Fri, Jul

FTQ: Rangers, Independence and the Culture Wars

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In recent weeks, we’ve seen the demonisation of Rangers supporters - barely caveated with ‘a small sections of’ - by prominent politicians. Anti-Catholic and Anti-Irish bigotry. It seems like a fool’s errand to try and bring logic to a situation like this, because we live in an era of culture wars across the Western world where rationality is no longer the common ground. It is entirely about power. I won’t waste your time giving you a history of the academic roots of this - it stems from claims that don’t have zero merit, but do not stand up to scrutiny. The point for us is that Scotland is not immensely diverse. The intersectional activism that we see here happens at the juncture of Catholicism and Palestine. The analogies drawn between anti-Catholicism and racism by our prominent leaders are prima facie ridiculous. You don’t die in the culture you were born. Sometimes your culture is something you have to overcome. Religion is a choice, not an arbitrary characteristic like skin pigment. Every choice a person makes is one for which they can be realistically held responsible, and it’s acceptable in any free democratic society to disagree with the choices people make. And let’s be honest here - as people more eloquent than me argued, like Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens in the IQ Squared debate - that Catholicism is not a nice religion.

No gay people. No condoms in Africa. Not to mention historical crimes, and ongoing ones to do with children. Now what I’m expressly not saying is that it is okay to hate or discriminate against Catholics - fresh and blood human beings - but it is perfectly okay to object to an objectionable religion, and judge people - morally - who choose to follow it in knowledge of all that it stands for. Catholics are free to do the same - an indeed, theologically, do so, as they are the only real mediation between God and man. So let me quickly say: F**k the Queen. A basic political statement, yes? Not illegal. Though wait. Symbolic head of state. Head of a church. However, is the same not also true for the Pope? Who holds sway over billions? I’m not saying you should be saying these things - not by any means. I’m just saying, the analogy is perfect.

However, I hear you say: Catholics are in a minority in this country, so it deeply hurts their feelings. So what? I was once called a wee proddy bastart and kicked in the head for having a Rangers scarf in my pocket - fly kicked, so it left a footprint, which was funny - and did I go into a fit of self-pity because I’d been persecuted by a sectarian attack? No, I got kicked in the head by a ned. Life’s hard.

Also, the idea that Catholics are a persecuted minority is bordering on laughable: they are represented strongly across media, academia, in the judiciary, and in our illustrious politicians, as Tom Devine pointed out in a recent article for The Herald - not that I’m implying he’d endorse anything said here. They are a success story of immigration. They endured many horrors that should not have happened - history is brutal, you may have noticed as history still happening - but the worst they are subject to now is hearing words their precious ears can’t handle hearing. That’s just not grown up. It is, however, strategically placed in a broader context. It’s what Nietzsche would call slave morality. If you consider the etymology of words like ‘good’ and ‘evil’, you find out that good meant, at least for the ancient Greeks, things like noble, desirous of what is excellent, high minded. ‘Bad’ meant common, plebeian, simple. However, he noted that there was a route for the common and simple to win power by holding on tightly to their weakness and not letting go. Forming a herd that was more vocal and overwhelming, and inverting the values such that to be weak and commonplace and easily hurt became the means by which even a minority could dominate the majority. Ironically, Christianity.- both Protestantism and Catholicism - is what gives it its modern force, despite its roots in more modern conceptual thinking. It’s why it works, it’s why they use it - and that’s all it is. A strategy, to gain more power / votes / whatever, by making your weakness a virtue.

It’s why you can dominate the SFA and still feel like there’s a conspiracy against you while you dump your opponents - on which you rely - to the bottom tier of the leagues. So what about all the nasty songs then? I realise I’m in a minority, as it’s just prudent to modernise, but we’re talking logically here, not tactically: the bad songs that are now illegal to sing should not be illegal in any country that values free speech. Anything that is more than words should be punished to the utmost letter of the law - whether it’s denying a job, or being assaulted. I want to know a bigot when I hear one. To do that, they need to be able to say bigoted things. Then I can form my judgement. Do I think the Bad Songs are bigoted? Sure. They’re also historical, and have a context, and a culture. Still, bigoted. Should they be illegal? No. Quite obviously not. Words should never be illegal. And to remind you: bigoted is not racism. Catholicism is not an immutable characteristic, it’s a choice. You have the choice to say: “Proud to be a fen!an, come try and get this blood, see how far you get.” And this is coming from someone who left an Old Firm at half time because I was near the Celtic fans and just hated the bigoted back and forth. We should be aiming to transcend bigotry. However, let’s be honest here - we don’t have Protestants chasing down Catholics and giving them beatings on the finer points of the Catechism. We’re dealing with working class people, who want to sing the songs that sound the most intimidating, with some dislike of a particular religion thrown in. Sure. It’s a religion that - according to most statistics - many Catholics are finding it hard to love themselves. Will we be better off when it’s gone? Yes. Is the right way to go about it by bans on speech and demonisation? Of course, prohibition has always worked. You’re willing to sacrifice something more precious - freedom of expression, freedom to dislike people’s choices - to protect the ears of those who use being offended to gain power? Not a worthwhile strategy, not good for the country, not good for even Catholics.

Now, I’m not going to go to the other side of the city and their anti-Protestant anti-British sins, or their under-reported un-wailed-about group actions. Whataboutery will get us nowhere. Because they can say what they like. I’m adult enough to hear words and not burst out crying. The bigger question is always: Cui Bonos? Who benefits from the demonisation of Rangers supporters. Who benefits from stoking up tensions? Nationalists. Now, everyone can have their own opinion on whether Scotland should be independent, many Rangers fans want independence. All good. However, the core difference between Protestantism and Catholicism - theologically - is that one invented the idea of the individual, and the other is collectivised. It’s why you can guess what a die-hard Celtic fan thinks about almost any issue before they’ve opened their mouth. They are a similar range of fans, don’t get me wrong, we’re the same cross section of society. But a genuine supporter to die-hard, with 99% predictive power: Palestine? Pro its liberation. Constitutional monarchy? Not a fan. U2? Just kidding. Independence? Therein lies the rub. On average - though, like I said, we’re not grouped by much more than love of a club - Rangers fans are unionists. All this demonisation isn’t to harden the Celtic support’s backing of independence. That’s locked in. It’s for the swing vote.

The perpetual wee-man syndrome of Nationalism annoys me personally - also the idea that there could be a cuddly nice nationalism that isn’t principally based on an irrational hate of someone or something. Story for a different site and article. However, the dog and pony show of pretence offence was for the swing vote. Look what happens when people with union flags start getting on top again? Violence, horror, taking Scotland backwards. Have they forgot this is Scotland? Like neds fighting on a Saturday night after hours of boozing is crazily out of the ordinary? Taking Scotland backwards? We’ve had years of one party rule - anyone who has any read the Scotland Act knows that the Scottish government has the power to do almost anything it wants except start a war or any other aspect of foreign policy - and the country is a shIthole, from the NHS to education, to anything to which your mind can wander. It’s because they don’t care about those things - not really, they care about stoking up enough persecution complex that we vote to leave Evil England so we can be ruled by someone further away. Also for people who’ve not studied law: EU, not super democratic. All we have is prohibitions on free speech and a divided country, because ideology matters more to these people. You might be saying: anti-Irish, you mentioned that at the start. That’s immutable. Sure, but it’s a valid point of view to want Ireland to be one country. It’s also a valid point of view to want to maintain the union. That’s by the by - Rangers fans don’t hate Ireland, it’s a lovely place to visit. They dislike Irish nationalism, and that foreign flags are being flown in this country - in which their living is made, and that has brought them such success, with historical persecution acknowledged - to spite those who actually patriotically believe in it. Our feelings weren’t hurt though. But it’s not about that - it’s about the fact that hating Irish nationalism is a valid political opinion. It’s a f*ck-you to the hypocrisy of the thing. And they can point our contradictions and so on. Not all Irish people are nationalists. Also, Irish isn’t a race. Take it at its worst: if you can’t say: “Oh, that’s weird”, to someone who shouts “F Ireland”, you just need to work your way back up through nursery and try again at being an adult in the real world.

This isn’t an apology for bigotry. I look forward to the time when we’ve transcended all this nonsense, but in the interim we’re creating cures worse than that which we’re fighting.

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