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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish society’

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 »

In Praise of Gentleness

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 28th 2018

Where is the gentleness in life? Instead – in too many places – we have a surfeit of anger, dislocation and frustration.

For some the big issues of the day necessitate, even demand, such assertive and sometimes negative qualities. We live in times defined by corporate dishonesty, brazenness and theft, where the vast majority of us feel unheard, marginalised, alienated and silenced. Anger is clearly an understandable response, but can only take us so far, and too often blows itself out through exhaustion and disillusion.

Too much of public life seems to be a search for the guilty, condemning others, playing the person not the ball, and being driven by immediate comment and criticism with little to no reflection.

This is our modern world, and one many see as aided and reinforced by the environment of social media, Facebook, and Twitter. Yet, something more is surely at work. There is the decline of authority, the weakening of trust, an absence of leaders that we look up too and believe in, and a diminishing of the social bonds, connections and shared values which hold societies together. Read the rest of this entry »

Culture in Scotland in the midst of storms: A Call for Dangerous Cultures

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, March 16th 2018

Culture in Scotland is in difficult times: public spending cuts, the lost decade of stagnant living standards for the vast majority of people, limits to the Scottish Government’s largesse and devolution powers, controversy over Creative Scotland’s decision making and funding priorities resulting in the debate over the future of the Scottish Youth Theatre – and much more (with some questioning the continued existence of Creative Scotland).

If you think these are dangerous waters you ain’t seen nothing yet. While some yearn for the headwinds of populism, revolt and voter dissatisfaction to blow themselves out and ‘normal’ politics to resume, others recognise that what was normal was part of the problem and one of the reasons we got into the current mess. Restoration politics and culture which is what some dream of isn’t aiming very high.

Instead, we inhabit an age of broken mainstream politics, a discredited economic model, big questions about accountability, ethics and responsibility in both public life and in what is called private life, but is increasingly a contested arena. That’s without mentioning Brexit, Trump, the ineptitudes of the Theresa May UK Government, and that nearly everywhere in the developed world those notionally in control have lost their confidence, while continuing to pretend otherwise. Read the rest of this entry »

The Football Club That Refused to Die: The Tragedy and Beauty of Third Lanark

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 31st 2018

Glasgow’s history has long been the stuff of legend – the stories of Red Clydeside, rent strikes, the power of shipbuilding, the scale of slum clearance – and of course, football.

In Scotland we seem to get too much football and too much bad football coverage. We get a narrow bandwidth of football which results in numerous stories, triumphs, tragedies, and moments becoming forgotten, as we surfeit on a diet of the stale Old Firm (cue a chorus from some that the Old Firm no longer exists).

One of the most poignant tales of our game is that of Third Lanark – a club once at the apex of Scottish football – that tragically went out of business in the summer of 1967. The bare bones of this story are widely known, but the detail of the story isn’t. And it is therefore welcome that purpleTV have made a one-hour long film, simply titled ‘Third Lanark’, aired last weekend on BBC Alba. Read the rest of this entry »

Living the High Life and Post-War Dream in Dundee

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 28th 2017

In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy tower blocks and social housing are everywhere in the news.

Much of it has been ill-informed, instant commentary. People asserting that tower blocks aren’t suited to modern living or making sweeping statements about the failings of council and social housing, A large part of this seemed to be a displacement or discomfort of middle class opinion having to talk about a forgotten and neglected section of the country, and confront the living conditions of large numbers of poor people.

Housing is a topical subject. Long neglected by the British political classes it has become a social and generational scandal – one that has overlooked millions of people, and in particular, younger people, from owning or renting a decent home. It is all a far cry from the Thatcherite hubris of a ‘property owning democracy’ in the 1980s: a phrase which came of age in the 1950s and which was invented by the Scottish Tory Noel Skelton in the 1920s. 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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