Sunday, 2 September 2012

My kind of Nation, not my kind of State.

Scotland: That simple word evokes a quantum field of emotions. Inter-Nationalist or parochial small minded Unionist - we have both. Catholic or Protestant - we have both. Highland or Lowland - we have both. This is my nation; it is a nation in which I take immense pride, for even as its achievements stand it out singularly in this world of ours, so do its divisions.

Living in a factual world I am extremely strong in my beliefs, I am also willing to change them if the facts dictate otherwise. This is where I have issues with all kinds of bigotry, irrespective of whether it is the Union’s London-centric policies or the religious type which has been used to divide us for centuries.

The issue is that at the end of the day, this is my Scotland; it is the bequest of those that came before me. Rightly or wrongly this is what I inherited. It is now up to each and every one of us to do what we can to pass our nation on to the new generations of caretakers. And to pass it on in even better condition than we received it.

Where each generation strives to better the next is my kind of nation. That is my Scotland. That is my pride. As I travel the world I express it whenever the opportunity shows itself, from the flag on my ship to the music in my soul.

I find the world at large to very receptive.

It also works to remove myself from the “Gee-Bee” state, definitely not my kind of state.

Democracy is an institution, spouted in Westminster, flouted in London.

Democracy is government of the people, for the people, by the people, all of the people.

Democracy is not giving the people a voice every few years with a limited voting choice and then catering to the 1% while milking the other 99. Democracy is not demonising entire sections of your own citizenry in order to enhance the prosperity of a few.

There was a peaceful demonstration in London this week, on the back of David Cameron’s Paralympics words “more than any funding can do, I think the Paralympics will really demonstrate to people some things about disability, some things about what these incredible people can achieve which can change their views and inspire a whole generation of people.”

First we’ll deal with Mr. Cameron’s language, and the real content. Basically he is saying funding was less important than achievement and what these individual competitors managing to excel at as having the ability to alter national perspectives about the disabled community.

I applaud these individuals, and I admire them, but I would not presume to put them in the same field as able bodied athletes. It’s why they have the Paralympics in the first place. Politicising the achievements of a minority is to demonise a majority. These are the “cream” of the disabled within their respective conditions. These are the individuals with that almost superhuman drive to overcome any obstacle as long as they draw a breath. There will always be such individuals, but it’s not the norm.

Holding up these few exceptional people as examples for the disabled is no different than expecting every “average” human being to outrun Carl Lewis or be a better executive than Richard Branson. It’s simply not going to happen; nature herself never designed it to be so.

There is the photo of the archer in a wheelchair, yet there’s not much call for archery in the workplace. Certainly there are jobs the wheelchair bound can do, but there are many places and situations where they find themselves excluded from “normal” life or occupations. For the most part they don’t grumble, they just get on with life – sometimes they need a little extra help to fit into our world, and when they do we should do everything we can to give them this assitance.

That’s what the demonstrators in London last week were trying to say – don’t hold these remarkable individuals up as an example of average, then judge us all on that unattainable standard. It’s no different than saying to the unemployed if you can’t run 100 meters in Olympic record time you aren’t eligible to obtain unemployment benefit.

The demonstration on Friday at the Department for Work and Pensions was dual focused, against both government policy and Atos interpretation and implementation. It’s not usual for the disabled to engage in violent protest; it’s rather awkward trying to outrun the authorities in a wheelchair.

The official response to the peaceful gathering was shocking; the police response can be very conservatively described as overzealous. There were instances of equipment damage varying from eyeglasses to wheelchairs and personal injury to the disabled demonstrators, including a broken shoulder. The police in a democracy are paid to protect and serve. The overriding question here is; who exactly were they serving when perpetrating violent acts against these people?

Furthermore, the police in a democracy are an extension of the state; they should be there for the good of the people, by the will of the people. Using brute force against those with a genuine or even simply perceived grievance over their treatment is not my idea of democratic rule, it certainly not my State, or at least one in which I will take pride.

Simply put, if such aggression was not sanctioned, it would not happen. The way was prepared by the mainstream media and Westminster in the ongoing demonisation of the disabled. The last record I uncovered of such a demonstration by the disabled in which extreme force was used to disrupt a peaceful event was in 1930’s Germany; the period following Kristalnacht.

The route being trod by the United Kingdom seems to be wrenching it from the opposition to persecution it displayed for much of the 20th century within Europe, to embracing the same in the 21st century under the guise of Austerity.

For the present Scotland appears to be somewhat peripheral to this change, thanks mostly to Holyrood, but the question hovers – how many more cuts can a nation endure before we will witness a creep of such policy northwards, especially if under a bout of collective amnesia the parties of the Union ever achieve a collective majority again.

Until that day, Scotland, warts and all, will remain my kind of nation. Gee-Bee is certainly not my kind of state.

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