An article from Do or Die Issue 3. In the paper edition, this article appears on page(s) 3-6.
We the last people on Earth; the last of the free;
Have been sheltered till this day by our very remoteness;
But now the boundary of Britain has been exposed;
Beyond us lies no nation, only rock and waves and the Romans more deadly still;
The pirates of this world, who have exhausted the land by plundering and now they ransack the sea;
They create desolation and call it peace;
Let us then unconquered as we are, ready to fight for freedom,
Prove what warriors Caledonia has been holding in reserve.
- Calgacus AD 83.
For those who are aware of the real history of Scotland, the consequences of the actions taken by the colonial administrators on the Scots are self evident. Individuals took advantage of the shattering of customary law to accrue power and influence for themselves at the expense of their own communities’ collective ownership and security. Traditions stood in the way of profits, so traditions were disregarded. Culture stood in the way of market extension because culture usually involved community ties, solidarity and reciprocity. The wholesale eviction of the indigenous population was then carried out with a blind economic totality and is still a matter touching our innermost feelings. In this rough and ready article emphasis has been placed on the redefining of land as private property and then its transfer to an elite leading to the mass removal of whole communities for financial gain in a process which is alive today.
The phasing out of Scotland’s culture was top priority as it offered a real challenge in the form of a viable, self-reliant and alternative way of life which wasn’t massively wealthy, but did tend to protect the poor and regulate injustice. The elimination of the native systems, justified by perpetrators and apologists as improvements has been ignored by the education departments, whose task it is to condition a labour force of ignorant and eager consumers. Private property has been legitimised through the imposition of Anglo law via the Scottish Office. The poll tax and more recently the water privatisation issue serve to reveal the imposed structure of colonialism clearly.
The Scottish Office plays a leading role in the undermining of real democracy in Scotland, but they are not alone. The powerful corporate bureaucracy of Strathclyde regional council along with the rest of the regions have shown no resistance to the imposition of the poll tax. Instead they took on board the unpopular tax in co-operation with the Tories and have used all the powers at their disposal to enforce it, showing that they have virtually transferred their allegiance to the colonial regime. Strathclyde region have already been caught out buying water shares south of the border and meeting with prospective developers.
The people of Scotland are landless as a result of historic coercion into the capitalist labour force. Glasgow, historically a slave camp of the industrial era, doubling as a reservation for the dispossessed natives, has been assimilated into the British capitalist system. For this relatively new economic order to be adopted by people, firstly their communal systems of land tenure had to be broken so to substitute with private ownership. Assimilation is ongoing and capitalist ideals are enshrined within schools and institutions for that purpose. Accounts of real history are smothered as a calculated act of policy. Defunct economic theory replaces free thought and the mercenary ideology continues to usurp naive intelligence and morality.
The cost of this deception is very high and only those who are prepared to dodge their social / cultural integrity find themselves wealthy enough to insulate themselves from the crisis they are helping to create, be they aware of it or not. While a self-destructive and sociopathic business elite remain in the cockpit of the planet, locked into a suicidal doctrine of economic growth at all costs, our future will remain in the balance. Degradation of people and the environment is the price that must be paid on this path. Yesterday the Caledonian forests fell to the speculators from the south, today from Amazonia to the Siberian forests, the seemingly unstoppable encroachment of market forces continues to wreak environmental havoc. Beyond Third World debt and economic destruction and the sharpening division between rich and poor, the market logic now threatens the fundamental biological diversity on which life itself depends.
We now live in a world where we are acted upon globally, where decisions affecting our lives are made at levels so far removed from ordinary democratic practices that no citizen has a hope of influencing them. The power of Trans-National Corporations (TNCs) and multinationals cannot be ignored.
- 70% of world trade is now controlled by just 500 corporations, which also control 80% of foreign investment.
- Shell Oil’s 1990 gross income ($132 billion) was more than the total GNP of Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Zaire, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya and Pakistan combined. 500 million people inhabit these countries - nearly a tenth of the world’s human population.
- Cargill, the Canadian grain giant, alone controls 60% of the world trade in cereals.
- Just 13 corporations supply 80% of all cars; five of them sell half of all vehicles manufactured each year.
- US corporations spend more than one billion dollars annually on advertising. The average US citizen views 21,000 TV commercials a year. Control of the collective consciousness plays a vitally important role for the success of business.
These corporations are the dominant force in our world. Disembodied from any one culture and any one environment, they owe no loyalty to any community, any government or any people anywhere on Earth. These institutions, from the military to government departments and international agencies are driven by a desire to promote their own interests, to perpetuate themselves and increase their power and influence. Decisions are made not because they are of benefit to the community or on environmental grounds but because they serve the institution’s particular vested interest.
Employees are similarly disembodied from the real world. When acting for the organisation, company loyalty takes priority over moral and cultural restraints that mediate the rest of their lives. The power wielded by these organisations is greater than that of many, if not all, governments and makes a mockery of certain countries’ claims to democracy.
On the far flung frontiers of the developing world, governments and multinationals are forcing resettlement schemes pushing indigenous peoples off traditional lands, often backed up by the military as part of their assimilation policy, which aims to civilise tribal peoples. This development process frequently begins with widespread brutality and extermination and ends with forest lands being systematically destroyed and plundered for their natural resources.
It’s probably fair to say most people are finding it difficult to make sense of the increasingly complex situation we are in. Many don’t give a damn and the present government - apart from a catalogue of major disasters - generally reflects the desires of an ever more materialist society. Most people are busy fighting for a fairer slice of the capitalist cake and don’t have much objection to the system itself but only to the way the cake is sliced. The socialists are telling us just as loudly as their capitalist opponents that production must increase and we must all have the means to consume more. Both socialism and capitalism are concerned with exploiting this planet and so cannot be supported by anyone who wishes to preserve the various ecosystems which make up our home. Socialism is an understandable reaction to a brutally unfair distribution of wealth but it is not enough - we must help re-create a system based on needs not greed.
For Scotland to go forward into a genuinely enlightened future we must prepare the ground by illuminating the present in the light of the past, ending the cultural curfew. These sentiments are not racist but pro-culture, based upon the principle that we can’t fully understand or appreciate other cultures if we don’t understand or appreciate our own. Real possibilities for positive change will take place if we shrug off our colonial status, breaking the chains of a system that has fatally undermined our local institutions and cultural patterns, which previously prevented one set of private interests within our society from monopolising power and imposing its will on the community. We must shut the back door that has been opened to personal gain at the expense of the community’s security, both social and environmental.
The challenge remains for local people to reclaim the political process and to re-root it back in the local community. For people to have inadequate information about their past and little means of acquiring it is a tragedy. It’s vital that we fill in the information gap with an account of real history from our own uniquely Scottish perspective as opposed to the imperial chauvinism which usually passes as such.
- There’s going to be an outrage and we’re starting it!
Behind the media curtain, one of Strathclyde region’s motorways is attempting to devour the largest greenbelt in Europe (within a city boundary). Feeling among the neighbouring communities, which already bears the brunt of social injustice, runs against the motorway. Pollock estate was gifted to the citizens of Glasgow and as the communal property of the people, it represents one of the last places in Scotland where ordinary folk have fully legitimate rights. A fragment of non-feudal land on which we have traditionally known and cherished liberty. Protected by three separate layers of legislation, along with a host of cast iron conditions, carefully inserted into an important agreement created by the farsighted Maxwell family. This was the first conservation agreement ever entered into by the National Trust for Scotland. The trust founder and owner of the estate, Sir John Stirling Maxwell, wished to secure the amenity of the woodland FOR EVER... - for the benefit of the citizens of Glasgow (conservation agreement 1939). The Maxwells couldn’t foresee that the official guardians (THE NATIONAL TRUST FOR SCOTLAND) would prove incapable of doing their job. Spinelessly they wavered the conditions allowing Strathclyde regional council to buy off a vast area of the estate on which to build a motorway extension and private houses.
This unique city area is home to a great diversity of life, including a small number of roe deer, vast sections of pasture, wild flower meadows and arable farmland along with rich corridors of mature woodland habitat. All this is at stake.
Labour hold an overall majority on the council. They have opted for a form of pretend democracy dodging accountability, reducing the public consultation process to a farcical PR exercise. There is no political saviour - we must look to ourselves to find the determination, taking on the responsibility to ensure that the right things happen. Last year’s Pollock tree sits, crane sits etc., raised the alarm effectively, ending the official hush up. It is vital now that we follow up with an even more radical wave of direct action. Everyone is invited to come and join us. Bring camping gear, banners, musical instruments and truth in our hearts. We are going to get behind the barricades and stop those machines!
- Colin MaCleod
Caledonian Green Circle