2007 - 2021


burnsyAndy Warhol included the words “In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes” in the program for a 1968 exhibition of his work at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, to which Banksy replied 36 years later: “In the future, everyone will be anonymous for 15 minutes” to which Momus replied: “On the Web, everyone will be famous to fifteen people”.

If he was on Twitter today Burns would be bigger than Bieber. Pre-Shelley and Elvis, he was one of the worlds first celebrity rock n roll stars. Sex, poetry, gossip and charm were lethal. The celebrity endorsement industry for the independence referendum is a bit of a joke, it’s a sideshow for the chronically disengaged. In fact, in Bitain today we face “a perfect, instinctive symphony of elite ideology”. But such is the power of Burns you can feel the fear and trembling in No campaigners bleating when the case is made for Burns as an enthusiastic Yes campaigner.

The Unionist squealing is getting increasingly shrill as people begin to get deeply uncomfortable about some cultural truths being disinterred. You can actually watch this unfolding on a daily basis (probably all year and beyond): what does it look like as people (re) discover their own culture?

Taking Burns out of the golf club and off the shortbread tin – giving Burns back his politics – is deeply deeply uncomfortable to some sections of our society.

The idea that a (inter) national icon like Burns – possibly the figure the country is known best for throughout the world – being articulated as an obvious and articulate voice for Yes, and one that will be the central focus of celebration over the next few weeks, is driving them to delirium. Blair’s advisor John McTernan decided to join the very debate he described as ‘moronic’ tweeting: “Scott and MacDiarmid both No. Trocchi – No. Spark – No. Scott – No. Dunbar – No. MacDiarmid – No.”

Choice pickings.

Alex Massie, who, you’d have thought should know better writes: “Other people whose views are irrelevant: Mary Queen of Scots, Jean Brodie, Harry Lauder, Burke & Hare, Andrew Carnegie and Greyfriars Bobby” before adding with a scintilla of desperation: “Who the hell cares whether Robert Burns would, if alive today, have voted yes or no to Scottish independence!?”

Clearly lots – otherwise they wouldn’t be putting such enormous energy into trying to stem the flow of the insanely obvious that, the author of Scots Wha Hae or the Inscription for an Alter to Independence would vote Yes.

The efforts to try and maintain and resurrect Robert Burns as some sort of everyman figure with a bland malleable politics is doomed.

We’re All In It Together

The celebrity obsession of turbo capitalism is tightly linked to the feeling of extreme inertia, exclusion and social immobility characteristic of Late Britain, first screened under Blair, having suffered a disastrous second series under Brown and then a miraculous re-boot under the Cameron. The desperation of the Big Brother [insert any reality show] contestants is closely allied to the feeling that extreme wealth is essential, fame is possible and talent is equated with sullying yourself to media exposure. It’s the media-manifestation of the cold realisation that we really don’t like in a meritocracy. Britain’s changed in thirty years: from Coronation Street Benefit Street. From Enoch to Nigel.

So the obsession with celebrity endorsements isn’t just silly, it’s absolutely tied to the idea of extreme inequality poverty and class politics that’s one of the defining features of the Labour-Tory experiment.

What’s telling about the Burns debate is that we know he goes to the heart of theses questions and that rattles down the centuries putting a chill up the spine of Scotland’s establishment.

This isn’t a new debate, this is an old question about what sort of society we want and whether we want to live in a democracy and what cultural identity we do or don’t have:

‘What are the boasted advantages which my country reaps from a certain Union that counterbalance the annihilation of her Independence, and even her name?’”

Comments (12)

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  1. “If he was on Twitter today Burns would be bigger than Bieber.”

    Seriously? Only by people wondering how he was still alive!

  2. Pingback: Fame - Speymouth
  3. Ishbel says:

    Love the idea of a posthumous Burns twitterfeed…. a few choice quotes — and there are plenty — would do the trick… 😉

  4. Will Mcewan says:

    My contribution following a chat with Robert

    Oh would some pow’r the giftie gie us
    Frae fearful hesitance to free us
    And see oorsells as ithers see us
    An honoured nation
    In a’ the warld they look at us
    In admiration

    But liars flourish here at hame
    And catch the feart wi’ coward claim
    An’ Scots amongst us so defame
    In a’ creation
    That only Scots cannot reclaim
    Their ancient nation

    We’ve nae the wit nor proper courts
    Tae order a’ the bits and pairts
    O’ governmental ruling airts
    Or so we’re telt
    And some among wi’ shallow hearts
    Are easy selt

    Oor Irish cousins look in wonder
    And puzzled folks from here and yonder
    And Dane and Finn and proud Icelander
    Gaze on in awe
    As “proudscots ” hesitate and flounder
    And sell us a’

    The liars lie in mony guises
    In print, on air, where chance arises
    Cos London’s favour’s where the prize is
    For them that’s paid
    And London’s aims their ain comprises
    And Scots betrayed

    Oor feart and feckless are confused
    Wi’ lies their hapless trust abused
    A nation’s sturdy wealth refused
    For placemen’s bribes
    Oor confidence in self defused
    By sleekit scribes

    But listen well and tak guid heed
    The London money pooch is deid
    They cling tae us in frantic need
    But no tae aid us
    Tae tak oor oil they maun mislead
    The fools they’ve made us.

    Sae if you hold that Scots alane
    In a’ the warld hiv no much brain
    And cannae dae whit’s needin daein
    Tae tak home rule
    It’s London’s greedy game you’re playin
    And you’re the fool!

    David McEwan Hill 2013

  5. Fay Kennedy says:

    Great words. I wish there were more of your ilk. You’ve summed it up perfectly and with such delightful language. More of it. Thanks

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Aw shucks : )

  6. Fay Kennedy says:

    Loved the poem Mr. McEwan Hill. This article should be compulsory reading for any fair minded Scot. Sometimes it is hard to understand how closed your ain folk can be. I don’t get a chance to have face to face conversation on this historical moment so I depend on your great articles and the commentary even when I don’t agree with everything that is said. How could it not be a good thing for Scotland to take the independence road? Having lived in Australia for most of my life I am still enraged about the abuses and lies that have been fed to the Scottish people and it doesn’t win me many friends even among those who are from the same hills and glens. Our Bard the only international poet that wrote about everything that existed in the private and the bigger world. Aye we should be proud of the real man and not the chocolate box variety that seems to prevail.

  7. Reblogged this on Bampots Utd and commented:
    great comments and post a must read also check out poem in comments Andy Warhol mentioned to pow! lol bella c is the best source for indy info and news what an amazing site

  8. Michael says:

    Great stuff, Mike.

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