We need National Collective
So, the Augusta National Golf Club, that paean to tradition and bastion of all things traditionally WASP has decided to punish the 14 year old golf wunderkind, Guan Tianlang, with a one stroke penalty for slow play. The big, the rich and powerful picking on a wean just because they can. Because it’s easier than standing up to the longstanding practitioners of the dark art of slow play in the professional ranks, by dishing up a lesson to young people yet to learn their place, whose precocious talents threaten to upset the natural order of things. Clearly, the mainly male members of this club have never been taught to pick on someone their own size.
There are parallels here with the treatment of National Collective. Of all the blog collaboratives to have flourished in the last year or so, this one has excited the most – not just me, but also folk who have little in common with the collaborative’s pro-indy stance. It is the way this collaborative has gone about creating and populating its enterprise that has piqued interest. It is a young people’s thang; it has strong, thoughtful written content; it uses humour to great effect, to score points against its political opponents in a way which resonates, but also happy to poke a little fun at its own expense. But most interesting is the way in which it has harnessed a multi-media approach and an artistic editorial policy rather than a political one, setting out a blueprint for the traditional mainstream media to copy, adapt and follow if its members want a future in the digital age.
Thus, it features music, poetry, photography, prose and art and presents them all as tangible and desirable ways of documenting the drive and zeal for self-determination for Scotland in a wholly accessible way. And perhaps, most importantly of all, it gives an opportunity for young people to showcase their wares and talents and contribute to this historic debate. I visit National Collective and almost weep with envy for all those bright ideas, all those skills and talents and all that enthusiasm and energy. But mostly I visit and feel proud that we have all this talent sitting here in Scotland, for it also reminds that there is plenty more where that came from.
And like most young people, those involved at National Collective aren’t afraid to poke a very sharp stick in the direction of their supposed elders and betters. This, of course, is what got it into bother.
For, it decided to have a wee look at the big donors behind Better Together and with a wee bit of internet searching, hit paydirt. Ian Taylor might well be the saviour of Harris Tweed – hurrah! – but he is also the Chief Executive of an oil company which makes rather less savoury donations and investments in war-torn countries, all of which have been well-documented. He and his company insist that nothing they have done in terms of previous relationships with Serbian warlords and shipping arrangements with Iran and investments in Libya is wrong. But we are allowed to hold our nose in disgust and condemn, even when no laws have been broken.
The author of the piece exposing Ian Taylor’s background could have been written by any part of the mainstream media, had any of its journalists bothered to look behind the gilded media release handed to them by Better Together. Perhaps they did and it was the legal teams and the editors who were too feart to print what was publicly available and known at least in some parliamentary circles about the sources of Ian Taylor’s obviously fabulous wealth. But then this is how it is in the Scotland we live in – and as the Augusta incident has demonstrated, elsewhere too.
There are rules, of course there are rules, and of course, we should all choose to live by them. For as society’s rules and laws, they are what keep us civilised, in the main. But some rules exist to protect the privileges of the powerful and to enable the rich to reap the rewards of their status. They use them to boss the rest of us back into line. And just as the rules of golf could be but aren’t rigorously applied to the rich men who ply their trade on courses all over the globe, it is much easier to show a child who is boss by making an example of him. The secretive and exclusive membership which runs the Augusta club and the US majors knew fine well that a one-stroke penalty would put that wee boy on the knife edge for making the cut.
It’s the sort of bullying and place-putting behaviour which has also been evidence in Ian Taylor’s heavy-handed treatment of National Collective, threatening them with legal action. The author and the site might well have tripped unknowingly into the minefield of defamation and libel law – how could they know what those laws actually say and do, given that ordinary, poor people are not readily given access to them.
Ian Taylor’s legal threats though, are less about claiming redress – I reckon the team behind National Collective have about as many assets worth claiming as I do – and more about showing them who is boss. The rich and the powerful rule this land and young people like them would do well to remember that.
And at its crux, this is what this national debate is all about. The constitutional debate needs the National Collective and more like it. Scotland needs them too.