Category: Gleanings

Brian Wilson and the Free Press

Most of the pieces posted on this blog began life as pieces in my ‘Footnotes’ column in the West Highland Free Press.  The whole world now knows that that column is no more; and thanks to Brian Wilson, they also know the reason why.  Via a phone-call from the Editor, the paper’s owners (its staff) put me on a warning.  I had crossed a line, and there must be no repeat.  There was little point in writing if I couldn’t say what I thought, and so, with only as much hesitation as was decent, I gave it up.

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North African Migrants and the Future of Europe

The flow of migrants from North Africa into southern Europe is no new thing.  It has been going on for decades, but now it’s become the stuff of tragedy as thousands cram into tiny vessels scarcely fit for a mill-pond and head off across two hundred miles of treacherous sea.

Europe is suddenly caught in a dilemma.  Will it rage against illegal immigrants, or weep over the loss of thousands of lives?   But behind the dilemma there is also guilt.  For centuries we Europeans shamelessly took advantage of freedom of movement to turn up unbidden and unwelcome on other shores, killing native inhabitants, destroying their culture and plundering their treasures.

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Seasonal Greetings and Christian Values

In their recent Seasonal Messages the leaders of all our main political parties called in one way or another for a return to Christian values.  It wasn’t always clear whether these values included belief in a deity, but the party-leaders were unanimous about charity.  Perhaps they would also want to include humility?  This would be a fine thing.  After all, it was of this grace that Augustine said that it was the first thing in Christianity, and the second thing, and the third thing; and if our leaders espouse it we are left with an alluring picture of Messrs Cameron, Milliband and Clegg standing outside No. 10 each saying to the other, ‘After you!’ (with a wistful Mr. Salmond looking on).

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The Highland Churches and the First World War

Few historians of the First World War have deigned to consult the ‘Monthly Record’ of the Free Church of Scotland.  That is their loss.  The ‘Record’ might have had little contact with so-called ‘men of affairs’, but it was in very close contact with ministers, chaplains, soldiers, sailors and, above all, with Highland parishes.  Its editor, Archibald McNeilage, was a brilliant professional journalist; and the annual Reports of the Church’s Highlands and Islands Committee still give a splendid insight into the social problems of the time.

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Independence: Greater Personal Freedom?

Once more into the breach.  I fervently hope it’s for the last time; and I fervently hope I have not been born to write the obituary of my country.

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Life in an Independent Scotland

The question on everyone’s lips is, What would life be like in an independent Scotland?  At least, that’s what the political and chattering classes think is on everyone’s lips.

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Door-stepped by the Referendum

First, a word about the national religion, football.  Former Cardiff City manager, Malky Mackay, found himself in hot water last week when it was alleged that he had sent racist and homophobic texts to a pal.  He’ll shortly be sentenced to be boiled alive; or at least, banned from all football-related activity.

As a Gaidheal I have a vested interest in opposing racism, and I cannot see that a man’s gender orientation has any bearing whatever on his prowess as a footballer.  But have we really reached the point where malice can put private correspondence in the public domain and ruin a man in a day?

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Christian Patriarchy?

The women of the world have every right to protest against the evils of patriarchy.  Men’s brains are no bigger than women’s but their muscles are, and they’ve had little compunction about using them to impose their will on women in home, state and church.  Men ruled kingdoms, men dominated their wives and men governed the church.

There’s no reason to think that in Highland culture male tyranny was particularly severe.  There was no polygamy, no easy divorce and no female circumcision; and as a rule there were no closed doors behind which a man could secretly batter his wife and abuse his children (though this is certainly not to say it never happened).

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Homo Economicus: Measured by the Market

We’re seldom allowed to forget that we live in a multi-racial, multi-faith and multi-cultural world.  Yet across all the divides there is one great leveller: the market.

At some levels it’s harmless enough.  Everyone enjoys Coca Cola and everyone uses a mobile phone.  But at other levels it’s far from harmless.  The market delivers cocaine as well as coffee, and great multi-nationals bulldoze their way serenely through ancient habitats and traditional cultures.  What Solomon said of the grave is now true of the market.  It is never satisfied.

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The Kirk Joins the Mockery

I should really be in a complete fankle about writing this column.  After all, I am a Calvinist, which means I believe in predestination: a subject on which Free Press readers are clearly fully briefed.  From what they say, I cannot write this column unless it was predestined; and equally, I cannot decide what to write about, because that, too, must be predestined.  The wisest course, then, would be to sit and wait for predestination either to force me to write something or prevent me from writing something.

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