review of Scott Hames's study, The Literary Politics of Scottish Devolution
is fair in pointing out that it is not reader-friendly. I have a particular interest in the story Dr Hames sets out to tell, having been in and around the cultural and political magazines of the 1980s which are central to his study, but I regret I too found its academic jargon at times almost impenetrable.
Andrew Hook mentions a review of mine in a 1988 issue of Radical Scotland
in which, according to Dr Hames, I described a four-volume History of Scottish Literature
published that year as a 'political coming of age', 'informed by that great spirit of reassessment and serious self-appraisal which succeeded the (1979) devolution disaster'. Professor Hook quite reasonably and rightly takes issue with this claim, pointing out that he, at least, who edited the second volume of the quartet, was not informed by such a spirit.
In fact, Dr Hames (not deliberately, I am sure) misrepresents my review, which was of only
the fourth volume, the one edited by Cairns Craig and covering the 20th century up to the mid-1970s. While acknowledging the fact that Vol. 2 was already published and Vols. 1 and 3 were shortly to appear, I restricted nearly all of my comments to the essays and overall tone of the fourth volume. It was specifically Vol. 4 I referred to in the above quotation.
When I broadened out my perspective to the other volumes, I suggested that 'the achievement of this history…may be to identify that most unlikely of cultural traditions, one of constant diversity'. More than three decades have since passed, during which Scottish literature has become ever more diverse, not least in the number and variety of its contemporary female voices and the rediscovery of many female voices from the past which had been forgotten, ignored or suppressed.
I stand by most of what I wrote in that review 32 years ago!
I would like to address Gerry Hassan's
recent comments – in particular his criticism of Lionel Shriver's point of view in The Spectator
. Shriver has been brave and bold enough to step up to the mark and address concerns and facts which little press and no civil servants are. This does not make her unsympathetic to the human lives lost. For all we know she may blubber behind closed doors about the hundreds of thousands dying with COVID-19 in their system. She may also cry over the 1.35 million road traffic deaths or seven million deaths from cigarettes which happen worlwide annually. But that makes for tiresome reading – just as Mr Hassan's article, as he ranted over the right-winged and politicised the pandemic.
Shriver illuminated the truths of annual death tolls and what will really happen to the world – its people, economies, societies and governments – after extensive international lockdowns. She has opened up the debate about the decisions being made on our behalf and the impact of the erosion of personal freedoms. The erosion doesn't stop at 'stay at home'. People are being denied hospital and dental treatment, an education, access to healthy food and choice, regular exercise, the right to work, the right to care for loved ones, to visit the sick, to attend funerals, and the right to be a socially interactive individual.
There are big concerns of the wider population which no middle-class civil servant advising on current procedure can ever truly understand. These civil servants are not the people who started businesses using every penny of their savings. Their jobs are secure with no risk of a 20% pay cut or unemployment. They will never understand what it's like to live 24/7 in a high rise with no money or prospects any more. These matters need addressing and it's time governments start to address this glaringly foreseeable collateral damage: the rise in suicides, murders, domestic abuse, the neglect of children, their lack of education and real life social interaction, the 18-hour-a-day babysitters in the form of gadgets, YouTube and porn, the drastic decline of mental health generally, the lack of vitamin D and exercise, and all of the well-known economic losses (because few businesses, even with the current financial support, can ride out three or more months of no sales).
Hassan goes on to say, '... we have to challenge those who say we are [at war]'. War comes in many guises, and I would challenge those who say this isn't a type of war. The civil servants have made sure we are to function like a nation invaded. We should also challenge those who say 'enough isn't being done'. This very right-winged government will go down in history as the most socialist peacetime government in UK history. And that will be what makes it into the history and economic studies modules. The pandemic will probably be a footnote.
My admiration for Gerry Hassan has achieved new heights of fandom! How he could wade through all those obscene and outrageous panegyrics to Boris Johnson without suffering from a heart attack brought on by high blood pressure is beyond me. To protect my own blood pressure, I have to leave the room now if anyone with an English accent appears on BBC news, and I'm English! Well done Gerry for your perseverance, let alone your measured and thoughtful analysis. And well done to the Seatons pere and fils who write more sense on the pandemic than anything I've seen in the 'mainstream media'. I am honoured to bask (albeit remotely) in Professor Seaton Snr's reflected glory given his status as emeritus professor at the University of Aberdeen – just up the road from where I live.
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