VIDEO: Alan Bissett talk on identity, feminism, and the so-called Scottish cringe

Author Alan Bissett gives a short but wide-ranging talk that ranges over feminism, playing Andrea Dworkin on stage (aye!) and Scottish identity; including film, cultural colonisation and the so-called Scottish cringe. (12 MINS)

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  1. Peter Sandy says:

    Think about it: over 100 years ago this guy (a native Scots-Gaelic speaker, incidentally) who reached an exalted rank in Victoria’s imperial army recommended the following policy to kill Afrikaans, the language of the Boers. Here is what he said shortly before he shot himself:

    “There is the case of the Highlands of Scotland as a parallel. The almost impossible was done there. I look for the future to education. It is through the young idea that we must succeed in South Africa. English must be the language there. It may seem hard to kill, so to speak, a nation by making another language compulsory, but it is a sure way and the best way. Nothing but English should be taught, and then the children would think in English and act as English children.”

    Given that his fame was especially high in his native Scotland after his crucial part in winning the Battle of Omdurman it is small wonder that no native Scots-Gaelic speakers exist anywhere near Dingwall, Scotland, today. Such was his influence.

    1. The full remarkable context of that quote from Sir Hector can be read here:

  2. David Fernandes says:

    Well said Alan – hope the dworkin role works out. I’d be interested in seeing a critique/essay on 2nd/3rd wave feminism from a Scottish male perspective – why not give it a pop?

  3. Arthur Morrison says:

    Impressive. This should be seen viewing for all school kids in Scotland for discussion. It expresses so well the mechanisms used to suppress indigenous populations from here, the Americas and beyond. I hope this video and the simple truth it expresses goes viral across the net.

    To cure things you first have to understand the problem and its cause. The social symptoms and catastrophic implications of the cringe are clear for all to see in present day Scotland.

    Identity is ok for everyone but the Scots. Expressions of identity here are either ridiculed or pounced on and make us feel guilty in the process. I loved the Brit Pop example and the hypocrisy it exposed.

    The only way we can cure Scotland is, please God, a YES Vote in the Referendum otherwise the cellar door will close on us forever.

  4. On this issue of Unionists inducing cringe to retard Scots understanding of themselves . .

    You will have noticed the British State set aside £50m of taxpayers money to celebrate the centenary of the commencement of the Great War in August 2014. This seems deliberately designed to compete with or obscure the anniversary of Bannockburn in the run-up to the Rferendum. Why would anyone celebrate the start of such a bloody war, otherwise?

    You will also be aware that while promoting THIS remembrance, the Unionists, particularly the likes of Lord Jim Wallace, Lord Forsyth, Lord Foulkes et al, are at pains to ensure we should forget Bannockburn on its 700th anniversary.

    “It’s seven hundred years since”, the noble lords will tell you in mocking tone – “For goodness sake, no one cares!” – It’s not relevant – It’s clownish braveheartism, braveheart, BRAVEHEART!!!

    We are told to grow up and get real.

    There is method to their madness, and I think those of Nationalist persuasion – most of us – have fallen for it. We are sheepishly apologetic and readily agree to demean and dismiss Bravehearts and Braveheatism. We deny “Ourselves” in doing so.

    The Unionist “Braveheart gambit” – seeks to denigrate Scotland’s historical fight for freedom against a belligerent neighbour whilst vigorously promoting Britain’s (Greater England’s) colonial wars and continental wars.

    They would have us forget Bannockburn and how the bravery and guile of brave men helped forge this nation and temper our national character.

    Usually the focus of their derision is not really the film about the life of William Wallace, but rather Wallace himself, and the attack on Wallace remains the template upon which all other such attacks are made.

    Mythologies are an essential ingredient of the glue than binds a people and creates a national identity. That is why icons of Union and Empire were paraded endlessly by the UK press and broadcast media in London’s Olympic pageant of 2012.

    Yet simultaneously there has been a concerted effort by the chattering class and the jocktocracy in the Lords, to delegitimize that phenomenon where Scotland is concerned.

    None speaks to the heart of our people like the deeds and the persona of Wallace and events like Bannockburn, and no Scot should feel embarrassed to embrace that narrative, so shamefully demeaned and ridiculed by Westminster’s pet jocks and their counterparts in Holyrood.

    Whatever you self-identify as, carries with it an encyclopaedia’s-worth of historical and cultural defining referential events.

    Of course, this does not mean that anyone will make a decision in 2014 solely on the basis of ancient history and mythology, but that we should look to the past for an understanding of how we came to be who we are today, in order that we may more fully contextualize the alternatives that confront us in this referendum, and choose the direction of our tomorrows.

    1. I travel a lot with my work internationally. Previously in Indonesia you’d get blank looks when you said “Scottish” in response to identity to such an extent that for practical purposes when nationality was asked for I had to say “English” because that was the only ID for which they seemed to have a compartment (that was 33 years ago). Recently I was back, and you’d say Scottish, and the faces would light up and they’d shout back “William Wallace”. Mind you, it can be a wee bit awkward for a Quaker pacifist to respond to!

      1. Ray Bell says:

        Unlike German, French etc Bahasa Indonesia has no word at all for British, they just use the word “Inggris” to refer to British and English. I haven’t heard of the British diplomatic service trying to rectify this.

        Until we get independence, Scots will have to engage in this silly self-justification when abroad.

      2. Graham says:

        Same in the Philippines. Mention Scotland and they enthuse about William Wallace and the Braveheart film. Filipino boxer and national icon Manny Pacquiao regularly compares himeslf to Wallace:

        Wikipedia has some interesting stuff on the cultural cringe:

  5. James Coleman says:

    I think it was appalling what the so called ‘Scottish’ media did to Alisdair Gray last year. And it was also very poor that even the YES campaign and Scottish Government tried to disown his words. Alisdair Gray was not being racist, he was asking very important questions.
    Are there Scots qualified to fill the top cultural jobs in Scottish culture? If the answer is NO then steps should be taken to ensure that Scots are appointed as deputies, so that in future they will be qualified. If the answer is YES then one must ask why they were not appointed. Or will be appointed. Is there racial discrimination against Sots being appointed to top cultural jobs in Scotland?
    In any event let us hope that the next Head of Creative Scotland is a Scot and if he isn’t, there had better be very good reasons.

    1. “And if he isn’t” … you meant “and if s/he isn’t”, I think and trust, otherwise we cut by 50% the number of culturally qualified incumbents for any post. Easy oversight in a quick blog post but we guys do need to take care of filters that we unconsciously may still carry.

      Remember when Catherine Lockerbie was running the Edinburgh Book Festival with the persona of a kind of ministering angel? I always remember her saying that the festival must be “very Scottish and very international” – a wonderful example of Scots Internationalism. In saying that I should say that I met the current director of the festival last year and found him deep-thinking in my short connection with him. Goodness, you have to be so careful with this sort of issue less praise for a predecessor is wrongly read as criticism of a successor.

  6. Meryl Streep says:

    I got as far as the Oscars and “I saw Your Boobs”. He totally misses the point that that the song is having a go at people who watch films for female nudity. That’s why people like Jennifer Lawrence participated in the skit in the first place. Only an idiot could fail to pick that up….oh
    And comparing the scottish film industry to the french film industry is daft. Apples and oranges. Forget being described as a “scottish writer”, Alan. You’re our national numpty

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