Why Interstellar is really about Indyref (SPOILERS)

I was utterly gripped watching the magnificent new Christopher Nolan film, Interstellar. I can’t think of a more successful marriage of big-budget bombast, mindbending ideas, raw emotion and wry humour – three hours went by in an instant. And yet, as fully committed as I was throughout, I found myself thinking increasingly about the Scottish Independence referendum.

There are two main Indyref parallels that arrested me watching Interstellar. The first is relatively uncontroversial; a glimpse at any trailer or capsule review will have provided you with all the relevant information. The second (and far more acute) relates to a MAJOR plot spoiler, so I’ve put a good few lines of dashes before it (primitive, right?), and I would *strongly* advise you not to read it until you’ve seen the film. And you definitely should see it, by the way – probably my favourite blockbuster of all time.

****INTERSTELLAR SPOILERS FOLLOW****

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So, the starting point of Interstellar – Cooper, a US farmer (played by Matthew McConaughey) is dismayed by the ecological mess that Earth has become, and desperately wants a better world in which his two kids can grow up. He also yearns for a lethargic populace to rediscover its sense of ambition, adventure and self-confidence. Through a series of seemingly unconnected, sometimes inexplicable but nevertheless irresistible incidents, he suddenly finds himself with the opportunity to go into space in search of a glorious future for his fellow man, and the rest of the film details the hopes, fears and struggles of that search.

Slightly spoilery:

The ability of humans to shape their own destiny, and the conflict between wider social responsibility and our own base self-interest, is a recurrent theme.

Now, the second parallel – BIG SPOILERS FROM HERE ON IN!!!

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In a nutshell, Matt Damon’s character, Dr Mann, *is* Gordon Brown; specifically, Gordon Brown from the start of the Indyref, up until the Westminster debate on “Scottish powers”, and arguably beyond.

Dr Mann is first mentioned in awed, hushed tones – the greatest and bravest scientific mind of his generation, he has voyaged forth many years ago in search of planets capable of sustaining life, and has contacted Earth to advise them of his success. Out of all the known options available to NASA, Mann’s proves to be by far the most tempting – “He’s the best of us”, as Anne Hathaway’s character Amelia breathlessly opines.

The team visit the barren, icy world reached by Mann, and wake him from his cryogenic slumbers, where they are slightly taken aback by the force of his tearful emotional reaction to receiving company. At first Mann is enthusiastic about the possibilities of NASA’s plan and the resources available at his new location. Gradually, however, it becomes apparent that the powers that be (including Mann) have in fact given up on saving the majority of the world’s race, choosing instead to put their true hopes in the nebulous future of a brand new colony in a location as yet unknown; the so-called planet of opportunity discovered by Mann, is in fact, a barren wasteland.

Mann is scornful of the concern shown by the new arrivals for Earth’s inhabitants and indeed their own families, accusing them of being motivated by venal self-interest. Further discussion sees him soften slightly, as he attempts reconciliation with Cooper by appealing to the latter’s sentimental, emotional side (“the last thing you’ll see before you die is your children’s faces”).

And then the ultimate betrayal – after leading him to the top of a yawning chasm, he pulls off Cooper’s transmitter and shoves him off a cliff! This approach having proved unsuccessful in defeating his suddenly self-appointed adversary, he then grapples with Cooper before breaking his visor and leaving him to suffocate in the deadly natural atmosphere. Despite “winning” the battle, he is instantly regretful, abjectly accepting Cooper’s accusation of “Coward” even as he tries to ensure the latter is beyond help, and going so far as to admit: “I put it off for years, but I couldn’t help myself – I knew that if I hit the distress button, someone would come and rescue me”.

His final, pathetic actions of the film are to steal a space shuttle (having attempted to kill or maroon all of his “rescuers”) and commandeer the main craft of those who tried to help him. Now single-mindedly focussed on self-preservation (though he claims his actions are for the good of the human race), he refuses to listen to Cooper and Amelia’s warnings of the cataclysmic consequences of his intended actions – after ignoring their pleas for five minutes of screentime, he finally switches off the intercom to block them out. Sadly, he’s unsuccessful (and how!) in his attempts – despite being a technological whiz in his day, he can’t get to grips with the everyday space station equipment of the current time – there’s an excruciating sequence as he gingerly tries to secure his space shuttle to the docking bay of the main ship, with his complete failure to do so ultimately leading to his own death.

Eventually, as the warnings from his pursuers finally become unavoidable, he attempts entry into the ship, with one final attempt at self-justification – “This is not about me, or my team” – abruptly halted as he is sucked out of the airlock and the surrounding area detonates, putting the whole ship (and therefore the future of mankind) in appalling jeopardy, from which it is only narrowly rescued by Cooper and Amelia.

So to summarise, we have

– Intellectual heavyweight, revered in certain circles of influence, currently “at rest” out of the public eye

– Shaken into action by external events

– Displays an immediate enthusiasm for the way forward, or at least some semblance of enthusiasm

– The gradual dawning realisation that his plans are unrealistic and driven by dubious motivations

– An appeal to sentimentality over reason

– A sudden violent lashing out against those he perceives as a threat

– The revelation that, despite his initial claims to the contrary, he’s just as cowardly, stubborn and self-regarding as the caricature he puts forward of his “antagonists”

– A final, desperate lunge at glory, despite a singular inability to cope with the new surroundings in which he finds himself

– One last attempt at self-justification, ended by his absolute obliteration and the severe, near-terminal damage of the hopes and dreams of his fellow countrymen

Sound familiar?

P.S. In terms of the end:

The general public decide that, actually, what they really want is more of what they’re used to – so they simply replicate what was there already, only it’s a bit more artificial, and a bit depressing that they’ve actually chosen to stick with how things were in the past. The truly pioneering spirits find all this far too cosy, unimaginative and unsatisfying, so they break out of their suffocating surroundings and keep searching for a truly revolutionary and life-changing alternative existence. The inevitable sequels are planned for 2016 and 2017.

Interstellar, on the other hand, has no sequels planned…

A Pint with an Unrepentant No

Most people who became actively involved in the Scottish independence referendum will have known at least one person on the other side of the fence. They may have experienced strained relations with that person throughout the referendum, even (or particularly) if they were close friends beforehand. And now that the darn thing’s over (well, for now at least…), they may, like me, have decided to try and rekindle said friendship to the level it was at before.

If they’re lucky (like me), the friendship was too strong to ever be at serious risk from a difference of political views. But it’s interesting to chart the course of those initial post-referendum discussions; whether the vote acts as a brief stumbling block or a full-on barrier in the journey to renewed friendship, it’s nigh-on impossible to ignore completely. In some conversations with No voters, I’ve found myself in general agreement on general points of principle regarding social justice, democratic freedoms, and even aspirations for Scotland and its people, with the only real difference being whether those goals are more or less likely given independence. In other conversations… Well, let’s begin.

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I hadn’t been avoiding Isaac since the referendum; in fact, he was just one of several No voters who contacted me on the morning of the 19th, expressing their sympathy for me despite our differing views on the result. It’s just that, with assorted holiday plans and other commitments, we hadn’t managed to find an evening on which we were both available until last week. We’d hatched a brilliant idea way back in late September; each of us decides on a list of the 5 Funniest Moments of the Referendum! Fantastic – we can both have a laugh at the highlights and lowlights of the campaign, and neither of us is above mocking their own “side” in order to share a chuckle or two. I thoroughly enjoyed putting my list together, in fact I found it awfully easy to come up with a Top 10 – where to stop?? But, knowing that Isaac would also have to talk through *his* Top 5 as we went along, I thought it best to stick with the original number and let things flow naturally.

The night started off grand – a great big hug of welcome, a few snappy, tension-dissipating one-liners which nevertheless acknowledged that shit had indeed gone down since August, and a lovely pint sat down at a grand old barroom table. Rather than jump straight in, we spent a decent while on standard chatty topics – asking after mutual friends, latest musical recommendations – until the chat gradually moved into the political sphere. Suddenly the R-word got mentioned, and we were both announcing “Actually, there’s something about *that* on my list…” – so it was only natural to dig out the notebook (me) / back of an envelope (him – no cheap point-scoring here!), and go through our choices.

We started off great, recognising a few events that had actually appeared on both lists – the “Bow down to your Imperial Masters” moment was a fondly shared favourite. I was more than happy to poke fun at the Yes campaign – let’s be honest, the opening of Salmond’s questioning in the first debate, focussing on Project Fear favourites such as alien invasion and driving on the right, was a real facepalm moment for Yes – and in fact Isaac conceded that Salmond had been the most impressive politician across the campaign as a whole. But tempers started to fray (okay, mine did) once Isaac started championing Farage as a true alternative to the stuffy Westminster elite – yay, a millionaire merchant banker, just what we need! – and they took a real nosedive during the following exchange:

“Hey, Green With Rage, did you know that Shetland wants to become independent?” [Said with the naïve enthusiasm of somebody who thinks they’re the first person to realise what Rosebud was]

<sigh>

“Right. First of all, there’s no evidence that there was a true grassroots Independence movement for Shetland – there was a story in a local paper, that got picked up and spread all over the nationals in order to allegedly undermine the Yes case, but I’ve yet to hear of crowds lining the streets of Lerwick demanding independence from Scotland. Secondly, *even if* there was a substantial appetite within Shetland for independence, it would barely affect the rest of Scotland from an energy perspective, which is obviously what you were thinking of when you brought it up. A Shetland independent of Scotland would be classed as an enclave, geographically speaking, and would be entitled to the contents of the waters within a 10 mile radius of the shore – no more, no less. That’ll account for *some* oil, granted, but in terms of the massive deposits found in the likes of the Clair Ridge (and happily talked up by Sir Ian Wood et al, now that the threat of independence has dissipated) – well, it’s just a drop in the ocean.” [I may have paraphrased my original words slightly!]

“Ah come on mate, it’s alright – we don’t need to do this [indicates notebook and envelope] any more. Let’s just put these lists down, eh?”

“…Yes, let’s.”

That last acceptance of mine was prompted by the sheer look of weariness and pleading in Isaac’s eyes. He had no interest in countering my arguments, or in examining any of the (fairly rudimentary) details I was using to back them up – he just wanted the discussion to be over. I accepted, since I don’t particularly enjoy kicking someone when they’re down, particularly in a face to face situation.

So we got to talking more generally, putting issues aside and focussing on our own feelings and experiences of the whole affair, and that’s when it got *really* interesting. Because while I was keen to talk about social justice, mass empowerment and holding power to account, Isaac’s grievances came across as rather more… self-centred.

He started by explaining that – and this is honestly, as verbatim as possible, what he said – fundamentally, he’s always thought of himself as British rather than Scottish. He hails from close to the Border, and has always felt a deep affinity with the people on the other side; needless to say, I let this pass without mentioning the high levels of support for Scottish independence in the more Northerly parts of England. And this deep feeling of Britishness is something that he’s inherited from his parents, and something that he shares with his siblings (and, indeed, with his wife).

He went on to explain that on several occasions, he had to comfort his sister, Jenny, who regularly found herself in tears at the mere idea of the United Kingdom being wrenched apart (this was said in absolute sincerity). And this is Jenny, who was responsible for the most spiteful anti-Green comments I encountered all referendum – and who, it turns out, used to be a Green leafleter herself!

Obviously, Isaac and his family had experienced real feelings of pain and suffering as a result of the Referendum, not just in the build-up but on the day of the result itself. As one half of a home divided by the referendum, I could make the claim that my pain and suffering was more painful and sufferingy than his – but that would be a cheap shot, and beneath the standards expected of Green With Rage.

And finally (and I honestly respect him for admitting this one), he admitted to being a Tory, and to planning to vote for the Tories again in the future, as he feels they’re the best party for Britain, and as his parents are also Tories. That was a hammer blow, I can tell you.

To summarise, then: a parroting of hoary old MSM clichés; a refusal to engage with evidenced counterarguments to said clichés; and an outlook on the referendum that was self-admittedly motivated by deeply held feelings rather than logical analysis of the facts. Speaking in a strictly non-pejorative sense, that sounds to me like a simplistic and emotionally driven British Nationalism.

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As I said at the start, I’m not going to let the events of the referendum, or the discussion of that evening, get in the way of my deep affection for Isaac and his wonderful wife. He has been a great friend to me for many years, with a great sense of humour, and I’ve gained far more from him personally than I could ever lose through political disagreement. But I left him that night with a deep sense of pity. Scotland had the chance of real progressive change last month, and it blew it thanks to the barely developed instinctual fear and amorphous sense of national identity shared by individuals such as Isaac, as well as the terrorism of the poor, old and vulnerable. And that makes me, well, Green With Rage.

 

 

 

 

Conversations with Scottish Labour Leafleters, May 2015

Okay, here we go. This article has been the main driving force between setting this blog up. I’ve spent a fair while thinking about how best to express my frustrations with Scottish Labour – the party that swallowed hard, took sides with their allegedly sworn enemies the Tories, and systematically misrepresented and belittled everything said by the Yes campaign in order to try and save their own hides and gift Ed Miliband the 2015 General Election.

At the moment, it doesn’t look like there’s much chance of that happening. But there’s no harm in making sure, eh? And so, I present to you a recommended script to print off, learn, and recite when a poor, wet-behind-the-ears Labour leafleter comes a-knocking at your front door next May.

To my mind, it’s pretty powerful as it stands – but this is where the power of social media comes in. If you like it, SHARE IT, and get as many people reading it as possible. That way, the Scottish electorate will be perfectly placed to deliver a clear, unambiguous and overpowering message to Scottish Labour and their Westminster masters next may – and maybe they’ll have a clearer understanding of just why they’ve lost the General Election to a Tory-UKIP coalition, hateful though I find that prospect.

Lights go up on a quiet suburban cul-de-sac / brightly lit stairwell in a block of flats / well-to-do country house…

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Self: “Oh, good morning / afternoon / evening! [DELETE AS APPROPRIATE]”

Leafleter: “Hi there! I was wondering if you’d thought about how you’re going to vote in the election on [INSERT DATE HERE]?”

S: “Well, obviously I’ve tried to give it a bit of thought – you know, having a read of the policies and so on – always good to keep informed, haha!”

L: “Oh well, in that case [chuckles], I-hi-hi’d better let you have one of these, ahahaha!”

S: “Yep sure – that’s great, thanks, Could I have another one of those, please, for my wife / husband / housemate / flatmate [DELETE AS APPROPRIATE] ?”

L: “Sure, no problem – here you go!”

S: “That’s great, thanks.”

S: “You seem like a very nice person. I’m sorry to have to do this to you.”

“I listened to your party in September 2014. I heard them claim that they understood the concerns of the Scottish people, that they were keen to listen to those concerns, and that they would vow to deliver more powers in the event of a No vote in the referendum. I watched Ed Miliband break that vow within 24 hours of the result being announced.”

“Your actions in the independence referendum have been the single biggest betrayal of the wishes of the Scottish electorate in living memory, which is pretty impressive for the party responsible for the expenses scandal, the global financial crisis and the entirely unnecessary deaths of hundreds of British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am appalled at the depths to which Labour has sunk since the untimely deaths of John Smith in Westminster and Donald Dewar in Holyrood – both men would be utterly sickened and ashamed at the way their beloved party has gone on to systematically destroy everything it ever stood for. I will *never* vote for Scottish Labour again; I consider you more morally bankrupt than the Liberal Democrats!”

“And I have taken Friday the [INSERT DATE AFTER ELECTION] of May as a holiday, so that I can sit up to watch every result come in; and I will cheer every time a Scottish Labour politician loses their seat!! AND I WILL DRINK CHILLED CHAMPAGNE WHEN YOUR PARTY ARE OBLITERATED ACROSS THE WHOLE OF SCOTLAND, EVEN WHEN IT MEANS THAT BORIS JOHNSON AND NIGEL FARAGE WILL BE RUNNING THE COUNTRY!!!

DO I WANT TO HEAR MORE ABOUT YOUR POLICIES??!? NO THAAAAANKS!!!!”

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If enough people get on board, this has the potential to be awesome. Imagine it:

– A poor wee Labour leafleter sent scurrying to hide in the next block, only for the person behind the next door he knocks on to be armed with the same script!

– A neighbour overhears the impassioned debate, and listens in, thinking “Ah yes – must remember not to vote Labour next week”. Or even better, they walk over to your doorway and join in from their own copy of the script!

– A committed family with too much time on their hands open the door and sing the whole thing in four-part barbershop harmony to the poor sod clutching the red rag!

It expresses the frustration of the Scottish electorate. It’s punchy, persuasive, dramatic and entirely justified. What’s not to like??

Share far and wide, people. It’s time Scotland fought back.

YES or NO?? Or…

Over the last few days, I’ve been turning things around in my head and have come to a surprising conclusion – I don’t actually want Scottish independence.

Before I’m accused of being a turncoat, let me explain. I certainly want Scotland to make its own decisions, most particularly on spending priorities given the colossal difference in economy and society between Scotland and rUK (okay, London). But – as if it required stating – I love my adopted English family and relatives deeply, and I know from direct experience how difficult they would find a permanent, irrevocable “separation” of the countries.

I don’t think these arguments are unique to me, far from it. That’s why I believe that, had a third option been on the ballot paper, Devo Max would have won with over 70% of the vote.

And I am absolutely INCENSED by Cameron’s cynicism in denying Scottish voters this choice, in forcing a deeply divisive and damaging binary decision upon the whole country, in trying to pretend he was suddenly offering it after Yes had the gall to go 2 points ahead in a *single* poll, and then in breaking his promises in this regard (“clear timetable set out on the 19th”) before a single day had even elapsed. Of course Scotland’s power over the Tories is pretty weak – not so for Labour. And they will feel the pinch hard next May.

I am really, positively fired up by the aftermath of last Friday. Direct, peaceful, democratic action will be taken. That’s why I started this blog.

EURGH

Headline spotted on the train this morning:
“Hairy Cornflake Faces Porridge”

Oh har har har, another hilaaaarious sexual abuse story. Yeah, ’cause Savile was aaaages ago now, so we’ve all manned up and can laugh at these things, right?

Sort it out, Metro. I would say you’re better than that, but I’ve seen Andrei Harmsworth’s “column”.*

* The double quotes reflect his questionable journalistic integrity and are not a cock joke, you muckminded troglodytes.

The Spark

Saturday 20th 2014.

Wings Over Scotland and Derek Bateman separately report on the BBC’s batshit insane (imho, etc etc) coverage of the odious George Square riots, whereby the destruction, by crowing Union Jack waving ultra British Nationalists, of a peaceful, powerful and positive pyrrhic celebration by “the losers”, is evidence of:

“heated views on both sides”

I mean, ugh. There is a point (and the BBC reached it a long time ago) where an unshakeable but misguided devotion to “balance” results in causing massive, massive offence to anyone on the side of Good (if you have difficulty with this concept – respect difference of views, live in a way that promotes social justice, and don’t drag a crying woman 3 feet across tarmac while she wails and desperately holds onto the flag you’re yanking out of her grasp, laughing all the time, you ****ing Neanderthal).

And that’s when it happens.

Sitting there, reading about state-sponsored misinformation on the most high-profile ultra right atrocity to hit Scottish tarmac in years, I suddenly realise:

“After last night, I see more cause for shame in my long-ago summer apprenticeship for the BBC, than I do in my double-digit career in **major UK bank**”.

BOOM. Who saw that one coming?? Not me mate, that’s for ruddy certain.

Ecerything that follows – a non-anonymised flurry of Tweets, a giddy escape from the grief of the last two days, my unexpected but proud joining of the Scottish Greens on Monday (anonymity in numbers, eh?), this blog, this post, and the 15 or so I’ve already planned in my head – stems from that. And, dear reader, you’ll never know just how freeing it is to be able to freely state that.

Onwards and upwards, chaps.

Why a blog?

GOT IT!!! A WordPress blog.

Write about whatever you (I) want.
Take as long as you need. If an article takes five revisions and two weeks, that’s fine.

Worry not about article length – people will decide themselves if it’s too long for them to bother with, much easier on blog than on Facebook!

Twitter limits not a problem – all you need paste is a link.

All content fine as long as no conflict of interests, grammatically correct and free of overly contentious language (and libel – XXXX you can help on this, maybe even proofread in exchange for the first look??)

Cathartic – get it out of system, disable comments or grow a thick skin and know when to ignore, if unsure then don’t publish but keep in drafts and sleep on it.

And most importantly – NO ANNOYING INTERRUPTIONS!!
– No vibrate to say that someone you once met likes the same photo of penguins.
– No circle of a face jumping in front of yr writing to say HEY WHATS UP
– No “Stop looking at that – here’s a pic of a ringing phone!”
– No pushing over of another application – “hey, people on this platform like it too!”

No writing 10,000 word essays on a 6 sq inch phone screen and then acting surprised when it seems a bit physically uncomfortable.

And it shall be called…
LONG LIVE THE 45.
Hmmm, might need some work…

Oh look, I seem to have written my first article already.
COPY ENDS