Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Dear God, I sound like a nationalist troll

Usually, there isn’t too much common ground on big political issues between the artists, writers and performers who inhabit the cultural world. The nature of intellectual endeavour suggests that these creative types are individualistic, edgy and hard to dragoon behind an established position.

However, the marathon referendum campaign in Scotland turned such an assumption on its head.

Scotland’s writers and performers were overwhelmingly in favour of independence, at least the ones who spoke out. 2,000 of them flocked to join a ‘National Collective’ of pro-independence ‘creatives’.

This is the introduction to an article by Tom Gallagher. He goes on to quote Chris Deerin, the Daily Mail journalist who made himself notorious for conflating political opinion with personal insults during the referendum campaigns.

First of all, here's my full disclosure. I am neither a member of National Collective, nor do I support any political party - I am sympathetic to The Greens, but have suspicions about their leadership and await a more mature manifesto from them. 

The only political campaigns that interest me are ones that focus on compassion, or Wessex Regionalism

However, I have a few disagreements with Mr Gallagher. 

Usually, there isn’t too much common ground on big political issues between the artists, writers and performers who inhabit the cultural world. 

Nope, that's not true. Artists tend to share a general left of centre consensus (hence the number of political plays about asylum seekers, socialist politics and so on). Even before the referendum got going, there was a lack of 'right wing' playwrights in Scotland. Even with my soppy liberal values, it distressed me that so little was being written by the 'other side'. The majority of Scottish artists have always shared ideals - which tend to reflect the 'soft' socialism of the Scottish people.

a ‘National Collective’ of pro-independence ‘creatives’.

Any reasons for the scare quotes? 

As for this picture: it is not a picture of the National Collective - and while I do not wish to dismiss the opinions of the man with his top off, it is hardly an image of a typical Scottish creative. I remember Alan Bissett threatening to strip off in his show about Andrea Dworkin (the audience persuaded him that this was not necessary, thank you), but he was hardly the Scottish version of the techno viking.

While I can't say that I have any time at all for Chris Deerin - he is worried about Scottish Independence, but consistently conflates it with the SNP (which, again, isn't true - there are plenty of supporters of independence who are going to be voting Labour or Green in the next election) - I am interested in James MacMillan. I adore his compositions, and have been consistently moved by his ability to use Latin text within a choral context, interpreting the words profound and spiritual beauty through cascading layers of sound. 

‘The last time I saw him was at a post-devolution party at the National Museum of Scotland; the kind of lavish event where the Scottish liberal elites gather to exult in one of their regular self-congratulatory orgies of entitlement and privilege. He looked at me, with tears in his eyes and said falteringly “Look at all this James; we are now the new modern Scottish establishment.” Something snapped in me that night, and I've never been the same since…’

This is MacMillan talking about Pat Kane. The article references MacMillan's article on celebrities preaching politics, and rejects the idea that they are any use as a foundation for making a choice at the poll-booth. Gallagher points out that a Herald journalist then called him a hypocrite, as if this was an act performed by a cabal of nationalists trying to censor MacMillan.

I'd call it a media debate... and argue that MacMillan's warning is perfectly sensible (think for yourself and be suspicious of any establishment figure, even Pat Kane) but does not constitute a fear of the National Collective. 

Articles like this, however, are an attempt to stir up an argument when a debate is possible. And what the hell is the point of banging on about a referendum campaign after the results have all been counted?

I am testing my freedom of speech with this piece. Let's see who retweets, and who doesn't.

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