As many regular readers know, within this blog and website, normally, I don't really like to get involved in politics and religion-based topics. Why: I feel these issues are private and everyone is entitled to their view.
However, today, I'm breaking the habit of a lifetime and "sort of" talking about some political and social issues for a while at least. Why: because it matters and I care deeply especially for the people of all of the British Isles.
In about one week's time, here in Scotland, we are voting on whether Scotland is to become an independent country or remain part of the UK.
Yes, I know thousands of our readers abroad are dumbfounded by why some in Scotland might seek to go down this route. The reasons are long and complex. Whatever the people decide is how we move forward.
For confused readers in the USA and Canada who think that we here in Scotland must be slightly mad, let me assure you that is not true, it's all just complicated and simply about Scottish people having their say.
However, furthermore, much to my own surprise, along with many people in Scotland, the Scottish Independence drama has captivated my little grey cells more than usual.
Whatever the outcome next week, I've been amazed and gratified to see how much interest this debate has had in Scotland. The Daily Mail reports that about 97% of Scots have signed up to vote: astonishing!
Who said Scots don't care about their future? I suspect that most self-respecting democracies around the world would love to be able to generate such high levels of participation and interest. Whatever, the outcome, well done Scotland: just like the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, you have shown the world the awesome potential that is Scotland.
Without doubt, today's Scottish people are indeed remarkable, even if sometimes misunderstood! So I commend how that aspect has been managed.
However, the London 2012 Olympics was spectacularly awesome too! Do you see a pattern? All of these events show what is possible when people cooperate and work together toward goal after goal after goal.
The Truth About How Scotland and England Came Together?
Yet I have a curiosity about history and a hope that we don't make the mistakes of the past. With that in mind, I wanted to briefly explore, from my own personal unique perspective, how Scotland and England (and later Wales and Northern Ireland) became a single country.
Here however, at this time, I just want to focus on the connection between between Scotland and England.
According to at least one reasonably informed account, the failure of the Darien colonisation project in the 1700s primarily caused the union between Scotland and England.
Of course, much more led up to these developments, no one alive today can know the full truth, and the entire saga is incredibly complex.
The pages of history are written by the winners of the time, so can only ever show glimpses, snippets, and their personal opinions of what really happened hundreds of years ago. So let's keep the focus tight for now.
From what I understand, by today's standards, the Darien colonisation project sounds much like a pyramid scam or get rich quick scheme of some kind. Clearly a bad idea at any time.
Yet people were duped, as they are today, in many different ways around the world. The only defence against being scammed and used is to strive to become more informed, or trust someone who may know more about a topic than us.
One thing we can learn from the Darien colonisation project saga is an example of a stubbornly repeating tragic comedy throughout history: ultimately, in a money-based economy, it's about the basic human need to want something for nothing, or have other people pay for what we want, and perhaps, we can also include the usually flawed belief that the grass is greener on the other side of the field.
To summarise, if we put politics aside for a moment, one thing seems sure: that the 1707 Acts of Union prevented Scotland's people from suffering starvation, and for that at least, I am truly thankful. Whatever the causes, suffering is always a terrible thing.
Decisions, Decisions, And More ...
So, here we are in 2014, after over 300 years of political union between Scotland and the rest of the UK, we who are currently living in Scotland, find ourselves being urged to decide whether to make Scotland a separate country from the UK, and in which no other UK residents are allowed to have any measure of their say too!
At this point, I will openly say, I am not easily hoodwinked about anything and I tend to view all of our current political voices with more than a little skepticism. That doesn't mean I am not incredibly grateful of what our truly ethical leaders try to do for any of us.
Nevertheless, if you want an "Aye" from Brian Austin, you had better prove your worth down to a deep, Google-like, proven scientific level! Hype and talk and spin will be wasted here.
Brian's Voting Guideline Number One
Perhaps, whenever we are not 100% sure of anything relating to voting or elections, the best answer is simple: we can seek ways to keep things as they are, at least for now.
Seemingly little changes, can have massive implications. Scientists can show us how the simple fluttering of a butterfly's wings in Japan can unleash a hurricane across a country like the USA. Or, we can appreciate that if the wrong tiny part falls from an aircraft in flight, we can have a problem.
Nothing is ever perfect, and we need to pick our battles with care and avoid falling into the trap of rising to every cause (that sounds weird: "... falling ...", and "... rising ..." in the same sentence :-).
All "projections" about the economics of Scottish independence are made from within the context of being part of the UK, so are at best calculated guesses, or at worst, meaningless.
Scottish independence has not happened, so there are absolutely no projections for Scotland in more recent times as a modern separate country. Yet, and no one, absolutely no one, can tell the future. However, if you can find anyone who can pass the $1,000,000 James Randi charlatan test, I will gladly listen.
Throughout All Corners Of Britain, We Are Already A Mixed Race And Have Been So For Centuries
Here on the Isle of Skye, most people are of what we could loosely describe as "of Scottish descent". However, that can mean Viking lineage, Irish, Celtic, Lowland Scots, folks from Yorkshire, England, Wales, Germany, France, China, the USA, Canada, Australia, and more. Some Scottish islanders tell us that, culturally, they feel more akin to Norway and Sweden than to Scotland!
Nevertheless, Skye has been a place of interaction, welcome, and even sanctuary from oppressive forces, for centuries, and thankfully, has managed to retain and promote wonderful traditions like Gaelic culture.
Colours, heritage, and unique, richer ways of living peacefully are precious constants to value and hold dear as the future can only go one way and change happens as part of life.
Today, there is an even more varied mix made up of both people who live and work here, and of course, visitors from around the world that we welcome in their millions every year.
While Skye is rich in kindness and respect, like communities everywhere, we too have big problems to solve, such as: the cost of housing, poverty, joblessness. I really believe such issues can be improved not by going smaller, or shrinking back, but getting bigger, but in a carefully managed way.
While I write these words from what was once simple Scottish croft land, who knows, potentially, millions of people around the world may eventually read my ramblings - some may choose to visit Skye as a result, and some of those, can perhaps, over time, get to truly understand why people re-visit here many times over, and why some people seek to live and work here.
That is one example of retaining a culture within a forever changing world, enlarging a perspective through communications and hopefully helping others too.
The Scottish Queen of England? And Britain As A Rainbow Of Nations
If we want to "get picky" about genetics, earlier this week, much to my surprise, I discovered that our Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain may be more Scottish than English, depending on how we choose to measure such things!
How so: Queen Elizabeth descends from her mother's side directly from Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots and Robert the Bruce, so they tell me. What a tangled web of nations make up Britannia and Caledonia. If you say to me, the female line doesn't count, in our house, men and women are equal, so I say they do.
Nevertheless, I hope I'm not related to Adolph Hitler. Seriously though, perhaps our differences, shared ideals, and rich mix, is indeed the secret to our continued success as a friendly, admired nation to many around the world.
Today, Britain, including Scotland, is like a rainbow: we are made up of many different colours. Can you imagine a rainbow comprised of a single colour? I can't. But if I could, I think it would, shall we say, be somewhat boring.
One way to help make a nation really dull is to have everyone singing the same song wearing the same clothes, all speaking with the same accent.
Our differences, enrich us all. They not only help fix genetic weaknesses, and many other problems, they are what help us all thrive and become more accepting of anyone who may be different to ourselves.
Yes, at times, like all families, we disagree. However, how many of those more heroic people than us, have given their lives in two world wars, and more, so that we can have the luxury of disagreeing in a climate of relative freedom?
Such Gratitude For Those Who Made The Ultimate Sacrifice, And Honouring Their Memories
Look around the world: Greece, Gaza, Israel, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Russia, Pakistan, India, China, the list goes on and on.
At the time of writing, tragically, most of the world is a political / religious mess.
Our hearts go out to people everywhere who are affected by mayhem, calamity, and economic misfortune (or mismanagement).
The answer; the solution, to all such challenges is more kindness, more tolerance, more patience, and just accepting people who may have different views from our own. We can agree to disagree and still be friends. That is civilisation.
Yet over time, probably millions of people have in one way or another lost their lives so that we can live as we do today, in relative freedom, including the luxury to squabble. Consider people like:
- Captain Ronald MacDonald, "Band of Brothers", Portree, Isle of Skye (and many more).
- John Henry Williams, VC, Wales.
- Amy Elizabeth May (ammunitions), London.
- Earnest Rea, soldier, from the village of Kempsey, England.
- Corporal Bryan James Budd, Northern Ireland, died December 2006, while serving in Afghanistan.
Plus millions of others, men and women.
Do you wonder what these remarkable people might think about us as we cast our votes on September 18, 2014? I do.
Why The Scottish Independence Vote Is Both Simple, And Hard
For me personally, as a grateful and welcome guest and having had the pleasure of living and working in the wonderful Scottish Highlands for over 13 years, after first moving up here from North Yorkshire in England, and after some careful thought, the decision of my vote is simple, yet not so easy, based on the following observations:
- My core problem: I do not believe I have the right to choose whether Scotland should be an independent country. That's not a "cop-out", and it doesn't mean I won't vote. Keep reading to learn more.
Yet without doubt, I see myself as a human being first, who tries to live a worthwhile life helping others in the process, and second, as part-Yorkshire, part-English, part-Welsh, part-Scottish, mostly British.
As a fun side note, yes, I do believe at one point, there was a "Home rule for Yorkshire" movement - perhaps crafted with the help of some remarkable traditional ales in some of Yorkshire's finest public houses.
- Yet, why should I, simply just because I live and work here in Scotland, get to vote on something that will affect the entire population of the UK, when someone who is still alive today and who was born in Scotland, and who through their own choice just happens to be working elsewhere in Britain, does not get their chance to vote?
For example: my daughter's boyfriend is Scottish, yet they both live and work in North Yorkshire, England right now. Why: simple, that is where their jobs are, and sometimes, people must move to follow their dreams.
No government can truly create sustainable jobs. In fact, job creation is not really the business of government. Never has been. However, governments can create a favorable climate for employment, to allow profitable businesses to be set up, thrive, and grow.
Even more satire: my daughter's boyfriend is a true Scot, yet does not get to vote on the future of where he came from. Do you see the irony? To me, this seems grossly unfair and undemocratic. With such poor judgement, I wonder if our leaders want to turn us into a banana republic!
- Throughout the UK, existing records can easily identify who was born in Scotland, yet living and working elsewhere in Britain.
Nevertheless, I appreciate that to identify present-day Scots living abroad is significantly more challenging. But for Britain as a whole at least, we have technology, we have postal codes, names even, plus, we can count. How hard can it be?
- Therefore, since I feel that the voting process is itself fundamentally flawed, for those people who are truly Scottish but who don't get a vote, on their behalf, I will vote "No" because many of those may want to say "No" but won't have that opportunity (some have already explicitly said so).
- Yes, some folks may vote "Yes" to independence, but when faced with any difficult decision, when tasked with two equally difficult choices, if we can't know for sure 100% how to determine the correct choice, to be true to ourselves, and help future generations, the only sensible option is to seek to maintain the status quo and ignore all of the political hype, psycho-babble, and "white noise" from all corners.
- Or, simply why not ask your heart to talk to your head: you've been together for a long time already, and hopefully, between both of your aspects, you can decide what you think is right.
- Thankfully, the decision next week is not life threatening. When the show is over, life will most likely continue, for better, or for worse, and we will all gain or lose.
- Some say, we will get the result we deserve. Folks who expect others to fix their life problems, will over time, also be reminded, that we ourselves and our families and friends are the prime movers of our lives, no-one else. That doesn't mean we can't help those who are less fortunate: we can and should.
- If you think I say these things from a somewhat privileged background, you would be wrong. Like many people, as a self-employed freelance worker, I too have experienced harder times in my life; never assume that web developers or IT workers are immune to economic ups and downs, or stresses and strains of modern living, even if we may be so fortunate as to live in one of the most beautiful areas on Earth (unless its raining and your stuck outside :-)
- Nevertheless, this flawed voting process also tells us that whoever came up with this broken method seems to be lacking significant competence! Or, in my more paranoid moments, I wonder, perhaps "they" may they know exactly what they are doing. The truth: I have no real idea. Like most of you, I simply seek to do the best that I can.
- Throughout this voting frenzy, do you ever get the feeling that, contrary to what we are spun, it feels like none of this is really about you or me?
We know that most political motivations can be traced to the three primal urges: greed, power, money. So perhaps, maybe, just maybe, you and I are merely pawns on the chess board of the week, being given a little more importance today, and for a few more days yet.
But tomorrow, after our usefulness has expired, who knows: flip a coin, and you'll be right maybe half the time. Ignore me: I'm just feeling tetchy. Of course, every vote has an equal value of one and long may that continue. Furthermore, we can choose to step outside of such negative emotions.
- Even so, my decision to vote "No" has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with fairness and common sense - at least, that is what I tell myself.
Furthermore, after thankfully living 59 years so far, I know that providing we have basic human rights in place, no matter what country we live in, or where we live, human success is more about helping others through the actions and steps we take as individuals and within small friendly groups, and less about any political party. Sorry, but that is the plain truth.
- In addition, respectfully, wherever we may live, if you're holding out thinking that political affiliations will change your life or feed your family, I wish you good luck in your delusions.
Even if we are disenfranchised with politics, we should still vote. Why: perhaps millions of people throughout our colourful history have, in one form or another, lost their lives to give us that option.
So no, within a reasonably civilised country, plus, the ability to defend our borders, I feel that our own steps in combination with help from family and friends, and some special people, are what help make the key differences to our lives, not our country, or tribe, or clan. I could prove that to you with so many examples but we don't have space right now.
How many wars have resulted from nationalistic ideas combined with the mass manipulation of a people, I wonder? That's why nationalism, in all its forms, is pernicious; it's about pulling down, contracting, not building up. A discussion for another day perhaps.
- Friends and customers will know that as a typical web developer, I usually work with a great "free-to-use for anyone" web Content Management System (CMS) called Joomla, created and supported by many generous and talented people around the world. This website is built using Joomla. The name Joomla is a phonetic spelling for the Swahili word "Jumla," which means "all together" or "as a whole".
So it seems, the smart idea of "working together" goes far beyond our shores, is probably an ancient belief, and makes a lot of sense, even when, and especially if, we may disagree from time to time.
Perhaps, if we go back in time far enough, we may discover that the human species would not even be here today, were it not for the epic efforts of the few thousand humans left alive at that time, and who had the good sense to combine their strengths and skills, against multiple dangers, in an uncertain world.
That's why, together, we are simply more powerful than standing alone.
So, next week, from September 18, 2014, we shall see what happens in this big drama in our little corner of the world.
Wherever you may live, strive to be kinder dear reader: that alone can enrich our lives in so many ways.
Either way, whatever the outcome, let's hope and indeed, help ensure, that disasters like the Darien colonisation never get repeated.
Some Think We May Eventually Switch From Money-Based-Lifestyles To Resource-Based Living
While, not directly relevant to our Scottish independence vote, perhaps, in the future, the switch from money-based economies to resource-based economies will put an end to war, poverty, homelessness, unemployment, and unfairness everywhere and for everyone, no matter where they may live.
A nonstop torrent of new technology changes, combined with prices that sometimes seem to keep going down, may force us all eventually, to adjust to sweeping changes and to re-evaluate what we do and how we even live.
In such a scenario, like all growing pains, there will be dark days, and this outcome will not be ideal for everyone. Maybe that's how a pupa feels just before it evolves into a butterfly. It has no choice as to what happens, but what comes next is simply wonderful.
However, for today, let's get real: while compelling to consider, arguably, ideas like The Venus Project are somewhat of a pipe dream. Concepts like personal property and ownership will not be relinquished easily, unless something better is already in place first.
So if, or until, Star Trek living upgrades today's world, we work with the best we have right now. This is our world and our way of life.
Nevertheless remember, everything we use and hold dear today, was at one point, also a fantastic, unbelievable notion to someone. What's more, everything changes over time, making political notions like left, right, centre, essentially meaningless.
The future is an enigma, wrapped up in a puzzle, hidden in a mist, in a land that has not yet come to pass.
How The British And Scottish Economies Work Today
For today however, money is the key to how things get done. So let's have a little plain speaking: if we rule out theft and invasion, starting off, no money-based democratic government has any income of its own.
All income in reasonably civilised communities the world over, starts with businesses: small, medium, large, and the people who work for them. Plus, maybe a few donations or loans can help kickstart initiatives. Every employee too is in business; the only difference: they have only one customer: their employer.
When enough of a money pot is established, some of those countries can afford to pay, and perhaps maintain, public sector projects, employing people to carry out those all-important tasks. So even public sector investment ultimately comes from, and is maintained by, businesses.
But if businesses stop making sufficient profits, unemployment goes up, taxes go up, and the number of people employed in the public sectors can go down from perhaps 3 or 4 in 10, to as low as 1 in 20, maybe even lower! Yet we need all of our public sector workers.
So the answer, it seems, to me at least, right now, is that in order to help build better lives for all is to work out how to encourage the growth of many more ethical micro businesses, small businesses, some of which may evolve into medium-sized businesses, or larger organisations, that eventually may employ tens of thousands of people. Yes, I know, to a hammer, everything seems like a nail :-)
Nevertheless, all benefits originally come from those remarkable business owners who have the steely nerve to start a business, and the loose partnership with their employees who help make things happen.
Only when they all can work out how to sell sufficient numbers of widgets to others, at a profit, plus buy goods and services, on a regular basis, do such governments gain.
If we do anything to hurt business, we hurt ourselves, including public sector workers and people who need a financial helping hand.
Yet perhaps, our political systems would do well to have fewer and lower taxes, and much less bureaucracy for business, while some businesses need to learn how to voluntarily better contribute their fair share of taxes.
None of this is easy, but I know we can do better.
And that dear reader, is the story of us all.