In 1919, after the Great War, both my grandfathers moved to Scotland; Nonno Di Ciacca to Glasgow, Nonno Demarco to Edinburgh. Subsistence farmers from the remote Italian, Abruzzo region, they had been conscripted to serve on the ‘Fronte Alpino’ against Austro-Hungarian forces (Ernest Hemingway was an Italian army ambulance driver in this campaign – vividly memorialised in ‘A Farewell to Arms’). Soldiers Di Ciacca and Demarco were married with young families; the horrors of combat ended their acceptance of what had been normal life; demobilisation saw them immediately on the move.
Our best guess is that homo sapiens set out, on foot, from Africa, maybe 200,000 years ago; since then, our whole history, as a species, has been shaped by the inevitability of the movement of people. The only thing you can be sure of, is that you were born ‘wherever’, because someone in your lineage deliberately moved to find a safer place for their progeny. I’m grateful to be old enough to have known family migrants, and their dramatic stories.
Tragic drownings in the Channel last week; our general hostility to migration reminds us that we live in a harsh climate of winners and losers – a meritocracy. The great lie of the prosperous is that we ‘earned’ our privileges, that we ‘deserve’ them; but where we were born, and to whom, is pure accident; most of life is random luck. As the great Kurt Vonnegut said,” All persons, either living or dead, are purely coincidental”. Had we the humility to accept this obvious truth, we could make a gentler world – work for the common good.
Please, not another lockdown, not over Christmas. Gordon Brown nails it in the Guardian – the virus is mutating in countries with low vaccination rates (South Africa 27%) – while we, in the West, destroy surplus doses. This must change. Until there is equitable and speedy vaccine delivery on a global level, we can expect a constant stream of new variants. It’s still too early to know what challenges Omicron presents, but this Conversation piece discusses why WHO is concerned. My main concern about another ‘cancelled Christmas’ is mental health; I have sense that the population is weary – that our frontline institutions show signs of burnout; I find myself increasingly sensitive to small acts of ordinary kindness or courtesy: Keep smiling.
Much heartened by Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement on Monday of the doubling of the child payment to the poorest families; another £10 per week won’t end child poverty, but it’s an important indication of the direction of travel – (probably nudged by the Greens). Right now, the poorest families in our country are sitting in the cold, which is disgraceful.
An important aspect of the child payment increase is that it was clearly influenced by the sustained campaign by over 100 Scottish charities, faith groups and unions. This Guardian article is about the growing reluctance of the Westminster Govt to engage with organised citizens – preferring to dispense courtly favours around the UK, in return for political support.
In order to meet net zero targets, business can either reduce emissions directly, or they can be ‘offset’ with measures to remove the amount of carbon in the air. Scotland now finds itself on the global frontline of the great net zero landgrab. Excellent openDemocracy article about the market power of the ‘Green Lairds’ displacing the aspirations of local communities – again.
Is our capacity for happiness determined by our genes; is our psyche ‘programmed’ during our critical early years; like the Buddha, is it possible for us to suddenly find joy. Here, a positive psychologist discusses the interaction between nature and nurture; why some people find it more difficult than others to be happy.
‘One for the Old Boy’ by Charles Bukowski.
‘He was just a cat – cross-eyed, a dirty white – with pale blue eyes. I won’t bore you with his history – just to say he had much bad luck – and was a good old guy – and he died – like people die – like elephants die – like rats die – like flowers die – like water evaporates and the wind stops blowing. The lungs gave out last Monday. Now he’s in the rose garden – and I’ve heard a stirring march playing for him inside of me – which I know – not many – but some of you would like to know about. That’s all.’