The Rage Parade

THE RAGE PARADE: From The Province of the Cat by George Gunn

Sometimes being a poet can feel like the most useless thing a body can be. Nothing you write will make any difference or change anything. You are on the liminal margins of that most marginal thing called literature. The only thing you have as poet is a belief in the power of language. In Scotland, at least, this belief, this power, still has some residual constituency. This is, I realise, more faith than belief but I hang onto it nonetheless.

It is with similar faith that we must all embrace the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s speech to the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, and hope that it may change something in relation to a possible second independence referendum. But what it won’t change and cannot hope to influence is British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s planned rage parade to “celebrate” the UK “leaving” the European Union of Friday. He will fly the Union Jack and hang the red, white and blue bunting all over the north of England where his cabinet will meet on “freedom day” to acknowledge the recent converts to is new British Brexit Conservative Party.

“Look”, he will say, “we have left London, the centre of the world, to come up to your dreary, rainy towns on this momentous day. What more do you want?” He will urge all, as he did before the previous exit date last March in the Methodist Hall in Westminster, to consider and remember the 31st of January 2020 to be the day when “church bells were rung, coins struck, stamps issued and bonfires lit to send beacons of freedom from hilltop to hilltop”. Then, drunk on his own rhetoric, Bojo raved on. On this glorious day Brexit “retainers were meant to be weaving through the moonlit lanes of Sussex, half blind with scrumpy, singing Brexit shanties at the tops of their voices and beating the hedgerows with staves.” A rage parade indeed. All hail the brand new Nation!

Except nothing much is new. The “nation” is still England, except it isn’t. It’s the United Kingdom, except it is no more “united” other than in name. The reality is Brexit is a populist “project” without a people, a nationalist “movement” without a nation. As Fintan O’Toole of the Irish Times recently noted,

“Britain is not and never has been a nation state. For most of its history as a state, it has been at the heart not of a national polity, but of a vast multinational and polyglot empire. And the UK is itself a four-nation amalgam of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There is no single pre-EU UK ‘nation’ to return to. There is no unified “people” to whom power is being returned. And this is the contradiction that the Brexit project cannot even acknowledge, let alone resolve.” (The Observer, 26th Jan.)

This inconvenient local irony is merely part of more universal irony. Worldwide we have capitalists without capital (the US) and communists without communism (China). A “free market” that is neither free or much of a market but a system that is controlled by cartels and monopolies, five of which in the US are bigger than most countries. Private equity and private enterprise freely kill off public equity and planning but hedge funds, which are behind everything from old folks homes to railways, rule the roost even though essentially they are parasites that suck the social blood out of society leaving us with stark choices of either chaos or community, democracy or fascism. None of these words I choose lightly. In the West the people get taller, fatter whilst the gadgets they use get smaller, thinner. This is how America is made great again and this is how we take back control. It is what energises the banal ironic poetry Bojo brings to the political forum. As a result politics melts and the forum is suspended. The Scottish government cannot deal with the UK government as it used to because, since winning the General Election last December, the new British Brexit Conservative Party which has emerged with an 80 seat majority, is on a rage parade, half blind with the political scrumpy of Brexit and nothing is going to sober it up and stop it trampling over everything. Bojo will keep saying “No!” to the Scots as long as the scrumpy flows. Nothing the Scottish government will say or do will make a blind bit of difference. The rage parade does not care what the Scots think. They hate us. Emily Thornberry blurted out in Nottingham that she hates the SNP. Bojo’s retainers are one thing, a Labour Party in denial about Scotland is quite another.

The gloves are off. The staves are in their mitts and they will beat more than hedgerows. They are heading our way. On their breath are lies and fantasies. In their pockets is bogus, worthless quantitative cash that they will throw at everything and nothing. It is all very well to say, as George Kerevan argues in The National (Monday 27th Jan), that “We have to advance a progressive social and economic programme that counters Tory populism… that embraces the entire Atlantic archipelago, including our English neighbours.” I whole heartedly agree but the rage parade of Bojo’s Brexit retainers cares nothing for any of that. Their arrogant exceptionalism denies our evolving Scottish democracy and trashes our European traditions and aspirations. The next SNP budget in February and the parties manifesto for the forthcoming Scottish election next year can be peerless documents heralding in a “veritable, post capitalist New Enlightenment” as George Kerevan so dreamily puts it, but they will make no difference without the power to implement them.

For the independence movement these are dangerous times. Yet, somehow, it seems we have been here before. As Burn’s Night recedes into the distance for this year it is germane to our present condition to consider the position Burns found himself in throughout his short but highly productive creative life. Did he despair about the political condition of his country? Of course he did – and often – but he kept on producing, he kept on writing. The worse the politics of Scotland became the better his poetry became.

It cannot be overstated, but then again it is rarely noted, that the most important event in the creative life of Robert Burns was not the publication of the Kilmarnock edition of “Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect” in 1786, but the French Revolution of 1789. Indeed it was the defining event of Burns’ era. It changed the context in which Burns wrote. It quickened and polarised political life across Europe as it turned abstract principles into matters of immediate political contention. It gave to every public utterance the frisson of controversy. Under the control of Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville, in his various guises of Home Secretary and Secretary of State for War, Scotland was in lockdown. There was no political freedom. Every expression of discontent was considered as sedition and tacit support for the French revolutionary cause. You were either for King George or you were against him. Dundas conducted his own version of Bojo’s rage parade.

In 1792 “The Scottish Friends of the People” was formed by the lawyer Thomas Muir of Huntershill, the Church of Scotland minister William Palmer and many others, with the sole purpose of political and social reform, to counter the tyranny of Henry Dundas, principally by advocating the extension of the democratic franchise to working men: in other words the right to vote. Burns wholeheartedly supported this idea. In 1792 less than 4,000 people in Scotland had the vote and half of them were fictitious. In 1793 Thomas Muir was sentenced to an all too real 14 years hard labour and transportation to Botany Bay for his trouble. One of the charges against Muir on the hanging judge, Lord Braxfield’s charge sheet, was that his speeches cited “Treason against the Union with England”.

Well, a Union needs a unionist at both ends, does it not? Robert Burns was no unionist. His opinion was that as long as Scotland was held against her will in the prison of this unequal Treaty there could be no human future for the Scottish people, there could be no “union”. Burns was scathing of the Scottish middle class, a prejudice I fear I share, and he accused them of “running for cover and abjuring their democratic doings.” In that regard, as our present situation demonstrates, when it comes to independence for Scotland, nothing much changes.

Robert Burns had much more faith, indeed instinctive belief, in the ability of ordinary people to take matters into their own hands. His song-poem, “Why should na poor folk mowe” from 1792, is in fact, no matter what else it is, a celebration of the staggering successes of the French Revolutionary armies, which allowed the Edinburgh Gazeteer to trumpet, “Despotism has now been shook to the centre on the Continent and before the conclusion of the next Summer the Tree of Liberty will occupy the soil that has long been usurped by merciless tyranny!” In this bawdy political song, Burns subverts the social hierarchy by pointing out that the so-called lower classes command a most powerful political weapon; what he considers to be their expert ability to reproduce. This is metaphor, not irony. In 2020 what is our most powerful political weapon? It is the same as it was in the 18th century: it is the Scottish people themselves. The first weeks of February 2020 could prove to be one of the most important periods in Scotland’s political history. It is a time to be brave, to understand the risks and also to understand what’s at stake if we are not brave enough to take risks. Thomas Muir understood this perfectly well.

As a Yes activist I look to our Scottish politicians to step up to the moment. As a poet I look to my fellow Scottish poets to do the same. But alas, in all too many cases, our contemporary poets are more interested in their interior selves and their immediate relationships than they are about the external world, of marking and observing the tensions of the society they live in. They are loud in the promotion of their point of view but very quiet, even nebulous, when it comes to having a subject other than themselves.

Opinion is another country entirely from revelation. Let me say that I am guilty of this myself. In many ways the battle between subjectivity and objectivity is the struggle of art itself. There are only a handful of poets in our recent history who have succeeded in both balancing and harnessing this volcanic dichotomy. In Scotland, two of them, at very different times and in very different ways, have done just this: they are Robert Burns, whom I have already mentioned and who was a democrat and the other is Hugh MacDiarmid, who was a totalitarian. Despite this MacDiarmid had a deep belief in Scottish independence and he has had a significant and lasting effect on Scottish literary and civic life, inspiring a generation of poets such as Sorley Maclean and Hamish Henderson. All this came at a price. However “famous” Burns was in his day the general public did not really know what he was doing and he died in poverty. MacDiarmid may be “famous” now but few people in the 1920’s and 1930’s took him seriously and he spent most of his creative life in poverty, isolation and exile.

All I am asking of for our poets is to inspire the people to resist the rage parade coming our way after the Union Jackery and mock-patriotic nostalgic quackery of Bojo’s planned Brexit festival of foolishness on Friday 31st January 2020. I am pleading with them to have, what Douglas Dunn, in an interview published in 1981, described as:

“An aspiration towards justice: a dream of equilibrium, good order, benevolence, love, of the kind of sanity which men have it within their means to create.” (Viewpoints, Faber 1981)

Whatever it is Nicola Sturgeon says on Wednesday and whatever it may mean for the future of another independence referendum, literally the only concrete thing we actually have is the Scottish Parliament and its ability to make laws to safeguard the citizens of Scotland from the excesses of Bojo’s rage parade. We need to protect and empower this important institution of change from the political vandals who, mad from “beating the hedgerows with staves”, would gladly destroy it.

Comments (30)

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  1. John McLeod says:

    An inspiring piece of writing, and a reminder of how long all this has been going on. And of our great cultural strength. Thank you.

  2. Mary MacCallum Sullivan says:

    Oh George, You have it nailed. It is very scary to feel the weight of this moment, and to hope for that protection from the Big Mother – wee Nicola – and our as-yet-junior parliament to save us from the rage of the English National Party now in power down south.

    You are both prophet and poet.

  3. Hamish100 says:

    Thanks for your writing.
    Just at the time we need full support for our leader and First Minister there are still too many underminers and agitators in other places wanting more action and even more action. Weirdly it is not them that’s to do anything but us! Nor are they very good in explaining what such action should be. Undermining is their only weapon.

    The hand that has been dealt to us, is not easy. With a Prime Minister in all his little englander glory in position, with the right wing cabal that doesn’t care if they break the law , or lie to the Queen or anyone else for that matter is our burden. It’s what they are.

    Friday we will hear more as to our direction. We have no real option but to follow and support as best we can. We have time to change the minds of those, who 6 years ago would say No, but are now willing to listen. The underminers can go and play their games of pretendy new parties and their fixation on gender. For us INDEPENDENCE remains our goal as it has always been. We will succeed.

  4. Tom Hubbard says:

    Many, many thanks for this rousing piece George, and I hope we’ll meet these challenges as poets and citizens. See you around soon again?

  5. Graham Ennis says:

    I DESPAIR. We are now entering the whirlwind of UK politics, Scottish politics, and confrontation with the decaying monarchist reactionary state, in London. So let us be blunt. Very blunt. It is clear that they now have a barely concealed agenda of turning back the clock, of going back, as part of the EU leaving spoils, to the Status quo ante, to how things were before the EU stuck its nose in and insisted that Wales and Scotland should be devolved and have national governments. At the very beginning, this was subjected to a kind of sabotage and restriction of the powers of the devolved Governments. barely enough power was given to them to function, and not have problems with the Eu, and now they are stealing back many of these powers. As of last week, in the new BREXIT bill, London is the Sovereign Parliament, with monarchical rights of overriding anything done by Wales or Scotland that displeases the hacks, racists, and carpet baggers of the current regime. We are heading once again to the Feudal past, and Holyrood will have its powers reduced to the level of Yorkshire County council, if they are lucky, or simply closed down by using the crown prerogative, without even a debate in the House of Commons. Really. read the papers, listen to the news. Its happening.
    So what next?….I am also hoping, that this week the SNP Government will announce its intentions for having a referendum this year, (or not). If it does, we are plunged almost immediatly into countermeasures, by london, to suppress any such thing. They will be harsh. Leading contenders for Labour leader have already said that if they were in power, they would act like the Spanish Government did, against the Catalans. So their support for what A conservative regime in London will probably do is a given.
    The other london parties are of no consequence. The bald reality is therefore that the Scots and the English state are now on a collision course. With inevitable violence. Or alternately that the SNP will lose its nerve, back down, and sit there awaiting events. It really is that harsh. This week, if they do not stand and do what people want them to do, as did the warriors of Culludon, and continue there cautious stance, then thats it. After this year, there will be absolutely no chance of this happening, and getting a referendum. A hard line right wing Government in london will simply suppress it.

    So this leaves a grim future: Either nothing will be done to get the referendum, and things will rapidly get worse, as the Conservatives carry out their plans, or there has to be a confrontation.

    What will this confrontation look like? Either the SNP finds its courage and runs a referendum, and a Spanish/Catalan scenario, or increasing public anger amongst nationalists leads to serious disruption within the SNP. and the splitting off of the more hard line nationalists. They in turn, will start to organise, and will form dissident groups, start taking confrontational action against the situation, and London, and eventually this will lead to even more hard core groups forming. At that point, we are at the situation Ireland faced in January 1918, when the provisional proclaimed Goverment was suppressed by force. If you want to know what happens next, get a good book on Irish history. Its horrible. But tyrants always lose, eventually. Personally, I cannot see this ending, at the moment, in anything ultimately, than serious violence. It all actually depends on the SNP this week. If a referendum is announced, the situation is contained. if not, or a lot of legal bullshit is talked, then inevitably, this will be the year where the Scottish freedom struggle got very real.

    1. Jo says:

      “Personally, I cannot see this ending, at the moment, in anything ultimately, than serious violence.”

      And, by jings, you sound like you cannae wait Graham!

      1. JockEasy says:

        Oh dear….yet again…you really DO write the AWFULEST manure on these threads.
        Is NO subject beyond your ignorance?

  6. Graham Ennis says:

    Addendum: Dear George Gunn, I admire your article. But poets have an awful power, not often used, that terrifies Regimes.
    They do not even have to go and fight. All they do, is write Poems. poems that will inspire and energise nationalists, to go out, and to fight and die for their Country.
    Poets are always Patriots. They cannot be fooled.

  7. Malcolm says:

    I would be more moved by this piece if the contradiction of leaving one Union only to join another even bigger one was considered as the way forward
    The contradiction of a Scottish electorate that votes for Union but then elects mostly nationalist MEPs/MPs is thoroughly confusing for all of us-what did they mean?
    Now Brexit is “done” Scotland,s position is even more peculiar.
    Would an electorate if asked now vote to leave a Union (composed of Welsh,Irish and English) on the chance that it could join another Union composed of Germans,French and Dutch etc etc at some time in the future?
    I must say that at the very least-confusion reigns!
    xxd09

    1. Heartsupwards says:

      So what is it you want? your opinion/desire for Scotland’s direction counts as much as any MSP’s. If you do not want to be in the EU but also do not want to be in this UK then take the steps to get there.

    2. Wul says:

      Malcolm,
      You said: “I would be more moved by this piece if the contradiction of leaving one Union only to join another even bigger one was considered as the way forward.”

      There is no “contradiction”. It is very simple. One union ( UK ) tends to diminish Scots’ wellbeing. The other (EU), tends to increase our wellbeing.

      There is only a “contradiction” if you are being absurdly simplistic. Would you ask an abused wife; “But why did you leave your first, abusive husband, only to marry a kind and gentle man? It makes no sense!”

      You also said:

      “The contradiction of a Scottish electorate that votes for Union but then elects mostly nationalist MEPs/MPs is thoroughly confusing for all of us-what did they mean?”

      It is not “confusing” at all if you have any understanding of Scotland. 55% of our voting population, in 2014, did not want to take the risk of leaving a union that they were familiar with and felt, on balance, benefited them. Some of those self-same people (even then) were unhappy at the way Scotland is treated at Westminster at voted SNP to send a message to Westminster about their dissatisfaction. A greater number voted SNP to show that they support independence. One vote was a referendum, the others were, variously, a General Election, European Elections and Scottish Parliament Elections. People vote differently in different contexts.

      Perhaps “confusion” and apparant “contradiction” are what you, yourself are trying to sow.? Your apparent “confusion” looks a lot like trolling. (either that, or you are dim, in which case, I apologise for calling you a troll and send you my best wishes)

  8. Josef Ó Luain says:

    Looking to politicians for our salvation, along with the forecasting of a political outcomes, is a mugs game. Many Scots will shrug-their-shoulders and lament that there’s nothing they can do about Brexit and that it’s hard to see how things can get much worse, anyway. Forty years of neo-liberalism that they couldn’t do anything about either, can be expected to make people think like that, and that’s where we find ourselves today in Scotland. We have a mountain to climb. It may be that the traditional routes to the summit now lead nowhere. Despondency, defeatism and all the other strains of hopelessness must be killed-off. A great challenge is confronting all of us who ever dared to dream that other futures are possible. No matter what the politicians might say, on this day or that day, let’s never desert the prospect of winning our own salvation.

  9. SleepingDog says:

    Perhaps Boris Johnson is simply getting his parodies in first, having no reason to believe or value whatever he is saying at any given moment, and taking some wind out of his critics’ sails.

    This article’s view seems to confirm my impression that poetry is mostly rubbish, self-pleasing navel-gazing, whimsical wordplay or algorithmic link-hookery that segues from Great Man (or occassionally Woman) of History into modern celebrity-awards culture. Still, I suppose the battle hymns of the Levellers were suitably stirring.

    So in Burn’s day, sedition laws meant circumspect-ambiguous poetry, but what is today’s excuse? How many Scottish poets dared the lèse-majesté laws before they were repealed a few years ago? How many were banged up in Barlinnie? You could also say that the Big Divide of the time was slavery. The French Revolutionaries abolished slavery in their colonies which precipitated the St Domingue/Haitian Revolution where a slave revolt succeeded in inflicting massive casualties against British Imperial and Napoleonic forces (with the help of disease and lack of care for troops). But the polemicists against slavery tended to be pamphleteers, non-conformist clerics and itinerant public-speakers, not poets (am I wrong?).

    Would it be absurd to imagine an impassioned youth skipping school to demand that the world listen to the… Poets? (yes)

    Still, I think poetry (in the sense of finding the right words to convey a message) is an essential part of a political campaign, although there is a poetry of hate and jingoism as well as that of universal amity. Perhaps the problem is Poets, and their egos, and their (few) fans. Or formal poetry weighed down with the baggage of past inefficiencies. People are more likely to find such messages in computer games than poetry books these days, I suggest.

    Of course, Boris Johnston’s poetic outbursts may be projecting deeper currents from his subconscious fears, where stave- and pike-wielding peasants and artisans roaming the countryside signifies doom to him and his kind. Indeed, some Levellers seem to have called for the destruction of church bells and steeples, symbols of the old hierarchies they were committed to bring down:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Chidley#Thunder_from_the_Throne_of_God

  10. Douglas Wilson says:

    All the poets in the world are not going to get Scotland out of this really quite desperate situation, George Gunn… as far as I can see, in the short term, we’re snookered.

    Nicola announced yesterday the plan for a Scottish Visa. That sounds like accepting fate to my ears…it will be the first in a long line of “mitigate the disaster of Brexit” policies to come out of Bute House…

    All she can do I think is play for time. Look to 2021, possibly as a plebiscite…but I don’t think she’ll do that either. After all, turning Scottish elections into a plebiscite on indie is risky. If you win, the result might not be accpeted or recognized. If you get under 50%, the Unionist opposition will say it was effectively indie ref II and that there is no need for another referendum. And the conditions for winning are much less favourable than in a straight YES/NO referendum.

    I was lying in the semi comatose state of the insomniac which I am last night thinking about the Union and the Union Jack and how it is a flag which combines the flags of Scotland and England, who became partners in a Union in 1707. And how Scottish history is littered with a long line of what might be called “nationalist unionists”. People like Walter Scott, who believed in the Union with England, but fought tooth and nail to defend Scotland´s interests within that Union. Whatever happened to that breed of Scot?

    For they might as well just take the blue out of the Union Jack these days and leave it as the St George’s Cross of England. Because any semblance of a partnership has long since gone. Scotland is hostage on Bojo’s fantasy wet dream English nationalist project. The passenger in the back of a car out of control and in unchartered terrain.

    So, again, where are the “nationalist unionists”? Where are Scots who believe in the Union, but are prepared to fight Scotand´s corner in it? Those Scots must take a step forward and fight for Scotland´s right to a second referendum in the near future. For what is at stake is Scotland´s status within the Union, passed by two parliaments as a partnership in 1707 ( albeit an unequal partnership) as the Union Jack illutsrates all too well.

    But I’m afraid I can’t think of a single Scottish figure who might fit the Walter Scott “nationalist Unionist” mould these days.

    Dark days in Scotland, but we don’t know the future. Maybe Brexit will be such a disaster that support for indie surges over the next year or two? Maybe Boris and Cummings will be so shameless and embarrassing in the trade talks – a given of course – that the voters of Scotland rise up? There is a lot of truth in the idea that once support goes over 50% it could easily jump 10 or 20 points in a very short space of time: indie becomes the new default position of Scotland, not Unionism.

    One thing is for sure. Boris ain’t going to break sweat until support for indie is consistently over 50%…

    1. Douglas Wilson says:

      PS: Note how Cameron and the Tories – oblivious to British history – have sought to reconfigure the Union between Scotland and England as a “family of nations” including Northern Ireland and Wales. Sorry, that is not what the Scottish Parliament passed in 1707. That was never the deal.

      In terms of constitutional history, Wales and Northern Ireland do not have the same status as Scotland. Scotland is the key partner. Scotland resisted English military expanisonism for four centuries. Scotland won its status as a partner by a willful act of resistance which lasted four hundred years.

      And yet the “family of nations” bull has been swallowed by Scottish Unionism. What are they thinking? Why would you downgrade the deal of 1707?

    2. Jo says:

      “…..who believed in the Union with England, but fought tooth and nail to defend Scotland´s interests within that Union. Whatever happened to that breed of Scot?”

      That’s an excellent question and one which many of that persuasion should be made to answer. For, what on earth is wrong with looking out for Scotland’s interests and wanting to see its status as “equal partner” in in the Union recognised?

      Why is it suddenly the norm to be afraid to object to the contempt thrown our way?

  11. Hamish100 says:

    Malcolm it is the Brit union that forces nuclear weapons on our land. It is the Brit union that will force our service people to illegal wars. The EU cannot do either so there are 2 reasons why the EU is better. More? Look how the EU respects and supports tiny Ireland. Look how the brits arrogance deals with the other Celtic nations and their parliaments..
    More?

    I will Leave it to others!

    1. Malcolm says:

      Burns did get a qualification as a Tax Inspector as insurance if the Poetry did not pay-luckily it did!
      Hamish-I take your point on defence but History tells us that in the last century 2 serious World wars were started on the Continent by the largest nation there
      This nation is now de facto in charge of the EU-it pays the bills!
      Let’s see how they do-it did not go so well the last two times!
      Plus there is the Cold War that then followed from another belligerent Continental power
      I don’t think the Scots would want to throw away 70 years of peace lightly though as you say the price is very high-better than a World war?
      xxd09

  12. Hamish100 says:

    70 years of peace.! Korea, Burma, Falklands, Northern Ireland, Kuwait, Iraq. Actually too many to mention. Here’s the full list. The amount of Anglo wars Indicates the mindset. In defence of the English establishment or furtherance of its right to govern or impose its views.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_the_United_Kingdom

    Back to the beginning. The Eu unlike the britunion cannot tell us we are now at war. As for NATO in an independent Scotland I would side towards neutrality as is the ROI and support home defence or the United Nations,

  13. Josef Ó Luain says:

    With no resolution to the current political nonsense that we’re forced to endure being in sight, and with a largely conservative middle-class that has never learned how to lead but remains as an influential power-in-the-land despite that damning indictment, it’s not difficult to arrive at the conclusion that we’re collectively fucked – and probably deserve to be.

  14. Heartsupwards says:

    The Affair

    Us scots can’t look after our own affairs
    We just argue and bicker and fight
    Lucky for us there is a Noble Lord
    For our affairs to control with delight

    They conduct themselves with such dignity and flair
    Or so we are led to believe
    What a wonderful friend to take resource in their care
    And give back what we cannot retrieve

    All that they want for this kindly service
    Is to divide up the wealth they see fit
    We don’t need know numbers they’d only confuse
    And be toil for our limited wit

    Twas a fine time for London while sharing the spoils
    And the fingers were many in pies
    Less and less given back from the communal sack
    The fingers outweighing the lies

    Now the communal sack has broken its back
    And the greedy cannot now secure
    The support of the common of who they were robbin
    While covering their tracks with manure

    As ever has been and will always be
    The common will want for their bread
    Not much less or more and they will deplore
    The crooks who have left them for dead

    The common worst enemy? Ourselves we must blame.
    To dance with the devil courts danger
    Return to Caesar , what is Caesars
    Told by the one born in a manger.

    Then we may all laugh while our bread we can have
    And share with all other kin
    There will be those in despair, wondering where is
    The lime that escaped from their gin.

    1. Malcolm says:

      With all due respect Hamish-those were not World wars. I doubt that we will ever get rid of war as such as it seems to be hardwired into the human condition
      Perhaps the best we can hope for are less and less of them and ones that have smaller and smaller footprints
      This in fact seems to be what is happening -something to be proud of?
      The mechanisms that have achieved this happy state of affairs should not be lightly cast aside-the consequences of a mistaken policy are to ghastly to contemplate-another World war?

      1. Jo says:

        I’m a wee bit taken aback by your optimism, to put it mildly.

        If there hasn’t been a third world war yet, it’s not down to the world managing itself better. It’s down to the big boys doing as they like and kicking the UN aside rendering it useless! The words regime change trip off their tongues so easily! And we should rejoice that we’ve had peace? Jesus wept!

        We flattened Iraq, helped to destroy Libya. Do you know how many Iraqi civilians died?

        Did you hear that arrogant balloon announcing his “peace plan” earlier following talks between himself and the rogue state known as Israel? Talks in which the other relevant party wasn’t even allowed to participate? Did you hear his equally arrogant counterpart in London say, in the Commons, that it was a good deal? It’s not! It’s a crap deal!

        And you think we’ve got a better world! I think I’ll go and weep too.

    2. Joe86nmr says:

      Very, very good. Spells it out nicely. Missed your vocation. (or, maybe not)?

  15. Duncan Mac says:

    The Door

    When all our planning for currency schemes,
    Social structures of equity,
    Programmes for the diminution
    Of sad loneliness, choosing of anthems,
    Disputations over tartans and the body of John Knox
    Mouldering in parking space number twenty three
    When all the analysis of Ireland’s borders and the vetting
    Of a new Scandalignment of niceties
    I say when all that is through
    We’re going to have to show the lying
    Manipulating murderous divisive bastards
    The Door.

  16. Hamish100 says:

    Malcolm

    With all due respect you stated 70 years of peace. I merely pointed out we haven’t. I also pointed out that WW1 involved the Brit empire in all its glory and involvement with continental royal cousins.
    It was not just “ Europe’s” problem as implied. As if we a are not in Europe ( geographically)
    Either way a bullet in the head has the same consequence from whatever conflict.

  17. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

    SCOTLAND’S CONDITION AFTER DEATH OF ALEXANDER III IN 1286
    (Anonymous c. 1300)

    VERSION 1 –

    Quhen Alexander our king was dede 
    That Scotland led in luve and lè, 
    Away was sons of ale and brede,
    Of wine and wax, of gamyn and glè; 
    Our gold was changit into lede. 
    Christ, born into virginitè,
    Succour Scotland and remede, 
    That stad is in perplexitè.
    ———-
    VERSION 2 –

    Sen Alexander our king wes deid
    That Scotland left in luve and lee,
    Away was sonse of aill and breid,
    Of wine and wax, of gamin and glee; 
    Our gold was changit all in leid,
    The frute failyeit on everilk tree.
    Christ succour Scotland and remeid, 
    That stad is in perplexitie.

  18. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

    “If you had seen this toast before it was made,
    You’d lift up your hands and bless marmalade!” (Adapted – see note below*)

    UBHAL AN DEARBH-AITHNE

    Ubhal an dearbh-aithne, bruanach air teanga,
    mar spruan cho fuadain ri tartan an tiona,
    no aran-coirce ro thana fo sgithinn làn ìme.
    Ar fiaclan-brèig’ a’ cur drèin gun chlì oirnn.

    Liùg cnuimh gun chagar a-steach air ar cluais.
    Chagainn i gu slìogach ar n-eanchainn na ruideal.
    Tro mhogall nan toll sgiolc smaogail ar smuain.
    Am moll sgaoilt gu mall ann am meall air a’ ghreideil.

    Beul bochd air a’ phoca ga bhòcadh le càth.
    Cridhe crìon na chriathar a nì liath gach silean.
    Gun gin a’ ginideachadh air cloich-ghràin an làir.
    Teanga tofai-bò a’ suathadh ar bilean.

    An reasabaidh dùthchasach air a chur suarach:
    Thalla fàileadh ceò-mòna, ’s blas cànan ar sinnseir!
    Làn-Bhracaist Shasannach, stòbh Bhreatainn a Tuath:
    Bheir isbean Chumbarlainn buaidh air ar truinnsear!

    THE APPLE OF IDENTITY

    The apple of identity crumbles on the tongue
    as shortbread from a tartan tin
    or oatcake too thin to bear the buttered blade.
    (Our dentures fix their nerveless grin).

    Some worm by ear insinuated
    hath drilled our brain into a riddle.
    Each kernel of thought drops through a slot.
    A glut of glume bestrews our griddle.

    From ransacked mouth the husks still spill.
    From cankered core pour hollow pips.
    All fail to germinate on half-baked floor.
    A tongue of Highland Toffee licks our lips.

    Native recipes we scorn to approve:
    No peat-smoke reek nor teuchter’s Babel!
    Full English Breakfast on North British Stove:
    Cumberland sausage will command our Table!
    ———
    * Couplet adapted from:
    “Had you seen these roads before they were made.
    You would lift up your hands and bless General Wade.”

    Sir Walter Scott quotes it somewhere, but the apparent attribution is to Major William Caulfeild (sic), who took over from Field Marshall George Wade (1673-1748) with road, bridge, and fort construction in the North of Scotland, designed to facilitate British troop movements in the quelling of the Jacobite insurrections. In 1725 Wade had been appointed “Commander in Chief of His Majesty’s forces, castles, forts and barracks in North Britain”.

  19. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

    I keep having to remind myself not to take too much historical knowledge for granted these days. If clarification be needed, the “Cumberland” allusion (last line of ‘Apple of Identity’ poem) is of course to Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1721-1765), third and youngest son of King George II. (Hence the fortification nomenclatures, ‘Fort William’, ‘Fort Augustus’ and ‘Fort George’.)

    In 2005, the Duke of Cumberland was nominated by Professor Rab Houston, chair of modern history at St Andrews University, as candidate for the BBC History Magazine: 10 Worst Britons in History. Here is the text of the article:
    ——————
    The Duke of Cumberland (Prince William Augustus, 1721–65) showed his wickedness in many ways, not least in his contempt for opponents and for his own men who failed to live up to his strict standards.

    He showed a particular disdain for the defeated Jacobites after the battle of Culloden in 1746, who he regarded as cowardly, dishonourable and undeserving of mercy. Thus fleeing soldiers were pursued and slaughtered while the wounded could expect no help except to be shot, bayoneted or clubbed to death.

    At a time when the etiquette of warfare was considered very important, Cumberland was able to dispense with it by labelling the Highlanders as inhuman savages. He even condemned officers who had shown mercy to the Jacobite soldiers after the battle, when his orders were to give no quarter. The Highlanders hated him, renaming a weed Stinking Billy in mockery of the English renaming of a flower Sweet William in his honour.

    In effect, he used the full power of the fiscal-military British state to commit genocide on the mainland of Britain. He was the equal of Cromwell in Ireland, terrorising a whole people into submission.

    The English welcomed the Duke’s victory but opinion turned against him equally quickly. He acquired the title of Butcher because, when told that he was to be made an honorary freeman of a London company for his services against the Jacobites, some wag said it would have to be the Butchers. The Duke’s successes were recognised by his being voted an income of £40,000 per annum in addition to his revenue as a prince of the royal house. It was, in effect, blood money earned by war crimes.

    While much of Cumberland’s reputation rests on the immediate events surrounding Culloden, he was also a strong advocate and savage pursuer of the suppression of Highland culture. He left behind him the largest army of occupation ever seen in Britain in order to pacify the Highlands while permanent fortifications were built.

    He contributed to a policy of cultural imperialism by disarming the Highlands, abolishing the wearing of Highland dress, suppressing certain surnames linked with the rebellion and seeking to extirpate Catholicism from the land. He even suggested transporting whole clans like the Camerons and MacPhersons to the colonies – a sort of ethnic cleansing.

    By helping to destroy the social nexus of the clan that was at the heart of Highland society, he helped sever the bond between chiefs and clanspeople that had been the basis of Highland society for centuries.

    Lastly, by institutionalising the prejudice that the Highlanders were uncivilised, Cumberland also contributed to the racist views responsible for their later misfortunes.

    (Rab Houston was the editor of The New Penguin History of Scotland: From the Earliest Times to the Present Day (Penguin, 2005).”

    http://www.historyextra.com/article/feature/10-worst-britons-history
    —————-
    And a further historical point comes to mind regarding Field Marshall George Wade, mentioned in the ‘Apple’ poem’s footnote. He, of course, was honoured by that additional verse in the National Anthem:

    “Lord, grant that Marshal Wade
    May, by thy mighty aid,
    Victory bring.
    May he sedition hush
    And, like a torrent, rush
    Rebellious Scots to crush.
    God save the King.”
    —-

    1. Wul says:

      It is telling indeed that the national anthem of Great Britain contains a line about crushing one of it’s own populations. ( who are expected to join voice enthusiastically)

      Presumably this song was sung without any irony or contradiction crossing the minds of its singers. “Great Britain” really being England, but England never being “just” England.

      England itself doesn’t actually have a national anthem. Weird. What and where is England?

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