These Are Days of Miracle and Wonder
This was required reading in my high school. Even back then, we all got the philosophical message. Equality is a given or should be to all and applies to all forms of discrimination. Orwell was critical of the animal farm that the communists set up in the USSR. However, along with understanding the Soviets acting like the pigs in Orwell's novel, there is an animal farm mentality with many other issues like sexism, racism, and dissing of gays/lesbians. These issues are all problems that have been used by present-day animals in controlling what they consider lesser animals. Some humans are like the discriminatory pigs. They believe that they are inherently more equal than others based upon things like their sex, race, or sexual orientation.
Interestingly, their being better than others is based solely on birth. Their superiority is determined by the rank or station of their parents. For example and especially back in the early 1960s, some whites viewed themselves as better because of their skin pigmentation was lighter than blacks or other minorities. They saw themselves as superior due to their skin color. They were doing precisely what the pigs on Orwell's Animal Farm did. By virtue of their birth, they were inherently better than those who weren't born that color. However, neither the pig in the first farm nor those whites in the latter farm understood the irrationality that they were better due not to working hard, being good academically, honest, etc. On the contrary, they were superior due to whom their parents were.
However, in my long life of over 70-years and many years of college teaching, I can assure those whites that see themselves as better than blacks or other minorities doesn't make any sense. Some of my best students over the years have been both whites and blacks. Some from both groups have been average, and some in both groups have not been good students at all.
Let me give you a personal proof of this reality. When sending out applications to apply to colleges and graduate schools, I knew full-well that I did not have the IQ, ability, or grades to go to a school like Harvard. President Obama graduated from the Harvard Law School magna cum laude. It is nonsense to push the notion of white superiority over blacks or other minorities. My being white had no relationship to how smart I was or wasn't.
What is true about racism is equally true about sexism and those that diss gays/lesbians. Birth isn't the thing that determines a person's ability, IQ, or potential in life. Yes, you excel in some things but not in all things. You as a race, sex, or sexual orientation are not de facto superior to those that some deem as second-class. That should be obvious to all...that we all have differing strengths and limitations.
As with the animal farms of the past and present, some have attempted to control others by making the others second-class. While that troubles me ethically, what bothers me even more is that some of the animals in the past and present have bought into the notion that they are not good enough. If someone is told by one of the uppity animals that they are inferior to them and accept it, they reinforce the absurd notion of the superior race, sex, or orientation in either the past or present farm.
Over the years of writing a human interest column for a newspaper and my web page, I have written many articles about both the superiority issue and also about avoiding accepting that nonsense of being less than a straight, white male. That represents the past; there is a new animal farm of the present.
I'm writing this article early in the morning in Edinburgh, Scotland. This is my last full day in Scotland. I have enjoyed being here for nearly a month especially since this is a return trip to Scotland. I studied in Edinburgh during the academic year of 1968-69.
I enjoyed seeing all the old places. Edinburgh Castle, which was built starting around 1124. It still looks grand and impressive.
Ramsey Garden where I lived, which was built in 1733 next to the castle's esplanade. They both looked grand after all those years.
I lived in a flat in Ramsey Garden 45-years ago while attending classes at New College doing post-graduate work at the University of Edinburgh. I went to classes at New College, which was built in 1850, which was within a couple hundred yards of where I lived. All of those places are still here and will remain for centuries to come.
However, down the Royal Mile is the Scottish Parliament, which was built recently and dedicated in 2004. For an old grad student who loved this part of Edinburgh called Old Town, the parliament building is in a stark architectural contrast to the Castle, Ramsey Garden, and New College.
In addition to the new parliament building, there is in Scotland's animal farm a great debate about the referendum that will be voted upon in less than 500-days from now on September 18, 2014. It is the Scottish referendum on independence from the UK. Today's animal farm isn't much different than what it was in Orwell's novel.
In today's animal farm, we have the royalty and the commoners. The royals are more equal than the commoners. They are by divine right of kings/queens have authority over the masses. In addition, many of the present-day animals, what are call people, are forced to follow the royal family who are more equal than they. They are held in honor by the lesser people in the pecking order in this new edition of an animal farm. Royalty runs the farm. However, things are changing.
At one time, the royal animal farm ran the largest and most diverse empire of the world. The Caledonian Mercury, which was a newspaper from 1720-1867, wrote of the British Empire, "On her dominions the sun never sets; before his evening rays leave the spires of Quebec, his morning beams have shone three hours on Port Jackson, and while sinking from the waters of Lake Superior, his eye opens upon the Mouth of the Ganges." While this is one of the places from which they got the notion that the sun never sat on the British Empire.
However, this notion has devolved. Devolved is an English word meaning changing hands or ownership as in changing ownership of the farm. The British Empire has devolved greatly already since 1920.
The UK has devolved its vast empire into British Isles, Gibraltar, a part of Antarctica, and a dozen or more small islands scattered around. Northern Ireland is on the edge of being united with the Republic of Ireland. And depending on the devolution vote in 2014, Scotland will leave the UK. This will leave England and Wales. Great Britain will hardly be great and the United Kingdom will be hardly united. Okay, it will be in name only...and yet people cleave to holding on with what once was but will never be again.
The fear of the future is unsettling to those living down on the farm in Scotland. The past may or may not have been that wonderful. Nevertheless, the known past is better than the unknown future for many Scots.
Case in point: My wife and I stayed in a hotel in Glasgow and had breakfast in a very lovely Scottish pub. The waiter was really a nice guy in his mid-twenties. As has been my customs while in Scotland this time, I informally interviewed nearly every person I met about the devolution issue. Our server was one of the friendliest persons that I met in Scotland, and I asked him how he planned to vote in September 2014.
The waiter was fearful of the future. While he wasn't against independence, he explained that without staying in the UK there would be no future for him. He had a college degree and was waiting tables after 4-years of schooling. Things weren't going well in the UK now. Therefore, if Scotland withdrew, the economy would get even worse.
I questioned the fear of the future based upon his present motif. Basically, he was saying that Scotland wasn't capable of standing alone. I asked about the money coming from the offshore oil wells located in the North Sea in Scottish waters, which is a vast source of income for London. His retort was that the government controlled the drilling companies. Since they were wedded to the all-powerful animal, Scotland couldn't claim that which was a part of their country. However, he didn't even hear my inquiry. What was in Scotland was Scottish not English. Oil in Texas isn't Washington's oil.
I realized that I needed to thank him for his candidness and let him go back to his work at the restaurant for which he is overly qualified with 4-years of college. Had I had the time, I would have told him why I, a Scot, was living in the States. My relatives of several generations ago, left Scotland for the very issues about which concerned him...economics and a brighter future. Nevertheless, this Scot was filled with fear and couldn't let go of England and the Queen. Interestingly, neither England nor the Queen was helping this university educated person, and he doesn't see it. They control the greatest economic asset of Scotland, but there is no trickle-down effect for the Scots.
Think about why you, if you are an American, had people from the Old World leave that world for the New World. Methinks that nearly all relatives of immigrants who are citizens of the US had relatives come here for freedom - religious, political, and economic freedom. Very few people who lead a good and happy life in the Old World decided to come to this place in the New World. There had to be some negative motivator to get people to move intellectually and physically from the Old World to the New. Some sort of pain motivated them to move.
In the mid-80s, Paul Simon wrote a song for his album, Graceland, entitled The Boy in the Bubble. In the song, he wrote about us living in a new day...
Simon is telling the Scots, this is time for you to think and not be afraid. Living in the past is no way to live in the future.
There seems to be two views of the present and future: fear and trembling or days of miracle and wonder. Some Scots are fearful of letting go. They are not sure that they could handle it by themselves. While being independent might sound nice and good in their heart of hearts, they fear the future. They weren't certain that they could do it on their own without England and the Queen.
How is that different than the older Animal Farm of Orwell's time? All the people of Great Britain are equal, but some were more equal than others. And our waiter maintained that we are stronger together than separate. At first blush, that sounds like a logical position. However, he was basing the future of an independent Scotland on the economic dysfunction of the Conservative government at Westminster in London. The referendum is nearly a year and a half away. However, he was worried about leaving queen and country due to economics. I wanted to push the issue more, but I was from another country...his country. Therefore, I backed off and thanked him for talking with me and wished him luck in the future.
However, after leaving the pub for Edinburgh, I couldn't see how the devolution issue is any different from the animal farm that we have in America with racism, sexism, and gay-bashing? For as long as any blacks have been in this country, there have to two critical problems: one is white racism and the second is blacks that buy into white superiority and black inferiority.
What started the civil rights movement? Whites? No! Rosa Parks wouldn't give up her seat on a bus to some white racist. She made a statement and started a movement. Was she assured of a bright and prosperous future? Absolutely not, but she acted. However, some blacks are still sitting in the back of the bus of social progress...fearful that the future won't be better. How are many in Scotland today any different?
I'm white and have seen the progress the blacks have made over my lifetime. We aren't in a country of total racial equality, but we are headed in the correct direction. What is true about racism is true about sexism or the dissing of gays/lesbians.
What many Scots wrestle with is their quest of freedom and independence. In 1776, many Americans were not much different than my waiter in the pub. What could the 13-colonies do as an independent nation in comparison to the British in 1776? Do you see the obvious? "These are days of miracle and wonder"... CARPE DIEM.
Whether in the times of the American Revolution and within my lifetime, the future wasn't guaranteed. Don't think that Rosa Parks and Gloria Steinem didn't fear and have concerns by stepping out. They surely did...but they still acted. And in the process, they changed America.
Scotland, you will have a choice. Choose wisely. Yes, the future is not clear, bright, and without problems. However, you already know what the present is like. You are not equal. Scottish bank notes are often denied in London banks...meaning that Scotland isn't an equal with England when it comes to money. If Scottish bank notes aren't accepted in London, doesn't that realization of fact cause at least some to consider how they will vote?
This article is addressed directly to you who live in Scotland. I'm not a citizen of the UK. I have no inherent right to push for independence for the nation of Scotland. True, I studied there 45-years ago, I love your country, many of my forbearers emigrated from Scotland. Having said that I'm also not black, female, or gay. I fight for their equality and freedom even though some of those various groups aren't fighting for equality like many of you aren't fighting.
Steve Biko wanted independence from the white apartheid government in the former British colony of South Africa. He wrote about oppression also. Listen to his words: "The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."
In addition, I am not a Tibetan. However, I have been to Tibet twice in the past decade. I don't like how they are treated, and I fight for their independence. I'm going to Burma at the end of the year. And again, I'm not Burmese, but I fight for their independence.
No one can read the future prior to its being written. I can't assure you that the road ahead for you will be easy. Nevertheless, problems, if addressed, will assure you of success. I would be hard pressed to show you a country that is worse off once they achieved their independence.
You are people. You are people who have proven your worth in the world. You have a great heritage. You are not the lesser animal on the English farm. The vast majority of the other animals have left the British Empire...except Wales. Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will resolve their issues soon. After the 2014 vote, the English and Walsh will be all that remains of the Empire.
Oh, I forgot. Gibraltar, a part of Antarctica, and a dozen or so small islands. Don't be forgotten either. Along with not being forgotten, don't accept the myth that some are more equal than you. You are the descendants of Braveheart, William Wallace. He said, "Every man dies. Not every man really lives." What is your choice in September 18, 2014? Choose wisely. I believe you will choose wisely; you are Scots. Live as free men and women.
Robert the Bruce said this in 1320:
This is a picture of me doing a brass rubbing of Robert the Bruce that will soon be framed and hanging proudly in my home...to remind me of the great country of Scotland. Remember my fellow Scots, "These are days of miracle and wonder..."
Visit the Scottish Independence page to read more about this topic.