Michael Marra – Arrest This Moment (James Robertson)

October 23rd, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

You can now buy this biography of Michael Marra, which launched last Friday. Written by James Robertson (Professor of Truth, And the Land Lay Still, Testament of Gideon Mack etc) its an unconventional biography, featuring reconstructed conversations with Michael Marra, along with plenty of images and examples of Michael’s own drawings and paintings. I wrote the preface (originally written for this blog) and the cover is an image by Calum Colvin. You should go and buy it – also, almost all of Michael’s recordings are now available digitally, including some ‘new’ releases.

Book Review – ‘The Living Mountain’ Nan Shepherd (1977)

March 26th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Living Mountain

Most definitely yes. Clear, concise, deceptively simple. Worth reading the whole book to get to this bit:

“Why some blocks of stone, hacked into violent and tortured shapes should so profoundly tranquillise the mind I do not know. Perhaps the eye imposes its own rhythm on what is only a confusion: one has to look creatively to see this mass of rock as more than jag and pinnacle – as beauty. Else why did men for so many centuries think mountains repulsive? A certain kind of consciousness interacts with the mountain-forms to create this sense of beauty. Yet the forms must be there for the eye to see. And forms of a certain distinction: mere dollops won’t do it. It is, as with all creation, matter impregnated with mind: but the resultant issue is a living spirit, a glow in the consciousness, that perishes when the glow is dead. It is something snatched from non-being, that shadow which creeps in on us continuously and can be held off by continuous creative act. So, simply to look on anything, such as a mountain, with the love that penetrates to its essence, is to widen the domain of being in the vastness of non-being. Man has no other reason for his existence.”

And so…

September 22nd, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

Saltire - 2008

Four days later, and I feel I now can articulate my thoughts with consideration. If I am honest with myself, I never really thought that Scotland would vote for independence, at least not with the majority that would have been needed to prove decisive. As I watched the results come through, it was evident from the start of the coverage that there was confidence among those talking heads on the ‘No thanks’ side, and a hint of acceptance from the Yes.

I watched them all come through until Glasgow, and I had to accept that was that. On Friday I couldn’t quite balance my previous pragmatism with the overwhelming sense of sorrow I was now feeling. Why did I feel this way? I guess looking around these London streets, conscious of absolutely nothing having changed, the vast possibilities and opportunities and challenges that a Yes would have brought, vanished away into the morning mist.

Watching the unravelling of The Vow on the following days was a revelation. We were never the main story. The Westminster parties have an election to fight. The next few months of debate and disagreement, if not downright abdication of responsibility to the Scottish public can only serve to strengthen the depth of feeling in Scotland. Whatever these new powers may turn out to be, they will not be enough to kill off the desire for independence amongst a huge proportion of the population. I realised that there surely is only now one way for things to go, as the rest of the UK is granted more powers, it will become even more tempting to be entirely in control of our own destiny. If UKIP force their way into Westminster, with or without an EU referendum, and Labours’ vote dwindles evermore in Scotland, those who have felt engaged in the last two years will be even more dedicated to engaging with those groups/parties/collectives who have fought so hard during this campaign, in the face of incredible odds, huge power and ridiculous media manipulation.

Already people are discussing ways to maintain people’s interest in politics, urging them to keep momentum going – I will be interested to see how this develops. One thing that makes me slightly uncomfortable is the ‘45’ badges etc I see on social media. While I understand it is a response to the immediate disappointment of things, a desire to show pride in a decision made, it is ultimately exclusive. What needs to happen is a changing of minds of those who voted No, and this seems like misplaced energy to me. We have to understand why people voted No, not just present them as ‘other’ to those who voted Yes.

Add to this the response to the voting ages and the preponderance of over 55’s to vote No, and there is the risk of antagonising, patronising and insulting a huge swathe of people (a majority no less!). It is not enough to presume the reasons for voting No, or to dismiss them as old, cowardly, disengaged and foolish. People voted both ways for a number of reasons, some good, some bad. And remember, lots of ‘old’ people voted yes! Are they foolish too, simply because of their age, or are they an exclusive group of right-on old people? How old is Alex Salmond? Tom Devine? Some old people are actually alright (this is sarcasm). And you’ll be one one day (unless you already are). One of the things I’ve found myself doing throughout this campaign is reading and listening to people with passive agressive tendencies, and flipping their argument around. How would it make me feel if ‘old’ people were blaming ‘young’ people for voting No? How would it make me feel if instead of referring to Tories as “fucking selfish”, all yes voters were referred to that way? It’s worth remembering that 400,000 people voted conservative in the last election. Those people want representation too. How would it make me feel if I was referred to as “cowardly” for voting yes? We have to work harder with language, with presentation and with listening.

To balance this out a bit, I heard many 16/17 year old’s who were voting yes and no, with great insight and intelligence. There were also some who seemed rather naïve, and thought Scotland was going to be some kind of paradise – it is inevitable that some younger people are going to have less experience of success and failure. So, in summary, we shouldn’t make assumptions about anyone’s reasons for voting, one way or the other. Nicola Sturgeon said an interesting thing last week, that whether voting yes or no, both sides had the same thing at heart, a desire for a better Scotland. I think that’s right, and it does no good to sink a cleaver into the rift that has inevitably opened up between people on both sides. We should be calm, mature and understanding in attempts to persuade people to come over to the yes side.

When I listened to people explaining why there were going to vote No, it seemed mostly connected to financial security. In the future (I reckon within 12 years) independence campaign, it is imperative that financial issues are dealt with open, honestly and with more certainty. Economics needs to be further understood by everyone, including the fact that it is uncertain whether in the UK or an independent Scotland.

The increase in (general) political awareness in Scotland is fascinating. Hopefully it will encourage everyone to hold their politicians to account, whether yes or no. Do they keep their word? Do they work for you? Why do you vote for them? What do they do for you, what don’t they do? What can we do ourselves (the leaving of shopping in George Square is an example) if they don’t do it for us? What are they not even aware of? Do they deserve your loyalty…..

We should contact our MP’s/MSP’s to ensure they are working hard, ask them questions, demand action from them. Do the claims they make stand the test of time? Might supermarket prices still (!) go up (!) despite us remaining in the UK? How can that happen?!

The vast uptake in party membership for the SNP and Greens in Scotland is evidence of people’s desire to maintain political ties and engagement with how their country is run. I would be interested to know if Scottish Labour, Scottish Conservative, Lib Dem and UKIP membership has changed at all.

I have heard of people also wanting to somehow cement the energy, commitment and enthusiasm shown by many groups throughout Scotland. Perhaps, if nothing else, this referendum and its result, will enable people to cope with defeat, assess their options, see what is possible, build confidence, and as I said in my pre-vote post, take responsibility.

So, from the unexpected depths of despair, to the unexpected strength of resolve in 4/5 days. It is an interesting time to be a Scot. I believe (other than the George Square incidents, the roots of which MUST be dealt with, and spoken about) we have shown ourselves to the world, to be intelligent, passionate, imaginative, humourous, creative and engaged. Long may that continue….

 

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