Looking back?

I have read more than my fair share of news articles this week, that have me now believing I am a time traveller. This is huge news and I am unsure of how it has happened but it must have.

For, I have stumbled upon an alternate universe where Scotland used to be fantastic and now is shit. We used to be all snuggly under the flag of the union. Each step we take away from the red, white and blue blanket seems to take us further into a quagmire. Our future is a cold, dark, dank place where no amount of Saltires will warm the soul. It is all down to the current Scottish Government who will not just piss off and leave it to London.

You may be cynical of my claim but I have proof, in fact, we all do. Every single one of us, who has been around longer than Anas Sarwar’s leadership battle, has proof. We just need to remember the actual events in our lives and the proof will come to us.

This theory first developed in a Community Council meeting. It had been a tedious meeting with little other than criticism of everything. Nothing positive was said and everyone’s morale had got up and gone home. The chair, a man well over retirement age, encouraged other attendees to remember the good old days. They remembered a utopia of kindness and neighbourly folk who did not litter, never argued and had little to complain about.

Another gent, of the same era, then admitted that because crime in our community is so high nowadays, he feared for his very safety and never left the house after dark. Instead, choosing to lock himself in nightly and live only during the daylight hours.

So I asked, what crime? The room literally stopped breathing and turned to see who had interrupted their shared vision of fear and loathing of all. No answer came, so I asked again. What crime? This time I was answered with “You know, CRIME!”. After much prodding and cajoling, one count of a neighbour having their hut broken into was all that could be recalled. Oh, apart from “all the stuff in the papers and oan the telly”.

One by one, I went through the crime figures for the locality. Each was down on previous year(s), each was getting progressively lower, the evidence and I mean evidence all pointed to the fact that our community is much safer now than it had been. Only motorcycle theft was up and none of the attendees owned or rode a motorcycle.

My next question was – could it be that age has given you a fear you never had previously? No, no, no, no, no, no….yes. The gent had thought, he had been through denial and reached into his actual memories and now knew. He never used to have this fear, he had been a man not to be messed with in his time. That time was gone and with it so was his confidence. It was replaced with consternation and that itself had been blocked until it had been forced to the forefront of his consciousness.

We talked through this phenomena, his newfound truth, he suggested that bad news had made him fearful. Now I use bad news here as opposed to news because it is not news or facts that are reported in our media, it is bad news. There are many reasons, that I will leave for you to think over. I have my deep suspicion it is a political ploy to move us further to the right using distress and dismay. Guess what? It works.

Our media constantly spouts rhetoric that has been put together in the central teams of one or other of the opposition parties in Holyrood. It is not fact, it is far from the truth but that does not matter. It sells. No fact-checking is carried out for these are opinion pieces wrapped up as news.

Emotions like fear, anger and hate are strong and if propelled by them you will buy up the news that feeds them. This is one of the reasons that The Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, The Guardian, The Observer, The Sun, The Sun on Sunday, The Times and The Sunday Times are given away free in some supermarkets.

I ask you now to all look into your memories and ask what it was really like when we grew up. Was it better?

For me, I grew up under Thatcher. The only time I saw my Grandfather cry, he was watching the news of Thatcher winning the 1979 election. His words to my Grandmother “Oh Jesus Nora, we’re fucked!” This was one of only a handful of times I heard him swear too. He prefered using “bucking” and “get tae France”. We knew what he meant.

I can remember having free school milk, it stopped before I started school but our council carried on the provision as long as they could. Free school dinners were available. You stood in a separate line with a different colour ticket for your free dinner. You were called a tramp, treg or any other vile name that children had heard and memorised from older siblings or parents. I was not one of those unfortunates that received free school dinners, although I was entitled. My, single, working three jobs, mother felt I had enough to contend with being fat and a bastard without adding to list of the names I was called. (I actually was taught the meaning of Bastard by a teacher. We’ll call her a teacher, although hardly appropriate by today’s standards.) So Mum struggled to find the weekly fee and many days I would have a snarky note handed to me by said teacher, who frankly had no place being near children.

I suffered from chronic tonsillitis as a youngster and only when the school wrote to my GP was I referred for a tonsillectomy. This was down to waiting lists and a shortage of beds. My family recall me being in a week, out a week for lengthy periods at school. All the while suffering from a soaring temperature and a throat that almost closed twice due to the swelling. I was a regular with penicillin, to which I have an allergy. This led to one hospitalisation and my first trip in an ambulance. My “Tonsillitis Years” are etched in my memory. As is the wakening in an adult ward in the Royal Infirmary after my surgery, I was 10. It was a mixed adult ward. I was moved when my Grandad (who worked there as an orderly) moved me himself and threatened a doctor against my repatriation.

We covered our school books and you could tell the owner of the book, without reading the name, if you recognised the wallpaper covering it. The books were outdated, quite often published before our births. They were well-kept though. We all knew that families being forced to buy a school book because of vandalism would not be happy. A couple of my best friends had, what would now be known as, additional support needs. They were put in a remedial class. More names ensued.

A family member with complex learning needs due to trauma of a family separation was deemed to be “difficult” and was shipped to Fife to “special school”. They sometimes had to board if the “difficulties” increased. We attended a free playscheme every summer. Access to the disco was by payment of a tin of foodstuff. This was then donated to those who could not feed themselves within the community. The playscheme relied on volunteers from the community and was funded by those same volunteers fighting with the council. It was after all, cheaper than the police having to deal with us.

Families had to go without regularly. Our velvet livingroom curtains where often taken down and pawned to make ends meet for a week or two. This was in a two bedroomed council home where three adults worked many, many jobs and my disabled Granny was my full-time babysitter. Grandad did the school runs until I was old enough to walk it myself.

I did ok at school, 8 O Grades (A-C, Secretarial Studies…..due to me owning a vagina…..my only C), I then went onto full-time work and college on day release to complete 3 Highers, English B, Economics A and Accountancy A.

My school had suggested university. “What would a lassie fae Lochend want wae university?”, I was asked. I didn’t have an answer. I knew we would be better with an additional wage, so the decision was an easy one. I have since re-read my school reports and it seems I was naturally quite gifted. If this had not been so, then it would have been the standard grade class, where you could leave at 15 if you promised to come back and sit the exams.

My story is not an extraordinary one. All those living in the same scheme grew up with this. Their view may be different. I would ask them first…..where do they get their news.

Today’s A & E results are the best they have been in 10 years and a 10-year-old me would not now wake up in an adult ward.

It is a proven myth that 25% of primary school children cannot read. It is just not true. So many of my generation never got the help or support to be anything more. Due to being “difficult” or because of remedial classes. Dyslexia, Autism and even grief, had us labelled as thick or difficult.

P1-P3 now all get free meals and all newborns are given a baby-box. This gives them an equal start, regardless of the differences they have in home life. Gone are different queues and the unprofessional teachers. We now have some of the highest qualified educational staff anywhere.

Our university and higher education remains free. Five years free education for all and teamed with the best ever SQA results. Our next generations are well placed to lead the world.

Support networks and recognition of mixed needs underpin our inclusive education system. While there is always room for improvement, it has come such a long way.

Crime is down and we are living in a safer environment. It did used to all happen previously, we just never knew about it. We are all switched onto the web and 24 hour news, so we know more. It is not that more is happening.

My past was under Westminster control. Scotland did not have its Parliament or Government then, as it does now. So who did we blame? No one! We just accepted what was.

Now. Now, there is an opportunity for a different future. One where a Scottish Parliament of whatever persuasion changes our lives for the better. We had a chance not to have our budget set by our neighbour. We chose not to do that.

We chose to pay for nuclear weapons that are controlled by Trump in the Clyde. We chose to have WASPI women not given the pension they had paid into for decades. We chose to reward bankers who gambled our futures and punish the disabled. That is what we chose, that is what we got.

The small powers our Scottish Government have are used to better, where possible. The bedroom tax is mitigated, a hardship fund stops evictions. Further education is free. Prescriptions are free. Bus Passes for retirees are free. Baby-boxes create equality from birth. Our bridge is completed and under budget. Our transport infrastructure improves yearly. Council tax freeze was in place for 9 years to be replaced by relief for more vulnerable people. Our small country is innovative and impressive as it operates on a shoestring that is constantly shortened by our neighbour.

Yet, this is not the world I am in at the moment. According to the columns I have read, I am in a hopeless place that is a shadow of its former self. Every step we take to a better future is reported as a tragedy for humanity.

Proof indeed, that I am a time traveler and have stumbled upon this alternate universe. For when I look to my past, there is no Utopia. Life is better now for most of us. There is so much more to do but for that we need more brave souls. Brave enough to take the rose-tinted spectacles off before looking at their history and brave enough to understand that under the Tories, things will always be shit for most of us. It should come as no surprise, they openly represent the few. Are they also brave enough to see that under Labour, the things can only get better tagline never materialised. They did not reverse the decline in manufacturing, privatisation or our educational standards.

So, when we read these headlines. The guff that spills from the pages and from the mouths of the presenters, should be the sign. The sign that they too can see a different future, a better future and that is scaring the very truth from them. So instead of encouraging us to look forwards. They constantly refer to the past. Are you with them? Or are you actually looking back?

 

 

When is terror not terror?

As I sit down to write this, my background noise is filled with sentiments and outpourings for Barcelona. Rightly so. More lives lost and lives shattered, never to be the same as they once were or deserve to be.

Terrorism strikes at the very heart of another community and steals loved ones and futures.

The TV and radio stations clamber for the devastation. It is after all, big news which sadly equals big bucks. I don’t think those reporters or journalists would be so cold to calculate it in this fashion but it is no accident that they cover it around the clock until the story fizzles from our consciousness.

My social media reflects the tragedy and Catalan/Spanish flags adorn those who want to be supportive. They really feel the pain of those affected and in turn they empathise. We have memes appear, they are more usual now, with words we recognise but shouldn’t. The candle photograph is on repeat as I scroll. I skip past them all. I don’t need to read them, the differences are minimal, the sentiment the same.

We are all affected. Or, is it infected?

On Saturday, a terrorist used a car to plough into innocent people. He killed one and seriously injured many more. Yesterday in two separate attacks in Spain, the exact same thing happened. More lives were lost and more injured souls fight for their lives and will forever carry the scars.

So what is the difference? I can see none. I see them both as the acts they were intended to be. Terrorism.

So I Google “Spain terror attack”. There is page after page with the headlines of “Barcelona and Cambrils Terror Attacks”. It is uniform almost, the wording changing in the minutest form. I take from this that the story is clearly being well covered. No real facts are missing and the headlines have it captured perfectly. This is exactly what I expect. My social media is a reflection of this.

I then Google “USA terror attack” I have used the same general term that I have with the previous one. What comes up is surprising. I am faced with a litany of pages and headlines for terrorism in general, a few about the 9/11 attack. These continue to the second page where finally…..the two attacks in Spain are headlined? What happened to Charlottesville?

Finally, when I Google “Charlottesville terror attack” I find news of this. However, there is something striking from the headlines linked to this;

“Charlottesville Rally Turns Deadly” –  NBC News

“Man charged with murder after driving into anti-far-right protestors” – The Guardian

“One killed as car ploughs into counter-protestors” – The Sun

“Scores injured, one dead as car ploughs into protestors” – NY Post

So from the headlines, this is not a terror attack, it is at best a murder at worst an accident as it is “the car” that has caused the death, not the driver.

This use of language may seem subtle to some. It is not to me and many more. Why is it still carrying on? Why are our world press organisations being allowed to use language to set a false tone?

Is it that they see only terrorism when it is a brown face? Is it that simple? Or is it that fear is selling? The rags that spout the hate and yet pay little or no tax have a readership that is solid, they seemed to have plugged the haemorrhaging of readers by stoking fear and promoting their bile.

This is a striking hypocrisy. Is it that all those that read and believe are blind to it? Do they choose not to see or is it the subtle use of language that is drawing them in?

I do not believe for a heartbeat that those who saw or heard about the Charlottesville attack were not sympathetic. A life lost, more injured, scarred and affected by terror. Where were the candles, the flags on the corner of the profile pics?

This goes far wider than these incidents on differing continents. Where are the flags, candles and banners for all of those affected by terror? Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, India, Somalia, Egypt and Libya – the top ten countries affected by terror, according to Forbes.

Is it ok when the USA and UK inflict terror? Are we justified in ignoring every other country and only mourning for those who may look a little more like us?

Both of these recent atrocities carried out in Spain and the US were terrorism. Both are attacks by right wing extremists whose brand of fascism may be a little different but that’s just branding, it is still fascism. The similarity is striking, yet our media don’t want that recognised. We should all be asking ourselves the reasons for this and demanding to know who it is that they are actually protecting from this information.

So……When is terror not terror? Why aren’t you asking that question?

 

Do we always have to be right to be left?

The campaign trail has been a little quiet of late. At least as far as the Independence movement is concerned. I am using this as the excuse for us looking to tear lumps out of each other. We’re just a bit bored and need something to do? Right?

So, I look at the right wing media and the right wing blogs and social media sites and nowhere do I see the same replicated. Twitter is full of avatars, with few followers but a whole lot to say. Most spout the vitriol that has been compiled for them in the press or by the likes of Brian Spanner (add any variation of McScottishness for the full effect of the disdain for the northern region of his beloved British Empire), History Woman, Agent P, Roger White et al. They all follow one another and each has hoards of union protecting avatars to call on.

The same twitter handles appear whenever you dare to question one of them. Most do not have a name or a face, they are just a being. Perhaps supreme being as far as they are concerned, who knows.

The common goal of their British Nationalism holds them flawlessly together as though they were cast members playing out J R R Tolkien’s famous words, adapted here to suit their agenda – One Flag to rule them all, One Flag to find them, One Flag to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

I do not believe for a moment that each of these people, I am presuming they are actual people and not bots, agree with one another at all times. It just simply cannot be the case. When you consider that Labour stalwarts stood side by side with Tories for the same fight. Some of those Labour people are good people, they believe in fairness, solidarity and progressive politics. Their party tied them to a different agenda at that time. They would never agree with a single solitary Tory agenda but for them, the prize of staying part of the UK was bigger and was worthy.

And herein lies the issue……do we always have to be right on the left?

Cat Boyd has come under a barrage of criticism lately. As has Robin McAlpine, Wings Over Scotland and various others. My question is not whether these criticisms are deserved or not, my question is………is it necessary?

I attended with thousands of others the March For independence in Glasgow, 3 June. It was positive, progressive and sent a fabulous message to others that we are still here, we still care and we are many. It was organised by All Under One Banner. That name itself is quite descriptive and should have been apt. However, a few high profile names pulled out and one man was cited as the cause of this.

Why? Why was this allowed to happen? Do we not need to be “All Under One Banner”? I don’t care much for the man in question. His past, his future, irrelevant to me. So I will not give another word to him. Done.

Many who did speak at that event had similar feelings and yet still felt the cause was bigger. Some made their feelings known, others just ignored and rallied the crowd with words and sentiments of inspiration. Is this not what we should all be doing wherever possible?

Should we really care who Cat voted for? She has her reasons, I’m sure. Should we really be jumping all over Wings about a previous comment when he feels he has been defamed? Should we be scrutinising every aspect of every organisation looking for things to pull them up for? By this, I do not and never would mean that we close our eyes and cover up wrong doing. I don’t mean that we should be afraid of open and honest discussions. Our opinions cannot be wrong, they are our opinions. But that doesn’t make them right either.

Can we not choose to support without dismantling another group’s position just because we disagree. Can we not take the really good stuff and ignore the not so good, if we so choose. Do we have to be right all the time just to be on the left?

Can we not see that the positive case for Independence and self-governance needs to be grown. We need to nurture this. We need to nurture all the different ideas that go towards this. We need positivity and creativity and we need to pull it all together into a great sellable package for the rest of Scotland to want it too.

We have been politically awakened in Scotland. We are lucky in that respect. This awakening does not make us all politicians though. We can leave the politicking for those who choose that. We don’t have to spout the party lines and be constrained by the political barriers. We should be pulling this all together, not pulling each other limb from independence seeking limb.

I am guilty of this too, I suspect we all are at some level. Would it not be good for us all to take a look to the right. Just a look, not a step. Look at the bile being spouted. Look at the abuse being slung. It is being aimed at those who are marginalised and under represented. Those that we want to include and help to flourish. Keep the eyes on the prize people, eyes on the prize.

The prize and the cause are bigger than the sum of us all. It is for generations to come. So with this, let us be mindful, let us be respectful. Sometimes, it is ok to be wrong and we can forgive those that are and if we can’t forgive, we can ignore. For the future we dream about, it is ok to not to be right if it keeps the left together. As one.