It says much for the fantasy politics of British nationalism that a decision by the English-born children’s author JK Rowling to boost the already hefty warchest of the Unionist “No” campaign with a donation of one million pounds is being heralded by the right-wing press in Britain as “the most significant” celebrity intervention in the referendum campaign so far. Rowling is famous for her “Harry Potter” series of juvenile books in which a youth destined to greatness because of his superior parentage overcomes a nefarious opponent of lesser ancestry in a familiar Fantasy trope. The writer herself offered few substantive reasons for her opposition to Scotland’s right to be a sovereign nation beyond some egregious insults directed towards pro-independence Scots by referencing evil characters from her own books:
“…a little Death Eaterish for my taste.”
Of course when two ordinary Scottish citizens, Chris and Colin Weir, donated a substantial amount of money towards the “Yes” campaign from their recent lottery win both were vilified throughout the conservative and liberal British news media in an epic smear campaign. Rowling on the other hand is being hailed as the saviour of London’s hegemony on the island of Britain. To use a formula she might well appreciate it seems that for the British press:
Pro-British millionaires = good wizards
Pro-Scottish millionaires = bad wizards
Of course the Unionist newspapers are now spinning the story like crazy with hyped-up claims that the author has already been subject to a series of online attacks by “Yes” supporters in her adopted country (“attacks” being a code word for criticism or queries about her anti-sovereignty views).
Oh well, at least it adds a bit more more colour to an already garish debate. Though of course the one debate you are unlikely to see is the one between the head of government with an actual democratic mandate in Scotland and the head of government who has no mandate at all. Now that is a little bit Lord Voldemort, isn’t it?
Interesting that no side mentions Scottish Gaelic language – apparently that’s not an important matter to them.
The Gaelic language has absolutely nothing to do with the Scots desire for independence The independence movement here is driven by the need for proper democracy and equitable treatment for our economy. I find it’s very difficult to get this over to people on the Island of Ireland. People here will not fight to the death over Gaelic and as a result Gaelic is not politicised and stands a better chance of surviving IMHO. The Brit establishment would like nothing better than to be confronting an ethnic nationalist movement. Indeed, the strength of our movement is that the Brits can’t quite believe that we are not all-out anti English racists and continually misjudge us to our benefit. They’re well behind the curve because of this and long may it continue.
Setondene, the problem with the Scottish (Gaelic) language is precisely its lack of politicisation. Nothing happens in a democracy without politics. No political influence is no influence full stop. Welsh language activists have learned that, as have others in Catalonia, the Basque Country, Québec, etc.
Protesting against the supposed “politicisation” of the Irish language is itself a political act since it is invariably done by anti-Irish English-speakers. Their opposition to Irish (or more correctly Irish-speakers) is a political one based upon a centuries old legacy of colonisation. Irish needs to become more political. And Scottish too, I may add.
Yes, the language does not feature at all in the Scottish debate. Which is why so many Scottish-speakers were angered by the decision to deny bilingual referendum ballots by the SNP government when the vote comes. In contravention of their own policies on Scottish Gaelic.
I agree Séamas.
A living language is and always will be a political matter.
Guess which referendum had the highest voter turnout in the history of Latvia?
It was the so-called “Russian language referendum”.
The initiators wanted to make Russian an official language in Latvia.
And they failed spectacularly – only 25% of those who participated were in favour (mostly ethnic Russians) despite the fact that ~95% of the population can speak/understand Russian.
They denied bilingual ballots?
Isn’t Scottish a regional language of Scotland?
That’s a stupid move really, because it would cost almost nothing extra to add a Gaeilc translation.
I kinda liked some of Rowling’s books when I was a kid.
She lost a great deal of my respect with this move.
It sometimes seems that everything in life is political 😉
Yes, that was a major result for the people in Latvia. I was expecting a tighter vote given the pressure from Russia (and the EU) to elevate the status of the Russian language (and Russian-speakers in general).
Yes the SNP government in Edinburgh decided against bilingual ballots believing it would put off some Yes voters or be used by the NO campaign against them. It actually contravenes the party’s own policies and otherwise improving record on Scottish Gaelic (they were very hostile at one stage).
I liked the Potter movies, never read the books. I preferred the Earthsea series by Ursula K. Le Guin (a superior writer by far). I’m surprised that Rowling went beyond her statements opposing the independence of Scotland to actively participating against it and bankrolling the No side. That is some 40% of Scots that she has set her face against. And her choice of words and the use that has been made of it by Unionists has led to a LOT of media and online attacks in Scotland on Yes campaigners.
Perhaps I expressed myself rather too strongly. Yes, there is of course a politics of Gaelic here in Scotland, but the independence movement is more James Connolly than Padraic Pearse. Our eyes are on the prize and we don’t want unnecessary distractions.
Oh, and I agree with you about Ursula Le Guin, particularly powerful works like The Left Hand of Darkness. I’m not a witches and wizards sort of person so unlikely ever to read Rowling’s stuff..
Ah now James himself said was use changing the flag if all else remains the same 😉 However point taken.
I know some young Gaelic-speakers in Scotland who are quite aggrieved about the lack of a bilingual ballot but like you have an eye on the bigger picture. Expect to hear from them post-2014 if all goes well 😀
Yes Le Guin was marvellous. Not one for High Fantasy myself (especially since my teens) but I give her a break. And Tolkien. And China Miéville. And early Moorcock. Never got Martin and the whole Game of Thrones thing though I like the TV show (minus the gratuitous rape).
I think that your charaterisation of Harry Potter as the story of someone “destined to greatness because of his superior parentage overcomes a nefarious opponent of lesser ancestry” is both inacurate and unfair given that Voldemort who is the Heir of (famous wizard) Slytherin and champion of “pure-blood” wizard-centric elitism while Harry, though having two magical parents is proud of his mudblood (born to non-magical parents) mother (Voldemort has one non-magical parent and is deeply ashamed of that blot on his heritage). Effective or not, the Harry Potter series places opposition to such ancestral over-valuing at the heart of its themes.
Also, while there is no Scottish Gàidhlig translation of the books that I am aware of (yet), there is an Irish translation of at least the first book (Harry Potter agus an Órchloch).
Unfortunately I never got beyond the first “Potter” novel. Wrong demographic, I suspect. So my knowledge of the series largely comes from the reviews/critiques of others or the movie series (I like the latter, quite a bit). I thought that summed the films up at least, my impression anyway, but fair enough points 🙂