Tuesday, 18 March 2014

(Don’t Talk of) Dust and Roses

While the temperature of the indyref debate is on the rise (unsurprisingly), and the bitterness of the accusations and attacks on and by politicians is probably understandable if regrettable, it still rankles to see otherwise temperate journalists accuse others of attitudes that are patently inaccurate, especially when those commented on are in no position to defend themselves.
In particular the piece by Herald Literary editor, Rosemary Goring in Saturday 8th’s Herald Arts supplement  - It’s good that writers speak up for Scotland - claims that ‘Few [writers] loathed Scotland more than George Orwell’! A puzzling claim about a writer who obviously loathed
Barnhill, Isle of Jura. Orwell's home for 3 years
Scotland so much he chose to live here! Whether he did so as a ‘settler’ or a ‘colonist’, I leave for others to judge.
Having looked a little further into the claim, mainly via Orwell’s Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters, I remain baffled by Ms Goring’s assertion. Certainly Orwell made no secret of his hatred of nationalism in general – hardly surprisingly for someone who went through the 30’s, the Spanish Civil War and the 2nd World War – and indeed has nothing very complimentary to say about the Scottish or Irish nationalism of the time, mainly because of what he saw as a basis in national enmity, rather than economic discrimination.
Orwell - did he loath Scotland?
I think that Orwell’s political perspective is often flawed – mainly because he looks at things from primarily an individual rather than collective viewpoint – but there appears to be no evidence for such a sweeping condemnation of his views of Scotland. Indeed from an early age he rejected the ‘Upper-class playground’ attitude to Scotland he found at his school, (Such, such were the joys) and was on record in arguing for ‘full autonomy’ for Scotland, and for Gaelic education in an As I Please column of 1947.
It is of course, helpful to have the view from outside on any activity. Whether that is from Will Self or Tony Benn, David Bowie or Billy Bragg, Sean Connery or Eddie Izzard, they have their perspectives, and we can accept or reject them. What isn’t acceptable is to apportion prejudice to people with flimsy evidence.
Many of us hoped that the “radical blurring of national lines” would continue, rather than have a new line drawn. Maybe the “fear and loathing writers used to nurse about their neighbours.” does still exist – just in a different neighbourhood?

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