Friday, July 31, 2015

Scotland's Tidal Swell

History shows that reclaiming a nation's identity inevitably gives rise to a wave of cultural revival. This is because "incorporated" nations are held in that position partly by suppressing their artistic output, their songs and instruments and tradition, their books. And their history is not taught in their schools, as was the case in Scotland until recently when the new parliament was established.  This kind of thing happened in America with the native populations. It happens wherever colonies are set up. It happened in Ireland and Lithuania, and it happened in India.
Joyce's Ulysses was published the very year of Irish independence, and he was in good company in that groundswell of new theatre and literature that included WB Yeats, Samuel Beckett, Bernard Shaw, to name a few. Independence in India was also accompanied by a revival in the arts, giving the world writers such as VS Naipaul, Narayan, Arundhati Roy, Desai. Both Ireland and India have become known for their literary output.
The first thing Lithuania did on its road to independence was to establish its own press. Scotland has but one main press, which although founded on the principle of supporting Scottish literature, has more of a global bent these days. There are a handful of smaller presses doing what they can to pick up the slack, but they are Davids in the face of London Goliaths.

So, here's a call to the Scottish government to build an armature to support this gathering wave of the arts, by creating a Scottish press and fostering a fertile soil where the artists and artists-to-be of Scotland can flourish. It should make sure the wee boys and girls in Scottish schools are steeped in their own history, are encouraged to write poetry, sing songs, paint, let their story out.
It's not a manufactured sense of nationalism, as Nazism was and as the overlords and conservative media always try to make it seem. It's the beating heart that was stopped for all those centuries but is now thumping again. I'm not writing books to that end - it's just what's coming out, because I grew up on the silent heart of Scotland and now my writing naturally strains towards the beating drum. I know I am not the only one.

Totalitarianism can be imposed from within, as it was by feudalism and by communism, or from without as it is in colonialism. But you can stifle the voice of a nation for only so long, and then come the Solzhenitsyns,  the Lixiongs and Tserings, the Joyces, the Yeats and the Rushdies, all trying to give a voice to a throat that has been cut. It's the nature of art to do this, not because it is political, but because it is the beating heart of any people, and sooner or later it is going to be heard.

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