Sometimes, in conversation, when I can’t immediately recall a word, I’ll pause; or my hesitancy may be that my hearing can’t decipher the other person’s words; circumstances can make me appear ‘doddery’. In a restaurant recently, the young waitress gave up on our exchange – turning to my companion to get some sense; her impatience a reminder that I’m
ageing. During last year, feeling myself a diminishing presence, I retired from remaining bits of committee work; the ‘forcefield’ I remember within me is quieter now – and the relative calmness of later life has pleasing aspects.
One of my ‘adopted sages’, writer the late Doris Lessing, lived to be 94 and wrote positively about the ‘invisibility’ of old age. ‘Not being noticed’, she said, ‘creates new spaces/freedoms to explore as yet ‘unlived’ aspects of ourselves’; I can confirm this. Lessing had the misfortune to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature when she was 88 – probably got pestered in her final years.
Because of the inevitable deterioration and loss, our culture seems reluctant to engage with end-of-life realities; instead we encourage the elderly to ‘keep a positive attitude’: what nonsense. I want to feel whatever it is coming up in me – and if it’s not positive, I want to find a way to live with depression, anxiety, shame, sadness – whatever. Every bit as meaningful as my faltering memory, mobility, hearing etc is the emotional, mental and spiritual realm of the psyche; where we encounter our relationship with love and hope and fear; a continuous, daily rediscovery of what it means to be alive.
During my lifetime, the Scottish electorate has consistently rejected the Tories, but they still rule us – it’s offensive; much of my commitment to independence is an aversion to Tory values and IndyRef 2 will include spelling out the kind of society we want to create. There’s an independence which includes the Royal Family, the pound sterling, UK foreign policy etc; this ‘SNP Model’ (probably within reach) will be regarded by some as an interim version. Some of us are looking at independence in a republic, which prints its own money, where communities own all the land – which reaches towards post-capitalist economic structures; the future will determine our appetite for the more radical model – but let’s get stage one done – constitutional sovereignty. Many political correspondents would regret Scotland leaving the union – but they understand why. This is the Guardian’s Will Hutton.
Although I won’t see post-capitalist economies (too old), I’m very interested in the models frequently being formulated; Yanis Varoufakis has written a book called Another Now about which he posted this article in the Guardian. This looks like the bravest attempt so far – with precise explanations about how things like money, housing, companies etc will work.
Another post-capitalist is Paul Mason, who has this piece in Social Europe about ‘crunch time’ in the Brexit negotiations. He tries to look beyond Johnson’s bluff and blunder brinkmanship – to what the Tories actually want to build. Mason sees sovereignty in the future to be about ‘state-backed innovation and technology’ – increasingly beyond scrutiny.
Lesley Riddoch is one of our most reliable journalists on matters of ‘local’ relevance – this piece is about urgent changes required to make the Scottish Land Fund more effective. Also, this week, an important protest about house prices on the Scottish islands being harmfully inflated by the transient owners of holiday homes – locals forced to move.
The publication last week of the SNP administration’s ‘Plan for Government’ was overshadowed in the media by the Covid resurgence and Richard Leonard’s travails – fair enough. But third sector enthusiasts like myself will want to acknowledge the specific tribute paid in the Plan to the centrality of our sector towards creating a caring society – particularly the support of volunteering.
Statesman Edmund Burke (1729-1797) had this, now famous, insight: “To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections.” David Marquand commented on this in ‘The Unprincipled Society’.
“Burke obviously believed that small groups were the building blocks for big ones: that the emotions which held a whole society together were rooted in and developed by the groups of which it was made up… In this perspective, a flourishing political community will be a mosaic of smaller collectivities, which act as nurseries for the feelings of mutual loyalty and trust which hold the wider community together, and where the skills of self-government may be learned and practised… Plainly, this implies that political decisions should be taken on the lowest possible level of government”.
Our Scottish Govt has poor understanding of this dynamic.