A Bastard Nation and Proud

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The UK & Ireland have moved across the world and work and live wherever they want to. In the past Britain marched with flags to take over from indigenous people without a care for their well-being. Modern Britain is a bastard nation – we are a combination of all who invaded us and those who we have opened our doors to.

With the current rise in racist and xenophobic attacks – both verbal and physical – we need to get things into perspective.

The first invasion was by the Celts in 1500BC, but just in the last 2000 years we have been invaded by:

  • The Romans
  • The Picts
  • The Vikings
  • The Normans
  • The Anglo-Saxons
  • The Danes

But then we also welcomed in many people, including:

  • The Slaves we took from Africa in the 1700s
  • Those from countries we invaded and made part of the Empire
  • Those who after the collapse of the Empire chose to come and live here
  • Jews fleeing Nazi persecution
  • The West Indians in the 1950s
  • Ugandans fleeing Idi Amin in the 1970s
  • Americans, Canadians, Australians, South Africans in the 1980s as economic migrants
  • Afro-Caribbeans into London also in the 80s
  • From the 1990s we were accepting Economic Migrants looking for a better life; Asylum Seekers and Refugees fleeing the MIddle East and Africa because of persecution at home and the West’s constant bombing and invading; and the TWO WAY flow of people through the EU arrangements.

You see this is why it baffles me completely when I hear of racism and xenophobia because the UK couldn’t be more genetically multicultural if it tried. And the other point is that there are millions of us living and working around the world too. We benefit hugely from the idea of living in a multi-directional world. We are international citizens both through our ability to move around, but in Great Britain and Ireland it’s in our very blood. We are a combination of a melting pot that has bubbled constantly since people first moved to these islands.

We know that scientifically we all share our DNA with one woman who hailed from Ethiopia dubbed “Eve” so there are no groups who can state a true claim to these islands. So when you here the cry of “Take back our country” remind yourselves that we are only here because of a fluke of life, history and genetics. Our society is a combination of choices, self-made rules and regulations and a construct of what it means to be patriotic. Everything we are currently arguing about has been designed – it’s not natural. Our borders, time zones and countries are but inventions of leaders.

Today I wear a safety-pin on my waistcoat to say that I welcome and encourage those who have chosen to come here – for what ever reason – to feel part our Bastard family. Feel free to look to those of us wearing a safety-pin for help, a safe seat on the bus or train, or just as a reminder that you are welcome.

And more importantly I want to say thank you for the work you do in this country. From Cleaners to Pilots, Teachers to Doctors, Carers to Oil Workers you all make us a richer country in every sense of the word. Without you there would be no NHS to be proud of, or Schools for our children, or construction workers to build the infrastructure we so heavily rely on.

In Aberdeen if we didn’t have The Norwegians, The Dutch, The Danes, The French, The Germans, The Nigerians, The Americans, The Australians, The Canadians, The English, The Irish and The Welsh there would have never been an oil industry. And yes I specifically mention those from our sister nations in the UK because they still, in the 21st Century, face bigotry and xenophobia.

We are a Mongrel dog, a bastard child. But we are so much better for it in terms of culture, sport, education, food, friendships and life.

You are welcome.

JD

Purgatory

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He woke up to yet another day of grief. No-one was able to explain because no-one was able to understand. How was it only four days after the result that everything he understood and believed in was disappearing?

The political establishment was gone – something he would have cheered at one point, but today he pined for. The news from all channels was feeding the negativity felt in the country right into his bowl of corn flakes and being swallowed by a population divided between one type of elitism and another. Survival of the fittest? Even Darwin would have drawn a line somewhere.

Tweets, statuses and videos of cat calls to “go back where you came from” or “we won you have to leave” echoed in his head as he sat in the traffic jam. Looking at the blank faces around him he realised nobody was comfortable anymore regardless of how they voted. Democracy had spoken but the country now called for someone to grab it by the scruff of the neck and tell it everything was going to be okay.

But it would never be okay.

The disillusioned in the North of England felt they were being ignored, desperate for someone to see them and help them – but instead the political parties looked to shore up the internal leaks rather than work out what had happened. Selfish maneuvers by those with an axe to grind had forgotten the axe that had fallen on Northern industries decades earlier. only once those problems were fixed could the rebuilding start.

Broken Britain had spoken – and provided the final chisel blow to itself. Broken from Scotland who wanted to be recognised; broken from Northern Ireland who wanted to be heard as fear of falling back in time enveloped them; broken from Londoners who are divided down the middle in the cosmopolitan capital of the world. How can you mend a broken heart? Because this is more than politics, it’s about humanity.

As he pulled into his parking space, the talking heads on the Radio spoke of simple solutions to a complex set of problems. Simple platitudes were not going to smooth things over or allay the deep-seated fears. Politics had finally disintegrated. No one was left to help us. Faces and voices from before the result now spoke in hushed tones and his ears rejected their patronizing language. Even once the engine was off the discussion continued – ironically open the door to get out stopped it.

What had happened had changed him and everything he knew and held dear. From a deep-seated unionist and someone who looked beyond the man-made borders he now found himself questioning his place in the mess left behind. I could move he thought; a thought tempered by not knowing where would be as safe as where he was now. He thought he was secure but as they say life is what happens when you are making plans. No-one in their right mind would have hoped for today’s life of uncertainty.

There was anger in his heart, because he knew that all the Leave voters weren’t racist, but all racists were leave voters. Take back control. Three words he felt were beyond him now. Not knowing where you stood in the UK never mind the EU worried him. What are we taking control back from? A continent divided from two world wars now pulled together for strength now looked fragile and ready to reset to old ways, fears and prejudices. Was there even a future out there he could consider when there were no longer any real guarantees?

Cheer up, it might never happen. This could be the start of a great new adventure. Look for the positives and come together.

No, he thought, it’s too raw yet.

Perhaps in time – if there is time – we can start to rebuild. But who we are and the distrust he felt for his fellow man at this point left him unsure if he could trust in a democracy that valued very different things from him. A majority who want to press the reset button and invoke a nostalgic, halcyon world from Beatrix Potter books, will ultimately be left with Dickens not Tiggywinkle.

He walked into his classroom and sat down. The rows of desks sat empty and there was a strange calmness in the view – mostly because when those seats were filled with the next generation of thinkers, leaders and voters my generation’s representatives couldn’t answer their questions or help them to understand.

He knew the longer that he and the rest of the land sat in purgatory the less likely it was that they would ever move from it. Upwards or down. The reality was slowly settling that the world as he knew it would never again exist and he had to change if he wanted to survive. To survive, not to live but just to hang on in there. Was this really the future people envisioned when they put that cross in the box?

While there was a job to be done, a mortgage to pay and a family to care for there was no other option but to get on with things. But in the back of his mind he would always have the hope that one day a new generation would revisit the globalist agenda of thinking beyond our own front doors and then he’d be ready to rejoin the political world.

JD

As the dust settles

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It’s been three days and I’m still angry. As the dust is settling on the decision made on the UK’s membership of the EU I feel like we’re in Pompeii and suffocating to death.

I faced teenage faces on Friday and as the responsible adult they look to for advice and education I found myself lacking the words and knowledge to explain what had just happened. They couldn’t understand it, and frankly neither could I. Being a teacher I couldn’t be biased, but when the only answer you have is “I don’t know” you realise just how powerless you are after this kind of result.

Worse still is the political response over the last couple of days. When they say “I don’t know” then you know that you are fucked. No one has planned for this and apparently some at the top on the Leave side didn’t really want it or think it could happen. They saw this as a good job interview for Prime Minister but the situation they have in front of them is such a precarious one I doubt they’ll take it.

I thought to myself that this is the result of over thirty years of anger and hurt building to a climax that leaves everyone unsure and shocked. If I see one more tweet or video of a Leave voter “regretting” their vote or claiming “they didn’t think it would count” I worry about my fellow countrymen and women.

I think this is Thatcher’s final victory. No, hear me out.

Back in the 80s we were divided in a way we never had been before with the working class pushed to the side and left to fight for survival after the closure of mines, factories and industries that made this country great. We never did anything to help the situation and while some of us managed to get a leg up before university Grants and Fees were cut away we got an education and escaped a potential life of unfulfilled opportunities.

There was a fear factor in the air as the decade progressed – one that held “foreigners” in distrust. Europe slowly became the boogeyman of the Thatcher era – so much so it even claimed her scalp eventually. Racism was still a major issue in the 1980s and we didn’t really deal with it head on – instead we used politically correct terms to allow the racists a new language of hate and the rise of the BNP and other far right groups.

Thatcher also instilled a selfishness in us that meant we looked out for ourselves before others. This for me goes some of the way to explaining the decision by many in the baby-boomer generation voting away their grandkids’ futures. Over three decades if you are told the EU is to blame for all the shortcomings in our country what do we expect to happen when we’re asked our thoughts on the subject?

The children of Thatcher have finally found their voices and they are the voices of fear, rejection and self-preservation. And in many ways I understand it. If you are told something everyday of your life then eventually you will start to believe it. The invisible working class in this country have been ignored by successive governments of all colours and this was their protest vote. But what was the protest against? The elite and undemocratic system? Well they’ve replaced Cameron with Boris and the EU with the unelected House of Lords. Frying pan and fire I believe.

The fear campaign on the Economy from Remain has already shown its head in the hours following the result. The fear campaign over immigrants and refugees has already seen people being attacked in the street, people being told to “go home” and abuse across social media. Leave have now said they never promised to reduce immigration, instead they could look at how they allowed people in. The mythical £350 million has been brushed under the carpet, the validation of Farage and UKIP has been stamped and now we face a right-wing agenda in the UK.

When half the country don’t want the decision it’s hard to see how anyone can pull the two sides together. Those under 40 now look at their parents and grandparents wondering why this has happened. Right at the end of the age spectrum there was a 80+ group who predominantly voted to stay because they know what the EU has brought us. They lived through the war, they watched a fractured continent rebuild – and rebuild with help from former enemies. Welcoming in those who we had once fought and made a union that worked together. It wasn’t always perfect but compared to what we had in 1945 it was always going to be better and worth protecting.

Now we sit with a fractured and frightened country on both side – everyone unsure of the next step. Neighbouring countries and principalities wondering if it’s time to leave the party too. We’ve gone from being a United Kingdom in a United Europe to possibly being alone in the corner wondering who spiked our drinks.

Political parties lie in tatters as both Red and Blue are broken so there’s not a strong government or a strong opposition. While Alex Salmond would have us believe the SNP are strong, we know that this is not the way Sturgeon wanted to seek Independence because there’s no guarantee the EU will survive much longer. Many countries on the continent now look to see what happens next with us before deciding whether they too need a say on the matter.

The volcano has erupted and everyone is panicking. We know that there will be casualties and that the dust is smothering common sense and a way forward – but can we afford to wait to see what happens next, or should we continue the selfishness that got us here and follow it to its logical conclusion?

JD

…so, what now?

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So, no-one told you life was going to be this way. After a vote to remove the UK from the EU we now face an unknown future – a future I am genuinely worried about – we now look to see what the next few years hold in store.

We can guarantee there will be other referenda, other big votes and more huge decisions. Scotland will have another Independence vote, Northern Ireland will likely be offered the opportunity to join the Republic and Gibraltar may find themselves in a precarious position. With David Cameron stepping down we should find ourselves with an earlier General Election than the five-year cycle once Article 50 is invoked by his replacement. 

I can’t see how any of this will be positive or anything but highly unsettling for the country. Mark Carney knows that his job as head of the Bank of England has just become much more difficult too – balancing the books, inflation and interest rates will all mean tightening of belts in the long-term.

As of today we are in unknown territory. Yes we are still part of the EU until Article 50 is triggered and starts the legal and formal process to leave – likely before the end of the year – but it’s not enough to stop the massive changes coming over the horizon.

Instead of just leaving the EU we could have well caused the end of the UK – not just Scotland leaving, but the power and stature of London is under severe pressure. As the Financial Capital of Europe there are several major banks who will now look to leave London behind and relocate to the continent. Not only banks but major companies may also follow suit – why would they stay in a country that is not part of the EU? SNP could perhaps use this to their advantage and flag up Edinburgh as an alternative.

The other issue is that other countries are sitting waiting to have their own in/out referendum like Sweden, Netherlands, Italy and Denmark. We in Scotland might find ourselves in the difficult position of having an Independence referendum without knowing if there will even be an EU to stay in. Us completely on our own seriously worries me with the oil price no guarantee. 

While we are supposed to be mature and respect the decision, I can’t help but point to the markets, the value of the pound and the reaction from the wider world. The damage is already being done – even with Carney’s declaration this morning. I also point to Boris Johnson and the expected rise of the xenophobic, misogynistic, right – be careful what you wish for. You laugh at Trump across the pond, yet you have almost handed this man the keys to Number 10.

Who’s fault is it? The commentators are already scrabbling to point fingers. Cameron is the main culprit because he was weak to offer a referendum in the first place. He thought that he had the vote in his pocket and he’d finally be rid of Farage, sadly he didn’t understand the mood of the country. Corbyn is being blamed because he didn’t bring out the vote, but it’s hard to fight the negative campaigning we’ve seen from UKIP and the so-called project-hate by stirring up racist emotions. Yes there were traditional Labour voters who voted to Leave but that’s their democratic right.

Blame – if that’s even the right word – lies with us, the British Public. We voted for this, only by 4%, but we voted for it nonetheless. We didn’t have an honest conversation, instead we allowed the politics of fear, hatred and personality take over and caused the result.

Not happy today? I guarantee you won’t be happy for a long time.

JD

 

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

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No facts & figures, just a gut reaction. That’s what this blog is about – and why I am voting Remain.

It’s easy to throw statistics around, but as Ebbe Skovdahl once said they are like miniskirts, stats are fine but it’s what’s beneath them that is interesting. Either side of this argument can “prove” their point by throwing a number at you but I think this debate and referendum are about more fundamental issues. It would also be easy to pick apart the hatred spouted by politicians on both sides (but mostly from Farage). Instead I want to take a more holistic approach to the issues.

Belonging to something bigger than ourselves is part of the human condition. We thrive as a species through the interaction and connections we make in life. Pushing towards a world without barriers and without prejudice is the Utopian dream we must want for our futures. Yes it’s easy to point out the differences between us all but perhaps if we took a minute to reflect on how similar we were, there would be more successes and strengths. I felt the same with the Scottish Referendum two years ago – I don’t want to build more walls separating us from each other, I want bridges to allow us to connect.

I joked yesterday that there should be an upper age limit in this vote of 80 as beyond that little would impact on them if the result was to leave – decisions can take up to ten years (look at Switzerland’s still unfinished trade deal nine years later). But the likelihood is that the older generations are making a decision that will impact on my generation and my children’s generations. I understand that the elders see the current model as something they didn’t vote for in the 1970s, but we have to move on from that and think about where our country, continent and world want to be in the future. The only way is to be in there and influencing decisions not sitting on the outside looking in, wondering why nothing is changing. I want my kids to live in peace and prosperity and I only see that as part of the wider world.

Another reason within the human condition is the nomadic nature we have. I have friends and family from the UK scattered across the planet and if you look at the figures for Brits abroad in general you have to realise that to remove yourself from the bigger picture you fly in the face of that adventurous spirit that we have. You can’t travel in the world without bumping into someone from home – literally from home as in within a few miles of you when you’re abroad. The work and live there in the same way we have others coming to this country to do the exact same.

Fear is another reason I can’t vote leave. I refuse to believe that being part of the bigger picture is dangerous, bringing terrorism, causing rifts. I know from my job as a teacher that removing ignorance on subjects opens minds – if we meet those who are different, welcome them to our communities and learn about them the stigmas will fall. There is no place for racism, xenophobia, prejudice in 21st Century Britain. I don’t want to be threatened with the idea of 508 million people being free to move, work and live across Europe – I want to be proud that we can do that. The impression we’re given of the migration is that they are all of one type and again from the mix of kids I teach I know this is wrong. I have Greek, Polish, Romanian, French, Italian, Spanish, Lithuanian, Nigerian, Iranian, Australian and Canadian pupils and each one is welcome. I, in turn, can go and live in Italy or Germany or Sweden as it’s an open door that goes both ways.

The main reason I want to Remain is that I don’t like the alternative. Living in a UK with small-minded, bigoted people who make us fear beyond our shores is not a country I want to live in. I want ambition, togetherness, opportunity, hope, expansion, integration, development; exchanges of ideas, cultures, knowledge, music, literature, art, food; values of honesty, decency, positivity and inclusion.

I want a Europe that helps and supports and defends and includes and we bring so much to that table – but so do our neighbours and we should learn and listen and engage to them to improve our own country within the world.

So tomorrow I’m voting remain for positive reasons. I’m not blind to the issues and obstacles the EU has – I just want to be in a position to improve it and shape it for the next generation.

JD

Memories of Marsha

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It would have been an evening just like this. Sunshine and the evening would have lasted for hours. Finish your tea then head to the park to see who was out. Didn’t matter who was there you just sat on the swings forever talking about whatever eight and nine-year olds talk about. And singing silly songs at the top of your voice.

Occasionally you would get competitive and decide to have a jumping contest off the swings – who could get the furthest wasn’t bound by health and safety, just by our complete lack of fear. Boxy Park was where we went – nowhere else as far as our parents knew. Okay occasionally we wandered through the school grounds down to the nursery – mostly because it was really good for playing hide and seek.

Since the nights were getting longer and we didn’t have to get home until later we would sit until no-one else was left. Mums and dads would appear and shout us in at various points because we’d been out longer than we were supposed to. No major panics we all chanced our arms.

It would be the summer holidays soon and we’d spend a silly amount of time at the park. All afternoon and most evenings unless we were away on holiday. It really is true that days and weeks and summer holidays lasted forever – the digital watch on your wrist that played random songs was largely ignored as time moved so slowly.

Life was simple. No big worries or questions or pressures, you just got to be a kid. Our biggest worry was how far we could push the time limit. One time I remember vividly from my childhood was sitting until nearly nine o’clock talking to one friend. Dad appeared and dragged me off home – well it was nearly dark and the two of us were just sitting there yapping. She was always at the park and was a big part of my childhood.

Her back gate opened straight on to the park so we used to stand on tiptoes looking to see if she was coming out to play. Sometimes her sister came and sometimes her dog Bess came out for a run around.

Marsha was a great friend while we were at primary school and during those long summer evenings and school holidays we had a good laugh. She was one of the cool kids though and by the time we got to secondary we’d grown apart. We always said hi, but you think that bond you have when you’re growing up gets lost with time.

I saw what happened to her as we both stayed in Bucksburn for a long time after school – our lives had taken two very different paths and I couldn’t help wondering where that beautiful, cheeky blonde girl had gone. We all make decisions in life – sometimes life takes decisions for us and I moved away from where I grew up and didn’t see her for years.

Then Facebook came along and we reconnected – like so many people you went to school with you “friend” them even though you probably have nothing in common. But Marsha would send little messages occasionally. The last one I remember was about a Winnie the Pooh book I had given her as a present when we were young and how it was still one of her favourites. Something I had forgotten but Marsha remembered. That bond from childhood still there in the back of the memory.

I bumped into her several times when I was working at the college when she was doing her Social Work course. It was a bit awkward – I was a lecturer and she was a student. We did chat sometimes and she always said hi. She seemed to have sorted herself out and was back on the straight and narrow.

It was through Facebook I got the news she’d passed away. Today I stood with other school friends and said goodbye to her.

You forget sometimes that those people you grew up with were your constant companions both at school and in the evenings, and they made you the person you are today. Thirty years just dropped away as I remembered her and who we were all those years ago. The bond is still there and will never go – no matter what happens in your life you still have those memories, thoughts, laughs and tears in your character that are the foundation of who you are.

Thank you for reminding me of all those great memories Marsha. Sweet Dreams.

JD