The Dildo in the Ottoman: Language, soft power and the myth of social mobility

lokinew

By Darren ‘Loki’ McGarvey

When you grow up in a housing scheme it becomes very apparent to people when you start dropping strange words into your vocabulary.  I recall one summer afternoon, stewing on a school bus as rowdy classmates were corralled aboard by P.E teachers for the weekly trip to the gravel pitch.

The lads were ladding about in their usual laddish manner – laughing through their nostrils and using ‘gay’ as the reductive synonym for any and all things of a foreign nature:  “Rap?  That’s gay.”  “Baggy trousers without three stripes down the side of them?  That’s gay.”  People not of the time or the area could easily misconstrue the slur as homophobic, but in its proper context the word ‘gay’, much like the word ‘cunt’ is thrown around with no particular malice, and, is primarily used as a means of distancing oneself from anything of a sensitive or feminine nature.

Thus retaining a viable masculinity – keeping violence at arms length.

By these measures I was already well out of the closet.  That day I decided to infiltrate the adrenaline gaggle with a basic observation of my own.

“Here, did you see Nicola’s new hair?  It’s fuckin beautiful.”  I added ‘fuckin’ in an attempt to soften the inevitable blow my use of such a tender and telling word would surely land.  But nonetheless, silence fell.

The boys looked at one another bemused – baffled even – trying to find a reference point on one another’s dumbfounded expressions.  Something, anything, to help them navigate their way back into a conversation now veering off into dangerous and uncharted territory.  One boy took the leap and spoke for all of them at once.

“Beautiful?  Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha”

His attempt to regain the initiative acted as a green light to the bewildered and barely pubescent that it was not only okay to re-enter the conversation immediately but also to do so by pointing and laughing in the most ridiculing manner manageable.

Slagging off someone else is, for the internally awkward, what line arrows are to cave divers and other obscure metaphors of a wanky nature.  I laughed along but only for the sake of being polite.

Inside, I felt quite sorry for them.

They were laughing at my use of the word ‘beautiful’ and to this day I find that a little sad whilst also seeing the funny side of the whole situation.

It was around this time I began venturing beyond the borders of Greater Pollok and across the River Clyde to the fabled, almost mythical, West End.  Each Thursday afternoon I had to leave school and attend the Notre Dame Centre – a psychological unit dealing with children and young adults.  I attended anger-management sessions there.  Not long after familiarising myself with that – slightly cheaper – part of Byers Road, I was soon ascending even farther up the social scale – albeit briefly – to Queen Margaret Drive where the forces of darkness, formerly known as the BBC, was once based before relocating to Pacific Quay.

Usually my visit was short.

I enjoyed the fact they sent a taxi to pick me up and drop me off and was very impressed with the interior of the building – some form of alcohol, usually champagne, stocked in almost every fridge certainly caught my eye.  It was the opposite of my school in that everything here was dry, warm and nonthreatening.

Typically, if invited onto a program, I’d be asked to give a young person’s perspective on the talking point of the day.  Whether it was the ‘postcode-lottery’ many young people from disadvantaged communities faced when seeking employment or the new antisocial behaviour legislation coming into effect, producers seemed keen to hear what I had to say on a broadening range of topics and with noticeably increasing frequency.  BBC cheques were actually the first cheques I ever received and cashed.  It wasn’t until later that giros began to play a more decisive part in my life.

As you can imagine, I started getting a little ahead of myself when they asked me to guest host The Leslie Riddoch Show for one afternoon on BBC Radio Scotland.  This was the peak time news and discussion programme.  I was only a teenager and here I was filling in for a highly respected broadcaster.  They decided to make it easier for me by only having me interview guests with strong opinions on sexism and racism, for the two-hour duration. This I took in my stride as you can imagine.

I remember thinking how impressed my girlfriend at the time would have been by my sudden arrival in the presenter’s chair on Scotland’s biggest radio programme, but like many people from Pollok, and communities like it – and myself at the time – she never knew who Leslie Riddoch was.

These new ventures to the more affluent area of Glasgow were striking and complemented my hectic teenage schedule of volunteering in the community while engaging in various acts of dissent.  One such act included lobbying the local paper to sack their editor after he published a cartoon which I felt poorly depicted people in the area.  It was the first time I would learn what it means to actually have principles – and stand by them – and how isolating and confusing that can be.  Many of the community workers – paid employees – had communicated to me privately that they agreed with my stance.  In fact, it was their conversations over the water-cooler that actually got me thinking about it in a different way.  These adults and I seemed to agree on something fundamental and I was really quite stoked.

This empowered me.  Sadly, as is often the case, when push came to shove and I circulated hundreds of mock front pages around Pollok’s community centres, calling for him to be removed from post, then – much like the boys on the school bus – my comrades fell suspiciously silent.

It was around this time, along with some friends, that I founded a theatre group called Pipedreams Productions and we quickly gained some start-up funding to create issue-based art.  I wrote and directed a short play which we used as a means of connecting with other young people our age – I was 18 – and the initial phase was very successful.  It wasn’t long before the bigger arts organisations were attending our meetings, interested in supporting our work.

They attracted funding to themselves by acting as organisational mentors to our fledgling group, but – somewhat strangely – within weeks our membership flat-lined.  Our core members didn’t seem to connect with the professional drama tutors who seemed – to us at least – a little removed from our experience.

Why would we want to be trees when all we’d ever seen up until that point were trees being cut down – to make way for roads in and out of the place in which we all felt slightly stuck?

The group struggled after this and people moved on.  I did my best to keep things going but it was challenging.  I had no experience of ‘managing’ other people and was beginning to find it difficult to  cope with the overlapping aspects of my young life.  Some uglier sides to my character were beginning to emerge as life at home became increasingly difficult.

Fast forward one year.  I am working as a main-stage bingo caller at the Pollok Centre.  The hostile environment becomes an opportunity to put on a daily variety show that nobody wanted to see. When I wasn’t receiving death threats from disgruntled gambling addicts I was being reprimanded by managers for being deliberately provocative.  I would inform the customers about the Salmonella Sandwiches available at the cafe bar and reassure the anxious, puggy fiends that we would happily accommodate their self-destruction by keeping the slot machines open during our lunch breaks so as not to invite the public beating of children and pets – usually tied up outside.

But I couldn’t hold the job down.  Employment was supposed to be a bridge between worlds but Pollok was the lady taking its toll.  I found myself in a chaotic and abusive relationship of which alcohol had quickly become a recurring theme and was soon to realise that making modifications to my environment simply wasn’t enough.  No matter where I ran, this chaotic environment seemed to follow me; sometimes I even wondered if I was the environment.  The hyper-vigilant – fight or flight – responses which had served me so well in my childhood were now failing me.

I broke down soon after.  This would be the first of many such lapses in sanity which seemed to precede still shorter but deeper periods of progress and growth.   Beneath the audacious behaviours and an increasingly rebellious, somewhat cocky exterior, the perfect storm was brewing as time dragged me slowly – kicking and screaming – from the cocoon of my implication-free youth and into the abrupt – and often harsh – reality of adult life.

The psychologist referred me to a supported accommodation in Maryhill for homeless and estranged young people.  When I arrived I made the usual dangerous assumptions one makes when they are gravely ill — that everything was fine.  I looked around at the other tenants and thought to myself:  “These people are mental.”

Within a year most of them had moved on, yet I remained.  I remember buying a bottle of cider just so I had it in the flat.  I’d take codeine (at first) – supplied by my Grandmother, wittingly or otherwise – and mix it with Buckfast Tonic Wine.  This gave me the sense of ease I required in order to begin making my name in the hip-hop community – where I actually instigated a riot outside the Clutha Vaults on my first ever excursion into the – then, fledgling – circuit.  Later I graduated to publicly challenging anybody I felt was trying to police my behaviour, including the old-school hip-hop community, who responded in the usual manner you’d expect of Glaswegian men born in the 70’s.  I even had run-ins with the people who would later become my dearest friends.  I once recall throwing a cigarette doubt and spitting at someone I would now step in front of traffic for.  The booze brought out an even uglier side of my nature.

Other rappers only rapped about not giving a fuck; for me it was very real.

The BBC were still contacting me and this seemed to validate me in some strange way.  The people over there seemed so smart and confident.  If I could only get my foot in some door over there maybe one day I would go back to Pollok and tell everyone I had made something of my life.  Not long after an opportunity presented itself.

I was asked to write and present a Radio Scotland series called ‘NEDS’.  It would be an investigation into anti-social behaviour, its roots and symptoms.  I travelled across the country interviewing young people – not much younger than I to be honest – and wasn’t surprised to discover that the NED was, in fact, an urban myth.

Of all the interviewees only one boy-racer from Fife actually claimed to be a NED.  For everyone else, the NED was someone else.

After the Sunday Mail ran a story about the series with the headline ‘Neddy Burns’ I became struck by an awful feeling that if everyone I assumed to be a NED was blissfully unaware of their neddishness, then perhaps I may be subject to the same harsh judgement from others too and just couldn’t see it?  But no, that couldn’t be the case.  I was now employed by the BBC presenting my own series.  I was now making enough money to keep myself and all of my friends drunk for days.  No way was I a NED.

The show was well-received and within a year another was commissioned.  This time about the area of Shettleston, unfairly noted for its dismal health statistics.  By this time I had moved out of the supported accommodation thinking I was no longer in need of support and managed to leave my troubled relationship.  I took up a role in a community group at the Citizen’s Theatre and – not long after – fell in love with the love interest written for me by Peter Arnott.  Thankfully, the crush was reciprocated.  Everything seemed to be working out for me in Govanhill, where I was squatting with a recovering heroin addict who kindly took me in when I once again found myself homeless.

But amidst all this hi-jinx and hilarity something wasn’t right.  I wasn’t right.  My girlfriend’s mother lived in Hyndland and I would get terrible anxiety whenever we visited.  The streets were immaculate and the busses regular as well as dry and warm.  We would visit for dinner and afterwards I would try to end the relationship, citing irreconcilable class differences. There was just no way I was good enough to be in an intimate relationship with someone who was studying History of Art at Glasgow University.  Still, I tried to stick it out, pouring still more tonic wine on the discomfort while trying to maintain the various other commitments in life from which I was slowly retreating.

Every morning the first thought in my head would be: ‘When is she going to leave me?’

The second BBC series was also well-received.  The Herald even wrote a little piece about how I was a natural host who understood the subject and the people.  They were kinder than the Sunday Mail and I felt less ashamed to show my friends the article.  A couple of little appearances happened after the series was aired and this made me hopeful that perhaps I would be offered a job or apprenticeship or something.  Anything.  But – alas – when the news agenda veered away from the topics it was assumed were my only forte the phone stopped ringing.

One day it hit me:  I got those opportunities because people at the BBC thought I was a NED.  It was an utterly demoralising epiphany and brought with it a deep shame only a deeper denial can soothe.

In order to rectify this set-back I started changing the way I dressed and modified the way I spoke.  By now I was living in Hyndland and thought myself something of a success even though I was only there because my partner’s mum owned the flat.  I started working with the Poverty Truth Commission where I was told I would be seen as an expert on the subject of poverty and would be given the chance to directly influence public policy.  I soon realised my role was more testimonial in nature but given my abilities with words I felt that wasn’t so bad.  Problems arose when I began to feel expectations on what I should and shouldn’t say.

One particular incident created a wedge between the project and myself when I put a rather pointed question to the political editor of The Herald.  My question was – almost – apologised for, before the conversation was shepherded elsewhere.  This reverence for social status seemed both instinctive and illogical but there was no recourse for my concerns. Nothing was malign about these expectations of my behaviour, but much like the arts group that severely damaged my theatre group in Pollok, I had a sense that my presence and involvement was as much about validating authenticating even – someone else’s enterprise as it was about listening to, and empowering me.

Everywhere I went there always seemed to be this glass ceiling I’d hit.  I always wanted too much.  I was never satisfied that things were as they claimed to be and my frustration at others being paid salaries to extract my poverty narratives – whether it be in broadcasting, theatre, government or the third sector – began manifesting as distrust and resentment — two of addiction’s favourite cousins.  I began wondering when I would be able to make a tidy living off my struggle the way these other people were.  What made things worse was the fact that all of these organisations were, at various points, providing me with opportunities and paid work which I could not so easily dismiss.  I started to think the system was set up to exploit me but did not posses the language to articulate the mechanics of what I was feeling.  This inability to express it fuelled the anger and made me more difficult to work with.

I recall a time I was asked to speak at a big third sector event and as I talked about my experience and observations the guy who was in charge of the whole thing was actually falling in and out of sleep.  When he woke he glibly said:  “Get that man a drink” – validating my paranoia that he hadn’t really being paying attention to anything I was saying.  More and more I would become aware of this type of thing and over time it made me more angry.

Unfortunately, however, a display of anger is the one thing which completely disarms you in the eyes of the wise.

It was as if the people being paid to manage the social problems I grew up in, while having little or no direct experience of the issues they were tackling, privately felt they knew better than I did about my life and others like me.  There seemed a practicsed empathy about them which I could faintly detect whenever I would talk about my dead mum or other upsetting events which came to define me in the eyes of others.  How could it be that such intelligent people would be making such a dangerous assumption about the extent of their own expertise?  Or – worse yet – was I making an even more dangerous assumption about their intelligence?

I just presumed people who didn’t sound rough were automatically smart and so – by this logic – I was less so.  But still, uneducated as I was (and am), there was something imperceptible working through them.  Something so infuriatingly elusive yet tangible, which meant simply the way they spoke rendered their words – and the assumed wisdom therein – irrefutable and self-certifying.

My own behaviour and attitudes have, at times, not helped.  In truth nothing and nobody has hindered me more than myself. Because of my assumptions around class I have, perhaps unfairly, expected those more educated than I to automatically understand where I’m coming from when I speak.  To comprehend the various layers of behaviour and the occult interior driving them.  It didn’t cross my mind that people who have attended university might not actually understand the differences between how a person behaves and who that person really is – or is aspiring to be.  I can’t claim to speak for anyone other than myself but I do realise that inequality is now so entrenched that class lines become much harder to cross due to widening gulf of the divide?.

We live in a time of two societies — two echo-chambers fervently reinforcing their own legitimacy by protecting the old prevailing ideas that define them – and their failures.  I move in and out of these areas with increasing ease but am now careful not to drift off into the dream that somehow this makes me more socially mobile.  For me, there has been little mobility in a social sense.

For me, social mobility is as quick when you ascend as it is when you fall.  After a relapse in January I am back in Pollok with my Dad.  The Pollok Centre where I used to call bingo has now been renamed The Silverburn – a tongue-in-cheek reference to the trolleys in the River Cart – and people drive here to spend their money and then drive out again without ever knowing they were in Pollok.

It’s as if they changed the name of it to save people the embarrassment or discomfort of having to tell anyone they visited Pollok.  Same for The Fort in Easterhouse.  And that’s just one example of the many layers of frustration which could build up in a person over time.  Wouldn’t you be angry too?

There is nothing worse than feeling legitimately angry about something and being told to calm down by a person who hasn’t experienced what you are talking about.  My anger is a map of my soul – not a stick to beat me with.

Anger does not de-legitimise what I am saying; it makes what I am saying all the more urgent and pertinent.

In Pollok I was singled out for using ‘fancy words’ like ‘beautiful’.  In the West End enclaves such eloquence is nullified by what is perceived – by some in the the educated, professional class – as roughish and vulgar rage.  In effect, it means no matter how much common sense you may (or may not) talk, and regardless of how much direct insight you have into the dynamics at play, people can simply dismiss it instinctively if it doesn’t conform to the behavioural or linguistic norms common to their own narrow experience.

The great irony for me is that, essentially, two distinct groups, who usually only speak to themselves in one of those languages, can – somehow, inadvertently – make me feel lesser for being able to speak both, fluently.

In crossing these divides we learn more than we could ever hope to by simply talking amongst ourselves and this is why I push through the excruciating discomfort.  Because as high and mighty as it may sound to some I truly believe I can contribute to bridging some of these gaps in our understandings.  If nothing else it will keep me out of trouble.

I’m now realising that when I enter these social spheres – beyond the fault-lines of my own upbringing – I represent, to some, a form of violence.  The violence of dissent and rebellion.  The violence of passion and anger.  These traits are then identified and diagnosed by the learned, who would guide me out of my attitudinal malady and into the promised land of affable mindfulness.  Once I’m gentrified. You only have 3 million more creases to iron out.  Good luck with that.

Scotland is complicated girl and I realised in 2014 that I am the dildo in her ottoman.  I’ve been in a cunt of a mood ever since.

 

 

[Subbed by Lauri Love]



Categories: Commentary

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26 replies

  1. That’s the best article I’ve read on here. I laughed at your interpretation of your role as bingo-caller.

    I’m not seeking to compare my experience to yours in any way (it wasn’t the same).

    But one thing I did experience at school was the idiot culture you describe.

    I was an impressionable and easily led teenager, and through a desire to be included for a period I tried to shift away from the shy bookish nerdy boy to being ‘one of the lads’. (Trying) to talk / look / act ‘tougher’ / ‘rougher’ (hilarious, I couldn’t have burst my way out of a paper bag). My parents grew up on a ‘scheme’ (not in Glasgow) but they wanted me to have a different life and applied every scrap of energy and money to getting me out. I spent the last few years of childhood and my teens in a nice town. Though the school with its mixed catchment still had the idiot culture.

    Then I tried the other way, to be accepted by the ‘middle class’ kids. I had some success, but always remained something about the outsider. And I think they knew, they knew that even though I could talk as eloquently as them (or better) and got towards approaching their lifestyle / dress / possessions, and I lived in a nice-ish area, they knew, they knew that something wasn’t quite right, I just wasn’t one of them.

    My wife had a similar journey. And we’re firmly ‘middle class’ now, certainly in terms of our combined income, lifestyle, where we live.

    But my son isn’t going to have to experience, negotiate or deal with the idiot culture, and whatever might come with it.

    He’s going to go to private school – we’re staring to put the money away now.

    I hope you’re not in a cunt of mood for too much longer.

  2. The man deserves an honourary doctorate from the University of Gorki.

  3. As I don’t,not being able to spell “honorary”!

  4. During the referendum I greatly surprised my middle class, hyper educated, semi-autistic scientist self by spending a day outside the Dundee dole office accosting passers by and asking ‘excuse me, are you registered to vote?’. I had to be urged actually out into the street instead of hovering around the table but once there I found the great public responded to me. Pretty young girls smiled at middle aged me (careful now).

    I was relating this to a non hyper educated, working class RIC colleague on a canvass and he told me it was my voice that was the key. Apparently my educated, non Scottish (I grew up in NZ) voice is like honey or something. So apparently my voice is the opposite of yours but I’ve made feck all use of it only just discovered the utility of it.

    One thing I did learn during my campaigning with RIC was how to listen to voices like yours, to ignore the form of the words, understand the aggression of them and that it wasn’t directed at me. it’s had though as all my middle class instincts are screaming at me to run. The experience of the Yes campaign and RIC has pushed me back almost as left as I was in my youth, a reversal of the usual process.

    I am though still very much a tourist and keep that Pulp song firmly in mind.

  5. Many thanks for your article Loki. As a 53 year old life-long scheme dweller – with a wee bit of eloquence thrown in from time to time – I find your writing here to be beautiful. It affected me quite deeply (and I mean on an emotional level) because I know what you’re talking about. Thanks again.

  6. Came for the headline, stayed for the writing…
    Wonderful!

  7. Its a pity that you had nobody around to tell you that being a dissident from a scheme would drive you to drink, drugs, or just plain mental. But here’s the really bad news: it doesn’t necessarily get any better. As someone three times your age, I can assure you, I’m not being ironical.

    Your finest achievement thus far, apart from your avoidance of bathos, above, is to still be alive.

    I wish you every success, Mr McGarvey.

  8. This is a brilliant piece of honest-to-God writing – superb turns of phrase like “practicsed empathy” and “my anger is a map of my soul.” Huge depth lies behind the apparent anger and vulgarity of the last two paragraphs. “The violence of passion and anger” – reminding me of the anthology of Archbishop Oscar Romero, murdered by the death squads in San Salvador in 1980 for his liberation theology. “Our religion is life,” says Romero. The book is called “The Violence of Love.” There is a Romero-like quality to some of the above; not in the sense that it is “religious”, but in the underlying spirit. This is from Romero’s sermon preached on 27 Nov 1977 (p. 14). I’m sorry if it brings on the Christian Cringe, but I find myself thinking of it in relation to Darren’s reflection. By what other standard can we come to understand and touch the cloak of experience of such social realities; the healing cloak?

    We have never preached violence,
    except the violence of love,
    which left Christ nailed to a cross,
    the violence that we must each do to ourselves
    to overcome our selfishness
    and such cruel inequalities among u.
    The violence we preach is not the violence of the sword,
    the violence of hatred.
    It is the violence of love,
    of brotherhood,
    the violence that wills to beat weapons
    into sickles for work.

  9. I discovered you in the referendum movement and I’ll follow you forever more.

    Many of us have experienced councilism but i find you the first to narrate the effects eloquently.

    Peace

  10. Moving, poignant and above all, relevant! You had your words fuelled by your anger, if I’m reading this piece right, and you threw ciphers into the cyclone of battles in a raging class war you were struggling to understand. (Reading some of the other comments here there are a few of us who can relate to the feeling of futility inherent in the struggle sometimes! A bookish, epileptic, undiagnosed fully until adulthood, growing up in the vocational communities of the Fife coalfields, third generation mining stock of hard working, hard drinking, battling, misogynistic men, my own insights are parallel but entirely different too!) brought you an erudition and some understanding and the ability to viscerally move your readers and your listeners, now, when they’re more relevant than ever, your gifts, not given, struggled to maintain, have more power than they ever did! In each and everyone of its citizens sometimes it’s like this harsh but sweet mistress of a land leaves the indelible tattoo of its Caledonian antisyzygy stamped on our hearts.

    That was beautiful ya dildo!

    • Some beautiful turns of phrase there too – “you threw ciphers into the cyclone of battles in a raging class war you were struggling to understand” – brilliant!

      Check out the piece also posted today about what’ happening in the university of Amsterdam.

      • thank ya kindly sir; knew of Loki mainly through the Scottish hiphop filter, that’s what I was trying to double play on the cipher ref, but came to appreciate much more recently, that appreciation culminating and needing to be shown here I guess!

        Wouldn’t want to hijack any of loki’s thread here at all but, yes, was glad to see some of the events in Amsterdam getting some coverage! The ‘lecture-ins’, much like the kind of things which happened in the occupy camps and much earlier in the kind of ‘people’s universities’ of places like the Pollock Free State, made me think of Trocchi’s Sigma project – working on a piece, I’m hoping Bella run if I submit it, which pulls together the seemingly disparate strands of dislocation of generational social deprivation in Fife mining communities, 90,000 struggling and sorely under funded and ‘under resourced’ as well vastly misunderstood epileptics in Scotland’s communities and what happened AFTER that infamous acrimonious flying between Trocchi and MacDiarmid at THAT International Writers Conference! Hopefully the piece will show why they’re all relevant in a social and political context and to each other, kind of to loki’s piece too…watch this space, maybe…

  11. Get that man a drink!…

    Amazingly written and as brutally honest as a Tom Waits tune. Absolutely fantastic.
    Very well done, sir.

  12. Beautiful piece. We all need to break free from our echo chambers and learn each other’s languages.

  13. It is vital for any system/organism to have those elements that will act as in-betweens; that will carry messages from one camp to another. Only through these voices can the lines of communication stay open, and the health of the larger system remain intact. Your role as an in-between may be a vital one. If you’re interested, you can read more about ‘in-betweens’ here: http://www.foreverbecoming.com/2009/08/immanent-agents.html All the best ; )

  14. now i see why you always had it in for leslie riddoch as middle class indy icon.
    sort of disgust meets class ‘jealousy’ about deliberately inferior resources & opportunities of the working class. why wouldn’t people resent those loosely holding the reins that control them,the best work opportunities,incomes,education,housing, even the quality food&drink?&words like beauty.At least until the unexpected day it is looking up at the ruling class queue for the guillotine, or something like that.
    Alternatively people could peacefully undo class based societies.
    If scotland is serious about equality it needs some affirmative action based on class in journalism as well as other areas.
    private schools are not a remedy for reductive hyper masculinity – as if the bullingdon boys are not just politely/soft spoken,well groomed, misogynyist thugs who are impoverishing & killing people outside their class.
    the middle class will let the working class people enter its ranks only if they want to be like them & accept or promote class privilege in some ways. it is true they value politeness highly. many things can be done if people are polite controlled & groomed. who knows what nicola sturgeon really thinks about the middle class as she gets it to eat out of her hand. she says she hated everything thatcher stood for. let her prove it. i would say above all thatcher stood for class based privilege.

    • I want to stick up for Lesley Riddoch. Her Radio Scotland programme back in the 1990s was groundbreaking for the manner in which it challenged structural power and encouraged ordinary people to find their voices. The land reform that happened on Eigg would not have come about had it not been for her depth of standing with the community there and she still does much behind the scenes to push for land reform. During Indyref she put her own health at risk such was the exhausting extent to which she went from meeting to meeting, not because she wanted to become a politician herself, but because she puts everything she’s got behind the people of this nation. At least, that’s been my consistent experience of Lesley since she became involved with Eigg back in the early 1990s. What happened there, and its wider implications for Scotland, would probably never have come about had it just been left only to the rest of us who were involved. That’s not to say the rest of us didn’t do our part; it’s just that Lesley took the sometimes personally costly decision to use her journalistic power to give her all for what she could see would make a structural difference across Scotland. Bless her, I say.

    • I regret you make the bourgeois mistake of blaming an individual for the faults of a whole system.
      ”now i see why you always had it in for leslie riddoch as middle class indy icon.”

      And ‘icon’ is bound up with consumerist celebrity propaganda. I’m sorry you swallowed that bait. How you can blame LRiddoch for all that is wrong in society is beyond me. Her contribution is enormous even if it’s not precisely as you’d wish.

      Your bitterness against Sturgeon is incomprehensible, based on your mere speculation on her views ”who knows what nicola sturgeon really thinks” . How about examining her actions and at least admitting she’s the best you’ll get. Politics is the art of the possible.

      With views like these, we’re in for a rough ride.

  15. I’m completely lost.
    Most of the Glasgow housing schemes are depopulated.
    So where exactly did the people go?

  16. What a great piece. As a former scheme dweller who lives across the divide—you can take the girl out the scheme but– I read most of it with a smile on my face.

  17. Great piece of thoughtful and honest writing Loki. Prior to the pre Referendum Songs for Scotland concert at the Oran Mor last September I knew little of your work but since meeting you that evening I have followed your career with interest. It matters little to me what part of the social divide one hails from, we are all unique and by choosing to use our voices to be heard publicly it is the message not the patois that matters. I remain one of your biggest fans 🙂

  18. Wow.

    Great words here.
    You’re touching on something that a growing number of people are becoming aware of now in this great indy adventure.
    Why and how have some internalised a sense of inadequacy simply by being where you’re from. Growing up in your own country and not totally confident that the audience receives you, gets you. Morph into something else until you flood or get to the cliff and manage to look back and understand that the audience is the self.
    Insecurity will cast shadows on the map for both the performer and the audience.
    Embrace our differences but don’t let them blinker you or anyone else.
    I was a kid who needed to be different. The world exposed to me was magnetic in areas I didn’t need to go to. Experiential knowledge is great if you can survive it all.
    I wish I had more true self confidence then and now.
    It is wrong that youthful identity is shaped by those systems which create that fear, that inadequacy.
    Speak you own thoughts, with your own tongue and be your own version of best.

    There is a statue of you in my mind after this article.

  19. Dont all point and laugh and take the piss but if I can borrow a phrase what a ‘fuckin beautiful’ piece of writing. Sitting struggling to complete my fourth year of a Sociology degree this article reminds me simultaneously why I was first so enchanted by the promise of studying this subject and how it now lecherously sucked the life from me.
    I began with wide-eyed enthusiasm, borne of a burning desire for solutions, solutions to a raw rage fuelled by the degradation of already wretched surroundings, rage sparked by belief, a belief in a hope, the hope that there has to be more to believe in than being driven to death, insanity and drink by conformity or drink, insanity and death by lonely discontented dissent. Fuck sake cant believe I am wasting time writing this wanky bollocks. Fuck it. I wanted to find a way forward, a vehicle and a voice for my restless rage. I found one. It spoke to and soothed the scars of malcontent. I wrote an essay once, back in these wide eyed early days, on how working class students struggle to figure out and adjust to the rules of the academic game. Understandably exuding enthusiasm as I both explained and embodied the theory, trying my best to keep up with the game, I eagerly awaited feedback. It came, ‘Good work, good analytic insight but need to revise your use of language’. Apparently the first rule of the academic game is to always maintain the appearance that you are not trying too hard to play the game and the second is that your use of language is not judged on your ability to use language but your ability to adhere to stale academic language which is defined by those who are able to pay for its use.
    So I found another voice, another framework upon which I could hang my anger. Then another, and another, this new one laughed at me for letting my anger be listened to by those immature others. Then another that said all the other solutions are stupid simpletons precisely because they offer solutions. There are none. Just take your inherited anger at inherited poverty and inherited wealth and the inherent injustice that festers in-between corroding all it touches, just take that rage, quantify it, qualify it, define it, problematize and analyse it, give it its own terminology and then let it die. Working class rage had successfully been dizzied and confused, dampened and stifled by the stuffy middle-class comfort blanket of academic rhetoric with is autistic like disconnected compassion and concern in the form of theory. So, bereft of my last certainty, my belief, lost and fearfully bewildered and now battered by anxiety and depression, I sit in the library six years into a four year degree course, institutionalised in every sense.
    And then the referendum, the reawakening of all that hope in a belief or belief in a hope or whatever well inculcated convoluted and contrived utterance I spewed out above. YES lost but like many others I was both broken hearted and reignited. So I will return now to finish my essay on Lacanian epistemology or some other fancy French notion and distraction that I couldn’t give a single fuck about because it doesn’t give a fuck about anything but itself. I will swallow my fury that this supposedly progressive process of taking real lived pain to the furthest point of abstraction and ambiguity and returning with empty hands and a shrug of the shoulders. I will then finally finish this bloody degree and almost deliberately try to forget the majority of the intellectual masturbation I have been subjected to return to the community and try to help real people with their very real problems by just asking them what help they want and in that process we will all, probably almost inadvertently, arrive at our independent nation.
    Loki, your article embodies and is alive with all I have learnt and live with over the past few years (hence this immediate outpouring) but precisely because it is alive, it is worth so much more. Thank you and piss off as my essay is now going to be late due to spending the last couple of hours reading and responding to this article.

    • Thankyou. I think your response was definitely worth a late essay ; ) (PS. “Apparently the first rule of the academic game is to always maintain the appearance that you are not trying too hard to play the game and the second is that your use of language is not judged on your ability to use language but your ability to adhere to stale academic language which is defined by those who are able to pay for its use.” – sounds spot on to me!)

    • ‘…taking real pain to the furthest point of abstraction’ is a brilliant way of putting things and yes, the very opposite of what is expressed in loki’s writing and your own too. Good luck with the essay

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