Monday, 30 September 2019

Black & White PHOTOs Edinburgh Book festival 2019

Inua Ellams
Edinburgh International Book festival, celebrates diversity and many different voices and backgrounds from across the globe. It is always good to see young, new voices given a platform to be heard.. 

Elizabeth Acevedo
Heida Ásgeirsdóttir
Isabella Hammad
Denise Mina
Rachel Long
Tania Nwachukwu
Hibaq Osman

Woman writers at Edinburgh book festival 2019

Octavia is a poetry collective for women of colour founded by Rachel Long in response to the lack of representation in literature and academia. Since 2015, Octavia have read beyond the canon and written themselves on their own terms, coming together every month at the Southbank Centre. 

This event showcases the talents of Rachel Long, Tania Nwachukwu and Hibaq Osman in an hour of poetry.

Mariam Khan, British writer and activist, discussed her book It’s Not About The Burqa, along with poets Nadine Aisha Jassat, and Amna.

Mariam Khan

Mariam Khan, British writer and activist, discussed her book It’s Not About The Burqa, along with poets Nadine Aisha Jassat, and Amna.
Jokha Alharthi

Jokha Alharthi, Omani novelist, first Arabic language writer to win the Man Booker

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Is Scotland Ready?

Irish Times writer Fintan O’Toole is an excellent, creative thinker and I enjoyed his essays, in the Sunday National. He writes that we must not idealize what independence will mean. Unlike Brexit, we have given Scottish Independence careful consideration, both by past artists and also in recent times.  

In the years leading to the historic 2014 vote on Scotland’s indy, one of the most significant changes that occurred was the rise up of renewed, energised and enthusiastic debates on all aspects of our views on how to build a healthier democracy, and with all walks of life here being more engaged. These debates led to creative imaginings of the type of country we might build here. This progress has been totally missed by the London based press. (And as Angus Robertson well points out, little attention is paid by the UK press to the UK regions, nations or to the European press) 
The twenty years of the Scottish Parliament has brought renewed confidence in our ability to govern ourselves, even while history tells us Scotland has always had some form of self government. Another big change was with young people. For the first time 16 and 17 year olds were given the vote, which meant political debate was considered in schools. Young people also take their news from diverse sources online. There has also been a reworking and recreating of Scotland’s arts, heritage and history. According to leading historian Tom Devine, until the 1960s Scottish history, particularly from Union to the present day, had been seriously neglected by academic study. 

My impression is all these discussions greatly moved Scotland on, with new creative ideas on how to make our own nation. Its been clear for decades now (as the polls point out) that Scotland has been moving in its own and different trajectory to those in England. 

Re Brexit – I’m getting worried now for the state of things here UK. Gerry Hassan, who has a new book, Scotland the Brave, thinks we’ve come to the limits of devolution and where do we go now?  The new guy Adam Price leading Plaid Cymru in Wales is very interesting too. He’s lived over in the States and believes we might all be stronger here with 4 diverse nations working together, as comparable to the Benelux countries of Netherlands, Luxemburg and Belgium which thrive independently but also co-operatively. Perhaps we need to define better what indy means and that the four British Isles nations would work closely together to build security, trade etc.  In todays internet world its such a different business to the days of ship travel! Worryingly UK politics appears in melt down, and with the hoping Brexit is some impossible quick fix.

On our social challenges. My view is we need to close private schools. The trouble is a big shift in culture like that can't really happen over night. After centuries of empire building and a Them versus Us culture, real social change will take some time I believe. We should seriously look at the Finnish education system - which believes in a "co-operative culture" rather than a "survival of the fittest" of creaming off an elite you nourish while the rest are disregarded. Because Scots history tells us we thrive when we are all given a chance, re libraries and education here.

There was an interesting write up in the Sunday Times June 21 (I like to read the right wing press also!) on Dr Geetha Marcus, professor of education Glasgow who advises the Scottish government. She advocates abolishing private schools in favour of a high-quality comprehensives model, and in line with the approach by Finland after the second world war, as required to reduce our nations attainment gap.Marcus argues segregated education is holding Scotland back. She also advises masters degrees for all teachers. Finland with a similar population, is recognised as an education success story since it replaced private and selective schools with ‘common’ schools on the basis that a society divided by class and poverty would weaken the country.There are 30K pupils in 74 independent schools in Scotland, around 4%, which encourages a privileged few.

It is vital we close the attainment gap. This can only be achieved, through a radical shift in attitudes. All children deserve a fair chance in life. We must also have mixed ability groups in primary schools and a Montessori type of education with mentoring. 

Worryingly the establishment and media continue to be run by private school elites. They want to protect the status quo and are rigidly against change, but this flies in the face of progress and of a real future of younger generations. So the question is, what do they really stand for? Those in London need to listen to more diverse voices, and not only to an isolated Tory party or a dysfunctional Labour. Huge changes are coming and I certainly don’t see the Brexit party or Lib Dems as an answer.

We need to look for the bigger pictures. Too many are only concerned for the personal and party issues. Why are the unionists running away from discussing Scotland’s pressing issues in a Peoples Assembly/? What are they scared of? Those on all sides of Scottish politics agree we need control of our immigration, drugs policies, and are against any Westminster power grab. We must find consensus – we can have an ever stronger British isles, just not one where all is controlled at Westminster. 

I am presently reading Fintan O’Toole’s recent book, Heroic Failure, on the Brexit carry on, and what an excellent story teller he is in this well researched tale of this highly confusing break down. He states that Brexit is really not about the EU, but an existential crisis. 

Scotland sits on the edge of Europe and for centuries has been an outward-looking nation. We must embrace this now – and become the welcoming, non-hostile nation, most who live in Scotland wish to be part of. 

Did Revolution happen here too soon?

Did Revolution happen here too soon?
Did revolution in the UK happen a hundred years too early? 

In 1649, Charles Stuart I (who wanted to impose bishops and the Anglican bible on a Presbyterian and Protestant Scotland) had his head chopped off. At this time the Thirty Years religious wars raged across Europe. 

Then in 1651, his son Charles II was crowned at Scone Scotland with the understanding he would adopt the Scottish Presbyterian religion. (however he went back on his word. 
Then with the Scots help to reclaim his throne, Charles II was defeated at the battle of Worcester in 1651 – where he hid in an oak tree and went into exile in France. 

The UK became a Republic from 1653 to 1658, Cromwell ruled with an iron will and with his aggressive model army. Thomas Cromwell set himself up in as mini dictatorship and so people wanted the monarchy back after he died, as a civilizing force?

As Charles Stuart II had no heirs, after him we had James Stuart VII, William and Mary, Ann, George of Hanover. (the grandson of Elizabeth Stuart)
All this was over 100 years before the more authentic People Reform movements of the late 18thcentury, 1790s, who advocated votes for all men – when only 0.12% of land owning men had a vote. The 18thcentury saw the age of the great Enlightenment writers – yes the Pen is really mightier than the sword!  
There were the great Revolutionary wars of America (1775 – 1783) and France. The British authorities were terrified these movements would develop here too – they did, but they were crushed forcibly by deportation. Robert Burns wrote the Tree of Liberty.  Britain did not give universal suffrage until 1928, long after America and France. The British establishment learned about crushing others after Culloden and destroying the Highland culture. 

The British belief in elites endures to this day - in Scotland less so, although some buy into the lies. It strongly appears that England is on a difficult trajectory now to Scotland and has been for some time now and the strains and cracks are self–evident for all to see. No matter how often BoJo calls us the ‘Awesome Foursome’, his flattery words are meaningless.

Since the printing press, Scotland has been bombarded with unionist propaganda. The question must not be – how can I join the elite, but how can we stop the elite! I’ve wondered why Norway, when they voted for their indy were over 80% in favour? Nearly all of Norway saw no advantage to being run from Stockholm. Yet in Scotland we were only at 20%, now nearly 50% in favour of not having London politicians make our decisions for us. In part it’s a result of decades of Daily Mail and BBC propaganda; and the Jon Prebble books of Scottish victimhood. Plus Scottish history and heritage has been side-lined and ignored. 

This week the UKs Supreme court made a historic decision, that PM Johnson's Prorogation of parliament was illegal. They based their decision on the Scottish Claim of Rights 1689 (an later the English Bill of Rights) to limit the power of the monarch. - based on the teaching of Philosopher George Buchanan.
How can we really expect and Eton educated Londoner to get Scotland, or to really understand or care for Scottish issues? He can appoint some posh secretary of state as his lackey here, but its all unsustainable. But its also a long waiting game and we need patience. 

Thank goodness the Supreme court has defended the sovereignty of Parliament. (the BBC ignored Joanna Cherry and the Scottish case) focusing instead on Gina Miller’s case. Some Brexiteers claim that BoJo speaks for democracy and the people, and that he needs to By pass parliament... This is scary dictators talk! 

In America there are 3 seats of power – the senate, congress, and the presidency – the rule of law and a free press. The UK has an early out-dated form off democracy and only granted universal suffrage in 1928. The UK requires and elected second chamber, an elected head of state. It also requires the law to defend a more balanced and locally owned press, and a balanced state broadcaster that is impartial.