Honestly, we didn’t think they thought like that – not really, and not so ordinarily. We had our suspicions, but we had no way of knowing just how idiotic and wonderfully deluded the opinion of the average Englishman is. Boasting of empire and the conquest of half the world, taking pride in something analogous to robbing half the houses on Highfield Road, is a special kind of craziness. It betrays the ignorance at the heart of England’s memory of empire, an obnoxious and dark period of British history in which thoughts of racial supremacism led to genocide and ethnic cleansing.
Yet the poppy, from the joke it was – no matter how ordinary innocent people feel about wearing it, has been “hijacked,” or so we are told. It has now become the totem of hyper-aggressive, right-wing racist British nationalism. On the football field it has become the weapon of choice to be deployed against non-British outsiders; Irish Catholics and Argentinians – very much victims of British imperial and colonial violence – who play for English clubs. On the lapels of knuckle-dragging thugs it has become a compliment to the Nazi swastika tattooed on their necks.
Britain is not a nation. It is a vicious imperial political construct that has been imposed upon us, but it has power over us only for as long as we accept that it has a valid claim on us. We of course have to accommodate ourselves to some extent to this imposition by having a foreign royal and imperial insignia on our passports, by being UK citizens, and such like – we can’t function in the world without these things – but nothing of this means even in the slightest that we are British.
Thanks in large part to the way the internet and social media work we have been herded into tribes of opinion, rarely coming face-to-face – or “interfacing” – with people of radically differing opinions. Trends in the development of identity politics have perceptively homogenised our tribal opinions, making us less independent thinkers than subscribers to our chosen tribal groupthink. What this means is that people are increasingly finding themselves pressured into adopting a package of positions so as to conform to the expectations of the collective.
Scottishness is not about the blood in my veins. There is nothing genetic about being Scottish. No matter how soggy the turf, no matter how refreshing the water, or glorious the scenery, there is nothing in Scotland’s fields and brooks that makes us Scots. Scotland is a beautiful relationship; a long and intimate conversation with the people we love most and count as our own. It is a friendship that continues to be new and alive no matter how long the parting or wide the distance between us. My Scotland is home – where I started and where I am going.
Walkers Shortbread has landed itself in a spot of bother over a marketing decision. The family run business thought it would be a good idea to launch a union flag shortbread tin, thinking the Scottish public would see in it nothing more than a Scottish company doing what it takes to make a buck. One would be forgiven for wondering where the heck Jim Walker, the firm’s managing director, has been for the last few years. There is no one in Scotland in 2018 who thinks the flag of the United Kingdom – the “butcher’s apron” – is a politically neutral emblem of national identity and patriotism.
Social media – now very much “the world of trolls” – offers us what real life simply cannot, the ability to be all-sufficient. It offers us the possibility to find meaning in our undeveloped and un-self-become humanity. Behind the fiction of a social media profile we can be the men and women we want to be; the person we desire most to present to the world, without ever affecting any real change in the person who we actually are in the real world. This I will call the 'avatar,' the fictive person we create online...
We are in the middle of another phase, it would seem, of British unionisation – cultural colonialism – in Scotland right now, and it is impossible not to notice. What’s more, we all know why this is happening. Independence has refused to go away. Almost weekly there are fresh calls from the unionists in Holyrood and Westminster for the Scottish National Party to take another referendum off the table once and for all. They appear to imagine that it is Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP fuelling the drive to self-determination.