Showing posts with label nations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nations. Show all posts

Thursday 30 April 2020

The nature of nationalism and internationalism: Tribalism is not Nationalism

When the European nations expanded and travelled by ship to the Americas, Indies and the far east, they settled, plundered and developed empires: often violently suppressing the indigenous peoples and taking over their lands. In Europe 200 years ago in 1800, there were four imperial powers - Holy Roman, the Habsburg, Russian and Ottoman. Europe had far fewer nations then - a look at the map of Europe is striking; now instead there are 25 independent national states. There were national campaigns against efforts by imperial powers to suppress indigenous languages, when the heroes didn’t lead armies but wrote dictionaries. For the Czechs, Slovaks, Croats and Serbs they believed that if their language disappeared, so would their identity.

Imperialist domination led to great strife, violence, wars, cruelty, starvation and exploitation. In the 20th century the movement has been away from empires and towards smaller, independent nations. History tells us that when one people dominated in this ‘’survival of the fittest culture (beginning with the Roman Empire) they eventually collapsed due to corruption and greed. Improved interconnectivity and communications should mean we don’t need central hubs anymore. 

The fear of national oblivion and the need for survival, is clearly deeply rooted. In 1848 revolutions and national movements began campaigns for independence. However high prices have often been suffered for the creation of nation states and the post war idea of self determination: for instance the collapse of the Hapsburg empire was a catastrophe for European Jews and there was genocide wars between Bosnian Serbs and the extremist Croats. Perhaps the words extreme and domination are crucial here, which I would describe as “tribalism’ rather than nationalism. After all immigrants and different cultures can happily co-exist safely side by side. Tribalism (along with misguided socialism) often led to top/down, centralized and controlling dictatorships. 

Early last century tribalism took over under these racist dictators, with an extremist, inward-looking and narrow view of what being a nation state means. Tribalism makes me think of sectarian divides and matters a lot for some people. This is the nasty, narrow, ignorant and meaningless side of any nationalism: as seen in the dreadful wars of the Baltic states or the Northern Ireland troubles. Scotland’s Rangers fans mostly support the union, this is about past religious affiliations and class. Why do they continue? Sadly our sectarian divides still seem to matter greatly, and when religion matters less we really should all try to move on.

Germany has developed a federal system of government with autonomous states. In America also each state runs its own affairs (tax, vat, immigration). Also in America, a land of recent immigrants, there are celebrations and acceptance of different cultures side by side – China town, St Patrick’s day parades, German beer festivals, Robert Burns suppers, Hanukkah and more. Also, crucially, while these different identities and cultures are studied in schools, no one religion dominates: that is no one religion is a part of school curriculums or in politics. Yes there are far right or far left extremists, but these views are hopefully on the margins. While many rural areas have been seriously left behind. 

And what of our different identities, languages and cultures in these British isles. In Ireland many fight to keep the Irish language. In Scotland, the Gaelic language and song survived on the Western islands,. After the 1707 union, many Scots writers worked to keep the Scots songs and poems alive. After the 45 however, there was violent suppression of highland culture by the British state. In Scotland we have the National art gallery, the National Scottish orchestra, the National stadium – that’s okay. We can be both proud of our nation and international too

Most would agree that a union with a much bigger state is in fact a take over and not a union in any sense – think China / Tibet, Russia / Lithuania. After the Indy Ref 2014, Scotland must have looked foolish to the outside world. I’m not a particular fan of David Cameron, but at least he was a team player and had some regard for democracy. There are now forces aboard and at home who have no idea what democracy actually means. Boris Johnson and his team appear to want to dismantle any remnants of democracy left in the UK: they are false opportunists, who want to limit both the courts and the press. They look to the likes of Trump, who also claims he’s restoring democracy and the voice of the people!. That’s the model of rule (or supposed freedom) that dictators such as Hitler and Stalin used. (Farage is a mate of Trumps after all). 

Nationalism is not about whose tribe is dominant or best. It can be about shared histories, stories and songs, sense of place, our values. Religion, which in the past created great divides, must be a personal choice and not part of education or politics. Most countries are melting pots of many diverse people, and our very differences can make us stronger if we value them. People have always moved, or had to move, from enforced migration, from climate catastrophe or wars. Studies show that tribalism, or being part of a tribe, is a powerful motivator. But it can also be blind and ignorant. Scottish nationalism however is not narrow and welcomes all who live here.

Are people voting against the rapid advance of A1, tech businesses, globalization, and the rich getting richer - do they believe some strong man can stop this? I hope and believe there is another way through finding our own voices.

The late, acclaimed journalist Ian Bell, wrote in his Herald article, Scotland and the Easter Rising, that James Connelly seemed to assert that, “Internationalism without an acknowledgement of national identity is a forlorn, empty gesture…The willed amnesia inflicted where he is concerned is part of a wider forgetting. "When we had our vote a misrepresented nationalism colluded with a Labour party defending (so it said) an international ideal. In September 2014, Scotland was the poorer for forgetting.”

In Scotland, our great poet Hugh McDermid wrote: ‘To be international we must first be national.’  The Scottish independence and national movement was not born out of violence but out of the arts. We must now urgently vote to save our right for democratic voices.  


Friday 30 March 2018

We must all Play Our Part

We live in very challenging times and its not okay to sit on the fence anymore. In her book Left Bank, Agnes Poiries writes of the citizens in Paris who stood by and did nothing during the war. The war taught people that indifference bred only chaos, and that everyone must take sides and engage with the world.
The Tories are fighting to save a failing British elite's empire days. Also as with Theresa May, they say how caring they are, while they refuse to take in abandoned Syrian children; expel the Windrush Generation, bomb Syria and leave people starving. They are experts at putting on this 'I'm so caring' face and trying to fool their Daily Mail readers.
Today we have weak leadership and It should not be about who shouts the loudest on Twitter! Musician and writer Pat Kane wrote in the National, about us all being fully mindful and of the “innovative spirit “ of small nations such as Iceland, Finland, Estonia and how we must all be more aware and alert. ‘ He added there is 'no shortage of inventions and reforms are pursuable under indy … but it all has to be rooted in a fully mindful population. Many of us felt as citizens, fully awake in 2014.’ (March 2018).
How do we get our message across? The UK government may not imprison us, instead they tie our hands with no media or tv outlets. By contrast how does Catalonia manage to have not one, but five tv channels! David Mundell, now with an expanded Scottish office, uses tax payers money to target women without university educations. Unbelievable! 
The Tories are not only cruel and heartless, they are inhumane and I fear there is no decent opposition either. These are life and death issues and we must all play our part: this is not a time for those who want to sit on the sidelines saying, well I am okay. It is time the people spoke up. Who can live on £60 a week job seeker allowance? We have returned to Dickens times it seems, with Amazon the new workhouse and no workers rights, as the tiny super rich defend their right to even more money. This 'them and us' culture perpetuated by the British establishment elites is not constructive, its destructive for our society's well being. Its time now for progressive socialism - capitalism for business along with a more caring, rounded society.  Our best hope is gaining Scotland's freedom, the sooner the better. 
In a free trading block of independent or federal nations, everyone pulls together – from the bottom up and NOT top down directives. ‘Sovereignty’ is with the people. We’ve had great thinkers in Scotland - from the Declaration of Arbroath to philosopher and poet George Buchanan, who taught James VI, and who wrote one of the most important books on democracy for all. Later his work on democracy was suppressed and his memorial is just north of me at the bonny village of Killearn. These are not simple black and white, yes or no issues. Many politicians are in this for power and not the best interests of the people, time for the people to speak up!

Sunday 19 March 2017

A United Nations of Britain?

When I visited the Dublin Irish writers museum I picked up a card that listed the best of them.
As I looked at the illustrations list I thought of all the great Irish culture and how much the world has benefitted from these Irish voices.
Which made me think also of Scottish voices – our innovations, our Scots songs, the Scottish Enlightenment. Then there are the wonderful Welsh choirs. I thought of Shakespeare, Chaucer, Turner, Wordsworth too and the great English writers and artists.

I thought of the nations of Scandinavia – Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark – they were also once joined through a royal marriage.
For the past hundred years each nation has been able to offer the world its own unique voice and are stronger for it – while they are still the nations of ‘Scandinavia’. In fact their voices are an even clearer, unique and positive force in the world than ever before.
Finland offers one of the world’s best education system with highly trained teachers. Norway, Iceland and Denmark too offer a more collaborative approach to running society, that favours equality, fairness and hard work at its heart. All Scandinavian countries are flourishing as independent nations. There is no point looking at the US – the story there is so different - a newer place where each state is fairly autonomous and is more comparable to the EU.

Then I look at us here in this disunited kingdom of islands – the routes of division and discord, misunderstandings, wasteful squabbles, power sharing, disharmony, extreme inequality and class divisions. Many of these wounds run deep and will not easily heal, disappear or ever go away. There is really only a simple answer – to look over the North seas to our Scandinavian cousins and learn lessons of how self-determining nations are working in a healthy way both independent and together.

Perhaps we too on these islands, can be a United nations of Britain and I hope Britain does not only mean England? England has historically been reluctant to offer Scotland real federalism. This half way house of 30% tax and limited control of welfare is unworkable and for sure something has to give. This doesn’t compare well to other devolved nations or states in America  - such as Quebec, Catalonia – who control their immigration and taxes and broadcasting. Catalonia alone has four tv channels! While Scotland has none1

Knowing that Ireland used the pound sterling for 50 years after its independence, it was demoralising for our supposedly fair and equal union to hear that England would not allow Scotland to use the pound and also knowing that if the Bank of England refused to allow the use the pound, it would also have to refuse other countries access to do business in pounds sterling and was like shooting itself in the foot! Scotland felt bullied and told off like a naughty child told to go to its room to play with only the toys assigned to it.. 

Why would Scotland be like Greece – rather than Iceland, Norway or Denmark? We have more resources than Greece, better universities and R & D. Fear is not a good way to cement a happy union. Let us try to look forward with positive expectations.

It is strange Gillian Bowditch Sunday Times 5th March, sees Scotland as diminished by wanting what other nations have – I see Scotland instead as empowered and flourishing in the belief we are as confident, capable and able for self-determination as any other peoples!

Saturday 30 April 2016

WB Yeats: Revolution of the mind

WB Yeats 
Revolution of the mind

Songs and imagining the immigration myths - There is no free state without Yeats.  Ireland does not exist without the Poet.

Excellent TV program recently about the Irish poet WB Yeats narrated by Bob Geldof.
Yeats became the Irish National Poet. He looked at the old myths and stories and wanted to write of the spirit and voice of Ireland. He had a vision of a pluralistic, tolerant Ireland that prevails today. 

He was a Protestant born in Dublin.  His father was  a barrister and his mother’s family were from Sligo Ireland which they visited often and where he learned of the myths and magic tales from the servants.
He later lived in London where he Oscar Wilde and other writers and poets. There he also met his muse, Maude Gonne, who was a revolutionary for a free Ireland.

He believed in the arts, poetry and in the sovereignty of intellect and the mind.
His work was about the celebration of pro Ireland NOT what Ireland is against and to celebrate Irishness – rather than oppose England.

He wrote “No fine nation without literature and no fine literature without nationality.
He dreamed of a modern, tolerant nation that was open and pluralistic .  He wanted to tear down the idols of the market place. And he knew that nations are not about lines – and that every people need their myths.

Yeats gave the Irish ‘who they were’ before the endless fighting. Yeats elevated the old heroes – political expression of a people. – Pens not guns.

Meanwhile in Scotland in 1780 a Robert Burnes
also wrote of the old stories and collected the old songs around Scotland, from the borders to the highlands. He too became the core and poetic voice of a true and honest Scottish voice. 
In 1920s after WW1 in Montrose, as part of a Scottish Renaissance there, another poet Hugh MacDiarmid took up this mantel again and he too wrote in both Scots and English – drawing on the past stories and imagining the Scotland of the future.  He was one of the visionary poets that began the Scottish national civic movement.