People often refer to Chorlton, where I live now in Manchester, as “leafy” or green – and to be sure, on a sunny day, it is certainly one of the nicer places to be. The scents of flowers and plants drift through the streets from various front gardens and parks to provide a reassuring sense that here at least, nature is asserting herself just a little. Still, moving between two cities throws up inevitable comparisons, and back in Glasgow for a few days, I couldn’t help but think that there is nowhere quite like the city’s beautiful West End, which really does come alive on a warm day (20 degrees Celsius!) with a combination of urban modernity and lovingly maintained foliage that most cities would really envy.
Well, Glasgow does mean “dear green place” after all. Or something like that. Maybe I’m getting nostalgic! Who would have thought I’d get more of a suntan North of the Border than down here? 🙂
It’s hard to believe that a whole year has passed since I was last back home in Scotland to celebrate the festive season. 2012 was certainly a very busy and exciting year for me, and 2013 is going to be even busier. Year 2 of my Phd gets properly underway, Jo B. and I have a Symposium to organise, and of course, I am still trying my best to get seasons lined up for TRAUMA (which starts again on Jan 14th). Otherwise, who knows what the New Year will hold? I am probably going to slow down on blog entries here for a while but watch this space and I will try to keep you fairly well posted!
As well as a lovely few days in Oban with my boyfriend – luckily we managed to see the sights and visit a stunning 13th century castle despite the torrential rain – and lots of good food and relaxation with family, Christmas time meant…presents! Thanks to Jen, Dad, and Mum for my amazing new DSLR-quality camera. I have been frustrated for a while now at not being able to get shots that live up to what I compose in my mind’s eye. The old camera just wasn’t a high enough spec. So, forgive me for showing off a few “artistic” (and other) snaps from the new one! I hope that all the followers of my wee blog got presents that made them equally happy! 🙂
Naturally enough, the landscape between here and Glasgow changes gradually, well signposted by the mountains of the Lake District and the changing shapes of the hills. Still, even through a train window, it always seems to become unmistakably and “all-of-a-sudden” Scottish. The air, the water, the atmosphere. Even blindfolded, you’d somehow know you were back home. Nevermind the majestic scenery or the mists drifting over the Campsies; the proof of a Scottish banknote will really raise a smile on the face of an ex-pat. Well, everyone has a bit of Romanticism for their homeland, right? 😉 For me, living somewhere that’s really only subtly different as opposed to entirely “alien” is an illuminating process. Being Scottish in England right now also means being asked about my views on Independence. Again, it’s hard to resist the lure of Patriotism in favour of a more nuanced perspective; but certainly nobody is claiming that “breaking away from the Union” would be easy. Undoubtedly it would take a few years for the dust to settle and for new laws, new rules, new modes of interaction, to be properly defined and managed. The question is: is it worth it?
Well, it really all depends on your definition of worth, doesn’t it? Despite a well-argued case from the profit-driven and big business-seeking sectors on the perils of “divorce”, I do think it would be worthwhile seeing how Scotland would redefine, reposition and strengthen itself as a Sovereign State. That would never mean abandoning ties with the rest of the UK, or turning away from Internationalism and Globalisation. Quite the contrary. What Independence would do would be provide the Scottish electorate with a chance to more strongly assert and enact their core and long-held principles of social justice, equality, and public service, over and above those currently emanating from Westminster – not just “at home” but also abroad; not least when it comes to matters of War, Defense, and “deterrants“. Well, maybe. Independent or not, it all still very much depends – on the EU, on our electoral system, and on how much trust we put in the political class in general – whether that of Scotland, England, or any other country with which we do “business”. And let’s not even get started on the difference between DevoPlus and DevoMax! But as it stands, I’m not going to get a say in it anyway. 😦
It was nice to get back and find the sun shining brightly on Manchester. Worth remembering that many people down here would envy us (sorry – “the Scottish voters”) our chance to break away from the coalition…
Back in Manchester at last after a long and relaxing Winter break. Call me crazy – or just a nerd – but I am actually looking forward to getting stuck into my work again! I feel (slightly) bad for neglecting it this long; although naturally enough some renewed energy is often just what a project needs. 🙂
It’s a lot brighter and calmer down here than in Scotland, which was unfortunately hit by some of the worst weather in recent memory. On a happier note, the incredible gale force winds blowing around this week do offer some good news: to the country’s wind turbine fans – among which, by the way, I number. Yes! I would happily have one of these elegant, loud, and beautifully engineered functional sculptures in my backyard. Wouldn’t you?
In other news: over the holiday, I was excited to get a glimpse of the beautiful Onswipe and WordPress theme (designed to be “app-like” and touch-screen specific) that is now applied to WordPress blogs by default when they’re viewed on an iPad. Thanks for pointing that out, Jemster!
A weekend spent in Glasgow is always guaranteed to provide a story or two and this one was no different. I was up visiting for my boyfriend’s birthday and managed to combine partying, pizza, and politics, all in less than 3 days! That’s what the city is about, I think: combining different types of experience in new and stimulating ways. A sort of real life “mash up”. 🙂
Taking inspiration from the Occupy Together movement (currently represented by 20 UK protests and 1300+ globally) a group of – what would you call them? Activists? Protestors? Politically minded citizens? – decided to make their points of view peacefully heard outside the Glasgow City Council offices on George Square. It definitely seemed worth going to hear what they had to say and to see how they were organising the event. In broad terms, their point of view is this: that they are deeply unhappy with the policies/attitudes of Scottish and British politicians and with the way the banking and financial systems are structured, administered, and treated as elites, worldwide. In the face of rising unemployment and public sector cuts it seems to a lot of people that the banks and the government special advisors are deemed ever-so-slightly more worthy of consideration than the electorate. So nevermind that libraries and hospitals and other public services will suffer. They don’t make enough money anyway and their values are out-of-date. That’s what the protesters in Glasgow seemed keen to express objections to. They want a brighter future and more say in it.
In Political Science and Economics, these problems can be seen to stem from corrupt forms of Corporatism, or even as aspects of a Corporatist/Neocorporatist Democracy: i.e. “a political relationship between the state and specialized associations involving the defense of their interests in return for moderating demands and controlling their membership”. This results in inegalitarianism and has historically been associated with Fascism. So it’s interesting to read that once upon a time Corporatist was less of a dirty word because it could also include the recognition “that problems such as working conditions and health and safety could be dealt with by specially established organizations or boards” without undue interference from the State. Still, as the Oxford Dictionary of Politics notes:
Many, although not all, of the writers on corporatism were either openly or covertly sympathetic to its use as a means of providing a ‘middle way’ that would satisfy the legitimate aspirations of organized labour whilst maintaining a capitalist mode of production.
Corporatist political systems may be one type of representative democracy, not least when they have been sanctioned, legitimised and instrumentalised. After all, they represent someone, right? But it’s not exactly what the “average Joe” imagines if he hears the word democracy, and it’s certainly not very participative.
In 2011, a social network and some online promotional tools are of course as vital to the hoped-for formation of a critical mass of protestors as are hand-drawn or painted placards, loudspeakers, and banners. So: the 50-100 people who turned out on Sunday are variously blogging, blogged about, shown in and filming YouTube videos, and keeping track of Twitter feeds and Facebook walls. Most of this was being orchestrated from a “mobile communications hub” (that’s what I’m calling it) inside a marquee in the middle of George Square. At the front the usual brochures, pamphlets and petitions draw in the curious minded. I noticed a brochure published by the Carnegie Foundation, themselves a corporation, and of course, a part of the legacy of Scottish philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
New media far from replaces old media for those in Glasgow and elsewhere. There have been suggestions (which I think emanated from the Occupy Wall Street protest) that supporters say hello and register their feelings by sending postcards to the occupiers who camp out overnight in tents. These postcards would be visible in the public space of the non-virtual world which is vitally important: signs and symbols of participation and collaboration even from those who aren’t there. Online tools are used largely for the purpose of logistics, administration, and what we might call “PR” (or, to be more Marxist about it, “consciousness raising”). Social Networking sites and services (SNSs) allow the word to be spread quicker; co-ordination with other groups and within one group to be achieved more simply; ideas about which tactics seem to work and which don’t can be shared on a global scale; and of course, they allow better (and possibly safer) communication channels with both the press and the public.
There are a lot of similarities to how corporations, companies, and institutions, make use of New Media in this regard. What is different is that the end result is about getting people to think as well as to act, to formulate their political views more clearly, and to begin making them heard – rather than to buy a product or help a brand spread viral seeds. The Occupy Glasgow website reminds people there is no manifesto but that if they join “the cause” they must do so nicely. You can also take part in an “Online Assembly” which aims to generate ideas on strategies and “how to help out”.
Before directing you to their “Intro to Direct Democracy and Facilitation Training“, Occupy Together make their central point in terms of community and solidarity:
We hope to provide people with information about events that are organizing, ongoing, and building across the U.S. as we, the 99%, take action against the greed and corruption of the 1%.
We will only grow stronger in our solidarity and we will be heard, not just in New York, but in echoes across the world.
Whether or not the “Occupiers” are right that this is all part of a “paradigm shift”, it’s clear that is what they are hoping for, inspired by The Arab Spring and cultural memories of more local historic resistance. To bring again to the surface the very sort of political debate that stirred the philosophers and writers of previous centuries; the generations of protestors and demonstrators who have always (for example) made Glasgow’s reputation a “Red” one; and the millions who came together in the 1960s to try to identify a common cause against the perceived injustices of governments seemingly intent on distancing themselves further and further from the concerns of those allowing them to be elected. What will be the legacy of this “movement” and what if anything will it achieve? We all have a stake in the outcome, whatever our own political perspective.