Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bite-size examples of the logical consistency of unionists

I'm grateful to DougtheDug on the previous thread for pointing me in the direction of former Labour MP Maria Fyfe's contribution to Labour Hame on the teaching of Scottish history. One passage in particular leapt out at me -

"Then there is the endlessly repeated mantra that our Scottish Parliament has been “reconvened”. Why? On the spurious grounds that when the Scottish Parliament of 1707 met for the last time it stood adjourned. We have had over three hundred years to get used to the combined Parliament and play our part in reforming the franchise. Both Holyrood and Westminster would be unrecognisable to the tiny band of rich men of 1707 who stood for political parties so long forgotten only historians of the period can even name them."

I trust that Maria would therefore agree that we shouldn't be misleading children into thinking that the Labour party that ruled over us between 1997 and 2010 had anything at all to do with the authentic Labour party of old, simply on the spurious grounds that both shared the same name. Maybe that way we could finally educate people into spotting their catastrophic error in assuming that they are in some way voting for the same party that their "faether voted for, and his faether before him".

Let's move on now to the latest pearl of wisdom from John McTernan, newly appointed adviser to Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard -

"The obscene personal abuse Scottish nationalists are now bringing to Twitter reveals a narrowness and nastiness deep-set in separatism."

I trust then, John, that your first piece of advice to your new employer will be to urgently reverse the historic error of Australian separation from the motherland? We can't be having any of that narrow, obscene nastiness Down Under, can we?

(As an aside, what a thoroughly depressing appointment. I actually want the Australian Labor Party to win the next election, but I'm not exactly filled with confidence now.)

Last but not least, we have Michael Forsyth's extraordinary claim that Murdo Fraser's wish to lead a centre-right party that is actually electable would be "the greatest political error since Bonnie Prince Charlie turned back at Derby to face certain defeat".

So, let's see. That makes it a greater political error than using Scotland as a guinea pig for the poll tax in 1989, and stubbornly opposing devolution between 1979 and 1997, at the cost of all 22 Scottish Tory seats, and the halving of the party's share of the vote. Yes, I see what you mean, Michael - something worse than all that must be pretty bad.

1 comment:

  1. James,

    Excellent post that captures some inconvenient truths for unionists. Might I add my own tuppence worth. The opening sentence of Maria Fyfe’s post says it all really:

    “It is doubtful whether the Scottish government can be trusted with the teaching of Scottish studies when they are so fond of twisting the facts to suit themselves”.

    If we substitute the words “British government” and “Labour-supporting teachers” (like Ms Fyfe) into this sentence you can understand why schoolchildren of my generation left school with little or no knowledge of Scottish history. We were told about the Tolpuddle martyrs, the Peterloo massacre alright, but it wasn’t until after we’d left school that we first encountered the names Thomas Muir, John MacLean or James Connolly and their significance in Scottish history. In effect, if you wanted to learn about Scottish history as a Scottish schoolchild, you had to teach yourself, an astonishing state of affairs for any nation and a terrible indictment of the Scottish teaching profession.

    The sub-text of Maria Fyfe’s post is familiar enough. Scottish history and particularly any Scottish history that has even a tenuous link to ‘nationalism’ must not be taught, for that would be to politicize Scottish history. But what Maria Fyfe and other Labour-supporting teachers in Scotland won’t tell you is that the decision not to teach this history and to promote ‘British’ history instead is itself a political decision and this has politicized our children’s education for generations.

    In a curious way though, the work of generations of Scottish teachers like Maria Fyfe might provide one of the underlying explanations for the rise of nationalism in Scotland. By neglecting Scottish history, our teachers, inadvertently, made us even more curious about it and as we explored the subject we discovered that what we were ‘taught’ at school was a sanitized and highly politicized version of Scottish history and we wanted to provide explanations for this, particularly when we discovered that this wasn’t how the teachers in other nations taught their nations’ history.

    The German philosopher Ernst Bloch devised the concept of non-simultaneity to depict a situation where modern techniques and associated beliefs co-existed with pre-modern beliefs, with often devastating effects. The ongoing violent response of radical Islamists to the western-inspired unsettling of their world is one contemporary example.

    In effect, what Bloch was depicting is something that many Scottish teachers, like Maria Fyfe, were guilty of, even today - the dictatorship of the past over the present, or rather, the dictatorship of a particular version of the past over the present and how the present has the capacity to unsettle the past and our understanding of it. In this case, the growing non-simultaneity of British hegemony and Scottish self-determination.

    Maria Fyfe is now retired and her version of Scotland’s past is being unsettled, hence her response to current developments. But her post begs the question: who’s been teaching the teachers all these years?