I was destined to become Scottish

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Me with a few of my own paintings

Okay, I must come clean – the title of this post may not be entirely honest, because I don’t believe in destiny. However, I can’t find any another word that quite captures what I want to tell you, so forgive me on this one occasion. I promise that everything else you’ll read here to be written with the utmost honesty.

Following the massively positive response my love letter to Scotland received, with hundreds upon hundreds of tweets, comments and messages that I got both here and over at Wings Over Scotland, where I was invited to share that blog post, I thought I’d expand a bit more about my relationship with Scotland, and how it started very early in my life, when I was just a wean back in Portugal.

My first novel was Scottish

I have an older brother, Tiago, who was born six years before me, in 1985. As a child of the mid-80’s, he started collecting comics from a very early age, and from as long as I can remember, I would take his comics into bed with me and look at the pictures, because I couldn’t yet read. I’m sure I made my own stories about what went on, as most children would’ve done. But the habit of going to bed at night, with a book, something which my I saw my dad doing every single day of his life, is a habit that has never abandoned me.

Transitioning from short comics to my first novel, however, was a huge deal. So huge, in fact, that I will forever remember the moment I first saw that novel, where I was, what I felt, and the excitement of wanting to get home so I could get started. I was around 9 or 10 years old, and I was with my dad at this shop in Vilamoura’s marina, where he used to get the newspapers, cigarettes and stuff. The shop also had a few books, and although I usually went to look at the magazines and comics, on this occasion, I went to the literature section, where I saw a bright blue spine sticking out. I pulled the book and looked at the most awesome cover I’d ever seen: two knights jousting, mounted on their horses, with a medieval castle standing in the background. That book was Ivanhoe, by Walter Scott.

Ivanhoe

The old Portuguese edition of Ivanhoe that I first read

I remember my dad asking if I was really going to read it, and me promising to do so. So he bought me the book without any resistance at all. I had no idea what it would be about, or who Walter Scott was. In fact, I read Ivanhoe and liked it so much, that I got my dad to buy me Rob Roy afterward. When I tried reading that one, I hated it. It took me until I was a teen to pick it up again and actually enjoy the book. And it was only then, when the internet was already thing, that I googled who Walter Scott was and learned more about this Scottish author who would forever be the person behind my first novel.

Ivanhoe may also be the seed for my love of history, and why I later graduated in this area at University. So this is a story whose ripples have far extended into my life.

I grew up with a “borrowed” Scottish auntie

One of my best friends while growing up was a boy named Luís, a year younger than me. His father is Portuguese, but his mother, Carol, is a Scottish lass born and raised in Edinburgh, who later moved to Portugal. In fact, Luís’s parents became best friends with my own parents, and so we were together all the time. I called him cousin, and his parents were like an aunt and an uncle.

As a young kid, you don’t think too much about these things, so I never took any notice of Carol’s peculiar accent in Portuguese, how she constantly messed up with the gender of the words, or paid any attention to what her being Scottish actually meant. But there were a few things which I markedly remember about her, aside from being a genuinely loving person and to this day and someone I regard very dearly as a family member. It was the way in which she pronounced the name of a brand of cereals: Golden Grahams. I had never quite heard anyone pronounce the name in that manner, with such music. Me and her son loved asking her to say it repeatedly, I assume, much to her despair – but she always indulged us.

Another thing about Carol is that she used to cook Shepherd’s Pie a lot when my parents went over for dinner, especially because my dad loved it. Again, I couldn’t imagine that a part of Scotland’s culture and heritage was literally nourishing me as I grew up. It was something I only realised later, looking back all these years, and which doesn’t fail to amaze me.

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My partner Roger, auntie Carol and I in Edinburgh, last year

A love of Celtic music, myth and history

Another weird thing about me growing up, was that I have always been drawn to Celtic music, for no reason in particular. It’s not something that my parents ever heard, it wasn’t something that I was introduced to. I don’t remember exactly how it started, but it was probably with something like Enya, moved on to Celtic Woman, and later Loreena McKennitt. These were mostly Irish songs that I heard, but then, as I matured and also grew out of Enya and Celtic Woman, which I no longer enjoy much. I discovered traditional bagpipes songs from Scotland, and the Runrig songs sung in Scottish Gaelic – An Toll Dubh being my favourite to this day. Braveheart’s soundtrack was also one of those that I went on listening to throughout the years.

Thank goodness for the internet, and how it allowed a young teenager in the south of Portugal to grow up with access to all of this. There were so many songs in Gaelic that I listened to, both Irish and Scottish, some of their lyrics imprinted eternally in my mind, even though I don’t speak the languages.

I guess this love of Celtic culture was borne out of my initial fascination of things like Neo-paganism and Wicca, which I discovered in my teens. As an atheist growing up in an atheist household, I’ve always been fascinated by the mythological and lore-rich aspects of certain religions, and I was deeply fascinanted by these New Age movements that drew influence from Celtic mythology. Alas, I never managed to actually become a believer – the concept of god, even if female, remained utterly bizarre and irrational to me – but I read a lot of books on Irish & Scottish mythology, which perhaps helped me better understand part of the Scottish soul which I now experience on a daily basis.

We must not forget, also, that the Celts migrated through the Iberian Peninsula, and indeed there is some heritage from that culture within Portuguese traditions, particularly in the North. Could that help explain any of this? Who knows.

Life has a way of being constantly fascinating

There are two things in my life, two loves, that grip my soul in profound ways. One, is the love I have for my partner, a love whose flame was ignited on the moment I first laid my eyes upon him, and which hasn’t flickered in the slightest in these almost seven years. I can never rationally explain how I feel like we were meant to be together, because I don’t believe in those things – but, all I can say is that Plato’s theory of the souls being divided by the gods, and us spending a life looking for our other half, is the one that best captures how I feel about Roger, my best friend and love of my life. The one who makes me whole.

The other thing I cannot rationally explain is why I felt like I had finally come home, almost in the same moment I first breathed Scotland’s air after arriving here. I don’t believe in a soul or anything of the sort, but the only way I can describe that feeling, is that it felt like my soul, who had never felt at home in Portugal, could finally breath, for it was now where it belonged. And since that first moment, back in November of 2015, that feeling has remained unchanged.

In fact, when I fly back to Portugal once a year, and although I love to visit the folks back there, I feel sad. Because I am going away from where I want to be, away from the one place where truly feel like myself.

Perhaps it is best that I cannot rationalise these feelings. That they are so deeply emotional may explain their overwhelming power. But the fact is that, in a way, something of Scotland’s spirit grabbed me from a very young age, thousands of kilometers away, and in my hear of hearts I know that this will never cease to be. I may have a Portuguese complexion, and my accent may never be like a native, but I have no doubts that these elements don’t make my soul any less Celtic. Any less Scottish.

BBC and Xenophobia: Why I Cancelled My TV Licence

nae BBC

When there’s sufficient distance between historians and the events taking place today, regarding Brexit, it will be interesting to read the analysis of the role played by the BBC during this time. As an immigrant, a category often used to score cheap political points during the political debates or used in newspaper headlines to push divisive agendas, my gut feeling is that the corporation has been instrumental in both heightening the xenophobia prevalent in Brexiteers’ obsession with people like me, and it has failed in any substantive way to offer an accurate representation of the actual facts, because it’s obsessed with this damaging notion of balance – that both sides of an argument have equal validity, even when one of them knowingly fills the airwaves with porkies.

A month ago, I decided to give up on my TV Licence. Why? Not because I want to live in an echo chamber and only listen to the stuff I agree with – I’m perfectly comfortable with Conservative voices. But I can’t stand lies, blatant propaganda, and the manipulation of the truth to convey a specific agenda – that’s what prompted me to say cheerio to the BBC and move on to brighter, less xenophobic pastures than anything on live TV / iPlayer / BBC radio.

Enough of talking about British expats, and everyone else being an immigrant. Enough of talking of EU citizens as tools that are either needed to “pick our strawberries”, or disposed of whenever they become inconvenient. Enough of the BBC putting nasty idiots like Boris hosting political shows, or failing to proper scrutinise the rhetoric coming out of some politicians.

BBC has played a major role in the negative rhetoric about immigration

One of the greatest examples of the corporation’s role in projecting the voices of hatred and division is its flagship political show, Question Time. Be it the propensity of right-wing voices with unpalatable views (the toad from UKIP), the shady lobbyists from obscurely-funded “Think Tanks” (Taxpayers’ Alliance), or xenophobic journalists manipulating the anxieties of their viewers/readers (that idiotic lass from the Daily Mail who is a pal of Arron Banks), the fact is that the show constantly puts on the panel people who have little of worthwhile substance to contribute.

And then there’s the audiences. Don’t get me started on the audiences. From the frothing at the mouth gammons that go on 1-minute rants about immigrants and this country needing to take back control, to the questionable plants purposefully given a microphone to convey the producers’ narrative. At first, I was skeptical of people going on about the show’s producers having an agenda, but after the Billy Mitchell scandal in Scotland (a failed UKIP candidate invited to the show several times and who later admitted in a Times interview that the producers had called him because they wanted his views), it became obvious that there was no amount of “Oops, we didn’t mean it!” that could disguise the agenda being played.

But the BBC doesn’t care. They have been called out on this several times, and yet they keep doing it. I have cancelled my TV Licence more than a month ago, but I still get the wee clips from Question Time shared by people on my social media, and, quelle surprise, last night there was a guy going on about the stupidity of having democratic referendums (that guy’s mind will be blown with the concept of having regular elections, by the way, because that’s the essence of Democracy – letting people change their minds). People were quick to point out that it wasn’t just an uninterested audience member who had casually happened to have been given a microphone.

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Another “random” audience member. Yeah, right.

I watched the first episode with Fiona Bruce, back in January, with the hopes that she would bring with her much needed change to the tone of the show. Yeah, fuck that. If anything, Fiona has heightened the most pervasive aspects of the show. The Daily Mail “journalist” and Arron Banks’ pal I mentioned earlier, in one the January shows, went on a rant about freedom of movement based on a hateful lies, and Fiona didn’t do her journalistic duty and contradict what was being said. That’s a disgrace. It also doesn’t help my sense of self-worth, as an immigrant in Scotland, that part of the audience cheered her xenophobic twattery (video below).

The problem extends beyond Question Time

Question Time is the prime example of everything that’s wrong with political coverage on the BBC, but it certainly isn’t the only culprit. From Politics Live constantly doing right-wing talking points and inviting people from shady think tanks, to Andrew Neil attacking journalists like Carole Cadwalladr on his own Twitter and the BBC refusing to chastise him, to actual actors being asked to play the role of a vicar as part of an audience Q&A in Newsnight.

The BBC has not created the right-wing monster taking over the public debate in this country – but they have fed it, contributed to its growth, and done nothing credible to acknowledge their own failings. From the times they would put a climate denier against a scientist to debate climate change, creating a false sense of equivalence, to them purposefully lowering Diane Abbott’s microphone volume on Question Time to make her look weak. It’s incredible what’s being done in plain sight.

No matter its cultural output, which I’ll happily admit has quite a substantial amount of high-quality content, like Killing Eve, Fleabag and Bodyguard, the role the BBC has played as the voice of the UK establishment, a particularly Tory/UKIP tinged voice (have you counted how many times Toad Farage has been on shows like Question Time?), has been detrimental to this country.

I could also go on about how Scotland is parochially treated within the BBC, including its elected representatives from the SNP. I could tell you how, despite me not being a fan of Corbyn in any way, the BBC repeatedly uses fake Tory talking points and smears to attack Corbyn’s leadership. I could go on about some of the individual journalists, broadcasters and radio hosts who peddle demagogue lies to their audiences. The sad thing is, there’s no short amount of things on which to criticise the BBC.

Enough of paying to be diminished as an immigrant

Me and my partner don’t watch much TV – gaming and reading have always been our main sources of entertainment. But we did watch the news, both on the BBC and Channel 4, every night, one followed by the other. Yet we decided to give that up, because we cannot bring ourselves to give our hard-earned money to the BBC, to legitimise the xenophobia they’re feeding.

There were times, after watching Question Time, where I went to bed genuinely distraught and disturbed, made to feel like a burden on this country, even though I know full well the facts, and they are quite clear that immigration makes a massive financial contribution to the UK, on top of the cultural gains we get from diversity.

So we have plugged the antenna cable out of our TV, and have been experimenting with trials of Netflix and Amazon to see if we like them. YouTube has got me covered in terms of following live proceedings in the House of Commons, as well as Channel 4 news clips which they upload regularly, and I continue to read the same newspapers as before, so I keep up on the latest without going through the BBC filter.

I have no time for those who don’t pay the TV Licence but still watch it. Armchair rebels – yeah, we have enough of that. You’re not putting your fist up to the BBC, you’re only showing the middle finger to the people who lawfully pay their TV Licence. And you’re still contributing to the BBC ratings. If you want to send them a message loud and clear, stop watching any live TV or Iplayer, and cancel your TV Licence – and tell them exactly why when you fill out the form.

That’s what we did, and let me tell you, the past month has been like a detox for the brain.

Twitter can bring out the worst in people

This is not one of the posts I usually write for this blog. But something so remarkably fun (and sad) happened on Twitter, tonight, that I couldn’t but feel the need of putting it up here, not least for my future reference.

You see, I’m an optimist, and so I look very positively at Twitter. Yeah, sure, it’s full of disgustingly vile people who will fight over anything. But I’ve also met many a fine people in whose lives I’ve grown genuinely interested, and who I care about to various extents. And, crucially, most people tend to be polite, funny and warm – like in the real world.

However, had a particular interaction tonight that encapsulates the pettiness of this social media bubble. I’ll let the below image speak for itself, but let me just end by saying this: if your immediate response, when confronted with your own smugness, is not to laugh at yourself and recognise your error, but instead to double down and lash out in a horribly xenophobic manner, you’re just a vile, nasty, ignorant little shit, and it will always be a pleasure to put in your place.

Especially when English is not even my native language.

 

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A lesson in smugness

If anyone is wondering, deprecating and denigrating are synonyms when used in this context:

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Dictionary reference

Nativism has no place in civic nationalism

Jock Tamson's Bairns

We’re aw Jock Tamson’s Bairns

Following a recent interview by the leader of the Labour branch office in Scotland, Richard ‘Dick’ Leonard, where he said he would oppose any movement towards a second referendum on Scottish Independence, there’s been some angry furore on the Yes social media circles.

Some of it raises quite reasonable and valid questions. Who is Dick Leonard to oppose a second Indyref, when the Scottish electorate put a pro-Indy majority in Holyrood at the last election? Why is Scottish Labour (which isn’t even a registered party), with only 7 MPs, standing in the way of 35 out of the 59 Scottish MPs in Westminster? There are also those simply asking: who the fuck is Dick Leonard? Believe me, I wish I was as blissfully ignorant, too. Just know that he’s a fully animated bobble-head doll with a *SNP BAD* voice message played on repeat. Oh, and that he’s the type of Labour “Socialist” who shafted the pay for women in Glasgow’s city council.

What concerns me, however, aren’t the above questions, but those who have chosen to focus on the fact that Dick Leonard was born in Yorkshire, and therefore has no right oppose Scottish independence. I wholeheartedly reject this, because I believe that anyone who lives & works in Scotland should have a say in our collective future. What kind of hypocrite would I be, were I to believe otherwise? After all, fate decreed that I was born elsewhere, but Scotland is my home, and I have a right to express any opinions about it – and everyone else has the right to reject any such opinions, without resorting to nativist arguments about my place of birth. Same should apply to Dick Leonard.

The poison we must suck out of the pro-Indy movement

I’ve picked three tweets that were born out of the this Dick Leonard miasma. None of these accounts is a bot / troll with a few dozen followers, but all have above a thousand people following them.

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What these three Tweets share in common, is the priority of nativism in order to establish a voting franchise. Much of the poison feeding into this idea seems to come from the fact that non-Native voters in 2014 opted for ‘No’, contributing to the loss of the first Indyref.

That is one way of looking at it. You can pick apart any demographic and try to ascribe different levels of guilt. If you’re going to pick up on foreigners, you might just be a xenophobe. I mean, if you want to get down to the numbers, a BBC study shows that 56.8% of people born outside of UK voted No. The exact same percentage of women also voted No. So why are you a xenophobe and not a misogynist? Well, my guess is that these people will probably be a bit (or a lot) of both.

If you want to be even more ridiculous, you can look at the religious breakdown. 60% of no voters were Protestant. Will we be burning them at the stake, now? It’s so stupid that I can’t even go on with these examples, even though there are many to choose from.

Nativism makes sense in very specific contexts – it justifies, for example, the fact that the vast majority of countries require their heads of state to have been born there, so that, theoretically, an agent of a different country doesn’t take over (Didn’t turn out so well with the Russian puppet in the White House, though, did it? And funnily enough the same guy behind the racist campaign chasing after Obama’s birth certificate).

But nativism is nasty. It’s often used against me by Unionists, who tell me that I have no right, as an immigrant, to hold an opinion on Scottish independence. Some tell me that I should be grateful for being in the UK. That I’m a guest. My answer remains the same, to all of these: fuck off. I’ve paid my due taxes from my work – I’m not your guest, I’m contributing to the financing of British society, you dumb numpties.

Such bigotry should hold no sway over the arguments made by pro-Indy folk. Not least because, given the Brexit clusterbourach, it’s very likely that the non-Native demographic will shift massively towards a Yes vote come the next Indyref. It is our job to win over 2014’s No voters, not antagonise and hold a grudge for the way they might’ve voted before.

I want an Indy Scotland built on hope and compassion, not grievances

During the Brexit referendum, Westminster excluded EU citizens from the voting franchise. Had we been included, the vote would’ve been a crushing victory for Remain instead. But that was a morally objectionable choice by David Cameron’s Government – like all choices of that clown’s tenure as PM, to be frank.

Scotland shouldn’t resort to dirty tricks to return to independence. We can expect those from Westminster and their propaganda mouthpieces, like the appalling bias demonstrated by the BBC in the run up to 2014. But rather than getting down in the dirt and ending up covered in the same shite, we should fight for independence while holding the moral high ground, making loud and clear that Scots, English, Europeans or people from anywhere else in the world, if they’re living in Scotland, they are Scottish.

We’re aw Jock Tamson’s Bairns. Harbouring grievances based on our differences would be the end of us.