Independence
November 29, 2011 2:19 PM   Subscribe

 
What's her connection to "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit"? Is this something other than the Jeannette Winterson novel?
posted by yoink at 2:27 PM on November 29, 2011


None whatsoever, i'm getting older and tireder, apologies, admin are welcome to delete the link.
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:32 PM on November 29, 2011


Long been a theme for Kelman, (who Kennedy mentions); remember the row a few years back when he had a go at the lionising of genre fiction:
"For me it's always been an indication of that Anglocentric nature of what's at the heart of the Scottish literary establishment, that they will not see the tremendous art of a writer like Tom Leonard for example, and how they will praise the mediocre – how so much praise and position is given to writers of genre fiction in Scotland."
posted by Abiezer at 2:36 PM on November 29, 2011


Scottish cultural identity

What about, for example, citizens of Pakistani descent. No true Scotsman?

In the 20th century, I don't think any idea was more harmful than ethnic/cultural nationalism. It is quite possible for a minority cultural identity to survive and thrive within a properly governed country. If the Scots really aren't getting that protection within the UK (really?) then perhaps they should apply to become a province of Canada. We already have a Nova Scotia, they'd fit right in.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:37 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm curious about the part that says, "especially relevant in terms of possible Scottish Independence."

Is this something that's happening?
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:39 PM on November 29, 2011


The Proclaimers (no strangers to the Scottish Independence movement) wrote a great song about how the Scottish accent is looked down upon titled "Throw The 'R' Away."
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:44 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


What about, for example, citizens of Pakistani descent. No true Scotsman?

I would bet large sums that any teaching of Scottish culture would address multiple identities; even in pre-modern terms there was the split between Lowland and Highland and in recent years it's already been quite a sophisticated debate. Not much danger of a Tartan totalitarianism; as Kennedy notes in her piece, Scotland "has a tradition of left-leaning internationalism" that had a big impact on the way the SNP has framed its arguments for nationalism down the years.
posted by Abiezer at 2:47 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is this something that's happening?

Yes, there's a referendum that's going to be held on the subject in either 2014 or 2015.

It'll be non-binding in the sense that actually granting Scotland independence is a reserved power of the British parliament, but it would put the British government in sort of a difficult position if they were to force Scotland to remain in the union in defiance of the will of the Scottish electorate.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:48 PM on November 29, 2011


In the 20th century, I don't think any idea was more harmful than ethnic/cultural nationalism. It is quite possible for a minority cultural identity to survive and thrive within a properly governed country. If the Scots really aren't getting that protection within the UK (really?) then perhaps they should apply to become a province of Canada. We already have a Nova Scotia, they'd fit right in.

The Scots already have their own country, I don't think they'd want to be demoted to a province.

Is this something that's happening?

Yes. A lot of power was devolved from Westminster to Edinburgh in the 1990s, and the perception of the Scottish National Party went from 'slightly comical group of tartan enthusiasts' to 'credible governing party'.
posted by atrazine at 2:51 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Language and culture are impermanent. The history of human society is the history of the larger identity consuming the smaller one while adopting bits of the smaller's culture. Worrying about preserving tradition is fighting the tide-- if your receding traditions don't die with you, they'll die in a couple generations anyway.

This is normal, natural and inevitable. Know any Hittites? Do you feel sad that you don't?

Cultural identity is a poisonous thing to care too much about. If you want popular support for a bad war, you have two good options: suggesting a threat to cultural identity is about as effective as framing it in religious terms. It's a construct that we're all guilty of, but it's not entirely harmless.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:56 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


The amusing thing about Scottish independence from the point of view of the Tories is that on the one hand any weakening of the union is anathema, but on the other hand a Westminster Parliament without Scotland means that the centre of politics will move to the right. The removal of all those Labour safe seats (usually the most left wing as well, Blair may have been Scottish but his constituency was in Southeast England) and a number of Lib Dem seats would ensure a Conservative majority.
posted by atrazine at 2:57 PM on November 29, 2011


Language and culture are impermanent. The history of human society is the history of the larger identity consuming the smaller one while adopting bits of the smaller's culture. Worrying about preserving tradition is fighting the tide-- if your receding traditions don't die with you, they'll die in a couple generations anyway.

This is a nice way of saying "Resistance is futile."
posted by rocket88 at 3:01 PM on November 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Well that was insensitive.

Regardless, some of us appreciate culture, and do think that the diversity of the world is worth preserving and enjoying. With the Scots, there's going to be an element of pride and self-determination in there as well, they didn't come willingly into their relationship with the UK.

The closest analogy we have to home is Quebec within Canada. The nationalism seems to have died down there a lot in recent years, but they've certainly managed to preserve aspects of their culture that help them stand out from the rest of the country.


Cultural identity is a poisonous thing to care too much about. If you want popular support for a bad war, you have two good options: suggesting a threat to cultural identity is about as effective as framing it in religious terms. It's a construct that we're all guilty of, but it's not entirely harmless.


That's ridiculous. Cultural identity leads to war? Really? National identity is pretty closely tied to war, and a lot of nationalist movements have become militant. Sometimes with just cause, sometimes without. But to suggest that having distinct cultural identities would lead directly to war is a serious stretch.
posted by Stagger Lee at 3:04 PM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


The Guardian did a nice piece in the summer where they interviewed a number of Scottish authors including Iain Banks and, yes, AL Kennedy, about the independence question. Pretty much the only reason they could come up with for staying in the union was that it would be bad for the English left, as Banks elaborates:

"The only rational reason I can find to vote against independence is that it would condemn the English left to perpetual opposition. I still can't resolve that problem. Solidarity might still stay my hand in the voting booth. But at the moment I expect I will vote for independence. I think a majority of Scots will too. Perhaps not independence red in tooth and claw. Perhaps independence "lite". But I don't think there's any going back. The Union is an unhappy marriage. I think it's time we both sat down and said it out loud – it's over."

It's too bad. But you can't blame them - the Tories, and a lot of Tory voters, hate Scotland. I frequently hear unsupported stuff like Scotland is supported by the rest of the country, that they would go broke if they were independent (it's more like London supports the UK; and no, they wouldn't go broke). Things like "We're paying for their free university, their NHS," that sort of thing. It was a sad parallel of the hatred the right in the US have of unions and public employees - "we don't have what they have, so we'll bring them down instead of raising everyone up."

It's kind of ridiculous for the government to keep saying they should stay in the union while also, effectively, insulting them.

Anyway, back on topic. I grew up in Scotland for a few years as a kid, and since I have Chinese parents, I had quite an unexpected accent when I came back down to England. Of course, Cho Chang has that covered now...
posted by adrianhon at 3:09 PM on November 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


Whoops - here's the Guardian article.
posted by adrianhon at 3:09 PM on November 29, 2011


What about, for example, citizens of Pakistani descent. No true Scotsman?

From what I've read, Scottish nationalism is more pragmatic than anything else, and has little if any cultural chauvinism, unlike in Quebec, which has its language laws and all sorts of other reactionary weirdness. So, yeah, it's possible to be a Scot of Pakistani descent - this is political independence, rather than cultural independence.

In the 20th century, I don't think any idea was more harmful than ethnic/cultural nationalism. It is quite possible for a minority cultural identity to survive and thrive within a properly governed country. If the Scots really aren't getting that protection within the UK (really?) then perhaps they should apply to become a province of Canada. We already have a Nova Scotia, they'd fit right in.

What about the idea of self-determination? Besides, because of devolution, the Scottish economy has fared far better than its English counterpart. There is lower unemployment, and I believe deficit spending is lower than in England. And the Scots are headed in the right direction by providing free post-secondary tuition, in order to foster a knowledge economy.

If I was a Scot and I had the chance to vote for "independence", given the state of things in England, I would vote "yes".
posted by KokuRyu at 3:18 PM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


What about, for example, citizens of Pakistani descent. No true Scotsman?

Some Scots with Asian ancestry don't have quite as vicious an r-trill or vowel clang as other Scots, but plenty do. Which means they'll get exactly the same treatment in England as all the other Scots with impenetrable accents.

As for Scottish culture, even post-devolution I think the cringe still plays a huge factor, and I think that has a lot to do with the accent. I'd be interested to hear from Asian Scots if they feel it. I know Italian and Irish Scots do.

(BTW: I'm conflating accents a bit here -- there are some lovely lilting Scots accents that are easily understood everywhere, while there are others that are more like a pub brawl between consonants and vowels. If you speak the latter, you're not likely to hear it on TV, at least not without subtitles.)
posted by fightorflight at 3:21 PM on November 29, 2011


Thinking on about Scottish-Pakistani identity, recalled the late Ali Abassi who sadly died far too young; he was a champion of the Gaelic language.
posted by Abiezer at 3:24 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd never thought about it until now, but I'm actually totally sad not to know any Hittites.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 3:24 PM on November 29, 2011 [12 favorites]


Language and culture are impermanent. The history of human society is the history of the larger identity consuming the smaller one while adopting bits of the smaller's culture. Worrying about preserving tradition is fighting the tide-- if your receding traditions don't die with you, they'll die in a couple generations anyway.

This is normal, natural and inevitable.


No, it's not, it's socially mediated. I agree that it can be problematic to attach moral judgements to culture, as though one culture were better than another. However, social facts are not value–neutral. For example, Gaelic as a language is no better or worse than any other. But an act such as the Highland Clearances which damaged its standing was tantamount to genocide, and rightfully condemned. If we can condemn an act then we can also condemn its repercussions.

Language and cultural change is normal, natural, and inevitable, but it's shape and direction is not. For Scotland to choose to become the masters of their own society and culture is to choose that shape and direction, rather than the continued fear of "British" culture. My only regret is that Wales and England outside of London aren't close to doing the same. I would rather live in southern Scotland than northern England.
posted by Jehan at 3:28 PM on November 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yes, what on earth is the connection with Oranges Are Not the only Fruit? The novel is by Jeannette Winterson and she also wrote the scripts for the TV miniseries.
posted by unSane at 3:41 PM on November 29, 2011




Two sovereignty movements: Scotland rises while Quebec languishes

The SNP likes to stress that it emphasizes a form of inclusive civic nationalism that focuses on political values and residency, rather than the birth and language issues long identified with the Quebec movement.

“In one sense, it’s the weakness of Scottish nationalism, because you don’t have the emotive edge,” said University of Aberdeen political scientist Michael Keating, who has written extensively on Scottish and Quebec nationalism.

“It’s almost a technocratic debate. There’s not a great deal of passion.”

posted by KokuRyu at 3:49 PM on November 29, 2011


What effect would the peaceful breakup of England and Scotland have on the political unions of the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand? GB/UK bore and raised those countries, and fractious political rhetoric in North America is seldom far from the mainstream.
posted by infinitewindow at 3:52 PM on November 29, 2011


A Welsh friend of mine liked to talk about Scottish independence back in about 1991 as if it were something imminent. She was fairly loopy and I just assumed it was pretty much not a real thing.
posted by Foosnark at 3:53 PM on November 29, 2011


What effect would the peaceful breakup of England and Scotland have on the political unions of the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand?

It's not a breakup - QE2 would still be Scotland's head of state, and the UK (?) would still control Scottish foreign policy and defense policy, and would really be more of the same that exists now. It's more like economic self-determination.

The challenge for the Scots (just like Quebeckers) is that once "independence" (sovereignty-association) is achieved, while they would have more control over their economic destiny, they would also lose out on transfer payments from the south; presumably they would be relying on North Sea oil to power their economy.

Quebec, on the other hand, despite being a culturally isolated entity in North America (so much so that younger folks are embracing English in order to enjoy greater labour mobility), has a much larger and more diversified economy.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:00 PM on November 29, 2011


In the 20th century, I don't think any idea was more harmful than ethnic/cultural nationalism

...

Cultural identity is a poisonous thing to care too much about.

Respectfully, sentiments like these sound like they're coming from people who have never had their ethnic cultural identity marginalised, brutalised and taken away from them as a systemic, state-based attempt to to disenfranchise, if not exterminate, not only a culture but often a people.

Please come to the Northern Territory here in Australia and say something like that to the Aboriginals you meet, especially any who were part of the stolen generation, or were forced to learn and speak another language, as part of systemic attempts to deny their cultures and identities.

I mean honestly, it's so blithe and smug and uninformed, and ignorant, positing this silly idea that somehow being "ethnic" in the 21st century means living like people did hundreds of years ago, as if ethnicities of all stripes can't continue developing their own cultures in the twentieth century.

Stuff like this only ever seems to come from people lucky enough that whole world has been built, shaped and catered for their culture. Don't get too comfortable, I say; the numbers don't agree with you, and you may find a lot of value in cultures later this century when the globe turns its eye from your petty histories and focusses east and south, instead.
posted by smoke at 4:10 PM on November 29, 2011 [22 favorites]


>Quebec, on the other hand, ... has a much larger ... economy

Taking the 2009 GDPs and comparing using 2009 CAD/GBP:

Quebec - £179 billion
Scotland - £149 billion
posted by cromagnon at 4:12 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Respectfully...

it's so blithe and smug and uninformed, and ignorant


You're doing it wrong.
posted by Winnemac at 4:20 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


What effect would the peaceful breakup of England and Scotland have on the political unions of the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand? GB/UK bore and raised those countries, and fractious political rhetoric in North America is seldom far from the mainstream.

Perhaps a long–term realignment with regards to the "Anglosphere"? Scotland leaving the UK would likely spark Wales to push harder for the same, and also a rejection of the Unionism that maintains Northern Ireland split from the rest of Ireland. Each individual country would (hopefully) try to reassess its place in the world, perhaps leading to an altogether more "European" approach. While it might be oversaying the importance of the UK in the world, the loss of the sharedness that it represents might harm the countries' sense of connection. This is just conjecture though.
posted by Jehan at 4:22 PM on November 29, 2011


Know any Hittites? Do you feel sad that you don't?
No and very much so. Imagine obsessively reading about Ancient Egypt as a child, and being unable to find Hitt or Hitti in the family atlas, then settling for Haiti. There wasn't anything from the Hittite point of view it seemed. See what happens when you grow up before the internet?
posted by variella at 5:23 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I really wonder what effect Scottish independence would have on Unionism in Northern Ireland: I suppose it could act as a catalyst for a peaceful reconfiguration of things, but of course it could also spark a crisis of confidence and we've seen where that's led before.
posted by nfg at 5:31 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


adrianhon (and Iain Banks) is right, without Scotland it's going to be hell on Earth south of the border. The day Scotland leaves the Union is the day I start looking for my escape route. Back to Wales and ho for independence, I suppose. I'd just move to Scotland if they had a legal system I was qualified to work in. Inconsiderate swines.
posted by howfar at 5:32 PM on November 29, 2011


Kennedy made some great points in that piece, but  – and I say this as someone who loves her fiction – she often seems a little reductive when writing about politics.

Not that I blame her, in some ways. The questions surrounding Scottish identity are, as she acknowledges, long, storied and complicated. What does it even mean to be Scottish? Is it some genetic bloodline thing, as some hardcore nationalists would have it? Some would say yes, and on the surface I'd be fine on that count, given my Scottish accent and pasty complexion. Whereas my friend Hannah (born in Scotland to Scottish parents, but raised both in Germany and England), who is probably as Scottish as I am, gets no such break, because she has an English accent, which is purely a matter of the locale she grew up in, rather than nationality.

In Why The Scots Should Rule Scotland Alasdair Gray makes the point that he considers Scottish anyone who lives or works in the country as Scottish, and that for me is about the best definition that works. Scottish identity has always been in flux; it has always changed and adapted to current circumstances. It has often – much to its discredit, on some occasions – played on the idea that it has been oppressed by external, usually English, forces, whilst simultaneously ignoring the huge role that Scots had to play in the British empire, where many Scots – particularly the traditional lad o'pairts, who through education rose from a humble, usually rural, background – were the enforcers, book-keepers and innovators of a system of slavery and exploitation.

Call me an old Marxist if you want, but I'm not sold on Scottish independence, even though I respect/admire plenty of people who are. Solidarity with the English working classes – and how they'd end up being even more fucked over than they currently are by a Westminster Parliament unleavened by the 50-odd Labour MPs Scotland currently sends there – is a huge part of it.

Larger than that, though, is the makeup of the SNP, both currently and historically. They're a party which wants independence, but still want to retain the monarch. They're a party which despite having a few prominent staunch lefties over the years, are happy to take money from Brian Souter, a bigoted homophobe who backed the notorious Section 28, and who is the party's biggest donor, even as current leader Alex Salmond makes happy noises about gay marriage, knowing that he can put off any actual decisions while the cash flows in. Meanwhile, he and his party are happy to fiddle with local planning laws when someone like Donald Trump and his extravagant hairpiece want to build a golf course and hotel complex on a site of scientific interest and natural beauty. Granted, this is a problem with politicians, rather than Nationalists, but the way that the SNP, for the past 40-odd years, has happily exploited the more trenchant views of its supporters does not fill me with confidence that, were the Scottish people to vote for actual independence in a referendum, they'd suddenly turn into the kind of party-of-the-working-(wo)man that they continually claim to be. Because it's easy easy to claim that mantle when you're trying to drum up votes; it's much harder to stick with it when your political career is on the line, as anyone disappointed by Obama and following the Occupy movement can attest.
posted by Len at 5:41 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


they would go broke if they were independent
I think it's more like "they will go broke after the North Sea oil runs out". Which it's going to do rather soon. That's what's keeping their heads above water.

I don't think Scotland, as much as I love her, is in a good position to be demanding economic independence right now. Actually with the economic uncertainty today the whole of the UK would be better off pulling together rather than apart; even London is in the extreme doldrums.
posted by Fnarf at 5:47 PM on November 29, 2011


Language and culture are impermanent. The history of human society is the history of the larger identity consuming the smaller one while adopting bits of the smaller's culture. Worrying about preserving tradition is fighting the tide-- if your receding traditions don't die with you, they'll die in a couple generations anyway.

...What a vapid and empty life you describe.

"Preserving tradition" is exactly what has bound human society together through hardship. While you are correct that there have been instances of a larger society subsuming a smaller one, there are also instances of two societies merging their traditions, and there are also instances of the smaller society retaining enough of its tradition and identity to re-assert itself.

The biggest example of the latter case I can think of is very close by Scotland -- The Republic of Eire was arguably "consumed" by Great Britain in the 1600's. Except no one told the Irish that -- so they retained what they could of their culture for the next several centuries, and then re-asserted and reclaimed their own identity, culture, and -- most importantly -- their language 400 years later in 1916.

And no one seemed to tell the Jews that their land had been "consumed" by a larger force and they should just give up -- they retained enough of their own identity to re-form a nation after several thousand years, and even revived Hebrew, a mostly dead language.

No, I dont know any Hittites, but I know Irish people and Israelis, and they'd both like to tell you that you're full of it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:51 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


...But an act such as the Highland Clearances which damaged its standing was tantamount to genocide

I was considering your rebuttal very carefully until you dropped that one. You could make a case (not a perfect one) that the deaths from malnutrition and exposure were genocide, but your suggestion that the detrimental effect on Scots Gaelic has a comparison to mass human death is overly florid, to put it mildly. It's not a positive event, but you're being gross.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:52 PM on November 29, 2011


That's ridiculous. Cultural identity leads to war? Really? National identity is pretty closely tied to war, and a lot of nationalist movements have become militant. Sometimes with just cause, sometimes without. But to suggest that having distinct cultural identities would lead directly to war is a serious stretch.

National identity is a subset of cultural identity. Neither lead to war, they facilitate war in the hands of cynical leaders who need the populace to support a land/resources/wealth grab.

"THEY are the other. THEY'VE never liked us. THEY are sitting on resources that they are not entitled to by nature of their inferiority." Cultural identity facilitated the English attempts at conquest of Scotland in the first place-- "they have weird customs, they can't even talk properly. They're savages and and they have things of value to us. They're inferior, help me subjugate them and take their wealth. We deserve it more than they."

It's time for people to put that shit behind them. I know I sound like a flaming idealist, but if we could learn to stop thinking in terms of "Us" and "The Other" it would be much harder for everyone to shit all over each other. It's naive, I know, seeing as how I'm espousing it and I'm not great at living up to it. But can't we agree that in theory "All People One" would make the world a better place?
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:04 PM on November 29, 2011


Mayor Curley: You could make a case (not a perfect one) that the deaths from malnutrition and exposure were genocide, but your suggestion that the detrimental effect on Scots Gaelic has a comparison to mass human death is overly florid, to put it mildly. It's not a positive event, but you're being gross.

Well in that case let's call it ethnic cleansing rather than genocide. Whether you want to call it the former or the latter, the effect was the same. For reasons of profit for landowners, a vast majority of the population of a particular area were driven off the land they had worked for hundreds of years, and as part of it, their linguistic and cultural heritage were deliberately destroyed. And they were driven off in a variety of ways: torched out of their homes, murdered, shipped off to foreign lands, brutalised until they gave in and moved "voluntarily". As far as I know they weren't given blankets infected with smallpox, but it wouldn't surprise me if they were ...
posted by Len at 6:07 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


...What a vapid and empty life you describe.

Because I'm not tenaciously clinging to the idea that the culture into which I was born is permanent in defiance of every historical precedent?

Your romanticism of tradition enduring eternal is "vapid and empty" because it has never happened. Every culture you admire is going to be a footnote that bores future students and there's not a thing you can do about it. Erect street signs in a dying language, force your kid to dress in "traditional" costumes that only ever existed in paintings for tourists, choke down disgusting famine food on a holiday to feel as miserable as your poor ancestors did. What do you win if people are doing that 40 years longer than they otherwise might have?
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:15 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mayor Curley, you're an American, you'd never understand. You guys are the "Last Man" at the end of history.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:17 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was going to say that separatism in its current form in Quebec is almost dead. The federal separatist party was almost wiped out in the last election (by the NDP, which campaigned on regional rights and a strong social safety net), and the provincial party is busy tearing itself apart, all because the cultural politics the separatists have relied on are no longer popular (for now).
posted by KokuRyu at 6:23 PM on November 29, 2011


Your romanticism of tradition enduring eternal is "vapid and empty" because it has never happened.

Dude, I gave you two examples when it DID happen.

If I apologize for calling your life vapid and empty, will you do me the courtesy of reading the rest of my comment?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:23 PM on November 29, 2011


The Last Man? I thought that was going to be the Chinese, or their neighbors like Singapore, who have already surpassed the US in every imaginable kind of cultural relevance.

Mayor Curley has a point. In the case of Scotland, much or most of what passes for "Scottishness" is invented out of whole cloth, or in the case of the kilt a very tiny portion of the whole cloth (invented by an Englishman to impress an English, er, make that German, king). And the tartans.

And all that other stuff, which was not so much remembered from antiquity as a bulwark against being subsumed in modernity but invented in modernity for that purpose.

Every nation does it; America is in the process of doing it right now. Look at all the rubbish that various Republican political candidates spout about "The Founding Fathers" and what they would have thought about modern political issues X, Y and Z. Look at the spectacular mythology of the Irish, upon which their entire tourist economy is built, and which allows starry-eyed American descendants to see peat fires, sheep and leprechauns where more dispassionate viewers see only parking lots full of diesel tour buses.

99% of what people believe about before the industrial age is romantic poppycock. Which is a shame here, because Scotland played an important role in the creation of that modern age. And while the Clearances, to mention another example, were horrible, the people who got away were the better off for it, just as the Irish who got away from the famine were. They got away from the poverty of subsistence agriculture to the opening of the world.
posted by Fnarf at 6:39 PM on November 29, 2011


I agree - culture can't be defined and controlled by a reactionary elite, as it has been in Quebec. However, there are aspects of culture that are worth preserving, such as language, food culture, and local customs that provide a tangible link to the past.

In the case of Quebec, it's worth remembering that until the Quiet Revolution in the 60s, it was almost impossible for a French speaker to get a professional job in Quebec (notably Montreal), and it was almost impossible for a French speaker to get government service in Canada, outside of Quebec. There have been deliberate attempts to wipe out or marginalize Quebec culture since British conquest.

With First Nations in Canada, much of the 20th century was devoted to wiping out language and culture through the residential school system. The result has been total and absolute disruption of First Nations society, with high unemployment, suicide and other social problems.

There are different cultures out there with their own intrinsic value that are worth preserving.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:46 PM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was going to show that the problems of nature and nurture were, after all, problems that existed, that it was not absolutely forbidden to look into them, and that it was not by affirming in the most sterile way that there were no differences between human groups and individuals that we would further the progress of humanity.

Claude Levi-Strauss in 1975, found here.
posted by yoHighness at 6:57 PM on November 29, 2011


EmpressCallipygos: there's no such thing as "the Republic of Eire". The name of the country is "the Republic of Ireland" in English, and "Poblacht na hÉireann" in Irish.

The Irish language as a cultural artifact is predominantly political; hardly anyone, even in Ireland, actually uses it on a regular basis for daily life (Wikipedia says 72,000). It's main function, in the Republic and in the North, is as "not-English", which is a symbolic statement and a political one.

Not an invalid one, mind you. But in many, many places this kind of clinging to a cultural relic of the past actually makes more sense WITHIN the dominant culture. In Scotland (and in Wales, and in Northern Ireland) the use of the native tongue is a way of saying "I am NOT a bloody Sassenach, thankyewverymuch". Which isn't particularly necessary if you're not part of the bloody Sassenach's empire anymore.

But in a cultural sense, these places, and Ireland too, are still part of English culture, because English is predominantly spoken there. Their economies revolve around their big neighbor,and they always will. That's what makes it so bitter.

The problem of how to live like this in a dual world is never going to go away, and it's never going to stop being a problem. We're getting better at it, as humans, I think. Hope.

The real problem of Scotland is figuring out what in hell is wrong with Scottish football, anyways. The nationalists haven't got an answer for that one. When Celtic won the European Cup Final (equivalent of the Champions League) in 1967, their entire team was born within 30 miles of Parkhead. Today Scotland is more likely to be compared to Liechtenstein and Cyprus, and the best Scottish teams in Europe get slaughtered at every opportunity.
posted by Fnarf at 7:06 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


And no one seemed to tell the Jews that their land had been "consumed" by a larger force and they should just give up -- they retained enough of their own identity to re-form a nation after several thousand years, and even revived Hebrew, a mostly dead language.

Although all the Jews who became Muslim in the meantime seem to resent it somewhat. Which is the difficulty with talking in terms of cultural continuity and preservation, there is no authentic artefact to which we can compare our current cultural expression, or anoyone's idea of what it should be.

The name of the country is "the Republic of Ireland" in English

Wrong again, although closer. According to the Irish constitution "the name of the State is Éire, or, in the English language, Ireland". The country can be officially referred to also 'The Republic of Ireland', but that is not its name.
posted by howfar at 7:15 PM on November 29, 2011


Language and culture are impermanent. The history of human society is the history of the larger identity consuming the smaller one while adopting bits of the smaller's culture. Worrying about preserving tradition is fighting the tide-- if your receding traditions don't die with you, they'll die in a couple generations anyway.

This is normal, natural and inevitable. Know any Hittites? Do you feel sad that you don't?


Cultures change, move, and so forth. It doesn't mean they die. Hittites were incredibly influential culturally. (Along with the Hurrians.) The Greek creation story was heavily influenced by theirs, for one thing - their cultural fingers are all over Hesiod. And the ancient Greeks themselves, although a relatively small people in a massive empire, influenced the Romans and so forth. We're all linked to some degree, we're all heirs to many cultural traditions, not just ones that have been sampled by larger and more powerful ones. and it isn't as easy as saying 'cultural identity will die so why care?' In an age where we are told that globalization is inevitable, it is worth reflecting that it is no more inevitable than anything else. And it seems remarkable to me that it is always the 'minor' cultures that are told that their identity that is a problem, rather than a global, corporate one.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 7:22 PM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Dude, I gave you two examples when it DID happen.

I may be reading your comment incorrectly, but you assure me that your examples refute my position so I believe you. Can you repost the part where you went into the future to confirm that those cultures endure for the rest of human history or even another fifty years?

"You're not even reading what I wrote" indeed.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:32 PM on November 29, 2011


According to the Irish constitution "the name of the State is Éire, or, in the English language, Ireland"

Ah, controversy. The Republic of Ireland Act, 1948 (a decade after the Constitution) sez "THE DESCRIPTION OF THE STATE SHALL BE THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND". More words than in all the volumes of the encyclopedias have given their lives in the attempt to elucidate the distinction between "name" and "description", but ultimately it doesn't really matter; when it is necessary to distinguish between the island and the republic, the words "Republic of" are in there. When they're not, they're not. If you're taking the train from Belfast to Dublin, they're in there.
posted by Fnarf at 7:41 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


ultimately it doesn't really matter

Indeed. It matters not a whit, although the language games of pedantry do little harm. When the distinction is used as a political football, however, the games sometimes become a little more damaging. Reminds me of something.
posted by howfar at 7:52 PM on November 29, 2011


The Last Man? I thought that was going to be the Chinese, or their neighbors like Singapore, who have already surpassed the US in every imaginable kind of cultural relevance.

"The Last Man" is a reference to Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man, which was about how neoliberal democracy was the endgame for all states now existing. Put very broadly: every day, in every way, the world is becoming more of a network of neoliberal democratic states. The "end of history" would come when there would no longer be great holy wars or vast terrors of ideological differences. (It's not as simple or as optimistic as it sounds.)

China and Singapore are often-cited counterexamples to Fukuyama's thesis. Their brand of "authoritarian capitalism", with little to no inertia to move out of that trajectory, goes against the idea that nations irresistibly slide into neoliberal democracy.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:11 PM on November 29, 2011


For me, the "last man" signifies the arrogance of western culture (primarily American culture) - our way of seeing the world is the only viewpoint that is valid. There have been many times on MetaFilter, including in this thread, where folks have blithely ignored, disregarded or outright abused other cultures.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:42 PM on November 29, 2011


Scottish Heritage Education will of course include the works of its most famous highland poet.
posted by clarknova at 11:24 PM on November 29, 2011


What about, for example, citizens of Pakistani descent. No true Scotsman?

One could always inquire of Osama Saeed.^
posted by dhartung at 11:40 PM on November 29, 2011


Whereas my friend Hannah (born in Scotland to Scottish parents, but raised both in Germany and England), who is probably as Scottish as I am, gets no such break, because she has an English accent, which is purely a matter of the locale she grew up in, rather than nationality.


Er..... a writer ( and obviously a brilliant one) for the sunday times/scotland on sunday and then a film festival director ? Aye, Hannah's had no break at all. Mind you, she was too good for the eiff - (youre also culturally oppressed here if you have half a brain without a husband in the new club). Anyway, posh folk and working class always get on, its the ones inbetween that are the problem :)

Comparisons with Quebec are strange, you don't go to timbuktoo and the locals reel off a list of things about Quebec. It's very strange to go abroad, have people recognise even just a little bit of your culture and then come to the usual nonsense. Yes, Oranges arent the only fruit, pretty disastrous linkage on my part there - maybe it was the meaning of the title chipping away.

Anyway, I'm going back to writing my romantic novel where a bam from wester hailes is magically whisked away to indie film festivals by a demure lady :)
posted by sgt.serenity at 11:47 PM on November 29, 2011


KokuRyu: "It's not a breakup - QE2 would still be Scotland's head of state, and the UK (?) would still control Scottish foreign policy and defense policy, and would really be more of the same that exists now. It's more like economic self-determination."

That's not really been determined yet. The situation you describe is the middle road in a 3-option vote Alex Salmond has said that he favours (status quo, devo-max/independence-lite, and full independence). The full independence option would still retain the queen as head of state, but the other items you mention would all be fully controlled by the newly-independent Scotland.
There is currently a deal of debate about this. The Unionist parties in Holyrood, and also the Westminster Government, would prefer to have a straight up-and-down vote on status quo v. full independence, and there is a lot of wrangling going on as they seek to force this.
I would think that the devo-max option would pass if it makes it onto the bill, whereas the full independence option is a more unlikely goal for the SNP this time around. However, people are unlikely to vote to hand back the devolved powers later and the SNP can always try for the whole lot in another ten years or so. The SNP are playing a smart game here, as even in the event that the Westminster Government succeed in forcing devo-max off the bill their interference will likely strengthen the support for independence (though probably not by enough to pass).
posted by Jakey at 2:52 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also worth bearing in mind that when we (Ireland) gained independence initially the British head of state was retained as head of state also (via a Governor General). I don't get the sense that there's the same groundswell of radicalism in Scotland w.r.t. carryover/transitionary gestures like that as there was in Ireland (which of course led to civil war here), but it's worth keeping in mind often measure like that prove temporary to assuage worried moderates in the medium term.
posted by nfg at 3:41 AM on November 30, 2011


I may be reading your comment incorrectly, but you assure me that your examples refute my position so I believe you. Can you repost the part where you went into the future to confirm that those cultures endure for the rest of human history or even another fifty years?

I think you are the only person that isn't taking it as a given that we are discussing a finite period of time, terminating with "the eventual end of the human race." I also believe you are the only person assuming we all mean that various cultures would persist past the eventual heat death of the universe.

Not sure where THAT discussion is happening, but y'know, have fun finding it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:25 AM on November 30, 2011


Come on, Empress. I said
Your romanticism of tradition enduring eternal is "vapid and empty" because it has never happened... Every culture you admire is going to be a footnote that bores future students and there's not a thing you can do about it."
you responded
>Your romanticism of tradition enduring eternal is "vapid and empty" because it has never happened

Dude, I gave you two examples when it DID happen.
My contention is that the extinction of a cultural group in inevitable, and therefore taking steps to preserve it is ultimately futile. You clearly suggested that there are instances where cultures will never die off. I know you don't believe that, but you were insulting and then chastised me for not taking to heart your previous example, despite the fact that it doesn't address my point.

I get heated about topics that I feel strongly about as well, it's fine. But we're not broadcasting on the same frequency evidently.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:14 AM on November 30, 2011


Comparisons with Quebec are strange, you don't go to timbuktoo and the locals reel off a list of things about Quebec. It's very strange to go abroad, have people recognise even just a little bit of your culture and then come to the usual nonsense. Yes, Oranges arent the only fruit, pretty disastrous linkage on my part there - maybe it was the meaning of the title chipping away.

How is it odd? Commonwealth country, minority succumbed to English rule long ago. Some attempts made to destroy culture, though the English eventually settled on general attitude of disdain toward their supposedly backwards, working-class fellow-citizens. Today the region is known as the country's most liberal, and its voters are upset about those conservatives far away messing around with its liberal policies. Many conservative English, for their part, wish it would disappear, both for political reasons, and because they feel that the rest of the country is subsidizing their economy and lavish social programs (ex: cheap university for residents). Not that the English cultural elite don't love going to university there, whatever they're charged.

Over in the corner, someone mumbles about how the country was supposed to be a partnership of peoples, coming together in what was supposed to be a bicultural state. Didn't we accommodate your legal system? Yes, but the civil law judges are outvoted! Separatists claim that multinational narrative really works better for the majority English-speakers. And it didn't always work that way in practice!

Anyway, separatist movement develops, government tries to placate with devolved programs, which others claim only encourages them. Separatist party claims its election is a mandate for sovereignty, others suggest that maybe voters just tired of only having one alternative. New government waves hands about shared sovereignty, passports, etc, while trying to develop vague referendum questions designed to ensure a political victory that can then be relied on for support in whatever the local government later decides to do. Politicians in capital tread fine line between saying they have the final say, and trying to campaign on separatists' own terms.

It's not like Canadians are off in "Timbuktoo". We (who are in large part the descendants of emigrants from the British Isles) have lived through all this before. I'm sorry that Scotland is not so special.
posted by maledictory at 6:27 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


My contention is that the extinction of a cultural group in inevitable, and therefore taking steps to preserve it is ultimately futile.

Which remains a totally bizarre line of reasoning. It's absolutely inevitable that one day I'll die, but I still damn well go to the doctor when I get sick. One day every building ever built will be ruined and forgotten, but I'd still prefer that my neighborhood not get bulldozed and replaced with a mall while I'm living in it.

If only things that will exist for all eternity are worth valuing, then you're not really left with much in this world to hang your hat on, other than maybe religion if that's something you can believe in.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 6:48 AM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


There is of course space between "my culture will never die" and "Let's all learn to speak American."
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:48 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Which remains a totally bizarre line of reasoning. It's absolutely inevitable that one day I'll die, but I still damn well go to the doctor when I get sick. One day every building ever built will be ruined and forgotten, but I'd still prefer that my neighborhood not get bulldozed and replaced with a mall while I'm living in it.

That's not an apt analogy. Culture can't be stripped from you as an individual. As long as you can embody the attitudes and values, practice the customs and perhaps speak the language, the culture's still alive. The effort to preserve it wholesale is futile, because its death is as inevitable as yours.

A better analogy in regards to personal health is that taking lofty measures to preserve culture is akin to practices like extreme calorie restriction for longevity or sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber: you may or may not succeed at prolonging life, but the ultimate outcome is the same if you didn't do it: death.

If only things that will exist for all eternity are worth valuing

It's possible to value something while realizing that it's finite and enjoying it for what it is. In some instances that might make you value it more.

There is of course space between "my culture will never die" and "Let's all learn to speak American."

Just as there's space between "I disagree with this person's position" and "Let's misrepresent this person's position."
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:00 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


> There is of course space between "my culture will never die" and "Let's all learn to speak American."

Just as there's space between "I disagree with this person's position" and "Let's misrepresent this person's position."


And just as there's space between "This is a culture that successfully brought itself back" and "therefore this culture will exist in perpetuity." (I mean, if we're talking about misrepresenting what people said.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:56 AM on November 30, 2011


maledictory: because they feel that the rest of the country is subsidizing their economy and lavish social programs (ex: cheap university for residents) [my emphasis]

I just wanted to say something about this, which is a pernicious myth that gets thrown about all the time. England, Wales and Northern Ireland are not subsidising Scottish students' free education. The Scottish executive, under powers agreed upon devolution, are given a block grant, and they have decided to devote more of that money to providing a free university education than comparable authorities in the rest of the UK. If the rest of the UK wanted to provide a free university education to people, they could do so.
posted by Len at 9:45 AM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, a free university education is not a "lavish" program – up until recently, it was the British post-war standard for everyone, from my parents to pretty much everyone over the age of 35 who currently sits as a member of Parliament.
posted by Len at 9:56 AM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


And just as there's space between "This is a culture that successfully brought itself back" and "therefore this culture will exist in perpetuity." (I mean, if we're talking about misrepresenting what people said.)

This is getting tiresome. The crux is not that I'm accusing you of making a ridiculous argument that I've already said you obviously don't believe. It's that you've presented evidence that has no bearing on my argument. It's like I said "I think that Ray Bourque is the best NHL defenseman ever," and you responded with "Well, Patrick Roy is the best goalie so you're wrong."

1. I made the argument that no culture exists in perpetuity

2. You made a comment about some that have come back from the brink with an abrasive introduction.

3. I reiterated that the issue was about every society's inevitable death, and that the world has never seen an immortal culture.

4. you responded "Dude, I gave you two examples when it DID happen. and were further so impressed by your own insight that you accused me of not reading your comment. However, the lack of comprehension wasn't on my end.

I said "we're not speaking in equivalencies" a few comments ago in an attempt to just let this go without pointing fingers. Why did you have to do this when I already concurred that we weren't really getting each other? There's nothing for either of us to gain having this side argument.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:58 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


"For some people, when you say 'Timbuktu' it is like the end of the world, but that is not true. I am from Timbuktu, and I can tell you that we are right at the heart of the world." - Ali Farka Touré
posted by KokuRyu at 12:44 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I just wanted to say something about this, which is a pernicious myth that gets thrown about all the time. England, Wales and Northern Ireland are not subsidising Scottish students' free education. The Scottish executive, under powers agreed upon devolution, are given a block grant, and they have decided to devote more of that money to providing a free university education than comparable authorities in the rest of the UK. If the rest of the UK wanted to provide a free university education to people, they could do so.

...

Also, a free university education is not a "lavish" program – up until recently, it was the British post-war standard for everyone, from my parents to pretty much everyone over the age of 35 who currently sits as a member of Parliament.


Not directly, but unless I'm mistaken Scotland benefits under the Barnett formula, relative to the English, which is a source of annoyance for the latter. This is analogous to western Canadian complaints about net transfer payments to Quebec (it's a little more complicated given the Alberta/Ontario dynamic, where traditionally Ontario has considered that a price worth paying for national unity, but I think the point stands). Obviously Scotland can spend that money however it wants, just as tuition rates have diverged in Canada, where increases over the past two decades in provinces like Ontario have outpaced those in Quebec.

Personally I don't think subsidized education is a lavish programme, though I'm biased, having been both a Canadian professional student and a UK International student. Of course, it's worse than that in the UK, with the LSE and SOAS losing 100% of their teaching grant under the last review.
posted by maledictory at 2:28 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Beyond political pragmatism, the reasoning behind transfer payments in Canada is to ensure that all Canadians will experience a similar level of government services, no matter where they live (except for, of course, Aboriginal folk).

And the fact that Alberta or whoever have to "subsidize" other provinces is really the result of a happy accident of history.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:45 PM on November 30, 2011


I make no normative claims about transfer policy, nor empirical claims about the relative felt levels of service (e.g. assuming Scotland/Quebec get more money, maybe it's also more expensive there to provide services, resulting in a comparable experience). My only concern was to point out that there are striking similarities in the narrative. Also, the politics.
posted by maledictory at 4:36 PM on November 30, 2011


1. I made the argument that no culture exists in perpetuity

2. You made a comment about some that have come back from the brink with an abrasive introduction.


Actually, I would take issue with your assessment of point 1 - you made the argument that no culture exists in perpetuity, and therefore that seeking to preserve any culture for any length of time was pointless.

I was not arguing the point about the eventual death of all cultures; I was arguing with the second prong of your argument, which was "and therefore why bother". The examples of cultures that have come back from the brink was my way of saying "this is why bother".

No culture exists in perpetuity, just like no person exists in perpetuity. But we still try to preserve people's lives as long as possible, rather than throwing up our hands and saying "fuck it, we all die eventually anyway."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:40 PM on November 30, 2011


Gotcha. It's not a clear segue to me, but now I understand your take on the timeline. I'm not good at seeing other peoples' frame of reference in some conditions, and this is apparently one of them.

But we still try to preserve people's lives as long as possible, rather than throwing up our hands and saying "fuck it, we all die eventually anyway."

I don't. That's why I lost my license to practice medicine in Massachusetts. Honestly, I don't think that a comparison between individual lives and tradition is an apt analogy, but that's a relative position based on a set of personal values. I lean towards thinking that individual welfare is directly tied to the alleviation of suffering while cultural allegiances are a trap of False Consciousness, but I don't expect most people to agree.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:54 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I lean towards thinking that individual welfare is directly tied to the alleviation of suffering while cultural allegiances are a trap of False Consciousness, but I don't expect most people to agree.

I believe I've made it rather apparent that I don't, at least....

's'all good.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:32 AM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


« Older Breaking the Coppersmith-Winograd barrier   |   Or, How I Started Worrying and Learned to Fear... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments