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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Its an alternative reality

Its an alternative reality

4 am solstice morning. Dull grey overcast. Raining and windy. The sun may be rising somewhere but not here. Reminds me of Bratton in 85- when we didn’t even have a tent and Hawkwind’s stage blew down. Still, thanks to wonders of modern technology can listen to Hawkwind’s ‘In Search of Space’ as I write.

Woken from a dream, one with a recurrent theme, that of an alternative reality. Dream probably sparked by reading a comment piece by Simon Heffer in the Daily Telegraph on why a conspiracy of leftists led by the BBC ( and which now includes even David Cameron’s Tory party) still seek to denigrate Margaret Thatcher and all her works.

“the Left is determined to prevent any young people from even remotely understanding how great she was, by ensuring she is crudely depicted as mad and evil”

Not that I dreamt of Maggie, rather that in the dream an alternative (counter) culture enclave was ‘attacked’ and collapsed. Solstice symbolism no doubt.

Then, in the liminal zone between sleeping/ dream consciousness and waking/ real consciousness thought about the Galloway Levellers and the difficulty of ‘history’. Bit of a postmodern moment. Not denying the reality of the past, but recognising, realising, the impossibility of ‘interpretation’.

If you plough backwards through Greengalloway, I have discussed, documented, interpreted, speculated and fantasised freely across thirty years or so of the/a counter/alternative culture and its history, significance and meaning.

But even for the few times when I was physically ‘there’, my accounts are just versions of events and situations. Compare and contrast my versions of the Wapping Autonomy Centre and Centro Iberico with Andy Martin’s. Or my version of Crass’ significance with virtually all other versions.

What really happened in 1724? Some stone (or were they turf) walls were knocked down. Some landowners tried and failed to stop the walls being knocked down. Some soldiers were sent, but there was no fighting. End of story?

Not quite. Leftist (back to Simon Heffer) and other historians wondered why there was no Scottish equivalent to the ‘Captain Swing’ rural riots which took place in southern England in 1830. Scottish historians also began to wonder why although the ‘Highland Clearances’ became part of Scottish myth and legend, the no less thorough ‘Lowland Clearances’ did not.

For both (Captain Swing and Lowland Clearances) only the Galloway Levellers could be mentioned as an example of ‘rural riot against clearance’. Unfortunately they happened a) in Galloway, which is outwith the mainstream of Scottish history and b) too early to fit into accounts of ‘agricultural improvement’/ ‘origins of capitalist agriculture’.

To confuse thing even more, I have found that there were strong politico-religious influences - connecting the Galloway Levellers with Jacobite and anti-Jacobite forces/ individuals which can be traced back into the 17th century -‘English Civil War’, Restoration of Charles II and ‘Glorious Revolution of 1688, King Billy, battles of Killiecrankie and Boyne- which lead forward to the still ongoing conflict in northern Ireland. Which is probably why modern Scottish historians shy away - fear of ‘the Troubles’ jumping the North Channel if such strands of history are followed through.

The Scottish Enlightenment can be read as an attempt to put all the bloody past behind us - a past which had been bloody as recently as Culloden in 1746 and which had led to intense anti-Scottish feelings - the Scots all savage barbarians.

I haven’t followed this angle through yet - probably impossible to show any direct link forwards from the Galloway Levellers to the Scottish Enlightenment and through to the present. Maybe more a question of focus - to shift away from the ‘economic history’ interpretation of the Levellers to a ‘political history’ one.

We’ll see.


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