The precious little princess

Increasingly you wake up in the morning, turn on the TV news, hold your head in your hands and cringe saying to yourself and to no one in particular and the world in general – “Oh for God’s sake.” That’s if you’re not hurling abuse and invective, which is never a good way to start the day if you want to keep your blood pressure low. But nowadays I find myself screaming abuse at the TV news and neither Kay Burley nor Nicholas Witchell are on screen at the time. And this is in the morning, Reporting Scotland doesn’t start until 6.30 pm.

Watching British news reporting and there’s one inescapable truth, GB stands for Grossly Buggered. There’s no escaping the fact that Britain is an embarrassment, the dick man of Europe, the guy that never offers to buy a round, the precious little princ ess who thinks it is special and the standards by which the rest of the world is judged do not apply to it. The rules by while the rest of the world is judged do not apply to Britain, because Britain’s special. That’s why we have telly shows like Great British Bake Off, because no other country in the world has cakes. Britain is so special that British nationalism isn’t nationalist at all. We can refuse to help the rest of the world because we need to look after our own people first, and it’s not nationalist to make your compassion and care contingent on a person’s passport as long as their passport is British.

Britain is the one who is asked to help in a humanitarian crisis but pleads that it might affect its car insurance payments. Britain is the country where the first response of the press to a humanitarian crisis washing up on the shores of the Mediterranean is to complain that British holiday makers had their holidays ruined because they were reminded that there is suffering in the world.

We’re surrounded by water and that makes us special, a barrier which means that we’re exempt from giving a toss about the refugees trekking across the continent as a result of the havoc that the West has wrought. You can walk along a Hungarian highway but Britain has no place for you, unless you’re an global finance company, a multimillionaire, an oligarch, a deposed dictator, an arms dealer, or a banker. Britain only has a place for the rich and the powerful, the people who don’t need refuge. You don’t get to be rich and powerful by being a nice person. Britain only has a place for the utter bastards of this world. Utter bastardy is what Britain expects us to aspire to. Those are British values, and they’re cringeworthy.

But our problems are nothing.

People are dying, fleeing death, escaping from oppression and slavery, risking everything and being left with nothing, and the British government refers to them as migrants who are seeking a better life – as if they were contestants on Wish You Were Here who are viewing properties in Australia and comparing the sizes of swimming pools. Back in the real world that the refugees are in, the swimming pool contains a dead body, face down.

This is one of the richest countries in the world. We have a housing crisis while thousands of properties stand empty, owned by faceless offshore companies as investment opportunities, while outside they install spikes on flat surfaces to prevent homeless people taking shelter. We have foodbanks and poverty while a small number get increasingly wealthy, and the poverty porn on Channel 5 speaks of handouts while turning a blind eye to the tax dodges, bonuses and privilege of the wealthy.

The British government is now trying to fudge the numbers, hinting that they may allow a few dozen more here, a couple of hundred more there to seek shelter in the UK. But they want it to be conditional on adding to the bombs that are already falling on Syrian cities. Kobane and Aleppo already stand in ruins, flattened and destroyed. What they really need are more bombs, British bombs. Because British bombs are virtuous and problem solving bombs. British bombs blow things up in constructive and helpful ways, unlike Syrian bombs.

Britain could easily take in 55,000 Syrian refugees. That’s the same number of people who speak Gaelic, that ‘dead language no one speaks’ according to people who care more about two Gaelic words on the side of a helicopter than they do about drowned children washed up on a Turkish beach. 55,000 is apparently an insignificant number when it comes to speakers of the Gaelic language, but unimaginably large when it comes to desperate people wanting to flee from death. Yet Britain could shelter twice as many.

Sweden, which has a population of just 8 million, has given refuge to over 40,000. Tiny Lebanon has received 1.2 million across its border with Syria. There are 1.8 million in Turkey. Germany has said that it will receive 800,000. 55,000 refugees in the UK is nothing, yet the maximum figure being bandied about by the UK government is 15,000, and even that figure is only being aired after the immense pressure of an outraged populace disgusted by how the UK is showing itself to be the Ebenezer Scrooge of international efforts. Even the Scottish government is only suggesting it would take 1000 refugees – that’s nowhere near enough.

It’s not like there is nowhere for the refugees to go. Britain could house them in the grace and favour spare bedrooms of the royal family, in the thousands of empty flats and houses owned by offshore tax dodgers, in the empty office space built by speculators. But even 55,000 is a drop plucked from an ocean. The British establishment tells us that it doesn’t want an EU wide settlement to ensure that every European country has to take its fair share of refugees because they want the EU to be a commercial organisation. The EU should only benefit big business and capital, not people.

And that’s the sentiment that also lies behind government in this country. The UK exists to service capital, and so does its people. That’s why there’s so much focus on forcing the disabled into work, because unless you’re making money for someone else you have no value or worth in Britain. That’s why we need out, in an independent Scotland we can value human life, not the money they make for big business.

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Refugees are welcome here

Aylan Kurdi never knew peace, in his short and tragic life, he never knew safety. He met his death on a Turkish beach as his family tried to escape the death that stalks Syria. His undeserved fate is to become a symbol of a tragedy that he was too young to comprehend.

The UK media is complicit in his death, for demonising those who flee from the devastation sparked off by the foreign policy of Western governments, who run from the destruction caused by the products of Western arms manufacturers. Today the Sun with crocodile tears says that Cameron must take military action. The Sun’s definition of compassion is a bombing campaign, more bombs and wars to assuage the guilt of those who turn their backs on the desperate faces that our European governments have stripped of hope. Just a handful of Syrian refugees have been accepted by the UK. There are more on a single train, blocked by Hungarian police.

This is the same paper that ran a column calling refugees cockroaches. I hope Katie Hopkins is feeling proud of herself today. I hope that the image of Aylan Kurdi is burned into her conscience and seared in her soul, but I’m not holding out any hope. The dehumanised ones are not the refugees, it’s Katie and those like her. With its dehumanising rhetoric, the UK press strips the humanity from the desperate and makes us all less humane. Then it hold up the Katie Hopkins of this world as examples for the rest of us to aspire to, a casual cruelty is the new compassion.

If you believe the UK press, and sadly many do, the refugees are not fleeing war and the destruction of their homes. They’re not fleeing the so-called Islamic State, the death-cult perversion of an ancient faith that destroys antiquities and culture and beheads a nation into barbarism. They’re coming for £36 a week in social security payments. These heartless and insulting articles are written by well upholstered arses who spend more than that on a liquid lunch. Aylan Kurdi’s home was destroyed by IS. His family took him on a dangerous journey which ended in his death, and the death of his five year old brother and their mother, because it was safer than the alternative. They didn’t face death on a Turkish beach because they were attracted by the tender mercies of the Department of Work and Pensions and the UK Home Office. Britain is not that generous.

We should not be surprised at this lack of empathy, the UK won’t even grant asylum to the Afghan interpreters who worked with British forces in Afghanistan. They risked their lives for the British armed forces, and now they’ve been abandoned, risking death on a daily basis. The UK government doesn’t feel it owes them any debt of gratitude, refuses to allow them to settle in the UK. So it’s hardly surprising its response to the Syrian refugee crisis is cant and hypocrisy, the pretence of care and a poor fascimile of compassion. If you are not a highly paid executive for a global finance company indebting the poor in developing nations, if you’re not a Russian oligarch dripping with ripped off billions, Britain has no place for you.

The only refugees of interest to the UK are those who can pump thousands into the coffers of Westminster’s political class. This is a country which showed more respect for the human rights of Augustin Pinochet than it did for the British citizens of the Chagos Islands, unceremoniously evicted and dumped penniless in Mauritius to make way for a US air base. Let’s have no more of this self-congratulatory crap about what a welcoming society the UK is. We’re Better Together as long as you’re not a refugee, we’re pooling and sharing except with those who are in the greatest need.

Germany and Sweden give shelter to tens of thousands, Britain quibbles about a few dozen. There is not a single refugee in David Cameron’s constituency. In the UK, compassion is far fetched, empathy is a fantasy, grace and humanity are held in contempt. Faced with an international crisis to which the UK government has played a part in creating, this country is a disgrace, a shame, a stain. It’s the selfish self-interested bigot in the bar who thinks only of the price of his car insurance and how much he can get for his house, the I’m alright Union Jack.

Cameron says that the real solution to the problem is to seek a lasting peace in the Middle East, when we have Tony bloody Blair as Middle East Peace Envoy. Which is like telling cancer sufferers that you’re not going to offer them any treatment because the real solution to their problem is to find a cure for cancer, and then entrusting the search for a cure to a man who makes his millions by selling ciggies to schoolkids.

This is the compassionate and caring Union that Better Together campaigned for us to be a part of, a Union that thinks the solution to a refugee crisis is more bombing and more war. If there is no quick fix involving an air campaign, the UK isn’t interested. It’s someone else’s problem and Westminster walks away, surrounding itself by high hedge funds so it can’t see the suffering. This is why so many of us sought independence last year, and why the numbers supporting it grow with every passing month. We don’t want to live in a heartless society which knows the price of everything but doesn’t grasp the value of human life. We want a Scotland that cares, that says to the dispossessed – refugees are welcome here.

Refugees enrich our society, they give to us all. Refugees are your future colleagues, the friend you’ll bond with over a coffee at work. Refugees are our university graduates, our doctors, our lawyers, our mechanics, our teachers. Refugee children will play in the park with your kids. Refugees are our future partners, our lovers, our spouses. Refugees are our family.

Refugees are welcome.

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One year on

This is an unashamedly personal post. Thursday is the first anniversary of the death of my partner Andy, an anniversary which is far more personally significant, meaningful, and painful than the anniversary of any political defeat. This time last year, as the independence referendum campaign was reaching its end, the saltires waved and hope was in the air and YES posters plastered windaes, the centre of my life was torn away from me. After a long illness in which each piece of him was removed one by one, the teetering tower of blocks which supported his life finally fell away, and came tumbling down leaving me in the rubble of a life lived together.

Andy’s death was a peaceful one. I was with him at the end and had a chance to make my goodbyes, to bid him farewell, to wish him a safe journey. He passed without leaving me with regrets, without anger, without rancour. That was his final gift to me.

This time last year I was terrified. I’d been with Andy for almost 25 years, and for the previous few years I’d devoted myself to his care. He was the centre of my solar system and without him I was hurtling through the dark depths of deep space, alone and unlit. His death was not unexpected, it came as no surprise, but however much you brace yourself for impact you are still rocked and shocked when it occurs. It still stuns.

The inevitable had happened, the dread day had arrived. Cold, afraid, I suddenly found myself confronted with a life alone. How could I build a life without him? Could I fly solo, could I walk through the darkness unaccompanied, how was I going to make a living, what purpose did I have any more. Where would the centre lie, how to anchor myself, adrift in the vastness of loss. I’d been with him so long, how could I learn to be me without him. Those are the fears that overwhelm, that stalk the nightmares of loneliness.

I started this blog because I was trapped indoors caring for Andy. He suffered from vascular dementia and could not be left unattended. His illness meant that he slowly lost all those parts of himself that had made me fall in love with him all those years ago. I never stopped loving him, but our relationship changed, I ceased to be his partner, and became his carer.

However as I watched him slowly lose his personhood, his gifts and skills, and grieved for him while he still lived, I came to realise that I was losing myself too. Carers give everything, they give of themselves until there’s nothing left. So I started this blog, it gave me a wee island where I could be myself, and I’d sit on the sofa and type on the laptop while Andy sat beside me. Typing for my sanity, typing for myself, typing for a Scotland that lived only in dreams and hopes. What I never realised, lost as I was in the concern of a carer, and then lost in the grief of loss, was that this blog touches others.

One year on and Andy’s loss still hurts, but the raw and bleeding edges of the hole in my heart have scarred and hardened. I miss him, I miss who I used to be be when we were together. But the loss has become a part of me, and I’m learning to live with it. As I wept on that day, dazed and devastated, uncomprehending in the magnitude of grief, I slowly came to realise that there could still be hope, and that’s what kept me going. I can live and love again. I can hope, and I can still dream.

And I have you to thank for that, the readers of this blog, the kind strangers who showed me that there was still a reason to hope, to fight, to go on. You gave me a reason to get up in the mornings, you gave me a purpose. You showed me that a country is a community, a community of care and compassion. With people like you in it, Scotland’s future is assured.

And here we are, a year on, a referendum lost but a country gained. We’re still here, still fighting, still persuading, still arguing, still being. With every word, with every day, we show that another Scotland is possible.

We don’t all agree. After a year it’s clear that the independence movement was always broad coalition of diverse views, distinct voices, and different opinions. We have disagreements, but that’s a good and healthy thing. We are a nation not a political party, but we remain united in the belief that power rests with the people of Scotland, that the best people to decide on the future of this land are those who live here and love here. We remained united in the knowledge that our country’s many problems and issues can only be tackled successfully when we as a nation take collective responsiblity into our own hands and we stand before the world as an equal.

The referendum was not the end, it was only the beginning. One year on and an opinion poll for STV shows that 53% support independence. Once don’t knows are omitted, that rises to 55%. The cause of independence continues to make ground. We’re not there yet, we need to have support consistently over 60% over the course of a few opinion polls before we push for another independence referendum.

But one thing is clearer now than it ever was, our day is coming, the confidence of a people grows, the realisation is made in more and more minds that Scotland unleashed and unchained can only grow and flourish. Scotland is no longer submerged, we’ve come to the surface and we’re breathing the fresh clean air again.

We do this for Andy, we do this for Margo MacDonald, we do for all those who believed in Scotland but are no longer here. We carry them in our memories and we will never forget. We’ll carry them to the independent Scotland that they believed in and fought for. And we do this for our children, we do this for ourselves. It’s happening. We are not afraid any more.

Donate to the Dug This blog relies on your support and donations to keep going – I need to make a living, and have bills to pay. Clicking the donate button will allow you to make a payment directly to my Paypal account. You do not need a Paypal account yourself to make a donation. You can donate as little, or as much, as you want. Many thanks.

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Weapon of mind destruction

Ever since the independence referendum, the UK government, its agencies, agents, and its cheerleaders, have gone out of their way to rub the noses of Scotland’s independence supporters in the brown stain on the underpants of the narrow victory for No. Although they saved their Union, at least for the time being, the victory was not the crushing one they’d hoped for. The desire for independence was unleashed and remains unleashed, stalking the land and spreading the virus of hope, preaching the possibility of change. A year on, and the independence movement is still here, still loud, still proud, still organising ourselves, still putting the fear of Gord into the Unionist establishment. We came out of the kailyaird and into the streets and the cities, and there’s no going back. The independence referendum wasn’t the end of Scotland’s road to self determination, it was the beginning.

You’d think, given such circumstances, that a sensible Unionist government would go out of its way to placate Yes supporters, to stave off the inevitable as long as possible, to buy friends, to split enemies into opposing camps by means of judicious bribes and carefully constructed carrots. Giving Scotland devo max, and making this country the most devolved nation in the history of devolving would satisfy many. That’s only what was promised back in the fag end of the referendum campaign when the Union was a doubt. It would reduce the demand for independence to a level that might be manageable. It would keep Scotland addicted to the cancer sticks of Westminster, at least for the time being.

While such a strategy would not ensure that the demand for independence would fall entirely quiet, it would at least buy the British state some breathing space during which it just might find some means of reforming itself. The greatest issue facing the British state in 2015 is to find a lasting solution to the deep seated problem that half of Scotland think our Parliament in Westminster is so fundily-mundily corrupt, so out of touch, so unfit for purpose, that we’d rather walk off and start again with a Scottish parliament we can keep on a short leash. You’d think that this imperative would be even more to the fore in the minds of our rulers, given the utter humiliation which the Scottish electorate heaped upon the parties of No during the General Election in May.

But no. Instead the UK government is trying to return to business as usual, to pretend that the events of the past couple of years were like season nine of Dallas, and Davie Cameron woke up in the shower in Number 10 on the morning of 19 September to discover that Alicsammin was just a bad dream. It was back to business as usual, the same cast of bad actors spouting their hackneyed lines. Not even the destruction of the Unionist parties’ Westminster representation could force the spin doctors to realise that they needed a new plot line. They’ve lost the plot entirely.

We are governed by trolls who are howled on by arrogant ignoramuses who wear their lack of understanding like a badge of pride. We live in a country whose foodbanks are protected by nuclear warheads, where dying after being found fit for work by the Job Centre is the leading cause of murder, where the respect agenda means only that we must respect the No vote and never respect ourselves or expect to be respected. We live in a country where progressive politics means the progressive proscription of hope.

The solution to the Tory problem, say the Westminster chatterati, is Andy or Liz or Yvette, interchangeable middle managers returned from a Human Resources course. Andlizette have redefined sensible to mean whatever the Tories and big business say, and everyone else must sign up to that agenda. The modern definition of common sense is for a small number to get obscenely wealthy while raping the planet’s resources and impoverishing the rest of society, spending billions on weapons of mass destruction whose use spells the end of what’s left of civilisation. The role of the modern government is to manage our expectations, to ensure that we are quiescent and put all the blame on the poor. Andlizette offer everything that the Tories offer, only with a sad face, while telling us it’s all for our own good.

We’ve reached such a low pass in this country, that weapons of mass destruction are what we are offered by Westminster as a job creation scheme. It’s a shameful, disgusting obscenity. And our media doesn’t see fit to challenge the Goverment on just how many jobs depend on Trident, the number is blown up in direct proportion to the vanity of the politician making the announcement. It’s a number that blows up like a Trident missile. We spend billions on a machine of evil whose only product is death, and we are supposed to welcome this. We spend billions on a device that puts Scotland at risk, the accident prone nuclear base could make half of Scotland uninhabitable for a thousand years. Our Westminster masters don’t care, they already think Scotland is uninhabitable by anyone who counts.

Yet on the day that George Osborne came to Scotland to promise some radioactive viagra for the nuclear dildo that substitutes for British great power status, the Unionist trolls on Twitter focused their spleen on two Gaelic words on the side of a police helicopter. The greatest wrong faced by modern Scotland isn’t that the government chooses to spend £500 million more on a useless weapons system that does nothing except inflate the vanity of politicians while citizens starve after their benefits are sanctioned, it’s that poor North Britons have occasionally to look at words on signs that are written in Gaelic and so be reminded that Scotland has a culture and a history independent of the Union that they fetishise as the core of their identity.

I don’t mind people who have no interest in a part of Scotland’s heritage. I am quite happy for people to define their own Scottish identity, and if that’s a Scottish identity that doesn’t include Gaelic or Scots I have no quibbles with them. But what I do object to is them telling the rest of us that their monolingual Scottishness is somehow superior, and that their ignorance of Scottish linguistic history is a form of erudition.

And I object even more when they use their ignorance as a weapon of mind destruction, as a means to distract us from other issues, like the the weapons of mass destruction imposed on our country, the democratic shortfall that gives us a Tory government, the decline into sad irrelevance of the Labour party, and the obscenity of foodbanks protected by nuclear weapons.

Donate to the Dug This blog relies on your support and donations to keep going – I need to make a living, and have bills to pay. Clicking the donate button will allow you to make a payment directly to my Paypal account. You do not need a Paypal account yourself to make a donation. You can donate as little, or as much, as you want. Many thanks.

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