Saturday, 4 February 2012

The Calcutta Cup

Today at 5pm GMT the 119th Calcutta Cup competition will take place.  It struck me as an interesting fact that the trophy was inspired by a game between British expatriates in India in the late c19.  Of those British expats who lined up to play, the English took side against the Scotts, the Welsh and the Irish.  They knew they were British expats but a simple demarcation was to delineate on some pseudo ethnic grounds.  I say ethnic, but of course ethnicity is a socio-political construct.  Biologically we are all the same species and genetically the story is very much more complex.

This morning on Radio4, I think I heard Alastair Campbell  say he was Scottish before he was British.  I would like to deconstruct this sentiment in a moment but I believe he then went on to say his parents were Scottish, he was born in Yorkshire and moved to Leicester when has was 11.  So really, and by really I mean legally, he was British - English.  British since that is the internationally recognised nation to which he claims citizenship and presumably holds a passport for and English because he lives in an English county as defined in The Interpretation Act 1978, Schedule 1.  I find it particularly interesting that "Scotland" itself is only partially defined in legislation.  This definition is in section 126 of the Scotland Act and has the effect of specifying that "Scotland" extends into the marine environment to the limit of territorial waters (ie out to 12 nautical miles).  Alastair went on to lament the irony that his bag pipe playing father and staunchly "Scottish" mother are not even able to vote in the referendum for Scottish Devolution.  To me though this is fair, as the only sound definition of Scottish is: To be a British citizen and reside within the marine environment of the largest Island in the archipelago and not to be English, where English means to reside in the area consisting of the counties established by section 1 of the Local Government Act 1972, Greater London and the Isles of Scilly. (Note: Wales is explicitly referenced in this context, as it was formerly treated as part of England).  In short, do you have a UK passport? Do you reside north of the area defined as England in the 1972 Act?  If the answer to both is yes then you can rightly call yourself Scottish.  

Would you call yourself Scottish first though?  Even if you could claim a link to relatives that once lived there (ok, parents is a close link, but you get my point.  Al didn't live there himself, ever).  I have recently explored my not too distant heritage  and established that despite my evident Irish heritage in my surname I am 62.5% "English" from name origins.  First and foremost though, I consider myself British and part of me is deeply saddened when our nation, The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, seems destined to break up the unity that has been fought for, for generations.  So why do people from certain regions feel that they need to put that first?  I appreciate the need to feel like you belong, to understand your heritage, and to honour your ancestry by remembering it; but why put it first?  Should we not be looking to secure our unity and to put our nation first?

There is a potential contradiction for me here though, I am a big supporter of localisation and devolving more powers regionally but not when it damages the necessary sovereignty of the nation.  Also why only the 3 regions of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?  This I think hit the heart of the problem for me about the devolution debate.  It should be about political power and regional control within our nation, it should not be about ethnic rivalry and cultural divide.  Alex Salmond, like Alastair Campbell, is British first and foremost.

So back to the Calcutta cup,  today I will be cheering my local team, England, where I live, but I will not be engaging in quasi-racist chanting at my fellow British citizens who choose to support their own local team, even if it was only their parents who lived there. 

Thursday, 2 February 2012


I've been trying to rationalise my web presence but it's been a bit tricky.  I've stopped looking at FB as mentioned in the previous blog, in fact I went through the quite tearful departure as it begged and used emotional blackmail to get me to stay.  So and so will miss you, this person will not know where you are.  Eventually they reminded me that it all stays where it is.  Oh yes, I've granted them a perpetual licence.  

So now I've started building my own website, I registered my own domain name and I have tried to centralise all my bleating on the web.  Follow the link below, then select off the top menu and you will experience something akin to Inception.... 

I haven't decided on a consistent theme and I'm just getting the hang of frames so bare with me.

Finally, I haven't managed to activate a comments section so you'll just have to google+ me, or at the very least twot me (not sure of the official present tense personal for "To Twitter", and I'm damn sure I'm not going to use the past participle that seems to fit!)

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Networking (Social or other)

After a self imposed moratorium from the now ubiquitous facebook I have had pause to think about the phenomenon that gets termed social networking. I glanced at a link on google+ from +Robert Llewellyn, who I found from his @bobbyllew twitter account, about the perceived political motivations behind facebook. I need to read it more deeply but as I scanned the site, one of the throwaway comments that resonated with my view was "people's need to collect friends and be popular, in the sense of an American high-school teenager. "  I'm not sure why it needs to be an "American" teenager, perhaps they are better at it than the rest of the world.

This does appear to be borne out on all the sites I have seen, there are awards or rewards for becoming a super-user.   On the sites I am familiar with, they publicly display your number of contacts/followers/friends as some badge of honour.  We seem to actively feed that teenage need to be superficially popular. For many of us it doesn't matter if we have 500+ contacts of people who have very little real connection to us, the system is merely an address book that is maintained by your contact for you. Like Plaxo was before it became a virus.  I realise that calling it an address book is a massive over simplification of a more complex modern phenomenon.   As a society in the current era, we tend to be very distant from each other, not just physically but figuratively and online networking is probably feeding a need to feel part of a community, to feel connected to the lives of family and people with a shared interest.  Still for many people a badge like 500+ does seem to be a status symbol to be displayed.  Even in Google+ there are networks of people that seem to be collecting followers like trophies and are celebrating each others' apparent success in collecting vast numbers.  I'm not sure what value it has, I have found that my twitter feed and my facebook wall have become so clogged with casual comments from people I have "collected" that I am missing messages that are more important to me.  In theory G+ might provide an elegant way to handle this phenomenon with circles but I fear it may descend into the stream of chatter that I have found Facebook and Twitter have become. 

So is it really networking?  Networking itself is a fairly recent phrase, I remember being told I was a good networker and not having a clue what it meant. Obviously that may be more to do with my own knowledge but I do think it's a modern context for an older word.  Making friends, making acquaintances, being generally sociable are all traits that have served people well for generations.  These are skills we want our children to adopt as usually people fair better as a collectively supportive society (see comments on enlightened self interest).  So why do we fear them collecting online connections in what sometimes appears to be an automated and systematic process? It could be that we are simply technophobic and I do believe that many are, especially those who read mainstream media reports that are designed to provoke emotion not debate. But many are not, like myself, in fact I have experimented with quite a few of the so called networking sites, but I still have some concerns over the "collectors".  I think we need to teach new users the difference between a casual acquaintance who may be a useful contact in the future and who maintains their own contact details from a person who you merely wish to follow their views as they are expressed, to the vitally different "friend"; be that a close personal friend or a casual friend.