Mounting frustration in Scotland as “devo promises” begin to fall apart

The Weegie Worker - The Glasgow Marxist

Tensions have been riding high in Scotland since the result of the Independence Referendum were announced on Friday morning. The Yes campaigners have begun to look up from licking their wounds to see the promises of further powers for Scotland’s devolved parliament beginning to fall away. There is an increasing uneasiness on the No side of things too, as many No voters cast their ballot to stay in the United Kingdom under the impression that promises on so-called “devo-max” would be met by all three Unionist parties.

In a statement on Friday morning the Prime Minister, David Cameron, said that he would remain committed to increasing powers to the various devolved administrations across the United Kingdom. Cross-party support for this measure, however, quickly fell apart as Labour leader Ed Miliband said that the Labour Party would not sign up to the Prime Minister’s devolution plans and that any discussion of…

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Caledonia quo vadis? Scotland’s vote against self determination

scotland_cover2

In its referendum on Thursday, the Scottish people made a mistake I am near certain they will come to regret: They voted “no”. Their vote was a “no” to self-determination, a “no” to social justice, a “no” to healthier state finances, to development of infrastructure and the Scottish economy. It was also a “yes”: A “yes” to austerity, a “yes” to cuts, a “yes” to the insulting notion that Scotland is too wee, too poor, and too stupid. I’d like to examine why they made such an incredibly flawed decision, and where they can go from here.

The statistics

One of the most significant insights as to this vote can be gained from statistics compiled by the Lord Ashcroft. Watch what happens if we discount 55+ voters from the equation:

Age group Yes % No % Base
16-25 10 71.4% 4 28.6% 14
18-24 40 47.6% 44 52.4% 84
25-34 155 58.9% 108 41.1% 263
35-44 204 53.1% 180 46.9% 384
45-54 215 51.8% 200 48.2% 415
TOTAL 624 53.8% 536 46.2% 1160
Source: Lord Ashcroft Poll

That’s right: The determining factor of this referendum were the voters who were least likely to actually be in any significant way affected by its outcome. Great, isn’t it? It seems the Bitter Together campaign managed to successfully lie to these voters and have them think that their pension was somehow threatened – when, in fact, for the rUK to stop paying its owed pensions to Scots on independence, would be a violation not only of UK law but European law. So, the most poignant conclusion to be reached is that this referendum was decided not by hope, and not even by legitimate fears or caution, but by flat-out lies.

A verse comes to mind:

Whit force or guile cuidnae subdue,
thro’ mony warlik ages,
is wrocht the nou by a coward few,
fir hireling traitor’s wages.
The Inglis steel we cuid disdain,
secure in valour’s staition;
but Inglis gowd has been wir bane –
sic a parcel o rogues in a naition!

Nothing if not an exemplification of the fact that “those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”

The future

Unlikely as it is, I hope that there will be another opportunity for a referendum before all of the oil revenue has been squandered by Wastemonster. Now, a cynic (or a Marxist) might now advocate from a standpoint of the impossibilist theory of social change: Let society degenerate into complete suffering for the masses in order to fuel their “revolutionary spirit”. However, I don’t approve of human suffering. I am a pragmatic idealist; I don’t believe that compromising ideals in the process of achieving them is in the slightest way ethical. So Scotland ought to make the best out of its current situation, even if that delays the advent of a new referendum.

Luckily, Scotland is not lacking in progressive movements. There is the Scottish Socialist Party, of which I am a paying “solidarity member”, the Green Party, and also a non-party political campaign group called Common Weal. I hope that Scotland will be able to make the best out of this situation, especially if some form of British federalism takes hold. Many of their proposals are both radical but implementable. Especially if employment matters are devolved with the new Scotland Bill, a lot progress could be made, such as by instituting a 30-hour work week.

So now, we’ll have to wait, see, and – most importantly – get involved in the process of building a better Scotland, even before the next chance for a truly self-governed Scotland.

The New Plain: An Experiment of Devotion

Picture: M. C.-P.

Picture: M. C.-P.

Over the past few months I have, with great interest, periodically been reading up on a small movement among liberal Friends in the United States termed “The New Plain”.

Traditional plain dress is one of the things Quakers are well-known (and misunderstood) for. Up until the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Quakers stuck to a very rigid set of rules about how they dressed. Originally, this arose from testimony: It was done in an effort to be plain or, as is more popular today, “simple”.

However, this had arisen in the 17th century, when colourful, ornamented and elaborate clothing was an indicator of wealth, rather than something you could get at the nearest shop for the same price as something entirely plain in black and white.

So, over time, this form of “plain dress” became little more than a form without substance, an ostentatious thing that everyone did simply because everyone else was doing it. Of course, Quakers having arisen in part out of George Fox’s rebellion against the “form without substance” he considered to be the so-called outward sacraments (of baptism, the eucharist etc), this was highly hypocritical, and so we did away with it.

It is very difficult to argue that this decision wasn’t perfectly sound. A practice originally intended to make us look ordinary had set us apart from the world and, what’s more, lost its spiritual meaning for many. So, the point of “the New Plain” clearly isn’t to say: “This was a plainer form of dress, so let’s return to this particular way of living plainly.”

Instead, there are many other reasons that would encourage someone from adopting a certain style of dress that is both plain and modest-looking while at the same time not being simply a reflection of society’s common approach to fashion.

I have come to the conclusion that this is something I would like to try. I have been sitting with it for a relatively long time (about 3 months) and testing for myself whether I felt it was a genuine leading or simply an affectation. As this feeling has stuck with me, I decided to talk to other people about it, and while I have received some tough questions and doubts, the feedback I got was actually mostly positive – from both Friends and non-Friends alike.

I have gone with a head-covering that bears little to no resemblance to traditional Friends plain dress. It’s partially a rejection of the sexism of the apostle Paul, who said that women should wear head-coverings because they demonstrate obedience, and men shouldn’t, for that exact same reason. I revile the notion that women are in any way subordinate to men – we are all equal in God. Most of all I find it is obvious enough not to be ignored, and yet plain enough not to be a pretense. It was also cheap, consisting of a £5 buff and a gifted hat.


So, now I have decided to go with it. Here are the reasons why:

1. Devotion – Though it might be very minor compared to, say, becoming an ecumenical accompanier in Palestine, or chaining myself to a fence at a nuclear weapons base, adopting a highly unusual form of dress is, in a way, an act of ministry, of devotion.

By expressing my discipleship, my commitment to leading a life in the Spirit, in such an obvious and outward way, I open myself to inquiry, scrutiny, even criticism. In accepting this possible burden, I demonstrate in a way, outward and minor though it may be, my commitment to your faith.

2. Discipline – It is fairly impossible to adopt an obvious form of devotional dress and not notice. By constantly bearing with me an obvious reminder of my faith, I am more often reminded to hold myself to certain standards of behaviour and living.

To me, being convinced and becoming a member of the Religious Society of Friends entails a subjection to the corporately discerned discipline, as well as a covenant with God. Hopefully, this demonstration of my faith will lead me to scrutinising more of my own behaviour and holding myself to a higher standard. After all, if I outwardly express that I am devoted to God, I should also be inwardly so – otherwise, I’d be dishonest.

3. Self-Expression – The fact that I am Quaker is central to my life. Our faith, we are told, is not a notion but a way. Of course I can wear a little “Quakers” badge, and occasionally people will notice and inquire what it means. But many people wear badges for many different reasons – I wear a political badge as well, for example.

But my faith is far more significant to my sense of self than my political thought. Political thought is an exercise of the mind, even though it is based on a morality which, for me, comes from faith. In any event, it is thus not as fundamental to my sense of self as my faith is. Therefore, I want to express my commitment to my faith in a more significant way.


Finally, I would like to address some concerns and questions others have raised.

It’s ostentatious; it violates the testimony of simplicity – Outward forms aren’t inherently ostentatious. The problem with outward forms is when they lack substance; there is nothing wrong with outward forms in themselves. I found an interesting passage in Geoffrey Durham’s Spirit of the Quakers which talks about just this: If we reject all outward forms simply because they are outward forms, that in itself is an outward form; but worse: an empty one.

Shaking hands after Meeting for Worship is an outward form. Saying “I hope so” rather than “Yes” in Meeting for Worship for Church Affairs is an outward form. Refusing to swear oaths is an outward form. The important thing is, whatever forms we engage in, that they have meaning – substance – to us, and that we do not forget that meaning.

It’s weird – Hm, yeah, it probably is. It’s also “weird” to oppose the monarchy or to advocate nuclear disarmament, if we define “weird” as “not normal” and “normal” as “what most people do”. But since when has that ever mattered? And why should it? Advice 38: “Do not let your […] fear of seeming peculiar determine your decisions.”

You’re not wearing authentic plain dress – Indeed not, because that isn’t the point. I’m not trying to emulate historical Quakers, I’m trying to find a practical way of accomplishing the above-stated goals through the medium of dress. Whether or not my shirt has a collar or my hat a broad brim is inconsequential to that.

Will you be doing this forever? I don’t know. Quite possibly. Quite possibly not. I am, to put it in Quaker terms, testing this leading, only by going ahead with it. It will not harm anyone, and if I end up deciding that no, in fact this isn’t something I feel led to continue doing, then so be it.

That is the approach I take to all my habits, and even my beliefs. Advices and Queries tell us to be open to new light from wherever it may come, and to think it possible that we are mistaken. I currently consider myself Christian, and state that I believe in God. Even that may, at some point, change. As may thus my decision to wear a devotional headdress.

Will you be wearing this headdress indoors? In public places, yes. At home/wherever I’m staying, I’m going to take it off. Also, if I’m far too hot, I’m swimming, or whenever else it would be seriously impractical. Whether or not I will take it off in churches, I don’t know. On the one hand, I don’t wish to offend anyone. On the other hand: Would Jews remove their kippahs in churches? Many probably wouldn’t. So, to this one, the answer is: I don’t know. I definitely intend to wear it during Meeting for Worship.

How have your family and friends reacted? My mother doesn’t mind, nor does my girlfriend. As for people from College, I have yet to see, since it’s currently the holidays. Some of them might find it amusing, some stupid, but most of them will probably just not really give damn.

And believe me, I am still alive!

myself
(Yes, the sole purpose of that headline was to send shudders down the spines of Portal fans)

Ten months of living in Britain. However have I managed? Quite well, actually. Better, at any rate, than I did in Germany. As I’d always suspected, my strong identification with British (and on a wider level Anglo-American culture) provided me with cultural barriers in Germany that have fallen away for me here.

I’m highly involved in a religious community (the Quakers), I’ve made countless new friends (and Friends) and even more new acquaintances, I’ve travelled as far west as Bath and as far north as Aberdeen, I’m engaged with the political scene and I’ve probably become a whole lot less lethargic than I was just a year ago. In numbers, I’ve been on hundreds (yes, hundreds) of trains and a few coaches, I’ve participated in 4 academic schemes and several Quaker events, I’ve had 2 relationships, 1.5 breakups, and a partridge in a pear tree. (The latter is a lie. My neighbours have a parrot, though.)

So yes, for those very few readers of this blog who are neither connected to me on facebook nor follow me on Twitter, rumours of my untimely demise (if there’ve been any) have been greatly exaggerated. I hope to resume some activity on this blog in the not too distant future, enlightening you all with snippets from my life as well as my ramblings on politics, spirituality, society, and other miscellaneous matters (as the blog’s name promises).

Week 1 in Britain: A Review, Part II

I apologise for the delay, I was unexpectedly busy on Friday and Saturday. Here, as promised, is the second part of my review of moving here follows now. In order to make it up to you, I have decided to include both Friday and Saturday in this review – so, for the two delayed days, two days more of review. However, before I get started, I have two addenda to make. I was in a slight rush to finish the post on Thursday.

Addenda

Literature

While in Brighton, I purchased two books I had long been intending to read: “Paper Towns” and “The Fault in Our Stars” by author, vlogger and nerdfighter extraordinaire John Green, at the aforementioned WHSmith. For a total of £8.99, due to their “Buy 1 get 1 for £1” scheme, which I found quite nice.

I’ve already finished Paper Towns (started on Monday, finished on Tuesday, since I had little to do that day), and in all honesty it is one of the most brilliant works of literature I have read. The only point of criticism I have is that the ending seemed very short and dissatisfactory considering the buildup, but then again, it’s not like I could’ve done it any better.

Photography and Exploration

On Sunday, after the Quaker Meeting, I had a bit of a chance to explore Bexhill’s Marina and take a few pictures of the sunny seaside. Here’s a gallery:

But now, without further ado, on to Monday!
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Week 1 in Britain: A Review, Part I

I have been living in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for a week now, and I thought this was occasion enough to write about. Well, actually, that is a lie: I have only lived in Great Britain, not Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but the semantic peculiarities of this green and pleasant land seem to want to disagree.

All shoddy puns aside, for those of you who have not yet read the post before my last one, I have moved to the lovely Southern English town of Bexhill-on-Sea. This surprisingly vibrant little place is conveniently placed right between Hastings and Eastbourne (and close to Brighton, but Brighton’s a shithole – I’m not being prejudicial: I went there, and I sorely regret it).

I suppose an account of my ventures would best be broken down by individual days, so that is precisely what I shall do. However, since so much happened in this week, I have decided to break it down into two parts. This part will document Thursday 3.10. to Sunday 6.10., and Part II, which I will be posting tomorrow, will document Monday 7.10. to Thursday 10.10. (i.e. today)

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Life Update: Off to Old Blighty

Up until now, I’ve lived in Cologne all my life (aside from a little over a month in Berlin during an internship). Due to a confluence of factors which I shan’t go into now, I am moving to the United Kingdom. On Thursday. It’s all a bit quick, yes. I made the decision last Tuesday, but I’m confident it’s for the better. I will be attending Bexhill Sixth Form College in East Sussex – I know, it’s not Scotland, but it’s still environmentally beautiful and I’ll be near the shore, which is good for my allergies.

On the less enjoyable side, since I will be spending 2 years in England, I won’t have 3 years uninterrupted residence in an EU country outside England. What this means is that I’ll have to pay tuition fees in Scotland. Oh well, worse things could happen. At least I will be able to obtain British citizenship 1 year into my university course, rather than 3. This comes in handy, as I’m thinking about volunteering as a Special Constable in the Edinburgh & Lothian Police (which I’m sure is “quality polis” – I wonder how many of you will get that reference)

However, one of the things I am really looking forward to in moving to the UK is the culture. I know it sounds like a very odd reason to move to the UK, of all places, but it’s because of my slightly odd situation. I am more British than German by culture. I watch British television programmes, like QI, Doctor Who, Mock the Week, BBC Panorama and what have you. In the ways of fiction, I tend more towards American productions like Suits and White Collar and such, but that’s beside the point.

The point is that none of these programmes are actually broadcast on normal German television, so apart from the other British people at my (now former) school have a clue what I’m talking about when I mention Stephen Fry or Louis Theroux. This makes it very hard for me to find something to talk about to my German “peers”, unless they happen to be geeks like myself and enjoy talking about gaming, science or computers, which isn’t very common.

So, yes, I’m looking forward to actually having some cultural commonalities with the people around me, rather than having to stand there in awkward silence.

Also, I’m looking forward to the religious breadth the United Kingdom has. In Germany, you are really either Catholic, Lutheran, Atheist or Muslim. That’s it. Other religious groups are generally so tiny, they don’t have communities and facilities set up anywhere, unless it’s things from immigration or so, like Orthodox Christianity and Judaism. But there’s nothing like Baptists, Unitarians, or Quakers – the latter being a religious community I am actually contemplating joining. Their morals seem to coincide with mine, and their lack of theological dogma appeals very much to me.

With under three days left in Germany, I am, unfortunately, quite busy packing, so I suppose I should get back to it. I suppose my next post will probably be posted from my new abode in Bexhill. Until then, don’t forget to be awesome.