We left school with this now ingrained assumption: That we were at the bottom of the hierarchy, that by our nature we were inferior, and that we could never escape our predestined and natural place in a world that was owned and managed by our superiors. Looking back, it troubles me the most that this was done to us by our fellow Scots; by men and women who daily made it their business to correct our Scots language – or, as they called it, our ‘bad English’ – and whose greatest ambition was to be thought of as British.
But how does one go about translating the theological equivalent of Donne’s “every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main” to an angsty teenager in 2019? How is this shared with a youngster, the product of capitalistic and atomised personal nihilism and pervasive cultural pessimism? Nothing makes me fear for the future of faith more than the thought that an uncrossable chasm has opened between the generations of our grandparents and that of their grandchildren.
This “common man” was never in the original chronicles of the Scottish Wars of Independence. History was written by the elite for the benefit of the elite, it never had the common man and woman in mind – they were always unimportant. The medieval chroniclers went into lurid detail when describing the deaths of knights on the battlefield, they seldom mentioned the village women who were raped and murdered or the peasant farmers conscripted as archer fodder.
As Britain hastily cobbles together a black history of Britain the coming of the Windrush generation is being framed as an invitation. It was nothing of the sort. The British Empire was imploding. In order to offer a lifeline to its predominantly white imperial ruling caste in the colonies it granted citizenship to former subjects, not thinking that the native populations and the decedents of former African slaves would take up the freedom this citizenship offered with such relish.
One response to this has been the creation of the “safe space,” a concept that routinely excites these right wing vloggers into apoplectic frothiness. What right, they ask, do these “snowflakes” have to a space of their own where they do not need to put up with our constant stream of vitriol and bile? They have presented the safe space as some sort of spatial free pass within the academy, the college, and the university, where the delicate can ride through towards graduation without anything they might find upsetting, offensive, or “triggering.”
Right across Scottish civil society institutions and people of influence were co-opted into supporting the union and using their influence to persuade others. Every major employer, banking and financial institutions, industrial giants, and colleges and universities was brought in on the game to campaign behind the scenes for the union at a social and cultural level.
Verbal abuse is violence, and can often be every bit as harmful as physical violence. It is important that we are clear on this point before we proceed. James Heappey, MP for Wells in Somerset, made the headlines for telling a Scottish schoolgirl to “fuck off back to Scotland.”
Robbed of our past we are limited in our understanding of how Scotland has become the property of the English state through Union, to be used to the sole benefit of the London government.