Between Minding Your Business and Minding Your Business

Having spent a great deal of time overseas, I have learned far, far more than I would have had I merely read books. I have taught at 4-universities over the past two decades and consequentially have had many students. I have mentioned to all my classes the importance of overseas travel. There is a gap in real learning between what is learned through a textbook and what is learned from being there.

In that learning process, I have also learned to watch what I say or write about a culture, society, attitudes of the people, etc. It is best to visit a place and observe, take it all in first, and then process the material later. We all need to avoid making premature judgments upon the manner in which one society differs from another. I know it is dangerous to judge without all the data that is out there.

Therefore, we all need to mind our own business, our viewpoints on a subject, and learn about another society in our travels. Having said that and being aware that I may offend some people in another society, I am also aware that we have the responsibility to observe and at least come up with a tentative observation that might run counter to what some in that society might think.

My wife and I just spent a month traveling all over Scotland. I had studied there 45-years ago and wanted to return. As you would think, Scotland in many ways has changed and in many ways hasn't changed at all. The castle at Edinburgh hasn't changed much but the traffic throughout Scotland has.

Nonetheless, the most important issue that I have seen is the way Scots see themselves. When I was there a half-century ago, the Scots were Scots but were generally pledged their allegiance to the UK. Now, there is a discussion is about devolution. Devolution is an English word, but I had never used it in most of the 70+ years of my life...until the last couple of years. Devolution means for some Scots that some wish to become an independent nation and devolve their relationship with the UK.

Now, it should be noted that the British Empire has devolved from this...

 The British Empire at its height

The British Empire at its height

to this...

The British Empire Today

The British Empire Today

in less than the last 100-years.

The Republic of Ireland left the UK and became their own country in 1922. Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are in the long process of dealing with the reunification of that island. Among those in Northern Ireland that wish to remain under the UK do so primarily due to religious reasons. Nevertheless, 80% of them still want to devolve...meaning acquiring what we call home rule rather than Westminster governing them from London.

In Wales in 2011, about 64% voted for that same type of devolution. They wanted home rule while still connected to the UK. Even though they didn't wish to be totally independent, Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales, said of the vote, "Today an old nation came of age."

This brings me to Scotland. Before I go any further, I want all my cards on the table. I am Scottish...meaning that many of my forbearers came from Scotland many years ago. I can't name one of them nor tell you what years they came. Therefore, my nationalistic ties to Scotland are at best tangential. Having said that I teach a lot of humanities classes including history, ethics, and related subjects. A couple of years ago while looking for something on the Internet, I happened to come across several articles about the Scottish National Party (SNP) and their attempt to get a vote on Scottish independence.

A half-century ago in Scotland, I was a young post-graduate student. On occasion you would meet some older person who wanted an independent Scotland but that was not very often. Back then, this attitude I viewed as merely a nostalgic look back upon what might have been but wasn't.

Today, there is a movement in Scotland where some are for it and some aren't while the rest haven't really thought about it.

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Therefore, as a descendant from many Scottish forbearers within my family, I am caught between a rock and a hard spot. I have feelings on something that doesn't directly and hardly even indirectly affects me...Scottish independence. I have lived 70+ years and their lack of independence hasn't personally affected me at all. And the time that I have left in this world, if the Scots vote for it in September 2014, won't affect me either. So why even think about it let alone write about it?

This brings up the issue of minding my own business...What's it to me? Won't some of my readers in America or Scotland of this article, as well as my other articles about devolution, write this off as none of my business? I have wrestled with this issue for the last couple of years and especially the last month while I was in Scotland. I'm an old man with loads of other concerns in life. Shouldn't I just deal with what is important to me and leave what is important to the Scots. It is their business and not yours.

At one level, I get it. What happens in another country is their business. Whether Germany raises taxes or Japan possesses a different business model is their own business. However, at another level, it seems to me my business. I'll speak out about racism and sexism in other countries along with addressing these issues in America, and I have. The issue of racism and sexism transcends national boundaries. Fighting for the elimination of both issues should be everyone's issue no matter where they live.

Therefore, I will as graciously address the issue of devolution in Scotland as many of the Scots dealt with me 45-years ago and a couple of weeks ago while we were there. This is an open-letter to the very hospitable people of Scotland based upon what I saw and experienced.

You and my people share many similarities. On many issues in both countries, there are some that are for an issue and some that aren't. However, many don't either care or know enough about an issue to care. Here is my list that all Scots should read and address:

  1. The referendum on Scottish independence is less than a year and a half away. The date is September 18, 2014. My suggestion is that all Scots need to look at the issue, examine it, dissect it, analyze what devolution means, etc. Be informed. Voting on an issue when it is not understood isn't what democracy is all about. Democracy can't exist without an informed electorate.
  2. Do you feel that Westminster and England in general view Scotland and its people as equal to you? It seems to me as an American that you have not been given equality with the English. Rather, what I see and sense is that generally the English view Scotland and Scots possessing a diminutive position in the British Isles. Isn't that what Scottish cringe is all about...Scottish feeling of cultural inferiority or second class statue? Even Wales has voted for more home rule in 2011.
  3. If you aren't viewed as an equal, the English and Westminster won't treat you as equals. Many in London see you in the same way that they and the Romans saw the Scots two millennia ago. The Roman Empire built Hadrian's and Antonine's Walls to keep you out. Now, Westminster wants to wall you in for their own betterment not yours. They don't want an independent Scotland, because it will economically and politically hurt their self-image.
  4. What do you possess that they want? Think about it. What can an unequal partner give them that they need? Off-shore oil might be one major possession that they want from Scotland. Okay, they already have it. When will Scotland reclaim it? This logo found in the College of William and Mary's history blog

    The Scottish National Party's campaign for "Scotland's Oil"

  5. Scotland doesn't need Westminster to survive. You have Scottish whiskey and oil for export. Also, you have tourism. Half the gifts that we bought for our family or ourselves were woolen items. Now, I'm not an economist, but you have a country capable of standing on your own two feet...and do so quite well.
  6. One of the other inequalities is the Bank of England which governs all of the UK monetary issues. Surely, you see the disparity in just the name...the Bank of England. I was in Scotland a half century ago and many banks, shops, and stores would not recognize or accept Scottish bank notes...and it still done in many places in the south. That bothers me, and it should bother you.
  7. Westminster either attempts to buy off the Scots or promise them something in the future if you just stay together. Scotland is being given or promised things just to keep the country from voting for independence. Why didn't they give what they are promising now to you years ago? They didn't need to, but now they do. That is true for Northern Ireland and Wales. If Westminster is so benevolent or at least equalitarian, this devolution vote wouldn't be on the agenda. You certainly can see that.
  8. Look at history...the British Empire is devolving greatly from being the largest empire and most global empire of the world to part of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, Gibraltar, and a dozen small island. This devolvement movement has taken less than a century. Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland are in varying places related to independence. At this rate, the UK/British Empire will consist of England, Gibraltar, and a dozen islands soon.
  9. Look at your history in relationship to the New World. Much of what made America great came from Scotland. Immigrants coming from Scotland helped build this new nation from its beginning. I'm glad that the Scots helped make America what it is isn't perfect, but it sees a vision of what it can and should be. Much of that was articulated or helped along by those that came from Scotland. What is true about America is true about Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. None of those countries could have been what they are today if Scottish immigrants hadn't come to their shores. You are a brave and strong have proven it to the world. Now, prove it to yourselves.
  10. I travel a great deal all over the world. It benefits my effectiveness in teaching and besides, I love learning about other places, people, and cultures. I was in South Africa researching about the black freedom fighter, Steve Biko. He said, "The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." His point is that if you can get the oppressed person to view him/herself as less capable than the oppressor, you don't need to enslave the people with balls and chains. You have had them enslave themselves as being incapable of being free. In the month in Scotland, I have asked anyone that would talk with me about devolution what they thought. The vast majority said that in their hearts it sounded nice, but they were afraid. What they were saying was that you couldn't do it without either the support of their Queen or Westminster. The English have you where they want you...feeling that you need them. And in my humble opinion, it is killing you emotionally as a people, and many of you don't see it.

This concludes my open letter to the people of Scotland and will conclude with two quotes. One quote you all should know by heart and the other you might not have ever read.

First, the one that you all will know is the Declaration of Arbroath, "It is not for glory nor honors nor riches that we are fighting but for freedom for that alone which no honest man gives up."

The Declaration of Arbroath in 1320

The Declaration of Arbroath in 1320

The other quote is strangely by an Englishman by the name of Winston Churchill who said, "of all small nations of this earth perhaps only the ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind."

I think that it is time for the Scots to contribute to their independence...What do you think?

Scottish independence: Yes campaign

Scottish independence flag

Visit the Scottish Independence page to read more about this topic.