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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Monday, August 22, 2005

View towards Screel and Bengairn (1200 ft high) beyond playing fields of school I went to in 1960ies.  Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Republican Communist Covenanters

Image: memorial to battle of Drumclog, 1679

The following is linked to previous blog Martyrs: etc

In 2003, Neil Davidson wrote 'Discovering the Scottish Revolution 1692-1746', which is a Marxist interpretation of Scottish istory. The book created a strong debate amonsgt Scottish socialists.

A flavour of the debate can be found at

http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/501/ssp.html which describes a conference held in 2003

This debate was actually begun - rather subliminally - the previous day, in the session on ‘Revolution in 17th century Scotland?’ and this time Allan Armstrong of the ultra-nationalist Republican Communist Network platform was facing comrade Davidson. The discussion frequently seemed quite narrowly centred on historical detail, but there was no doubting the real agenda: the nationalists’ attempt to rubbish comrade Davidson’s thesis - propounded in his book Discovering the Scottish revolution 1692-1746 - that the bourgeois revolution in Scotland helped set the scene for a single, all-Britain working class. The conclusion comrade Davidson draws from this is that “it is unlikely there is going to be another Scottish revolution separate from one in Britain as a whole” (Weekly Worker October 16).
Unsurprisingly, Allan Armstrong argued that there is a distinct Scottish revolutionary tradition - the comrade insists on tracing Scottish nationhood back to the 17th century Covenanters (before the union, obviously). Comrade Davidson, however, argued that in Scotland it is impossible to locate mass revolutionary movements before the existence of capitalism - the Scottish bourgeois revolution was carried out from above, he stresses.

Living in splendid rural isolation, I missed out on this debate/ argument, until I found this by Allan Armstrong of the Republican Communist Network (Scotland)


which mentions the Cameronians. As a result I wrote the following piece , fired it off and forgot all about it until today, when I got a copy of Emancipation & Liberation Issue No. 9 of the Journal of the Republican Communist Network which had my article in it. Rather flatteringly I am described as" a historian living in Galloway who contributed to BBC Radio Scotland's acclaimed series - The Lowland Clearances..."

So here is the article.

Highlandism and the Politics of Geography.

Having lived for 10 years in Hackney, east London [population 200 000] and then returning to Castle Douglas, south-west Scotland [population 3800], the contrast between these very different environments led me to research the history of the south-west. Why did Galloway remain a rural region despite the best efforts of landowners and entrepreneurs in the late 18th century? Castle Douglas was meant to become a `cotton town' when it was built in the 1790s, but failed to become a rival to Manchester or Paisley.

Very quickly, I realised that geography and even geology had to be taken into account. Castle Douglas' cotton factory lacked enough water power to work its looms. Galloway lacked the coal needed for steam power. For these and other, related, reasons Galloway never experienced an industrial revolution and remains a rural region.

It also remains a `forgotten' region of Scotland. Its history remains a local history, excluded from the main stream of popular Scottish history. One could argue that this is because key events in Scottish history took place elsewhere. Yet for a brief period, events in Galloway and the south-west were important.

Since Allan Armstrong has already and very effectively documented this period in his article, I will move on to some `why' questions.

Why are the Lowland Cameronians not so well known as the Highland Jacobites? In particular, why should the supression of the Highlands post 1745 be so well known whereas the supression of Galloway and the south-west post 1660 is not?

Here geography cannot be the simple answer. Both regions were and are remote from the centre of Scottish political power in Edinburgh. Both regions were and are highly rural. Nor can their histories provide an obvious answer. Yes, the power of the Scottish state had met with resistance in the Highlands long before the Jacobite period. But Galloway was an equally difficult region. In the 12th century, Fergus of Galloway [who termed himself `rex' or king of Galloway] and his descendants tried to maintain the region's independence from the Scottish crown. Galloway also supported the Balliol claim to the Scottish throne against that of the Bruces during the Wars of Independence. In the 15th century, Galloway was a power base for the Douglasses against the Stewarts.

The answer may lie in Professor Tom Devine's forthcoming book `Scotland's Empire' in which he claims that `the notion of Scottishness, steeped in all things tartan, was a myth designed to accomodate Scottish ambitions within the British Empire" [Sunday Herald: 12 October].

In otherwords, by locating Scottish national identity within the history and culture of the Highlands, clan feudalism and Stuart absolutism [the divine right of kings] became the signifiers of Scottishness. Significantly, Devine dates this construction of `Highlandism' to the period 1790 to 1840.

This was also when, as Allan Armstrong explains, the radical traditions of the Covenanters re-emerged.
The radical left-wing Covenanting tradition went underground for most of the eighteenth century. However, it re-emerged in the United Scotsmen and early trade union organisations. Their democratic organisation was modelled on that of the Cameronians. They had formed United Societies organised in wider Correspondences. They kept in contact by circulating Declarations (early manifestoes). These were discussed and debated at their General Meetings. The very language of these new democratic and working class organisations comes directly from the earlier United Societies. "A national Committee of Scottish Union Societies had emerged during the 1812 (Glasgow weavers') strike. The word `society' has a long pedigree in Scottish political history. Presbyterian extremists in the seventeenth century frequently being referred to as `society men."
This was the period when `democracy' was a revolutionary idea, and one which had to be suppressed. It is hardly surprising then that the history and traditions of the Highlands were adopted and promoted as that of the `true' Scotland and those of the Lowlands and south- west were not.


As Allan Armstrong points out:
As a result of the long domination of British unionist history on the Left, a populist Jacobite history and culture has permeated wide sections of society in Scotland, not least the Left. Ironically this `divine right' monarchist tradition is unionist too - only it is the Union of the Crowns it upholds. It is an indication of the serious lack of knowledge of Scotland's own vernacular revolutionary traditions that there are Scottish socialists, who identify with this feudal, counter-revolutionary tradition.

In which case, overcoming `Highlandism' is not going to be easy, when even would be Scottish revolutionaries accept it at face value...

Nor, given that today Galloway [and Upper Nithsdale] is represented by a Conservative MP and MSP, can it be claimed that the south-west has remained true to its radical political heritage.
It may be that Tom Devine's new book will revolutionise popular understandings of Scottish history and national identity. I am not so sure. Earlier this year I contributed a section on the Galloway Levellers to a Radio Scotland series on the `Lowland Clearances'. Unfortunately, all though packed with challenging historical research, the series has made no impression on the belief that the Highland Clearances were a unqiue phenomenon.

Highlandism is just too deeply embedded in popular consciousness. For every article like Allan Armstrong's, there are a dozen which perpetuate the `imperial' version of Scottish history.
And yet... for all its flaws, the devolved parliament in Edinburgh exists as a centre of political power and influence. What I have noticed, from the perspective of the south-west, is that the politics of Scotland's geography are beginning to re-assert themselves. In particular, although expressed in crude `pork-barrel'/ economic self-interest terms, the rural south [Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders] is challenging `Highlandism'.

Why are the Highlands a `special case' ask local politicians? No rational answer can be given. Indeed, none can be given. Similar rural problems exist north and south of the central belt, yet the rural north recieves more public funding per head than the rural south - well in excess of any geographic / demographic factors.
In `The Scottish Political System' [Cambridge University Press: 1989: 242 ], Professor James Kellas explains that the Highlands are a `special case' for public funding, since "Many symbolic aspects of Scottish nationality are derived from Highland, rather than Lowland, Culture. Tartans, kilts, clans, bagpipes and country dancing are now built into the Scottish image... much of the sympathy for the Highlands is based on the feeling that if its ways of life were to perish, Scottish nationality itself would be in danger. This accounts for public expenditure to prop up the Highland economy."

When analysed, this politics of geography becomes a geography of politics. Kellas dismisses the distinctiveness of the rural south in a footnote, since it lacks Gaelic culture/ language. What Allan Armstrong has re-membered is the revolutionary political heritage of this forgotten region of Scotland.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Get pissed: destroy

Photo is of 1996 Guinness site / Wandsworth occupation from This Land is Ours website http://www.cix.co.uk/~tsphoto/land/landmenu.htm

Get pissed: destroy [Sex Pistols: Anarchy in the UK: 1976]

Found this report by Starhawk on her G8 experiences. I’ve edited it down and highlighted the interesting section, but just to reinforce my theme, here it is again

While the vast majority of people were there to mount and support actions against the G8, there was a small but significant group of the festival/party crowd, who drank heavily, imbibed, I'm sure, other consciousness altering substances, and caused an immense amount of trouble to the rest of us. Overall Scottish and British culture is much more alcohol-focused than us U.S. puritans are used to, at least in action situations, and even the most serious activists like their beer and some loud disco music to unwind with at night.

I guess anyone who has been involved in any kind of alternative actions/ spaces over at least the past 25 years will recognise the problem. Way back in 1981/2 , at least according to Albert Meltzer, it was drunken punks wot trashed the Wapping ‘Autonomy’ (Anarchy) Centre. John Pendragon made a similar complaint to me (circa 1986) about ‘punks’ destroying the Travelling / free festivals culture… although a few years later blame shifted to the acid house rave scene. At Greenham in 1982 , it was the Peace Convoy from Stonehenge - though here it was men in generally rather than punks that were seen as the problem. At Greenlands Farm, Glastonbury in 85, it was the ‘Brew Crew’, with similar problems on the M11 campaign at Claremont Road in 94.

But is it just alcohol ? Barnaby, who lived at the Guinness site in Wandsworth in 96 reckoned the big difficulty was that such alternative spaces [Temporary Autonomous Zones as Hakim Bay described them] attract people with mental health problems. Barnaby felt the sheer numbers of such people overwhelmed the physical and practical resources of those who were there to make a political point. The theory of ‘Care in the Community’ is fine, but in practice it means there are a lot of people with severe mental health problems who have no ‘community’ to be cared in. The alternative community has to cope as best it can.

When alcohol and ‘other consciousness altering substances’ are added into the mix, violent and abusive behaviour is a result. This can either be directed ‘internally’ or ‘externally’ - towards the alternative community or towards the police, as Starhawk indicates. It seems to be a problem which is mostly ignored, even though it undermines even the most together attempts to create working alternatives to the status quo.

Rather than waffle on, read what she says and think about it. "Tat" is a word which came from the travelling community / road protest interface - I think. I don't remember it being used by the pre-travelling anarcho goth punk community.


July 11, 2005
Tatting Down
"Tat" is a word I'd never heard until a few weeks ago, that has dominated my life throughout this action. "Tat" means "stuff", material resources, generally of a low but useful quality, and often acquired from 'skips', which at home we call 'dumpsters', by a process known as 'skipping' (tr. 'dumpster diving') or sometimes by 'blagging', which means talking people into or out of something. Hopefully not by 'nicking', that is, stealing, although 'getting nicked' also means 'getting arrested.' We spent weeks tatting, or acquiring tat, in order to create the ecovillage-from old bathtubs to plumbing parts to wood, and now we are 'tatting down', or taking the ecovillage apart. It's sad to see it go, sad to see all the social fabric deconstruct itself, the coaches turn back into pumpkins. Before it goes away entirely, I want to write something about the last few days.
In camp, we had an emergency meeting to deal with the toilet crisis. Our diversity of toilets included nine composting toilets built around wheely bins (wheeled garbage cans) which would be sealed and stored for two years, and the resulting compost then used on trees and ornamentals. It also included many trench toilets dug along the edges of the field, which would simply be filled in and left to compost in place. And it was supposed to include forty porta-loos (porta-potties, honey huts, chemical toilets), required by the Council for the license and which we were counting on for capacity. Due to many circumstances beyond anyone's control, we never had more than fifteen, and for days the company had been unable to come in and clean them. First this was due to the police lines, but by Friday, a truck had managed to come through, only to be mounted by an exuberant and possibly drunk crowd who danced on top of it and reputedly threatened the driver. When his boss phoned for help, someone on the phone allegedly swore at him, and now the company was refusing to come back.

The incident illustrated some of the wild contradictions in the camp. While the vast majority of people were there to mount and support actions against the G8, there was a small but significant group of the festival/party crowd, who drank heavily, imbibed, I'm sure, other consciousness altering substances, and caused an immense amount of trouble to the rest of us. Overall Scottish and British culture is much more alcohol-focused than us U.S. puritans are used to, at least in action situations, and even the most serious activists like their beer and some loud disco music to unwind with at night. There were multiple sound systems in camp, and the thundering base vied with the thrum of helicopters to disturb any possibility of sleeping.

By setting up an encampment, where we all had to live together for a week, we were constantly faced with the real life, practical implications of our politics. Does anarchism simply mean that no one can ever tell me what to do, whatever state of consciousness I'm in or however I'm affecting the good of the whole? How do we respect the individual freedom of those who are in no state to make rational decisions or listen to the needs of others, and who gets to decide? And at what point does the good of the whole override the absolute freedom of the individual? It's one thing to consider these issues in the abstract, another to spend half an hour at 2:30 AM trying to get a drunk to move back from the police lines.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

On being conscious

Is this a picture of a real place, or a simulated reality?

It was a book on modern art that did it. Must have back around 82, the squat on New North Road. The book was Mark (Wilson/ Mob)'s . Can't remember what the hell was in the book, but on my journey back home, down in the tube station at midnight there was a huge advertising poster. Its edge was torn and I could see layer upon layer of all the previous adverts exposed like geological layers. I looked down and saw rubbish scattered on the platform and - BANG - it was all art!
It was as if I was having a lucid dream whilst wide awake, a sudden heightening / deepening of perception and awareness. As if the dingy dark tube station had been wrenched out of its context and placed in an art gallery, as if the randomness of everyday life had become intentional - the poster purposively torn, the rubbish thoughtfully placed.

I had a similar experience tonight, walking up a short path along a filled in and grassed over railway cutting. But rather than art, the experience was one of a heightened awareness of 'being conscious', of aliveness. Over the years I have got used to such flashes so whilst enwrapped in the experience, I also tried to understand it. I wondered what was going on in my brain - if a brain scan at that moment would show different parts of the brain 'lighting up'?

And how unique was this heightening of awareness of being conscious? Is consciousness subjective or objective? Are such moments always private , interior and personal - or can they ever be shared? Beyond these thoughts, others lurked - Ramsay Dukes/ Lionel Snell's Johnstone's Paradox - the world as a simulation (as in The Matrix and PK Dick etc).

But could any simulation of reality contain so much data? A tangle of vegetation borders the path, growing on the old railway cutting - which I can remember from when it still was a railway cutting 40 years ago- and the edges had been roughly cut back from the path. A tangle of grasses and nettles, brambles and weeds lay in a yard wide strip, the dead vegetation already turning brown and yellow. The path itself a strip of tarmac, but overlaid with patches of moss, green in winter, but brown in summer. Here and there the dried up moss has begun to flake off the tarmac in small sections. I saw a few wild raspberries amongst the ash saplings and picked a handful, savouring their bitter sweetness.

Can any simulation of reality be so real?
What about dreams? Occasionally, in moments of lucid dreaming, I have tried to compare the texture, the feel of dream reality with waking reality. For a few seconds it has felt real, but the attempt always seems to break the dream and I wake to find the handful of dream soil I had grasped has vanished.

And yet...
Dream houses, dream places, dreamscapes - all are simulated creations, are 'mindstuff' made physical, made flesh. Where is the consciousness of the dreamer in the dream? Or should that be of the sleeper in the dream? Surely 'consciousness' in the dream is equally in all parts - in the person of the dream self/ dream selves, but no less in the dream world around the person.

There is a theory, unproven, perhaps unprovable, that 'consciousness' is a fundamental property, right up/ down with matter, energy, space and time. So that our brains do not somehow generate or create consciousness, but receive and amplify a consciousness which is embedded in reality.

Thus there is no 'individual' consciousness as such. Instead there is a collective and all -embracing consciousness. The sense of having a personal consciousness is therefore a product of memory and experience. Can I come up with an analogy? Maybe in the way that although every human shares a distinct set of genes, each individual is also unique.

I don't know. It is difficult to get away from the feeling that 'my' consciousness is like a light from within shining out into the world around me and illuminating it. Sometimes, like tonight, or that night 23 years ago, it blazes forth incandescently, other times it is but a flickering candle casting shadows everywhere.
It does feel as if, when I can turn the focus inward and/ or outward in the right way, that the individual aspect vanishes and....? A wordless, language less state of being emerges and merges with a seething chaotic quantum ocean which is / is not identical with the 'world', with 'reality'.

Maybe such experiences are equivalent to the 'waking from a lucid dream' ? I have had dreams which flowed smoothly and unbroken from 'being asleep and dreaming' to 'being awake and conscious'. I can, given a bit of private space and time, make the similar shift from waking self-consciousness into waking non-self- consciousness. I have even tried to maintain that state through into 'public' space and time but it doesn't last for long. It is like the lucid dreaming problem. Just as trying to test the boundaries of lucid dreaming leads to waking up, so the need to maintain functionality in social consensus reality leads to the forgetting of non-self -consciousness. One might as well try and walk around naked (like the guy who keeps trying to walk naked from Lands End to John o' Groats) as try to stay ego less in social reality. We need to wear our ego masks just as we need to wear clothes if we are to function and exist in everyday life.

The best that can be said is that by thinking of the ego, the social self, as a mask, as a suit of clothes, that mask can be adapted and changed. The self becomes a chameleon. Or is that too passive a mode? What if, to quote Zounds, one wishes to 'subvert' everyday life : " If you've got a job, you can be an agent and work for revolution in your place of employment" ?

Yeah, well, maybe. Never quite worked out that way when I worked for London Rubber. Now it is late and I need to return to social reality and go to sleep so I can do my parenting /caring stuff tomorrow.

Martyrs: religion politics terrorism

Religion Politics Terrorism

Here we go, another history lecture.

But where to begin? In a church. [The one you can see here] For the first 16 years of my life I went tthis church every Sunday. It was rather dull. No hellfire and damnation, no lengthy lectures on sin and damnation. It was, and still is, a Church of Scotland church. But doing some local history research last year, I found its origins lay in religious terrorism. The church had been built in 1801 by the Reformed Presbyterians aka Macmillanites aka Cameronians. The Cameronians took their name from Richard Cameron. In 1680, Cameron with a troop of about 20 armed horsemen, rode into the small town of Sanquhar in the Southern Uplands of Scotland and read out a Declaration of Holy War against the British State ( king Charles II and his brother James) at the town cross.

The response was swift. Within a month, Cameron had been hunted down and killed. End of story? Not quite. Following the death of Charles II, his Catholic brother James (VII and II) fled into exile after the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688 which gave the kingship to the Protestant William of Orange. In Scotland, followers of Richard Cameron fought against the Jacobites (supporters of James VII and II) at the battle of Killiecrankie. In Ireland the Battle of the Boyne in 1689 was the deciding one - although Orange (after William of Orange) marchers in Ireland and Scotland still re-fight this battle every July.

The famous battle of Culloden in 1746 was part of the same history, as was the 'English' Civil War, which led to Charles II's dad having his head chopped off a hundred years earlier. (After the Scots, who had captured him, sold him to the English for £200 000).

"Death to me is as a bed to the weary. Do not weep for me, the bell tolls not for my execution, but for my wedding day.".

The words of a 26 year old about to die for his beliefs and become yet another religious martyr. But this was not an Islamic fundamentalist, it was a Scot, James Renwick executed on the 17th February 1688 in Edinburgh. On the steps of the gallows, Renwick proclaimed:

"I am this day to lay down my life for three things; for disowning the usurpation and tyranny of James , Duke of York [king James VII and II], for preaching that it is unlawful to pay the cess [tax levied to pay for troops to suppress religious dissidents/ extremists] and for teaching that it was lawful for people to carry arms to defend themselves [against troops sent to suppress 'illegal' religious gatherings]... I think a testimony for these is worth many lives."

Within months of Renwick's execution, Catholic king James fled Britain and Protestant William of Orange became king.

Now I am stuck. I have already written 1500 words here, but the sound bite is elusive. The best I can manage is that violent fundamentalist religious extremism is part of British history. And that where British and Irish histories overlap, it is part of the present day. 3600 people have died in the past 30 years due to an overlap between religion and politics in the north of Ireland. Although James Renwick and Richard Cameron (see below) are all but forgotten, the Battle of the Boyne is not. The battle was fought between kings James and William, between Catholics and Protestants.

Where the history starts to get complicated is that what began as religious arguments against 'Stuart Absolutism' (the Divine in Right of Kings) in the 17th century - like Samuel Rutherford’s 'Lex, Rex' of 1644, which found religious and philosophical justification for the overthrow of tyrannical regimes - laid the foundations for later democratic politics. Equally, as Rutherford found, it was not possible to construct a 'religious state' based on Pure Faith. [See Politics, Religion and the British Revolutions : The mind of Samuel Rutherford by John Coffey : Cambridge University Press: 1997 and 2002 ]. Caught up in the political turmoil of London during the 'English' Civil War, Rutherford retreated into religion as a private and personal belief system, despairing of any attempt to create a 'Godly Kingdom'.

Not that this saved him from being accused of treason on the restoration of Charles II. He was due to stand trial and be executed in 1661, but luckily (?) died before the trial began. Instead his book was burnt by the hangman. Funny thing is, looking up Rutherford, I found on a website
dedicated to the USA Constitution there is the whole text of Lex Rex -
the claim being that Rutherford's ideas were 'in the mix' when the Constitution was being drafted. Which is possible. Rutherford was minister (vicar) at Anwoth in Galloway and one of his best mates was John Livingston - another Covenanter minister. Livingston eventually fled into exile in Holland, from where his son, Robert Livingston, emigrated to America in 1670. This Robert Livingston was a businessman not a religious type and founded a New York based dynasty. His (great?) grandson, another Robert Livingston, helped draft the USA Constitution and actually swore in George Washington as first President.
Amusing aside - Rutherford's old church at Anwoth features in the classic horror film The Wickerman. See http://www.sw-scotland-screen.com/wickerman_trail/day1.html
http://www.nuada98.fsnet.co.uk/nuada%203/page3.html and tons more

Religion , politics, economy.
When did it all begin? Barbarism vs civilisation... try The Making of Europe : Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change 950- 1350 by Robert Bartlett: BCA : 1993. Bartlett's theme is that from the nucleus of the Emperor Charlemagne’s attempt to re-create the Roman Empire as a Holy Roman Empire, a wave of 'Europeanisation' spread out across what was to become Europe or 'Christendom' as it was first called. Bartlett even mentions 12th century Galloway (pages 79/ 80) to illustrate his theme of the gradual and often violent incorporation of 'primitive and barbaric' regions into the new Europe of feudalism and 'modern' Christianity. Physically this involved building castles and abbeys.

The castles ( Norman style motte and bailey, built of wood and earth) were sources of political power, the abbeys ( built of stone) economic and spiritual power. The economic aspect of abbeys is the critical one here. The Cistercians (linked , for conspiracy buffs, to the Templars) in particular were very good at taking over 'waste' land and turning it into productive land - by sheep farming for wool, but also pig farming. Fast forward 400 years and the economic wealth of abbeys and the church as landowner led to 'nationalisation'. Various hard up Scots kings started taking over church lands and passing them on as bribes to the nobility. At the same time (1500s) the wealth of the church from its landholdings had undermined the religious 'purity' of Christianity. The church was seen as corrupt and lacking in any spiritual (rather than economic) value. So reformers tried to argue for a spiritual rather than and economically and hence politically powerful church. They wanted to get back to the 'fundamental values' of Christianity.

In Scotland Charles I managed to piss off both the nobility, who had gained huge chunks of church lands - by threatening to reclaim all previous 'gifts' of such lands, and the reformers, by trying to re-impose what they saw as the 'corrupt' religious practices of Catholicism on the Reformed church. The result was an unholy alliance between landowners who wanted to hang on to the huge tracts of church land they had got their paws on and the religious types who wanted a spiritual reformation of Christianity. This unholy alliance led to a Holy Covenant between the people of Scotland and God. (There were two Covenants - a National one and a Solemn one).

With God on their side, poor old Charles I didn't have a chance against a Covenanted nation.
But then the English went and mixed economy and religion up with politics. They chopped Charles I head off. So the Scots crowned his son as Charles II in retaliation. Or at least some of them did. A 'remnant' who cared more about religion than economy and politics rejected Charles II even after his restoration in 1660 and (see above) ended up declaring Holy War on him and his brother. Galloway and the Southern Uplands of Scotland were the hotbed of this extremist dissent. Hundreds were killed as a result, it was an insurrection...
But why here? One reason is that the Protestant Reformation had taken early root in the region. - in the early 16th century. It was also a region outside the mainstream of Scottish culture, and in Galloway at least, had to be forcibly incorporated into Scotland from the time of King Fergus of Galloway (1120-1160) onwards.
But to take a Marxist approach, what about the economic infrastructure? This is interesting, but something most historians seem to have missed.

Up until 1550, trade between Scotland and England was blocked by the Debatable Lands - a small area on the Border near Carlisle which was claimed by both Scotland and England and so home to a criminal class who raided into both countries. The problem of the Debatable Land was solved then - by splitting it half and half between England and Scotland. This in turn allowed cattle from Ireland to be driven overland through Galloway and into England for sale. This trade was developed through the 17th century tripling in size from 2500 to 7500 head of cattle per year. Bans on the import of Irish cattle imposed by England in 1666 and Scotland in 1672 led to the development of local cattle breeding and the enclosure by walls of whole estates which allowed up to 1000 head of cattle to be kept. These cattle were traded for English cash, undermining the previous feudal economy which had been based on payment in kind - in grain, hens, pigs, peats, cheeses etc.

English cash was hard cash., unlike Scots currency which had been progressively debased to the point where a Scots shilling was worth only an English penny. In other words, at the same time that religious extremism was at its violent height in Galloway - the 1680ies- the local agricultural economy was undergoing a transformation from feudalism to capitalism. Significantly, forty years later, Galloway was also home to Scotland's only 'peasants revolt' - the uprising of the Galloway Levellers of 1723/5.

The Galloway Levellers threw down the cattle enclosures of capitalist landlords who were trying to profit from the political Union of England and Scotland by selling yet more cattle to England for cash. The Levellers were supported by Cameronian ministers and drew on the Solemn League and Covenant to justify their actions - the throwing down or levelling of walls around large cattle enclosures. So their political and economic actions were still part of a local religious culture of resistance.

And the moral is?
Violent fundamentalist religious extremism is part of British : Scottish, English, Welsh(? Not so sure) and Irish culture. But the religious element cannot be separated from economic and political forces. Some of these elements - the Scottish Covenanters, English Civil War and Galloway Levellers - are safely part of history, but others , e.g. Northern Ireland are not.

The belief held by some Muslims that a ‘Godly state’ can be created is not some weird unBritish aberration - it was a belief strongly held by thousands of Brits - Scottish and English in the 17th century and created a bloody and violent civil war in which tens of thousands died. The last battle fought on British (Scottish) soil was the battle of Culloden in 1746 - which was a continuation of the ‘English‘ Civil War. Bonnie prince Charlie being a Stuart attempting to reclaim the throne lost by his ancestors. The ‘Troubles’ of Northern Ireland have their historic roots in the politics of religion and added another 3600 to the religious death toll. Even the ‘innocent’ celebrations of Guy Fawkes’ day remain as a fading echo the bloody Catholic / Protestant, Presbyterian/ Episcopalian struggles of the past.

Violent fundamentalist religious extremism is an essentuial part of British , Scottish, English and Irish cultural, history and identity.

Friday, August 05, 2005

This text is spoken in a blackout

No future... for globalisation.

We are now due for another folding up of the periodic global trade fair as the industrial nations enter the tumultuous era beyond the global oil production peak, which I have named the long emergency. The economic distortions and perversities that have built up in the current era are not hard to see, though our leaders dread to acknowledge them. The dirty secret of the US economy for at least a decade now is that it has come to be based on the ceaseless elaboration of a car-dependent suburban infrastructure - McHousing estates, eight-lane highways, big-box chain stores, hamburger stands - that has no future as a living arrangement in an oil-short future.

Or so says James Howard Kunstler in the Guardian on 4th August 2005


Five weeks into school holidays, two more to go. Got two hours left of a respite break, so pushing the old blog boulder up the hill one more time. (Sisyphus, a classical analogy). But more a wheel chair than a boulder. Not that I am complaining, just it is difficult to do much more than hang on ... and its gone already. Daughter decided The Mob (was listening to Let the Tribe Increase) are too boring and I need to listen to the Violent Femmes.

So it goes. So much for the end of globalisation, my big question is when does parenting end? Not yet. Maybe it never does. Now she is standing with her hands on her hips glowering at me.

"Hurry up dad, I need to use the computer".

Well I could be awkward and sit here, but difficult to hit a riff under such circumstances.

"The old get old and the young get stronger
They've got the guns, but we've got the numbers
Move on over, we're taking over

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Think of this as a house

To stop dirty squatters (song by Zounds) getting into empty houses, local councils in London used to brick / breeze block up doors and windows. This gave Situationist inspired folks the chance to spray paint slogans on them: "Imagine this as a window" or "Think of this as a door" - from the Paris 68 slogan "beneath the pavement, the beach" - in French though, being Paris, France rather than Paris, Texas. Or Paris, Hilton.

To condense a lengthy saga- which goes back ten years to trying to get a wheelchair ramp installed in a council flat on Northwold Estate in Hackney- the photos below show that work has begun on a housing association development which in about a year will include a ground floor disabled accessible and wheelchair friendly flat. If all goes to plan, will be living there next year.

I can't quite believe it. But now I have the photos to prove that it is going to happen. I won't really believe it until we are actually there and living it. All for now - daughter needs to use computer for 'five minutes'.

View from Merrick Road Posted by Picasa

Imagine a house here. Posted by Picasa