Sunday, January 26, 2014
Robbie Burns and the Scottish Independence Question
Well today is Robbie Burns Day, and all over the world tonight the Tartan Army is marking the bard's birthday, piping in the haggis, and no doubt drinking heavily.
And although I don't drink, and I don't eat the awful offal.
I'm extremely proud of my Scottish heritage.
And this is a momentous year in the history of Scotland. The year when a referendum will be held in September, to decide whether the country should become an independent nation.
So I imagine one of the questions being heatedly debated around the haggis table tonight is: if Robbie was alive today would he vote for independence?
And like the Guardian's Liz Lochhead, my answer would also be YES.
Because although Burns was a complex man:
Burns is, according to the poet Edwin Muir, "to the respectable, a decent man; to the Rabelaisian, bawdy; to the sentimentalist, sentimental; to the socialist, a revolutionary; to the nationalist, a patriot; to the religious, pious …"
To me he will always be a rebel voice. A man who opposed slavery and was an early supporter of the French Revolution. A man who loved the common people and mocked the powerful.
A man who wasn't afraid of change, and dreamed of a better more just world.
Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a' that,
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's comin yet for a' that
That man to man, the world o'er,
Shall brithers be for a' that.
Just like I do.
And that's what this independence referendum is all about. To determine the kind of country the Scots want to live in. A Con place or a progressive one.
A country like Britain where David Cameron and his right-wingers are trying to destroy government, and waging war on the poor.
Or a country like Scotland that still believes in social programs, is strengthening medicare rather than privatizing it. A place where hungry children come before weapons. And where university education is FREE.
Not just for rich kids...
So yes, I'm pretty sure Robbie, or Rabbie as we call him, would have voted YES to independence.
...Though I am heartily sick of the ubiquitous, daft "if Burns was alive today how would he vote?" question – my gut feeling is that (och, just read him!) as a libertarian, a democrat, a lover of freedom and autonomy, a revolutionary and a romantic, of course he'd be voting for independence.
And so will most of the people in this little village way up in the north of Scotland that I know so well...
(click pic to enlarge)
I'll make sure of that eh?
Because if I can't help save this country, I will try to help create a country where our precious values can live on. And I will be heading there this summer to join the Yes campaign.
But there will be plenty of time to tell you about that journey, and how what happens there could have a big impact on Canada, as we continue our long journey to try free this country from Stephen Harper and his Cons.
So tonight I'll just leave you, as I do every year, with my favourite version of that old Burns poem.
Sung by a fabulous member of the New Scotland, the pride of Paisley, Paolo Nutini...
Here's to Robbie Burns.
Down with the awful Cons,and their offal leader.
Up with the rebels. Freedom. Freedom. Freedom.
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