superl99: (sassy)
I've decided to make this journal friends only. Please comment to be added. People who were already on my friends list don't need to comment, I've left everyone on!
superl99: (I heart scotland)
This post has been brewing for a long time. As anyone who follows me on Facebook will know, I am in favour of Scottish independence. This means that I feel the union is no longer fit for purpose, and that it would be better for Scotland to go its own way. I don't think that history should dictate the future, and just because something has been the case for a long time doesn't mean it's still the best solution. In our increasingly complex societies, I think that smaller countries with higher cooperation amongst them is a better solution than larger countries with sprawling bureaucracies. What it does NOT mean is that I think that Scotland is the best gorram country in the world, free of problems, unimprovable, or should try to force other countries to be like it. I just think that Scotland is best placed to make its own decisions and should be given that opportunity.

With that background, I'd like to address the issue of nationalism. There are a variety of definitions of nationalism, which is part of the problem of the independence debate. From the point of view of Scottish nationalists, we mean 'advocacy of political independence for a particular country' (OED, which even has Scottish nationalism as its example!); however, unionists impose the other definition, 'an extreme form of patriotism marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries' (same OED link) on those who advocate Scottish independence as a way to discredit a political position that would in other contexts be considered a reasonable expression of self-determination (witness UK support of South Sudan and former Soviet republics). Many left-wing liberal types have bought into this definition, assuming that Scottish nationalism is somehow equivalent to BNP nationalism, Nazis, or militant Irish republicanism. Never mind that Scottish nationalism has never advocated or used violence; never mind that it is inclusive of all races and nationalities; never mind that part of its motivation is the desire for a more left-wing, liberal society than Westminster seems willing to provide. Facts are unimportant in the face of their prejudices. This leads to a situation where the very same individual can make numerous posts about being willing to wage war with Argentina to preserve the right of self-determination of Falkland Islanders to be British, and then accuse a political movement that is against nuclear weapons, foreign wars, and suspicious of NATO of being jingoistic.

Left-wing liberal types will decry the illogic of being a nationalist in the sense of being proud to be from somewhere, because it makes no sense to be proud of a place just because you were born there; it's not like you had a choice, and it's not like you had anything to do with that nation's accomplishments, right? Well, by that logic, you should never be proud of your children's accomplishments either; you may have had a hand in raising them, but you didn't actually do their accomplishments, so you have no reason to be proud. By that logic, I am also perfectly justified in being a Scottish nationalist, because I wasn't born here, but I chose this as my country, while Gary is not because he was born here and thus didn't have a choice in the matter. Frankly, that's just daft. There is nothing wrong with pride as long as it is tempered with realism. I'm proud of what Scotland has accomplished as a small country, of the positive influence it has had in the world, and of the progressive attitudes it continues to have with things like free higher education and gay marriage. I am ashamed that sectarianism is still such an issue, that we have the highest teen pregnancy rates and lowest life expectancy in Western Europe, and that our obesity rates are so high. I don't have blind devotion to the point of ignoring its problems, or party loyalty even when it goes against what I believe. (That is true tribalism, and something that seems to be the speciality of the Labour party to be honest.) Blind patriotism is not a virtue (whatever many Americans may think), and Scottish nationalism is not blind patriotism. We want to make our country better, we think our own government can solve our problems more effectively than Westminster, and that is why we are nationalists.

For some, however, this explanation doesn't count. By virtue of not wanting to be part of the United Kingdom as it currently exists, we are apparently hateful, limited, resentful, bigoted and jingoistic. Needless to say, what they mean is, we are hateful, limited resentful, bigoted and jingoistic towards the English. Ignoring the fact that there are self-identified English people who are Scottish nationalists, what about the Welsh and Northern Irish? We are 'rejecting' them too by 'rejecting' the union, but I've never heard the same sort of defensiveness from a Welsh or Norn Irish person that we get from English unionists; at most it's a despairing wail of 'don't abandon us to the Tories!' (never mind that Scottish votes have never prevented Tories getting into government). British-identifying Norn Irish may get skittish because of their experience with militant republicanism, but they realise it's not the same thing. Some might say that this is typical English self-absorbedness ;) What I think, though, is that for so long Englishness and Britishness have been so deeply intertwined (witness the international habit of using England interchangeably with Britain and UK, even by educated people like Jon Stewart, who usually calls the queen the queen of England) that they feel any attempt to 'break up' Britain is equivalent to a rejection of England and Englishness, a personal slap in the face more humiliating than loss of empire or losing to Germany on penalties. For all the self-deprecation, and whether it is conscious or not (and whether they would admit it or not!), many English people DO still have a Victorian view that they are the world's great civilisers, and those uppity Scots need to shut the hell up and accept their subordinate place in a union that is for their own good. Lord, grant that Marshal Wade and all that, eh chaps?

And then there are the sentimental unionists. We've done great things! We stood against the Nazis together! I feel British! The Beatles! Harry Potter! Shakespeare! Street parties, the queen, bunting, wave those union flags! Ask them why they are against Scottish independence, and they will say, 'I love Scotland! I don't want us to be broken apart by a bunch of Braveheart nonsense!' and they don't see the least irony. Of course there is some sentimentality on the independence side, but to pretend there isn't just as much on the unionist side is just that- pretending. Give the sentimental unionist all the reasons in the world for Scottish independence, and they will still give a sentimental response about us being 'better together' and 'it just doesn't feel right to break up!' This is politics, not a teenage romance, and how it feels should not be the determining factor. So then we reach the last resort: fear.

The fear factor has been ever present in the independence debate for as long as there has been an independence debate. Scotland is too wee, too poor, and too stupid to go it alone. All of the fear-based arguments relate to one or more of these assumptions. They ignore that there are smaller, poorer and certainly more stupid countries in the world that seem to get by just fine; many of these countries were once part of other countries, whether as colonies or equal partners. Not one of them would vote to go back, no matter how hard things might have gotten at certain points in their histories, no matter what teething troubles they faced as independent nations. Scotland would be better placed than most, being rich in natural resources and already having many independent institutions that wouldn't need to be set up completely from scratch. In fact, we would only be screwed if Westminster forced a vindictive US Civil War Reconstruction-style settlement on Scotland that stripped us of our national assets while simultaneously giving us more than our fair share of debt. Even in that worst-case scenario (which is probably not even possible, as the Scottish government would never stand for it), I think we'd still manage to recover; not being beholden to the City of London would be of benefit there. We need only look at Finland, who got extraordinarily screwed over at the end of the Second World War, yet have managed to create one of the best educated, most equal, least corrupt nations in the world. They know what it is to be a small country next to a bigger, more powerful, expansionist one (on both sides, though Sweden's empire days are further in the past), and what a difference running your own affairs makes to your nation's ability to survive and thrive.

Perhaps you disagree. Perhaps you think that Scotland will turn into Somalia if it becomes independent. Or perhaps you just think it will become Iceland. A small country with few natural resources on a volcanic rock in the sea, which decided it didn't like how its government was doing things, so they rose up peacefully and wrote a new constitution to try and make things better. What a terrible fate.

Whatever your feelings on Scottish independence, I make one request. This is an important issue, certainly the biggest political issue in Scotland for a long time. Please don't cheapen it with all this nonsense. By all means engage the issues, question everything (and I mean everything from BOTH sides, not just the yes side; the mainstream media is pretty bad about talking complete bollocks), do so vigorously even. But at least be aware of your prejudices before you mouth off, and think about where your opinions are actually coming from. You may still come to the conclusion that you are against independence, or at least that you aren't willing to take the risk, but at least then you'll have looked at it properly and not just had a knee-jerk reaction caused by your own biases.
superl99: (brasil)
Pelé at 17: World champion and toast of the 1958 World Cup in Sweden
Maradona at 17: Substituted in the World Cup in Argentina in 1978

Pelé at 21: Had already scored over 500 goals, and soon after was crowned double World Club champion
Maradona at 21: Plays in the World Cup in Spain without any great distinction and is sent off against Brasil for a violent foul on Batista

Pelé at 26: Was so feared in the 1966 World Cup that he was violently attacked on the pitch by both Bulgarian and Portuguese teams.
Maradona at 26: World champion in part due to scoring a goal with his hand.

Pelé at 30: World champion for the third time and scored 6 goals in the World Cup; scored his 1000th goal
Maradona at 30: World cup runner-up, banned from Italian football for failing a drug test, fined tens of thousands of dollars by his club for missing practices and games

Pelé at 34: Was paid $6 million to play for New York Cosmos and led them the national championship
Maradona at 34: Captained Argentina in the 1994 World Cup until he was kicked out for failing a drug test

Pelé statistics:
3 World championships - (1958, 1962 and 1970)
2 World Club championships- Santos (1962 and 1963)
2 Copas Libertadores da América - Santos (1962 and 1963)
10 São Paulo state championships - Santos (1958, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1973)
5 Taça Brasil - Santos (1961, 1962, 1963, 1964 e 1965)
4 Rio-São Paulo tournaments - Santos (1959, 1963, 1964 e 1966)
1 NASL championship - Cosmos
1281 goals in 1363 matches
With the Brasilian national team : 92 matches – 97 goals

Maradona statistics:
Argentine league champion- Boca Juniors (1981)
Barcelona (Copa del Rey, 1983)
World Cup (Mexico, 1986)
Napoli (Scudetto, 1987 and 1990)
Italian Cup (1987)
UEFA Cup (1989)
Italian Supercup (1991)
Artemio Franchi Cup (1993)
692 matches - 352 goals
90 matches for the Argentina national team - 33 goals

Both played for 21 years

Pelé off the pitch:
Received by 3 popes at the Vatican, and four U.S. presidents in the White House.
Elected the athlete of the 20th Century by the International Olympic Committee.
Made a Knight Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II
Mad UN ambassador for ecology and the environment
Received tributes in over 30 countries.
Brasilian Minister of Sport between 1995 and 1998.

Maradona off the pitch:
Repeated trips to rehab, trouble with the law and battle with weight that led to gastric bypass surgery

In conclusion, there is just no comparison! Pelé is superior in every possible way!
superl99: (cute couple)
Gary is running the Edinburgh marathon relay on Sunday with a bunch of other historians to raise money for MS Scotland! They're still a bit short of their goal, so if anyone is able to donate even just a couple of pounds he would really appreciate it! Donations can be done easily by paypal on this site:

Thank you!

Books

Feb. 2nd, 2010 11:59 am
superl99: (books)
Book 4: Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
Another masterpiece by my favourite living author. I don't know where he gets his ideas, but I can't think of anyone more original and creative. This book is more serious in tone than the Thursday Next and Jack Spratt series, but still has the quirky humour his fans love. I was in hospital when he came up here on his book tour, but I'm looking forward to seeing him at Fforde Ffiesta in May!

Book 5: Flash for Freedom! by George MacDonald Fraser
Book 6: Flashman and the Redskins
What can I say, the Flashman books are wonderful and I'm sad that I only have 6 more to read!

Book 7: La's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith
As expected from McCall Smith, a gentle and delightful tale that makes you feel warm inside.

Book 8: Martyr by Rory Clements
I picked this one up in the WH Smith in the hospital when I ran out of other books to read. I've become a fan of historical mystery, so I thought I'd give this a go. The setting is 1587 London, and an assassin has been sent from Philip of Spain to kill Francis Drake. John Shakespeare (William's fictional brother), Francis Walsingham's chief intelligencer, is put on the case. Overall it was quite a fun read and I look forward to more of the series coming out.
superl99: (Dr. Lissa)
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Getting a Ph.D. Because for goodness' sake, it's a Ph.D.!

Blasphemy!

Sep. 30th, 2009 08:40 am
superl99: (atheist)
Blasphemy Day International!

Freedom of speech includes the freedom to discuss, criticise and mock religion as much as any other topic.

Blasphemy behind the cut so those with sensitive eyes don't complain. )
superl99: (chocolate)
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Yes. I would hire a chocolate fountain and stick my head underneath it until I went into a diabetic coma :P

Happiness

Sep. 13th, 2009 04:01 pm
superl99: (I heart scotland)
It's been 6 years since I landed in Scotland. :)
superl99: (Harry Potter)
SQUEEEEEEE!!!!! I was so very excited to see this film after waiting for months and seeing the excellent trailers. I was not at all disappointed! I haven't read the book since it came out, so I didn't have enough memory of the details to nitpick much. Also, I have come to have a fairly relaxed attitude to the films in terms of their closeness to the books; I think of them as super shiny picture supplements rather than replacements, and that means I am able to forgive the shortcomings more easily than I usually can with film adaptations. I'll start with these.

Cut for spoilers )

Overall, though, I was quite happy with the film, and realise that most of the cuts and changes were due to time constraints. I very much enjoyed the film, and it made me want to re-read the books and look forward to the last two films, so I guess it did it's job!
superl99: (dijon)
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J'aime la langue française, la cuisine et le vin! C'est impossible de choisir une seule!
superl99: (giggle)
Who knew Mitchell and Webb were actually funny?

Brilliant!

Jul. 3rd, 2009 11:01 pm
superl99: (not that kind of doctor)
superl99: (dance!)
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Thriller, no question. One of the best songs ever!
superl99: (puss in boots)
Our garb is missing. All of it. We've scoured the house and the garage repeatedly and no dice. Does anyone have a clue what we've done with it? :(

WOOOO!!!

Apr. 10th, 2009 09:23 am
superl99: (Love and Honor to Miami)
Love and honor to Miami,
Our college old and grand,
Proudly we shall ever hail thee,
Over all the land.

Alma mater now we praise thee,
Sing joyfully this lay,
Love and honor to Miami,
Forever and a day!


My beloved Redhawks have made it to the final of the NCAA ice hockey championships after a 4-1 victory last night! This is the first time any Miami team has made it to a national final (actually, it was the first Miami team to get to a national semi-final!), so we're very proud indeed! They will play four-time champions Boston University on Saturday for the title. Come on Miami!!!
superl99: (yesterday's dreams)
An Atheist in the Pulpit: Faith struggles of clergy. Really interesting article!
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