities, and thus we all tend to talk past each other. I have, of course, seen/heard plenty of friends make comments that they are fed up of the debate, or that they feel that the debate is ugly, causing division and forcing them to choose sides etc. To that I can only say that I imagine people would feel the same way if ‘we’ got so worked up about ‘normal’ elections. I think there is a tendency on these islands to not like being confronted with ‘opinions’, or being seen to hold ‘opinions’… and perhaps this is a problem that we will need to address come the UK General Election in 2015.

  1. What do you honestly think the outcome will be?

Honestly, I think that the vote will be a “No”. I think that people are far more likely to “bottle it” than to say “oh, what the hell” when they make it to the polling booth. And I think that most people will vote “No” for potentially very understandable reasons… worries about their job, their family, their mortgage. All I will be able to say in that case is that I voted for what I thought was right, that I tried for once in my life to not be as selfish as I normally am, and that I will try to keep this level of political engagement going forward into the coming decades and try my hardest to effect the sorts of changes I would like to see occurring in Scotland, the British Isles, Europe and beyond. But I also think that the vote will be close… and that whatever happens, there will be a high enough percentage of votes for “Yes” to cause some serious questioning and reflection for politicians going forward. And maybe… maybe… I will be pleasantly surprised.

Damn those popular operas!

More random tidbits from my research today…

The following extract appears in Mayfield and Fountainhall: A Short History (1962), which gives a history of the now defunct Mayfield and Fountainhall Church in Edinburgh. The quotation comes from a 1900 report of the Psalmody Committee to the Deacon’s Court, and suggests that there might have been a problem with some Gilbert & Sullivan creeping in on the organ…

Damn those popular operas

Pan Drops and Bored Church-goers

I came across the following text when researching the history of my current research site. The author is referring to a street in Edinburgh called “Causewayside”, which is literally 2 minutes away from my residence. He is writing about life in the 1950s/60s.

Nice and poetic, no?

“Drifting from the factory of confectioner John Millar and Sons Ltd. was the tantalizing bouquet of boiling sugar, chocolate, fruit flavourings and, above all, mint, for this was the home of the celebrated Pan Drop, one of the most popular sweets ever to have been manufactured in sweet-toothed Scotland and a boon to bored church-goers throughout the land as they slowly sucked their way through many a long, tedious sermon, the air over the pews becoming more heavy with mint than piety.”

James Beyer, “The Land of Sweets”. Scottish Memories (April 2009), p. 34.

Image from scottishsweets.com

Image from scottishsweets.com

Today’s Lesson: the dictation tool on a Google tablet cannot cope with interviews

Today is the day that I start transcribing my ongoing interviews for my doctoral research.

I decided to see whether the dictation tool on my Nexus 7 could cope with transcribing the audio for me. This is what happened (in this snippet I was reading out the preliminaries before formally beginning the interview):

In my head in hole what’s the point i am at the dialogue my questions

It’s all about hair and natural history in there an app to make sure sarah sits and should you wish i had a letter from essex information and chest hair should you need it the first time is the state of the art of public asian per smith beaman club youtube data so late did you cancel but and i will not use your name ellesse you later 2013 directions so you can tell people to say all the users and computers yeah anderson is a good home north staffs am 4 saenz know that this is von tree and if you wish to withdraw a point on wye and up to 1 month after today if you later scared of that 70 um ok after that point out with weaver send that reasonable cost i will still not call you maybe if you actually know yet and this is lancaster university tf2 again ok and the other thing together and form. The phone and it says that there have the right to draw write a question for you transcription and again and maximum temperature 16 hold on to your kids are just in case 17

Well, there was no harm in trying, eh? :)

Heaven, by Rupert Brooke

HEAVEN

by: Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)

Found at http://www.poetry-archive.com/b/heaven.html

FISH (fly-replete, in depth of June,
Dawdling away their wat’ry noon)
Ponder deep wisdom, dark or clear,
Each secret fishy hope or fear.
Fish say, they have their Stream and Pond;
But is there anything Beyond?
This life cannot be All, they swear,
For how unpleasant, if it were!
One may not doubt that, somehow, Good
Shall come of Water and of Mud;
And, sure, the reverent eye must see
A Purpose in Liquidity.
We darkly know, by Faith we cry,
The future is not Wholly Dry.
Mud unto mud! — Death eddies near –
Not here the appointed End, not here!
But somewhere, beyond Space and Time.
Is wetter water, slimier slime!
And there (they trust) there swimmeth One
Who swam ere rivers were begun,
Immense, of fishy form and mind,
Squamous, omnipotent, and kind;
And under that Almighty Fin,
The littlest fish may enter in.
Oh! never fly conceals a hook,
Fish say, in the Eternal Brook,
But more than mundane weeds are there,
And mud, celestially fair;
Fat caterpillars drift around,
And Paradisal grubs are found;
Unfading moths, immortal flies,
And the worm that never dies.
And in that Heaven of all their wish,
There shall be no more land, say fish

Its a Nice Day for a Scientology Wedding

Originally posted on BVLSINGLER PhD Diary + Blog :

Scientology is in the mainstream news again with the announcement that a woman who wants to marry in a Scientology chapel has won a Supreme Court battle to have it recognized as a ‘place of meeting for religious worship’.  Five judges have over-ruled a 1970 ruling that prioritized veneration of a God in deciding what was genuine religious worship or not.  

Image

Good news for Miss Louisa Hodkin who gets to go through her choice of ritual in her choice of location.  

But what does this really mean for Scientology? Is it really a religion now?

This is a subject I’ve been considering in a paper that I am hoping to submit in the new year to a journal – it considers Jediism and the question of what is ‘really real’ religion and where we get our ideas about ‘realness’ from.  

In the case of Scientology this Supreme…

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De Certeau on the Sunday Assembly?

I recently read this passage from de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life and I enjoyed the thought that this perhaps speaks well to the Alain de Bottons and Sunday Assemblies of the world. What do you think?

Religiousness seems easier to exploit [than politics]. Marketing agencies avidly make use of the remains of beliefs that were formerly violently opposed as superstitions. Advertising is becoming evangelical. Many managers in the economic and social sphere are disturbed by the slow breaking up of the Churches in which lie the remains of “values” which the mangers want to recuperate and make use of by re-baptizing them as “up-to-date.” Before these beliefs go down with the ships that carried them, they are hurriedly taken off and put in businesses and administrations. The people who use these relics no longer believe in them. They nevertheless form, along with all sorts of “fundamentalists,” ideological and financial associations in order to refit these shipwrecks of history and make Churches museums of beliefs without believers, put there in reserve so that they can be exploited by laissez-faire capitalism.

 

From De Certeau, Michel. 1984. The Practice of Everyday Life. Translated by Steven F. Rendall. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 180-181.

Railway Navigation and Incarceration

I have recently finished the arduous task of reading Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life. Whilst much of this was incredibly dense social theory that went over my head, occasional passages have proved/shall prove incredibly useful for my research. The following excerpts come from a very short (4 page) chapter entitled “Railway Navigation and Incarceration” which particularly struck me in terms of its beauty and simple insights.

The chapter begins as follows…

A travelling incarceration. Immobile inside the train, seeing immobile things slip by. What is happening? Nothing is moving inside or outside the train.

The unchanging traveller is pigeonholed, numbered, and regulated in the grid of the railway car, which is a perfect actualization of the rational utopia. Control and food move from pigeonhole to pigeonhole: “Tickets please…” “Sandwiches? Beer? Coffee?…” Only the restrooms offer an escape from the closed system. They are a lovers’ phantasm, a way out for the ill, an escapade for children (“Wee-wee!”) – a little space of irrationality, like love affairs and sewers in the Utopias of earlier times. Except for this lapse given over to excesses, everything has its place in a gridwork. Only a rationalized cell travels. A bubble of panoptic and classifying power, a module of imprisonment that makes possible the production of an order, a closed and autonomous insularity – that is what can traverse space and make itself independent of local roots.

And concludes with:

Everyone goes back to work at the place he has been given, in the office or the workshop. The incarceration-vacation is over. For the beautiful abstraction of the prison are substituted the compromises, opacities and dependencies of the workplace. Hand-to-hand combat begins again with a reality that dislodges the spectator without rails or window-panes. There comes to an end the Robinson Crusoe adventure of the travelling noble soul that could belief itself intact because it was surrounded by glass and iron.

The author, and his translator, certainly had a way with words. I would heartily recommend reading this short chapter. As for the book? Don’t bother with the first two parts unless you want your brain to hurt. But there is a lot of good stuff hidden in there. You can access the whole book as a clunky PDF here.

Excerpts from pages 111 and 114 of

De Certeau, Michel. 1984. The Practice of Everyday Life. Translated by Steven F. Rendall. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Here Be Dragons: the quest for academic credibility

Chris:

Provocative thoughts from Mr Tuckett!

Originally posted on The Critical Religion Association:

At the recent BASR/EASR conference at Liverpool Hope University I spoke about dragons. My paper was on the application of Ninian Smart’s dimensions of religion to the Nine Divines. The Nine Divines is the principle “religion” to be found in the Elder Scrolls video game series and it has no meat-world presence. My argument was that the Nine Divines as a religion met all the dimensions that Smart detailed and that there were no logical grounds upon which we should not consider it a religion of as much legitimacy or reality as any meat-world counterpart (i.e. Hinduism, Islam, etc.). In short, the Nine Divines is an example of what Smart characterises as an Imperial religion: a ‘relatively loose’ organisation ‘with cities and regions for instance having their own priesthoods and cults’ (1996:237).

There was a certain amount of ludicrosity to the whole affair, something I felt acutely as I did…

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Guillermo del Toro’s Paean to Horror

Chris:

Amazing!

Originally posted on A Lively Experiment:

Io9 had a great link to Guillermo del Toro’s Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror XXIV” couch gag.

1. For those that are unfamiliar with The Simpsons couch gag, look here.

2. For those that are unfamiliar with Guillermo del Toro, head to Wikipedia.  Or you might just watch Cronos (1993), Mimic (1997), The Devil’s Backbone (2001), Blade II (2002), Hellboy (2004), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), or Pacific Rim (2013).

Del Toro is just about the greatest contemporary master of science fiction/fantasy horror. Sometimes folks call this “dark fantasy” but fantasy alone doesn’t account for the rich scientific worlds del Toro incorporates in his fairy tales. Regardless of what we call the genre, monsters are del Toro’s wheelhouse, and he’s doing them better than anyone right now.

[The only other contenders in SF/F Horror are David Cronenberg, John Carpenter, James Cameron, Ridley Scott, and…

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