Dearest Scotland – An Open Letter

My most dearly loved family, closest friends, all Scots women and men, all – Over the past weeks and months, more especially in these past days, I have been filled with an unusual sense of wonderment and ecstatic pride in my compatriot Scots. Few of us may have taken the time in the midst of this present national intensity to fully appreciate that the eyes of the whole world are focused on us. Yes, us, the some five million women and men of this our totie wee homeland. Throughout history, and on shores not too far distant from our own, folk have risen up against their own sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers in the name of nation and state, but here the chasm of identity and difference has been opened wide and not a shot has been sounded, not a drop of the blood of the northern Gael has been spilled. Our deepest, most profound question has been asked in quiet and now aloud, and not to a few, but to every soul in Scotland. From Beijing to Vancouver the nations stand back in speechless awe that little Scotland has become the most democratically engaged people not only on the planet, but in the whole history of the world. Harsh words have been spoken, true, but we have always used harsh words. Some have used these minor outbursts as evidence of a latent violence that simply does not exist. Without thinking about it too much we have been an example to the furthest reaches of our world of how hard decisions should be made.

I have always considered the Scots way of doing things the superior way of doing things, and I have tried, through all my travels to overcome this biased sense of national identity. Taking in the behaviour of Scotland’s people these last days this sense of moral superiority is becoming increasing more difficult to overcome. In my heart of hearts I do know that all human beings are made of the same stardust, but what I feel of the mettle of the Scot is quite different. Whether we are champing at the bit for independence or digging our heels in for the union we have all excelled ourselves in the face of the whole world. It is now only a matter of hours before we will go out to the polls and cast a vote that will decide – at least for now – the future of our country, but before we go out we should consider, and consider deeply, what we have achieved. Whether you have decided on saying no or yes to the question on Thursday’s ballot paper, or whether you have already cast your vote in the post, I want to tell you how proud I am right now to be a Scot and belong to a people such as this. We have become a living wonder of the modern world. We have shown that old grievances and national conflicts can be overcome in a shared sense of belonging to the one community. We have, as that single community, stumbled upon the beautiful miracle of peace. This time will not be soon forgotten in a world torn asunder by bitter hatred and bloodshed. Imagine: it was Scotland that did this.

For my part, and it would be wrong to make a secret of it, I am in favour of parting company with our southern neighbour. I have travelled through those imaginings that my family and friends who desire union and Britishness are lesser Scots, lesser patriots than I and those with whom I agree. Today I remain frustrated with the blackmail and the threats of the leaders of the unionist cause, but I have broken bread with so many who, in the sincerity of their consciences, seek to remain British. In this journey I have grown. My own eyes have been opened to the reality of that Scottishness too. We may disagree, but on Friday morning we will all still be Scots, and that gladdens my heart. My plea to my fellow Scots who intend to cast a no vote is that you too will see that the yes voter, your neighbour, friend and sister, has no intention of being your foe. Our patriotism is one founded on tiredness; a tiredness of the hopelessness that we have all felt for so long. In 1707 the union was set on bribery, theft and bad faith. This is all past history now, this we all know. So too is the butchery on Culloden. Still, bad faith has been felt these past three hundred and seven years. I say that it has been ‘felt’ because it clearly hasn’t been felt by all Scots. We have experienced being Scottish in five million different ways. While some have prospered from our dalliance with Westminster, others have suffered. Even before our devolution this perceived bad faith was felt when, without the consent of the Scottish people and before the reality of the Edinburgh parliament, in secret the London government shifted our maritime boundaries to weaken Scotland and enrich itself.

All this aside for now, we will make this decision and it will be done in a way that will be a marvel to the world. We all know what we would like to see come of it, and obviously I know what I would like to see. If it does not go my way I will be hurt and disappointed. We will all feel the sting if our want is not met. Our consolation, quite unique to Scotland, is that when we have settled down we will still be family, friends and neighbours. That, and exactly that, is why I am bursting with pride for our Scotland.

© 2014 homophilosophicus

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Theologising Gaza

A second ceasefire has silenced most of the weapons in the current round of hostilities between the State of Israel and the Gaza Strip. Last month the world, given its voice through the news networks and social media, was appalled at the human cost of the violence. This week the world is casually sliding back into its usual calm indifference to the effects of a war in its aftermath. People, however much fascinated by the accounts of war, are generally uncomfortable with its details. Facebook news feeds and Twitter posts all around the globe were filled with harrowing images of dead and mutilated children in a voyeuristic frenzy for the macabre, and the newspapers were filled with conflicting versions of every shocking event. The complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict furnish the masses with their own pretext to disengage from the horror of the blood-letting that unfolded before their eyes. Another ceasefire will allow those of us not immediately affected by the trouble to return to the various complexities of our own lives. We can all be certain, frustratingly, that this temporary peace will not last long. No matter how complicated the complexities of the many confusing elements that led to the war, it is clear its causes are not being addressed. All that we have witnessed has been the muting of disquiet by forceful means. The disquiet has not gone away. Continue reading

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Encountering Hasbara

As operation Protective Edge continues in the Gaza Strip more and more people across Europe and North America are taking to the streets in protest and getting involved in the Boycott Divestment and Sanction Movement (BDS). Each Saturday, over the past number of weeks, the Irish Palestine Solidarity Movement has organised a protest walk from the Spire on Dublin’s O’Connell Street to the Embassy of the State of Israel on Pembroke Road. Every week, as the assault on the Palestinian people of Gaza results in ever-increasing civilian deaths, the number of people gathering for the march has increased. Individuals, families and friends travel from towns and cities over the island of Ireland to show their horror at the violence and their solidarity with the Gazan people. Unlike many such protest movements in modern Ireland BDS has sprung from moribund Champaign Socialism and lunatic leftism into a world of praxis and reflection; sits-ins and ‘die-ins,’ letters to the media (still very much pro-Israel in its coverage), social media activism and a growing campaign promoting the boycott of Israeli goods and services. Ireland has a long tradition of using boycott as a measure against the powers of colonialism and oppression. It was, in fact the Irish, in their struggle against the British colonial project, who gave the name ‘boycott’ to the world. Continue reading

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Demythologising Israel

A Bear 1Yesterday the Israeli Embassy in Dublin shared Richard Cohen’s opinion piece in Monday’s Washington Post, ‘Israel is Held to an Impossible Standard,’ on social media with the instruction that we, the people of Ireland, should “Do [ourselves] a favor (do you know what, please do me a favor) and read this article.” There were a couple of, now expected, insults from this anonymous Israeli technocratic aide. If it must pontificate to the Irish people, one might expect the Embassy of Israel to ensure at the very least that its various media releases at least do us a favour and adhere to the Irish conventions of spelling and grammar. His (or her) post makes a personalised demand. We must ask what right this person has to make demands, especially after this same person posted and promptly removed a poster on 27 July bearing the image of Dublin’s beloved Molly Malone statue apparelled in a black niqab with a racist and inflammatory slogan insinuating that Muslim women are a threat to both Israel and Ireland. Furthermore, the author of the shared article has, on one occasion, forced the Washington Post to apologise for his openly racist opinions; opinions that have continued to be published. As recently as 2013 he wrote that he had to repress a gag at the very thought that a white man could so sully himself by marrying a black woman and producing “biracial children.” In assuming the perfect ignorance of this Israeli aide – as one simply must – we must ask also a favour in return; that he (or she) desist from making demands, and start checking their sources (for now we shall not be pedants and kindly ignore the tellingly American spelling). Continue reading

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Scottish Independence

A Bear 2Back in the days before the New Labour landslide which finally ended the unelected and long Conservative domination of Scotland, safe in the bosom of Kilmarnock Academy in my later teenage years, a small band of comrades and I constituted something of a political collective. This was the mid-nineties and so before the advent of the hip Nerd. We were just awkward and a little bit weird. If memory serves me right there was Calum, Thomas, Mick, Alan, Gary and myself. As working-class Scottish lads living under the dull light of John Major in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust that never materialised a natural theme for loud discussion was nationalism and the question of Scottish independence. Devolution to Edinburgh was on the horizon and we weren’t old enough to vote, but such things have never stayed the ability of the Scots to have an opinion. We all had our opinions, and during our lunch breaks, if we weren’t at the chipper or smashing windows in an abandoned Religious Education classroom, the stairwells and corridors were ringing with our vocal battles of will. As we enter now into the last thirty days in the lead up to the Scottish Independence Referendum, now that we are all hairy-arsed and baldy-headed, early middle aged men, I am unsure of the opinions of those old boys. Facebook keeps us all abreast of one another’s life events and travels, but time and distance, and the auld bonds of sincere and sentimental affection keep the discussion between us muted. When any combination of us lands back in Ayrshire we meet up and go for pints. We don’t want to be falling out over politics – not at this stage. That’s a young man’s game. Continue reading

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A Bear 1Haemorrhoids are the mother and father of all embarrassing afflictions, I should know. They have been the blight of my back passage and constant steadfast companion for the past five miserable “bloody” years. But I have recently come to the realisation that the embarrassment caused by suffering this dis-ease is nothing more than a social construct engineered for the better comfort of wider, non-suffering society. So for the comfort of long-suffering, shame soaked haemorrhoid-suffering society I am going to blow the lid on the “suffer in silence” culture of comfortable society. How can any otherwise rational human being be expected to offer this noisome pestilence up for the holy souls when their stool samples are being produced with “go-faster stripes?” Go to the doctor? Go to the doctor?! What? Don’t go to the doctor. Back in the day when I still trusted in western medicine and the Hippocratic oath I minced into a clinic in south Dublin, losing a quart of blood and sweat an hour, to be given an internal examination. Now I had imagined that once my moderatorships were out of the way I wouldn’t have to undergo the trial of an examination again, and ever since I have been a huge fan of external examiners. This crazy quack asks a couple of perfunctory questions before-hand and then swiftly asks me to lower my pantaloons and briefs and lie foetus like upon his table. Continue reading

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