Meeting the Gaze of the Ghost in the Rubble

It is obvious that the Labour and Tory MP’s do not watch TV. Or inter-act with social media. Last week, on the 21st of February and again on Monday 26th February, they proved themselves immune, to the point of fireproofing, to any humanity. They could not have done what they have done if they had watched hundreds of clips of dead children. Men with their limbs blown off. Babies whose faces are covered in burns. Mothers cradling white-shrouded children. They did not notice the two women carrying buckets walking past a bombed out building looking for water. They did not see the ghost in the rubble of Gaza. A pale Madonna-like figure sheltering in the chaos of death under a shattered concrete floor and behind two collapsed concrete pillars. They saw nothing. Felt nothing. They turned away and continued with their parliamentary chicanery. So much self interest is the dark water of corruption and cruelty. It is the ocean in which we all will drown if we turn away. If we do not look. If we do not see these two brave traumatised women and do not give them water. We must meet the gaze of the ghost in the rubble. 

Outside invasion, destruction and slaughter, as humans, we have to continue to believe that the world is beautiful and that the raw material of the world is susceptible to examination by human reason. But human reason is important only if it contributes to the highest development of the individual human being and in so doing improves the stock of our shared human society. Did Keir Starmer believe he was contributing anything to human reason or society other than to his short-term House of Commons fix? It is obvious that the Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has not seen these two desperate women passing, has not heard the melancholy rattle of their empty water buckets, has not seen the ghost in the rubble, did not have the Palestinian people in his thoughts when he rejected the SNP’s request for an emergency debate on Gaza on Monday 26th of February 2024. By this very action he has rendered every apology and post-event stated reason for the previous Wednesday’s Commons stitch up as being a lie. On the other hand all his previous denials of pressure being applied on him by Keir Starmer to change parliamentary rules and Keir Starmer’s denials of this pressure, are now seen as exactly what happened. Everything they say and do is the opposite of the truth. The truth is what the ghost in the rubble sees.

As the great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish wrote: “I am from there. I am from here. I am not there and I am not here.” He was referring to Ramallah. It also applies to the Scottish MP’s in Westminster. It applies to Scotland within the Union of Ukania. We are neither here nor there.

If the Conservative and Labour parties of Ukania had any real political intelligence they would be preparing for Scottish independence, not denying it. But deny it they do. Where does this denial get them? What do they gain from it? Snug in Edinburgh the Scottish Unionists may crave, for deeply disturbing reasons, the perceived order of the Ukanian constitutional settlement, as they understand it, as opposed to the anticipated disorder of constitutional change, which they fear and refuse to understand at all. It is up to those on the side of independence to remind them that prisons and concentration camps are equally ordered. Quite simply we have to assert our right to freedom – sovereignty, self-determination – if we are not to lose it entirely.  If being certain, coupled with being right, was a profession then in the realm of the sàr cheannardan of Unionism that vocation is full. There is no room in the Union Hall of red, white and blue for the questioning doctors of doubt or the curious advocates of an alternative. The door to this Faculty is closed and locked and the key is lost. The Scots are barred from entry. In so doing the cinn arda of Unionism treat the Scots as criminals because a majority of them declare their inalienable right to govern themselves. This desire, to the Faculty of Unionism, is proof of guilt. 

But as events in the House of Commons on Wednesday 21st February 2024 proved, and the refusal of the Speaker to grant the SNP an emergency debate on Monday 26th has compounded, this negative sentiment no longer holds, for as John Butler Yeats said of Ireland in 1903, and it is true of Scotland today: “she is sufficient into herself”. As are the people of England, who are a fair and proud people, even if most of them are depressingly ignorant of the fact that their political masters are the beneficiaries of universal thieving and the ill-gotten gains accrued from the violence and blood spilling possession of twenty four per cent of the Earth’s total land area. If the true nature of the Ukanian Empire and how it came to be was taught to English children then they may not be so hostile to Scottish independence in later life. It is little wonder that the contemporary inheritors of this historical destructive conquest, those who occupy the seats of governance in Westminster, those who are “there” and “not there”, are so reluctant to condemn those who follow in the modern world a similar financial path to their pirate ancestors. There is money to be made. Israel in Gaza being the latest. 

Last year, just two months before Rishi Sunak opened hundreds of new licences for oil and gas extraction in the North Sea, an IT firm, Infosys founded by his father-in-law and in which his wife has a major share, signed a $1.5 billion deal with energy giant BP to drill for natural gas in Gaza. Israel is already adequately supplied with crude oil, but lacks natural gas and scientific evidence suggests that there are trillions of cubic feet of it under the Gaza Strip and just off the coast in the Mediterranean Sea. Clearing all the Palestinians out of Gaza to somewhere – anywhere – Scotland as one right wing Zionist suggested last week – and raising the place to the ground makes good business sense for Israel, BP and Infosys. Who wants a ceasefire when there is work to be done and money to be made? Just as in 2003 a rictus smiling Tony Blair reassured everyone, teeth gleaming under the TV lights, that the invasion of Iraq was “most definitely not about oil”. 

The reality was somewhat different. As CNN reported on 15th April 2013, 

“From ExxonMobil and Chevron to BP and Shell, the West’s largest oil companies have set up shop in Iraq. So have a slew of American oil service companies, including Halliburton, the Texas-based firm Dick Cheney ran before becoming George W. Bush’s running mate in 2000. The war is the one and only reason for this long sought and newly acquired access.”

There are other invasions to profit from, other colonisations to justify. For the uaislean cinnidh of Ukania the past is the place they look to for justification. It is where their Empire resides. But the past is a subjective place where everyone you meet, if you journey there, can justifiable say, like Darwish, “I am from there. I am from here. I am not there and I am not here.”

In Scotland we have to face the truth about ourselves so that we can move forward. The 2014 referendum, the Brexit referendum of 2016, the terrible invasion of Ukraine and now the wholesale destruction of Gaza and the massacre of her people: these are the recent historic gales and bundles of human debris that push our Angel of History backwards into the future. The ghost in the rubble bears witness.

It is difficult to write about the on-going collective punishment being inflicted upon the people of Gaza by a war-crazed genocidal Zionist regime without some human touchstone of comparison. Most people in Western Europe live in homogenised urban and city environments where news, culture, history, even nature itself, is but a click or a screen stroll away. This alienation from experience and reliance on and frustration with technology was beautifully captured by the American-Palestinian poet Hala Alyan, when she wrote in he Guardian on 28th of January this year,

“My fingers moved like their own orchestra: the swipe, the tapped bright pink heart icon, the hungry scroll through stories. This was during the ceasefire and the stories were about what was being discovered: clips of destruction, people finding their dead.”

The mass removal of a population native to their ground for centuries, the destruction of their homes and livelihoods and the demeaning of their culture and history is an unthinkable experience for many. In the North of Scotland we only have to look back 210 years when we experienced the same horror; different in scale and from a different century but nonetheless the effects can still be seen and felt today. In Caithness and Sutherland 1814 was known as The Year of the Burnings or Bliadhna na Losgaidh, with, on one occasion, a witness in the Strath of Kildonan reported seeing 250 crofts on fire from a single vantage point. As many as 15,000 people were forcibly and violently cleared from the 1.5 million acre estates of the Countess of Sutherland and her husband, the Marquess of Stafford, later to become the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland, so that the land could be let to sheep farmers. It is because of our history that we in the North of Scotland can share the pain and horror currently being experienced by the people of Gaza and by the people of the West Bank and East Jerusalem once the Israeli’s turn their tanks on them. Here we know where the ghost in the rubble comes from – she comes from Kildonan. The same two women walked through the fires during Bliadhna na Losgaidh, looking for water. I am from there. I am from here.

The Labour Party owe their beginnings to Scots like Keir Hardie and Robert Cunningham Graham. Their support came from the shipyards on the Clyde and coal fields of Fife. Now they are a hollowed out party and where their heart should be is an emptiness and rootlessness. This emptiness allowed the Speaker to say “No!” to the SNP’s request for an emergency Commons debate on Gaza. Did this parliamentary refusal, this democratic denial receive the same febrile response from the House of Commons or attract the same blather of press coverage as the stooshie the previous week? No it did not. A minute on Reporting Scotland, a story in The National and that was about it. So we return to the safe and secure matrix of the past where the normality is the two party domination, where interlopers like the SNP are not welcome – they are the barely tolerated strangers, ragged foreigners, the banditti, camping in the Royal deer forest, all the way from Gaza and Kildonan, soon to be moved on by the Met. 

What happens in the House of Commons is not real politics. It is the result of gestures – hollow gestures with no shape to them and no conviction behind them. Keir Starmer is all impulse and energy but with no purpose other than achieving power. This is a dangerous thing. It is how wars start and how people get killed. Yet, sadly, there is nothing new here. The blue, the brown and the black shirts have all been worn by similarly hollowed out individuals who enter politics as one thing and become another along the way. Whoever wears the shirt, no mater what colour it is, what they do is close us in as a society and administer our dreams of freedom into dust. They have no idealism, only materialism: oil, gas, money. 

Meanwhile the ghost still looks out from the rubble of Gaza. Her stare searches  across the ocean of our conscience like the beam of a lighthouse. Whether you believe the search for social justice is grounded in basic universal human nature, or whether you think that both justice and human nature are constructs that vary with changing social, economic, political and historical contexts, the women of Gaza are still looking for water. The ghost in the rubble asks of us all: why can we not stop this madness and feed the people?

©George Gunn 2024


sàr cheannardan – great leaders

cinn arda – high heads

uaislean cinnidh – clan aristocracy



Comments (11)

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  1. Matthew Dalziel says:

    A moving and insightful piece George, sadly it is so true the horror, but good people like yourself give us hope.

  2. William Simpson says:

    Great article. Education of the people of Scotland on what our masters in Westminster have been doing for centuries is sadly lacking and our leaders in Scotland are not doing a good job in conveying what is happening even today.
    We need our leaders to show more passion and more action to use the powers they do have.
    Stop propping up Holyrood working under a failed system, work from the opposition benches, let the unionist take the blame for a failed system. Withdraw our MPs’ from Westminster who could then use their time spreading the truth about
    the Unionist lies and how we could do thing better in Scotland.

    1. Mark Howitt says:

      “Withdraw our MPs’ from Westminster …”

      John Wood suggested this recently commenting on an article about the farcical events surrounding the SNP non-debate on Gaza. Am now firmly of the opinion that the SNP leadership need to make a stand: our 43 representatives are wasted at Westminister.

  3. Meg Macleod says:

    Brilliant commentary.People I meet every day equally stunned by the absence of compassion in the governing institutions that exist.

    1. Thanks Meg, will pass on to George

  4. SleepingDog says:

    Well, the Israeli claim to Palestinian land is based on a poetic interpretation of their equivalent of the Old Testament, while Palestinian claims tend to be more prosaic and material, as featured in this documentary on the Palestinian transfer:
    Documents of ownership and house keys feature.

    I believe that Italian irredentism and futurism produced a lot of poetry in service of fascist-imperialist goals. I suspect there is good reason why international law is not based on poetry, and wouldn’t be improved if it was.

  5. John says:

    Beautifully written and timely article.
    It appears to me (and many others I am sure) that:
    despite the background circumstances of occupation the atrocities perpetrated by Hamas on innocent civilians cannot be justified.
    Just as similarly:
    despite the background circumstances of the Hamas attack of 7th October the forced mass movement, planned starvation and mass killing of innocent civilians by IDF cannot be justified.
    The lack of balance shown by both main UK political parties to the two atrocities on innocent civilians has therefore generated a lot of frustration and some anger amongst large sections of the population.
    Lastly I fail to see how:
    evicting a population en masse from their homes
    moving a population en masse to different parts of the country into temporary tented facilities
    the destruction of large parts of infrastructure and civilians homes
    the denial of food and water to a large part of population
    the killing of a large number of innocent civilians
    cannot be defined as Israel inflicting collective punishment on the populace of Palestine?

  6. Daniel Raphael says:

    Words beyond words. Truly artful, heartful, & devastating in its truth.

  7. John Wood says:

    Very well said indeed.

  8. Gercon says:

    Thank you George.

  9. jim ferguson says:

    A strong and compelling essay. The recent military actions of the Israeli State have revealed yet again the horrifically murderous nature of USAmerican foriegn policy and the hopeless inability of the UK and Europe to do anything other than follow the dominant ideology of the ‘Western’ military-industrial complex. In terms of deep history of ideas we are seeing the results of centuries of European anti-semitism aligned with over a century and a half of Zionism. This is an historical inheritance in which the British empire, and its progeny the USAmerican empire, are wholly complicit. Israel should withdraw its military from all occupied territories and dismantle its apartheid State, anything less will only prolong conflict and human misery.

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