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The coming rebellion against the world of the Sunday Times ‘Rich List’

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 16th 2018

Starting in 1988, The Sunday Times ‘Rich List’ is now in its 30th year. It has survived and prospered through all sorts of political seasons and economic social periods, from the high point of Thatcherism and ‘Loadsamoney’ to New Labour’s own embracing of the super rich, and the slow turning against the grotesque excesses and indulgences of such forces. And yet here we are, nearly a decade after the banking crash and years of static and falling living standards for most, and it still exists unapologetically.

This year’s list came with a concerted attempt at spin and reinvention. It was supposedly about the fact that it was all change at the top, out with the old and in with the new – with new money, new elites, and more women. Robert Watts, who compiles the list, shamelessly punted this line:

Britain is changing. Gone are the days when old money and a small band of industries dominated. Aristocrats and inherited wealth has been elbowed out of the list. Today’s super rich include people who have set up businesses selling chocolate, sushi, pet food and eggs. Read the rest of this entry »

Independence has to be about more than an indyref. It is a state of mind

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Herald, May 13th 2018

Scotland and the UK feel in hiatus and stasis – awaiting the unfurling and unraveling of Brexit.

Some people are marching. Last Saturday’s gathering was significant given the lack of SNP and Scottish Green support. It shows the energy, but also frustration and impatience, in parts of independence opinion. But it also shows the limits of such a politics. Any movement that marches under banners like ‘Tory Scum Out’, and with Tommy Sheridan on the platform, isn’t out to win floating voters.

Four years after the 2014 referendum, independence faces difficult choices and challenges, none of which are answered by a politics of simple assertion, hectoring fainthearts or dealing in abstracts. Similarly, the absence of the SNP leadership facilitating a public debate about the strategic choices of independence has produced a huge vacuum, which some people have filled with passion, while others have become slowly disillusioned.

No one quite knows what Nicola Sturgeon is up to. Is she playing a longer game of inviting the UK Government to self-implode over Brexit? Is she slowly letting the political heat out of the Scottish situation to regroup at a latter stage. Maybe she is making it up as she goes along, but the absence of candour and honest reflection means that many are left thrashing about in the dark. Read the rest of this entry »

The Future has been Postponed: Making Sense of the Age of Nostalgia

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 9th 2018

Nostalgia is everywhere. The past seems all around us – alive, noisy, ever-present, and more relevant and dynamic than the voices of today and the concerns of tomorrow.

Take a couple of examples. The British Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn seems to define its moral compass through a host of reference points from its past – from Keir Hardie to 1945. Then there is the regressive radicalism and conservatism of Brexit. And less seriously, there is how popular culture increasingly re-presents and repackages its past to the detriment of the present. Something is going on and should we be concerned with it?

Each of these examples tells us in a number of ways about the state of the present. First, the British Labour Party has, for much of its history, been shaped by its understanding and remembrance of the past. This includes past struggles, victories and defeats which have been experienced by the party, trade union movement and working classes. Read the rest of this entry »

Ideals for Living: The need for guides on how to live a better life

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 2nd 2018

How many times do you hear people say that these are ‘grim times’? It has become commonplace – but a bit of perspective and history is needed. These aren’t after all as grim times in the UK, or the West, as they were in the 1980s in terms of economic dislocation and the Cold War, and nor are they anywhere as dark and foreboding times as the 1930s and the march of fascism and world war.

They are certainly times of confusion and as such many people are looking for guides, signposts and recommendations on how to live a better life. They also explain the search for simplicity and for reducing some of the most complex areas to easy to read and understand lists.

Infamously, list-ism reached beyond satire with the so-called ‘Ed Stone’ in the 2015 UK general election. Labour’s six central pledges were carved in stone to show how seriously they took them, in what quickly became a tombstone for Ed Miliband’s leadership and for Labour’s electoral fortunes.

On a different scale are the various manifestos of modern life. Some are self-promotion and vanity exercises such as Hong Kong businessman Sir David Tang, while some are send-ups of the whole industry, such as Scottish writer Bill Duncan’s ‘self-hate’ book on Calvinism, and others more serious and substantial. In the latter camp is the writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and her ‘Dear Ijeawele: A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions’, just published in paperback. Read the rest of this entry »

Loss is too important to be left to the hate mongers

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 25th 2018

The bewildering nature of modern society – its incessant, demanding change, shifts in employment, remuneration and technologies, and a sense that big decisions are taken elsewhere – means that a feeling of loss is commonplace today in the UK and other developed societies.

Yet such is the overwhelming nature of these changes and so deep-seated are feelings of confusion and dislocation that we don’t have time or inclination to stop and pause and understand the many facets of what loss is, or its many different manifestations – not all of which are necessarily negative.

To many loss is having something taken away, feeling powerless and being in the process diminished. There is the patent Scottish feeling of loss, which through our history has transmuted into a palpable lament of loss. For some this feels likes an open, sour wound on our collective psyche. The various traumatic moments of our past underline a sense of injustice and wrong which requires public recognition and action in the present.

Recently at a Scotland’s Festival of Ideas event that I organised in Dundee – on what is missing from culture in Scotland – the writer James Robertson concluded that he saw no circumstances in which loss was positive. This would be the prevailing feeling of many of us when we first think of the subject and having something taken away which diminishes what feels a part of ourselves. It came in a response to a conversation beforehand between Kapka Kassabova, author of ‘Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe’ and Madeline Bunting, whose most recent book, ‘Love of Country’, is explores her connections to the Hebrides. Read the rest of this entry »

Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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