When I was growing up in Edinburgh, there were around 50 cinemas; the amazing 20th century output of the Hollywood Dream Factory, established USA storytelling and influence as a kind of global default culture; “no empire ever had an asset quite like it”. It’s interesting that I don’t remember feeling resistance to alien values – but why would I: the likes of Humphrey Bogart (Casablanca); Gary Cooper (High Noon); James Stewart (It’s a Wonderful Life) were all my heroes. I downloaded their countless adventures, deep into the hard drive of my psyche; many still feature in my personal daydreams.
The benign hold of cinema on my attention, is now replaced by the internet – and a powerful browser is my new window on the world. This has brought a constant and growing anger at the encroachment of US capitalist greed on to my screen. We all know that our personal data is being collected and exploited – both commercially and politically; that the billionaire perpetrators have bribed themselves beyond accountability – very dangerous for democracy. If I was starting my working life, I’d join those who research and pilot post-capitalist economic structures – specifically to eliminate the menace of the super-rich.
I take heart from Doris Lessing’s understanding of human progress, “that, perhaps, once a century, in a particular country, a well of faith fills up, and there is an enormous heave forward on behalf of the whole world”. That’s how I’ve come to regard the build up to an independent Scotland; the conviction that with our freedom, we Scots will make a fairer society.
Although I’m not a nationalist, I’ve started buying the Sunday National – in solidarity with YES activists. Mike Small’s weekly scan of linked media coverage referenced a gem – Bye, Bye Britain, by the legendary Neal Ascherson. Once again, I’m struck by the fine writing and how ‘time-served’ Ascherson’s journalism is (he was on the 1997 referendum campaign trail); his unique blend of history, politics and philosophy offers new insights and nuances. I also like the tone of his ending: “It’s the union with Scotland that holds the decayed UK fabric together. End it, and the unique intimacy between England and Scotland can flourish in a confederation of independent states”.
The recent death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg reminded me of the US Supreme Court’s critical role in their constitution – shaping controversial legislation around abortion, gun ownership, civil rights etc. This Conversation piece by a lecturer in American Studies sketches the context and anticipates a bruising battle over who replaces Ginsburg.
I’m not going to quote the stats ‘cos most of them are untrue, but there is a general acceptance that the Govt’s handling of test and trace is shambolic. This Huffington Post article says that 74% of UK citizens want local public health teams to run the testing – rather than multi-million-pound contracts to centralised private corporates.
The Corbyn/McDonnell socialist vision for Labour – and the Blairite remnants on the right – are too different to be in the same political party. Keir Starmer’s evasiveness in Sunday’s interview with Andrew Marr suggested he’s trying to appease both factions. But the Guardian’s Heather Stewart thinks his big speech on Tuesday was explicit, that he’s more interested in winning the next election than socialist orthodoxy; so how will he handle ‘the left’?
The freedom to sit in a restaurant and order my fish and chips is a pivotal aspect of whether I feel ‘locked down’ or not – events this week don’t bode well – getting through the winter months is going to be a challenge. I find Stephen Fry’s advice about mental health helpful – his practical tips actually work for me…It’s about slowing everything down.
This is a famous quote on responding to depression, from Stephen Fry, President of the charity, Mind.
“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.”