Between Minding Your Business and Minding Your Business
Having spent a great deal of time overseas, I have learned far, far more than I would have had I merely read books. I have taught at 4-universities over the past two decades and consequentially have had many students. I have mentioned to all my classes the importance of overseas travel. There is a gap in real learning between what is learned through a textbook and what is learned from being there.
In that learning process, I have also learned to watch what I say or write about a culture, society, attitudes of the people, etc. It is best to visit a place and observe, take it all in first, and then process the material later. We all need to avoid making premature judgments upon the manner in which one society differs from another. I know it is dangerous to judge without all the data that is out there.
Therefore, we all need to mind our own business, our viewpoints on a subject, and learn about another society in our travels. Having said that and being aware that I may offend some people in another society, I am also aware that we have the responsibility to observe and at least come up with a tentative observation that might run counter to what some in that society might think.
My wife and I just spent a month traveling all over Scotland. I had studied there 45-years ago and wanted to return. As you would think, Scotland in many ways has changed and in many ways hasn't changed at all. The castle at Edinburgh hasn't changed much but the traffic throughout Scotland has.
Nonetheless, the most important issue that I have seen is the way Scots see themselves. When I was there a half-century ago, the Scots were Scots but were generally pledged their allegiance to the UK. Now, there is a discussion is about devolution. Devolution is an English word, but I had never used it in most of the 70+ years of my life...until the last couple of years. Devolution means for some Scots that some wish to become an independent nation and devolve their relationship with the UK.
Now, it should be noted that the British Empire has devolved from this...
in less than the last 100-years.
The Republic of Ireland left the UK and became their own country in 1922. Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are in the long process of dealing with the reunification of that island. Among those in Northern Ireland that wish to remain under the UK do so primarily due to religious reasons. Nevertheless, 80% of them still want to devolve...meaning acquiring what we call home rule rather than Westminster governing them from London.
In Wales in 2011, about 64% voted for that same type of devolution. They wanted home rule while still connected to the UK. Even though they didn't wish to be totally independent, Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales, said of the vote, "Today an old nation came of age."
This brings me to Scotland. Before I go any further, I want all my cards on the table. I am Scottish...meaning that many of my forbearers came from Scotland many years ago. I can't name one of them nor tell you what years they came. Therefore, my nationalistic ties to Scotland are at best tangential. Having said that I teach a lot of humanities classes including history, ethics, and related subjects. A couple of years ago while looking for something on the Internet, I happened to come across several articles about the Scottish National Party (SNP) and their attempt to get a vote on Scottish independence.
A half-century ago in Scotland, I was a young post-graduate student. On occasion you would meet some older person who wanted an independent Scotland but that was not very often. Back then, this attitude I viewed as merely a nostalgic look back upon what might have been but wasn't.
Today, there is a movement in Scotland where some are for it and some aren't while the rest haven't really thought about it.
Therefore, as a descendant from many Scottish forbearers within my family, I am caught between a rock and a hard spot. I have feelings on something that doesn't directly and hardly even indirectly affects me...Scottish independence. I have lived 70+ years and their lack of independence hasn't personally affected me at all. And the time that I have left in this world, if the Scots vote for it in September 2014, won't affect me either. So why even think about it let alone write about it?
This brings up the issue of minding my own business...What's it to me? Won't some of my readers in America or Scotland of this article, as well as my other articles about devolution, write this off as none of my business? I have wrestled with this issue for the last couple of years and especially the last month while I was in Scotland. I'm an old man with loads of other concerns in life. Shouldn't I just deal with what is important to me and leave what is important to the Scots. It is their business and not yours.
At one level, I get it. What happens in another country is their business. Whether Germany raises taxes or Japan possesses a different business model is their own business. However, at another level, it seems to me my business. I'll speak out about racism and sexism in other countries along with addressing these issues in America, and I have. The issue of racism and sexism transcends national boundaries. Fighting for the elimination of both issues should be everyone's issue no matter where they live.
Therefore, I will as graciously address the issue of devolution in Scotland as many of the Scots dealt with me 45-years ago and a couple of weeks ago while we were there. This is an open-letter to the very hospitable people of Scotland based upon what I saw and experienced.
You and my people share many similarities. On many issues in both countries, there are some that are for an issue and some that aren't. However, many don't either care or know enough about an issue to care. Here is my list that all Scots should read and address:
This concludes my open letter to the people of Scotland and will conclude with two quotes. One quote you all should know by heart and the other you might not have ever read.
First, the one that you all will know is the Declaration of Arbroath, "It is not for glory nor honors nor riches that we are fighting but for freedom for that alone which no honest man gives up."
The other quote is strangely by an Englishman by the name of Winston Churchill who said, "of all small nations of this earth perhaps only the ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind."
I think that it is time for the Scots to contribute to their independence...What do you think?
Visit the Scottish Independence page to read more about this topic.