Nationalism: Scottish + other "oppressed" ones

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oisleep
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Dec 16 2005 12:46
Nick Durie wrote:
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fail to see how you have to connect the survive of language & culture to nationalism and paint it as the only way of achieving this, how did it manage for the thousands of years before nationalism was even a twinkle in the eyes of the elites?

While I agree with you wrt language. it is quite mistaken to see nationalism as a new thing. You're confusing nationalism with the nation state. The nation state has been said (and I vehemently disagree) to be a relatively historically recent concept. nationalism has been around for millenia. There are nationalistic statements in documents from the bible and Hebrew scriptures to ancient Greek legends.

what is the primary aim of nationalism?

to obtain a state to wrap around the nation

ergo the concept of the nation and the concrete reality of a state, both of which have only been around for a couple of hundred years, therefore how can nationalism precede what it is trying to achieve

i don't doubt the existence of proto-national groupings, or pre-national cultural collective communities, but they weren't nationalist as the nation didn't exist then, or certainly not in a form that can be compared with modern nations today (mass communication, common language, customs, common rigths & duties for all, clearly demarcated territory etc etc). in those days culture was used to differentiate people in an area, between the high classes who spoke latin & greek and what have you, and the yokels who spoke all manner of different local dialects, it's only been in the last 200 years that culture has started to be used as a "unifying" thing rather than a divisive thing, and the reason for that was for the elite to deliver an educated, compliant workforce, who could all understand each other and cope with things like division of labour, to early capitalism

so some french nationalist for example who thinks they are holding true to some idea of the french nation from 1600 years ago when clovis became a christain king, is deluded, france didn't exist outside paris until two hundred years ago at the most

to project a common link between these two things is pointless, there are some similarities in terms of the dominant ethnic groupings at the time, but there's a dam sight more differences

Nick Durie
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Dec 17 2005 00:04

I think you're wrong on your generalisation Oisleep. You're wrong on the tolling gang thread on the same subject and you're wrong here. This idea smacks of nineteenth century wanky sociology. According to a Marxist pal of mines the idea of socialism could only exist when the mass press arrived, because before that no-one could theorize the totality of society, and understand that the enemy wasn't so much the local lord bu the whole system. He thinks the peasants revolt in england so disparate groups of peasants rebeling against what they parceived parochial as their own local tyrannies. Now to me this is so much bullshit. That because the construct 'the nation', the 'vox populi' etc. haven't been reified as a social construct then ergo they do not exist... That is so much nonsense. I've told him it's nonsense, and I'll tell you its nonsense. Your position differs little from his, and to take a perfect example of why you're both wrong how was ancient Rome not what you would term 'a modern nation-state'? To my mind it was exactly a nation state. It was technologically similar to any kingdom in Europe in the 16th/17th century (with the exception of musketry), and socially similar to any empire in the 19th.

Nick Durie
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Dec 17 2005 00:10

What I object to is that this idea that the nation state is something new really smacks of Engels. It's Engels to the max.

Primitives -> Theocratic Despotisms -> Feudal Kingdoms -> Huzzah! The Nation State.

It's sounds so much like fucking historical materialism dressed up in crude disguise, with its view of a linear development in history. A view that is isn't backed up by even a cursory glance back in time. Next you'll be telling me that the bourgeoisie are the modern descendents of the 'middle classes' who overthrew the aristocracy.

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oisleep
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Dec 17 2005 02:10

i'll tell you, i have no idea what u just said

you've a place for one, and i've a place for other

gurrier
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Dec 17 2005 03:21

For a start, I should say that I despise nationalism and any romantic idea of national culture altogether. I'm also fairly fundamentally opposed to the Irish language in its political sense and really think that attempts to revive it are both doomed and inherently ridiculous - language being a tool for communication after all

However, I feel that the debate here is, as usual, somewhat simplistic and sloganeering.

For example, national oppression and imperialism exist and they're not nice. If the goverment in Westminster decided tomorrow that all education was going to be through Chinese and only those who spoke Chinese would be eligible for public sector jobs, with the best jobs reserved for those with Chinese 'blood lines' - however that was to be defined - I'm sure you'd all oppose it rather forcefully. Add in a ban on pubs, the transformation of all football pitches into grounds for some bizzare feudal chinese recreation of the upper classes and so on and you'd probably be moved to take up arms. Indeed if you weren't you'd be more worm than homo-sapien. On the other hand if this happened on the other side of the world in a place that you knew little about, I'm sure that many of ye would denounce those people who opposed it as 'nationalist' fuckwits or something similar.

This example isn't as ludicrious as it sounds, since this type of thing was a reality until very recently in most of Africa for example (and still is within every modern African nation state that I can think of bar Somalia). It still goes on in many other corners of the world where typically artificial nations of recent vintage impose themselves in just such a manner.

This, to me, is what is meant by national oppression and is why national liberation movements have such paradoxical strength in countries where there really was no existing concept of a nation. Not that this is any reason to support the political goals of national liberation movements, but when it comes down to somebody forcing me to speak a certain language and excluding me from employment on the basis of the language I speak or the games that I play or any other such thing, I know which side I'm on.

There is also a slightly subtler argument regarding imperialism and the extraction of resources by a ruling class which is not resident in an area and hence has no interest whatsoever in maintaining its infrastructure beyond that which is required to extract the resources. In this sense it really does make a difference if the ruling class is local or based in a foreign imperialist country. If anybody doubts this, they should take a trip to the central african rainforest region where the only infrastructure of note is a few mines and the light aircraft strips and mercenary armies that service them.

In summary, it is necessary to look beyond the slogans about nationalism in order to understand the dynamics of many movements of national liberation. If you don't you end up taking a position against somebody who might quibble with the imposition of chinese nationalism on England, for example.

gurrier
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Dec 17 2005 03:32
Nick Durie wrote:
Your position differs little from his, and to take a perfect example of why you're both wrong how was ancient Rome not what you would term 'a modern nation-state'? To my mind it was exactly a nation state. It was technologically similar to any kingdom in Europe in the 16th/17th century (with the exception of musketry), and socially similar to any empire in the 19th.

Oh - it was different in so many ways from the modern concept of a nation state that it's hard to know where to begin. For a start, there was really no concept of the nation - Rome assimilated enormous areas with disparate peoples with utterly different traditions and so on. Once you were a citizen, there was no concept of blood lines or national traditions and so on. For example, historians find it very difficult to work out the race, skin colour, ethnic origin or mother tongue of many emporers. Why? Because these weren't the sort of things that Romans generally thought worthy of mention - it just didn't matter to them. It's like a future society trying desperately to work out the length of our prime ministers' toe nails to fit them into some funny taxonomy that was crucial to them but is meaningless to us.

Nation states are generally very modern inventions which still haven't won any type of legitimacy in much of the world. Ask a fulani!

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Dec 17 2005 09:26
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totally agree, and so they have survived & been recorded for thousands of years, nationalism (and it's bastard child the nation) as a a political principle has been around for a couple of hundred years at the most, so i fail to see how you have to connect the survive of language & culture to nationalism and paint it as the only way of achieving this, how did it manage for the thousands of years before nationalism was even a twinkle in the eyes of the elites?

I don't think I did suggest that nationalism was the way to preserve languages. Bourgeoisie nationalism usually attacks local dialects and languages, France and Scotland are prime examples of this. It wasn't until the fourth republic that French diversity of languages was wiped out, so its barely out of living memory.

The primary aim of nationalism is to support a state by creating an 'outside' that is threatening/inferior and must be resisted etc. Nationalism is a method of persuading people to die for the state

re your example: France has been a nation for a fairly long time, I've read c12th texts that try to create a sense of french nationhood to support the french king's eforts to expand out of northern France which he eventually did. As Nick pointed out nationalism exists in a lot of texts going back pretty much as far as you want.

Rome had hereditary membership of classes, and it did have nationalism, despite its generally good record of assimilating conquered territory.

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Dec 17 2005 15:48

Yeah, but even in Scotland nationalism falls down Nick, clans in Highland Scotland were loyal to their individual chiefs as they saw them as kings, and only fought for Scotland when persuaded to by those chiefs. The notion of a Scottish Nation only existed in the eyes of the Scottish kings and other nobles, people were loyal to their locality rather than a notion of Scottishness. Especially since Scotland is divided between Gaelic and Scots. Nations are created by states and are entirely artificial and don't arise through popular sentiment

alibadani
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Dec 17 2005 16:48

What languages did the Scots speak before English, apart forn Gaelic. Is it the same Gaelic spoken in Ireland?

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Dec 17 2005 17:15

They spoke Welsh in the south, and Pictish everywhere else, which was related to Welsh. Gaelic settlers came from Ireland originally and settled in Argyll, and present day Gaelic is still related to Irish, most closely to Donegal Irish, as you go further south in Ireland the differences increase.

knightrose
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Dec 17 2005 17:18

Some people say that Scots is a language distinct from English too, just sharing the same roots.

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Dec 17 2005 18:00
knightrose wrote:
Some people say that Scots is a language distinct from English too, just sharing the same roots.

Isn't it just badly-spelled English?

knightrose
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Dec 17 2005 18:16

definitely not. It's got it's own vocabulary and grammar. Like the way Norwegian and swedish are similar.

Nick Durie
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Dec 17 2005 18:30

That was troll Knightrose. John isn't thick. You took the bait.

[altho in a lot of senses I'm glad you did coz I would have felt pidgeonholed into writing a long rant making references to verb concords, syntactical differences, a vastly different lexicon (including different pronouns and so on) and half a dozen modal verbs or so with absolutely no cognate in English.] eek eek eek eek

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Dec 17 2005 18:35

why?

Nick Durie
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Dec 17 2005 18:40
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What languages did the Scots speak before English, apart forn Gaelic. Is it the same Gaelic spoken in Ireland?

Also important to bear in mind that the Anglian tongue imported to Scotland in the 12th century developed separately from the language that was spoken in the South of England (largely Saxon) from the start. There was a great deal of crossover, of course, but the development from that point in the two poles sometimes took different routes. For example a good deal of the Scots borrowings from French took place at a rather later date than the French borrowings into English, and indeed there are many French origin words in both languages which were not borrowed in the other language, or which had become anachronistic by the time they were borrowed into the other language. Equally Scots borrowed from Dutch and other languages which English largely didn't.

The result is that dependent on what you are trying to say sometimes sentences can appear entirely the same as what you'd expect in English (with some phonetic differences) or they can be much more divergent.

For example:-

I had better leave. [Eng.}

A'll better awa [Scots]

I must go [Eng.]

A hae/hiv tae gae/ging [Scots]

I absolutely must leave [Eng]

A maun awa [Scots]

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Dec 17 2005 19:01

i think the king james bible sealed the fate of the scottish language, the decision not to have a bible translated into scottish but to have the common king james one for both kingdoms, meant english was given a fixity that scottish never got

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Dec 17 2005 19:15
Nick Durie wrote:
I had better leave. [Eng.}

A'll better awa [Scots]

I must go [Eng.]

A hae/hiv tae gae/ging [Scots]

Just like I said - badly spelled English.

knightrose
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Dec 17 2005 19:19

I figured he was joshing, as they say. But I wanted to make the point. Doesn't Scots have as much right to survive as gaelic? Or is it less romantic?

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Dec 17 2005 19:22
knightrose wrote:
I figured he was joshing, as they say. But I wanted to make the point. Doesn't Scots have as much right to survive as gaelic? Or is it less romantic?

I dunno to me all this talk about cultures surviving - I don't get it at all. How is it different from the BNP's ridiculous idea of defending "English" culture? Culture's not some static, homogenous entity with a "right" of existence. I mean who gives a shit? People who want to speak Gaelic and eat haggis, they can - no one's stopping them doing that. Ditto no one's stopping some little Englander I dunno being Christian and eating pies. I just don't understand what the big deal is confused

Nick Durie
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Dec 17 2005 19:40

Yes. This is particularly important given given that throughout history Scotland often teetored on the brink of becoming a Calvinist theocracy.

It must really have had a profound effect, and caused immense psychological damage to see the founding text of the religious institutions of the kingdom (those institutions the people valued most and had fought for so hard) be written solely in English.

The pyschological subtext (bearing in mind that this is at the point when the English and Scots languages were probably at their most historically divergent) is very clear:

'God speaks English.'

Nonetheless the language continued as the everday demotic of the people of the whole of the lowlands (irrespective of class) until the 19th century, and of the whole of the working class of the lowlands until long into the twentieth century.

The really crucial time of change for the language (outside of Glasgow where it was probably dead by the end of the 20s) was when my gran was my age (she's now in her early 80s). She recalls getting on trams in Dundee and almost everyone speaking Scots (as in full-on echt Scots, not 'urban Scots'). Of course she tried not to at the time coz she was a secretary (doncherknow) and not some proley jute-mill worker. In other words throughout the 30s and 40s the middle classes and labour aristocracy in the towns and cities were ditching Scots in favour of kind of creole (if you like) of Scots and English (of the sort 'it's right bonnie theday(today)', as opposed to 'it's richt bonnie theday').

There's still a lot of it kicking about tho, and it's on a linguistic continuum with English (as opposed to a totally different language like Gaelic) so I think your sounding the deathknell for Scots in the 17th century is a bit precocious.

Anyone who is interested in finding out more about Scots should look at:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scots_language#Language_Change

http://www.scots-online.org/

uk.geocities.com/rfairnie@btinternet.com/ [This one carries news about Scots in monthly newletters, altho they're in Scots.]

Nick Durie
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Dec 17 2005 19:49
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I dunno to me all this talk about cultures surviving - I don't get it at all. How is it different from the BNP's ridiculous idea of defending "English" culture? Culture's not some static, homogenous entity with a "right" of existence. I mean who gives a shit? People who want to speak Gaelic and eat haggis, they can - no one's stopping them doing that. Ditto no one's stopping some little Englander I dunno being Christian and eating pies. I just don't understand what the big deal is

Fairplay. I don't really get why people feel the need to play sudoku or crosswords, and I'm totally baffled by introverts.

The problem that's being cited is that in the past people really have stopped others speaking Gaelic and eating pies, and that culture reflects sociological phenomenon which are unjust. If by some pure happenstance a culture voluntarily 'dwined' away then I probably wouldn't have a problem with that, except for mawkishness. It's also not really on to compare folk who are interested in Gaelic and Scots with the BNP. Nobody here has posted anything remotely ethnocentric or racialistic, have they? I would have thought that's precisely why the BNP are interested in defending England, not because they particularly give a fuck about the existence of the Stoke dialect or something.

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Dec 17 2005 19:49

Did I say Scots didn't have a right to survive? No, I didn't. And languages and cultures are eroded by the state and capitalism, so by opposing that you're opposing the work of fascism within us. To be sure, there are a lot of aspects of Scottish culture that aren't humane, like protestantism for example, but as far as language and culture go, they're pretty harmless, and saving them is humane, in the strongest possible sense of that word. Why the automatic assumption of unanimity? Other languages and cultures have contributed to the world apart from English and by abandoning them you abandon much that has historical worth. If we all spoke English, god it'd be horrible, insane even, like saying there's no point believing anything apart from Stalinism, because Stalinism has been scientifically proven to be true, even if it was, it'd still be pish. Learning a minority language is like learning any other foreign language, it shows an interest in humanity, and the various forms humanity has taken, also, diversity is good evolutionally. It's like having an interest in philosophy/religion, without necessarily believing any of it, it shows a willingness to learn about human beings rather than just condemn everyone who isn't from stainsted and a fully qualified Marxist-Hegelian to the slag-heap of history.

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oisleep
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Dec 17 2005 20:01

paragraphs dude, paragraphs angry

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jef costello
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Dec 17 2005 20:14

BNP are trying to use a model/interpretation of 'english' culture for nationalistic ends.

I think what was being discussed was the preservation of languages/culture for their own sake rather than the political imposition of them.

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Dec 17 2005 21:53
John wrote:
Just like I said - badly spelled English.

Sorry John, but you wouldn't be able to comprehend a person speaking genuine Scots (*waits for the joke that you can't with Scottish people anyway*), which in itself almost debunks the view that it's 'bad English' -nicely patronising btw. You'll still find 'Scots' is really quite widespread but it's undoubtedly a diluted form of a more vibrant, distinct language. There's still a few people, Shetlanders and Doric speakers particularly, who I just can't get personally. Both dialects within Scots and it shows the variation you can still find.

Frankly I don't know why it's so controversial for people that we view the importance of valuing our cultures, and I don't see why we have to justify ourselves. We've grown up in a different part of the world and have a different perpsective. I disagree with fetishising culture but it's just an abstract term for the ways people communicate, linked to their oral traditions, knowledge and background. It doesn't follow that we should (or could) nationalise it, or split ourselves off from other working class people or human beings. But really if we were actually building a popular movement for change in Scotland or the Highlands for example, couldn't we likewise support our own languages and cultures which would increase the confidence and independence of people? It's not an either-or, we can do both.

Nick, I disagree with the examples you cited for state intervention. In nearly every case of language restoration; Faroe Islands, Israel etc. there's been massive popular support and the work's been done pretty much from the bottom, though the state didn't hinder it. Irish language restoration never happened for instance because it was turned in a nationalist fetish, it worked against the people's own struggles and was part of a strategy that never challenged colonialism in a deeper sense. The state intervention has actually worsened the situation in some respects. In Scotland we shouldn't be merely appealling to the Parliament to give us some reforms, it could never affect significant change and the benefits you mention are debateable (though I've limitedly supported them). Without a more radical popular support our cultures are as good as dead.

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Dec 18 2005 00:01
Jef Costello wrote:
BNP are trying to use a model/interpretation of 'english' culture for nationalistic ends.

That's a baseless argument.

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I think what was being discussed was the preservation of languages/culture for their own sake rather than the political imposition of them.

Some BNP English-cultural type could easily say they want to protect English culture for its own sake. How are you lot any different? If you want your Scottish state for your (homogenous?) Scottish culture? How many black people or Asians are part of this Scottish culture?

Quote:
But really if we were actually building a popular movement for change in Scotland or the Highlands for example, couldn't we likewise support our own languages and cultures which would increase the confidence and independence of people? It's not an either-or, we can do both.

You are just talking about supporting your language and culture as if it's a good thing in itself. None of you have provided a shred of evidence as to why your culture is good in itself.

I'm sure if I wanted as well as attempting to get some sort of social change I could do a bunch of stuff trying to protect English culture, like trying to kick out foreigners, trash curry houses or corner shops, campaign against American TV shows and Bollywood films, try to get legislation to prevent people making shop signs in turkish or Polish or something. But I wouldn't do that, cos I'm not a prick. Why would I do that? Who would benefit?

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jef costello
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Dec 18 2005 00:41
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You are just talking about supporting your language and culture as if it's a good thing in itself. None of you have provided a shred of evidence as to why your culture is good in itself.

I tried to earlier.

Language and culture is something I find interesting in itself, there are possibilities within other languages and cultures to think beyond the limits of your own. It is easier to interrogate your own culture if you know others.

It is not a baseless argument, the BNP try to create an identity. The aim is not really clear, on a psychological level I would say it is because people tend to think in terms of binary oppositions. The creation of an external force consolidates the 'identity' and reinforces the self.

Quote:
How are you lot any different?

Firstly I am not part of a 'lot' while I would be interested to know more about scots and other cultures I have no connection to Scotland. I have Irish roots but unfortunately that part of my heritage is lost.

There is a difference between attacking the 'other' and reinforcing the self. "trashing a curry house" which no one suggested apart from you, is an aggressive nationalistic gesture, similar to the ones that many cultures, including the ones mentioned here, have suffered. Helping people to stay in touch with their culture is a positive attempt to spread knowledge.

Do not confuse an attempt to preserve an existing/vanishing culture with an attempt to form one through aggression.

All the aggressive nationalistic gestures you suggested would make you a prick. These are not gestures anyone has suggested.

Learning about another culture by choice is entirely different to imposing a culture or attacking another.

Forcing people to learn Scots would be rather pointless. But making the opportunity available is worthwhile. It is unlikely to lead to revolution in itself but it will not harm it in any way.

You're usually a fairly reasonable voice on the boards so I am assuming that some wires have got crossed somewhere.

Nationalism is no use. Culture, as itself and not as a construct, is always a valuable thing.

silvermoon
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Dec 18 2005 01:10
John wrote:
Some BNP English-cultural type could easily say they want to protect English culture for its own sake. How are you lot any different? If you want your Scottish state for your (homogenous?) Scottish culture? How many black people or Asians are part of this Scottish culture?

All of those that live here. It is so, so noticable that the debate around independence is increasingly focusing on deportation and detentions, and around international issues.

John wrote:
You are just talking about supporting your language and culture as if it's a good thing in itself. None of you have provided a shred of evidence as to why your culture is good in itself.

I'm sure if I wanted as well as attempting to get some sort of social change I could do a bunch of stuff trying to protect English culture, like trying to kick out foreigners, trash curry houses or corner shops, campaign against American TV shows and Bollywood films, try to get legislation to prevent people making shop signs in turkish or Polish or something. But I wouldn't do that, cos I'm not a prick. Why would I do that? Who would benefit?

You take a very narrow and pessimistic view of English culture, personally I think its because English people tend to be ashamed of their association with the Empire, and have never really moved beyond that. The Scottish ruling classes were as deeply involved in the Empire (and the Highland clearances) as the English, but we found a culture seperate to that of the ruling classes, by forging one away from the North British identity handed down to us.

The 70s/80s saw a massive reinvention of scottish culture - pre-70s it was all kitch (tartan dog jackets) or very formal (full highland dress etc), from the 70s things changed - people started to redefine the culture...culminating in Irvine Welsh, Alasdair Grey, Deacon Blue, Belle and Seb. Ken McLeod etc.* and re-explore and challenge accepted historical narratives .

If you kick out all the foreigners to protect "english culture" there isnt going to be many of youse left. Instead of fighting with an "English culture" that wants to kick out foreigners, shut down curry houses and establish a network of "ye olde corner shoppes", would it not be more productive to look at what English culture actually is and support the good bits.

People need culture and they need an identity, a geographical one is an obvious one, where you live determines a lot about how you live, but we cant allow them to be highjacked in the way that scottish culture was in the C19th, we need them to reflect the reality.

* I am also aware that we got the Proclaimers...I never said it was all good.

STI
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Dec 18 2005 04:49
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Replacing imperialist domination with what exactly? Homegrown, tin-pot, chauvinist domination, that's what. Oh and I agree with Volin

Home-grown domination is, compared to imperialist domination, historically progressive. The same way that capitalism is historically progressive compared to fuedalism. Sure, it'd be nice if struggles for national independance could magically result in a classless society, but that's, unfortunately, not the way societies progress.

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so you think a worker is better off if he is oppressed by his "own sort" rather than some foreigner?

Not necessarily, but I think he's closer to the material conditions necessary for a communist revolution than if he were oppressed by "some foreigner" (a foreign imperial power, if we're going to use objective terminology).

Quote:
for the local elites to further their own interests (and portraying that as the national interest) they have to mobilise their resources to do so, their biggest resource is their people, the people ruled by these local elites, if those people are to be mobilised to pursue economic development (on behalf off boss) they must be persuaded to do so,

Indeed they do.

Of course, the same could be said of bourgeois revolutions against fuedalism. Are they not progressive?

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nationalism is the tool that elites use to incorporate them into their project of catching up with other states

"Catching up with other states" is progressive. It brings the once-dominated society closer to the technological level necessary for a classless society.

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saying some abstract, oh well if a small nation gives a bigger nation a kicking then all of a suddent we'll find ourself in a socialist utopia is dusty headed ostrich talk

Who said anything about a socialist utopia? I sure didn't. I said it's progressive, and progression is a matter of comparison.