Is this the best we can be?

This is A Burdz Eye View’s 200th post.  Already.  Can’t quite believe it myself, that I can find so much to witter on about, but there you go. 

For those of you who have been around since the very beginning (August last year) I thank ye kindly.  And similar thank yous to everyone who dips in and out, and those of you who have recently arrived.  It’s not the beginning of the end, nor even the end of the beginning…

Such a milestone finds me in contemplative mood, trying to make sense of it all and thinking about what drives me.  What forms my moral compass, to borrow Gordon Brown’s phrase.

All around me in Scotland, I see a land of plenty.  A country rich in resources:  a wonderful environment shaped by the elements but also by our toil and industry.  A breathtaking landscape with an even more inspiring heritage.  One that sadly, we are all too quick to obliterate and remove, cowed almost by its greatness, its history and its meaning.  Thankfully, we seem to have moved beyond the concrete carbuncle mentality that drove building and development in the 1960s and 1970s, though we are still fond of corralling our children in dark and dingy boxes that we laughingly call places of education.  I like a lot of the modern buildings but wish we had more civic competitiveness to build truly great artifices that will stand the test of time, of which we can be proud.

I wonder, daily, at the light that shapes our moods and reflects our weather.  I marvel at our hills and lowlands, at the broodiness of some areas, at the deftness of our coasts, at the way our lives as a small island nation are intrinsically entwined with water.  And at this time of year, the green-ness of it all.  The Inuits have many words for snow: I wish we had more for green, to describe all the shades and tints that envelop us.

Nowhere is more impressive than home.  I go home to Galloway and it really does make my heart sing.  No part of Scotland – in my humble opinion – is more lovely.  Yet, devolution has not been kind to where I come from.  Edinburgh has had a boom bonus from the Parliament and the industry that has sprung up to service our nascent democracy, yet there has been little trickle down effect to many of Scotland’s outermost reaches.

I see women my age, looking ten years older at least, with strain and struggle etched on their faces.  But I also see resilience, humour, compassion, determination, a sense of community and of getting on and getting by.

Scotland’s greatest wealth is undoubtedly her people.  We are not over-populated, there is plenty of space for us all, for more even.  We have gifts aplenty – cultural, lyrical, enterprising, creative, industrious and inventive.  We export our finest talents all around the globe;  we should do more to persuade them to stay home and help build Scotland’s future.

Yet, we have huge levels of poverty.  The gap is growing between those who have more than they can ever need and those who struggle always to make ends meet.  We have become a nation obsessed with more.  Of sufficiency never being enough.  Such aspiration is good when channelled effectively but a country built on consumerist trappings can never be one at ease with itself.

And we – no flash in the pan habit this – are best of all at damaging ourselves.  Our lifestyles, our work ethic and our inability to pause and enjoy the moment deter us from taking pleasure in the simplest things and from stepping off the treadmill.  We are good at harming those around us.  Alcohol, violence and intolerance blight the lives of families everywhere.  Too many children grow up on the margins, in a twilight zone where they do their best to hide their fears and their hurts, in a society that punishes them for being unable to cope with what we adults throw at them.  We teach our children from the earliest age to think, act and be small.  To cringe and cower, rather than to soar.  We encourage them to wear the chips on their shoulders well.

How can it be that after ten years of devolution we are devoid of ideas on how to shape our destiny?  That our politicians seem more focussed on gaining power for the sake of it, cutting out the chaff that might stand in their paths, tempering their and our ambition in a race to the bottom?  Few dare to think big, fewer still wish to enthrall and beguile us with vision and values.  The fact that we have invested record amounts in our health and in education, yet have little in the way of improvement to show for it, is glossed over.  We have communities where unemployment is endemic and generational – still.  Our politicians – and those who serve them – continue to believe that applying sticking plaster policy approaches will provide the quick fix that paves the way to eternal electoral gratitude.  They – and we – aim for mediocre as if it was the gold standard.  If there is glory to be claimed, our politicians clamour;  if there is blame to be apportioned, no one takes responsibility.  What are any of them for, anyway? 

It doesn’t have to be like this.

I look around at Scotland – in awe at what we have, and what our country and nation has to offer this and future generations.  But I also look around in despair.  More than anything else, what grieves me daily is the realisation that we have wealth, in all its forms, in abundance.  But that we squander it freely. 

Yet, what guides me day in and day out is an innate belief that things – Scotland – really can be better.  I look around and ask myself – is this the best we can be?

10 thoughts on “Is this the best we can be?

  1. Pingback: Ten (other) good reasons to vote yes to independence « A Burdz Eye View

  2. Well written and well expressed. It struck such a chord. And my answer? No this is so not the best we can be. We can demand vision and beguilement from those who want the honour of leading us and cry down any who think we are fools to either want their mediocrity or believe their smoke and mirrors argument. Perhaps most importantly, we can and should find the courage to say what we think and want even when, actually particularly when, that will outrage some who thought that in the party political battles we would automatically be on ‘their’ side. I’ve just watched again the Scottish Parliament’s video of the opening in 1999. A wonderful video but one that strikes hard at how all that hope and promise and sheer joy has been unmet in so many ways since. Thanks for your post becasue it too reminded me that what we are settling for is quite simply, not good enough. And that it’s time to argue again, and hard, for the best that we can all be.

  3. Our dependencies run deep – it will take time to wean us away from them towards self-belief and self-awareness.

    Rome wasn’t burnt in a day, after all.

    I know it’s not a Friday but this may help:

    • Brilliant! Thanks for sharing it. Have liked Michael Franti ever since he was recommended to me by someone who knows all about staying human.

  4. Of course we can do better.
    First we have to get out of the failed state that is the UK and take control of our own resources and our own ambitions.

    In its continued collapse the people of the southern half of England are turning increasingly facist and intolerant and the UK state is no longer able to provide the the sort of society that encourages tolerance, harmony and social inclusion. Scotland’s better developed communalism will stand us in good stead if we get out in time.

  5. Real pathos in this piece. I agree with much of what you say but I am an eternal optimist. Remember Donald Drear’s “I like that” moment, it wasn’t that long ago that there was an optimism in the air.

    If we can find a way of pulling out of this mess we’re in together, there’s a real opportunity to build a fairer, more equal, and sustainable country. I think that a rejection of what’s going on south of the border may be a start of that process of daring to be different and daring to be ambitious for Scotland.

  6. Congratulations on 200 posts!

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