Open letter to Gerry Butler

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Dear Gerry

Twenty-five years almost to the day since your mythic departure from Scotland. Twenty-five years since we parted company and my life was turned on its head in ways even you could not possibly imagine. You helped make me the person I am today, so for that you have my heartfelt gratitude.

Thing is, I really need your help. Over the past seven years, I have written a memoir that is nearly ready to publish. It’s one of those stories that has to be told and you are the inciting incident. As with any inspirational memoir, others will benefit from it, only I don’t have the resources to iron out some of the legal issues.

I am so sorry to go public with this but my circumstances dictate that I have to. In the spirit of self-healing, please will you at least read it? I have just published the first two chapters on my website here. For what it”s worth, there’s also a trailer here.

Yours in good faith
Morgan

THE LOST SECRET (first two chapters)

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For reasons that I won’t go into here, I have decided to scrap any attempt to sell my ‘mini-book’ on Amazon. Why it’s only two chapters and only on Kindle needs too much explanation. Instead, it is available here via the link below. This may be temporary, it may be permanent, I don’t know. We’ll see where this goes.

You can read the first two chapters here.

Although this offering is free, donations are gratefully accepted.

As The Crow Flies

crow

MIDNIGHT had long passed and it was raining hard. Visibility was limited to that which was illuminated by the bright flecks of driving rain caught in the beam of the headlights. All else was black.

The dance was now a distant memory. Despite the conditions and a bloodstream full of whisky, the man in the brand new Hillman Imp knew this single-track road from Torrin to Broadford intimately. He had no idea he was getting sloppy but he did concede that he was feeling tired and welcomed the thought of his warm bed.

Just as his eyes were getting a little heavier, the man became aware that he was about to pass the old haunted graveyard. The realisation gave him just enough adrenalin to restore him to a state of wakefulness, for Kilchrist was a place that struck fear into the hearts of anyone that had ever been within its perimeter. The man squinted at the timepiece he pulled from his coat pocket.

Two o’clock. God, was that the time?

The witching hour. His grip on the steering wheel became just that little bit tighter.

II

HAD THE man still been in a stupor, he may have had less of a fright when the creature appeared out of nowhere. What looked like a pair of shiny black wings exploded into view, piercing the driving rain and heading straight for him.

The man slammed his brakes, veering to the other side of the road to avoid lurching forward and flying through the windscreen himself. When the car finally screeched to a halt, he sat for what seemed to him an eternity, his fingers and forehead glued to the upper rim of the steering wheel. It was only when he lifted his head that he realised he had no idea which direction he was facing. Whatever that thing was, it had pulled up and over the vehicle just in time.

But even when the danger appeared to be over, the fear persisted and his darkest imaginings ran wild. He could hear the voice of his mother rambling that this was the work of the Devil and at this very moment, he wondered if she was right. He reached for the glove compartment and pulled out the leatherbound Bible that his mother had insisted he keep with him at all times. Without his spectacles, he drew his comfort just from holding it, reciting the Lord’s Prayer until his heartbeat settled into its near-normal pace and he started to feel foolish. Putting the whole episode down to having drunk too much, he returned the Holy Book to its hiding place.

With no inclination whatsoever to get out of the car to investigate, the man had to switch off the headlights to get his bearings. He reoriented himself in the direction of Broadford and went on his way. When he crept into the house, his parents were asleep and he was quiet as a mouse.

III

IT WAS breakfast and an hour past sunrise. The man’s early morning chores up on the croft had been completed and he was on his second cigarette. His mother drew a bowl of steaming porridge from the cast iron pot perched on the range and placed it in front of him. She said not a word. Her face was more drawn than usual.

His father fixing on him through rings of pipesmoke from the opposite end of the table made the ticking of the grandmother clock on the back wall seem unnaturally loud and the man nervous. His intakes became longer and deeper.

His mother muttered some inaudible excuse and headed outside with a basket of clean washing. Once certain that she was no longer in earshot, the Old Man leaned over the table.

“Iain, is there anything you would like to tell me?”

Mid-draw, Iain stopped in his tracks. He scanned his memory to figure out if he should know the answer to the question.

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Well, how do I put it? The Old Man emitted a long puff as he tried to find the right words. “Have you done anything?”

Now Iain’s heart was beating faster. Something was clearly not right.

“Done anything? I still don’t know what you mean.”

“Did you do anything you shouldn’t have?” A shorter pause. “Last night to be exact.”

Iain’s heart stuttered. Sharp intake of breath. A cough. Murky half-faded images from the night before sought form in his head.

“You’re scaring me. If you’re talking about last night, I went to the dance. I danced, had a few drinks and came back. End of story.”

“You sure about that?”

It was hard for Iain to look his father in the eye. The only thing he could think of was that he might have taken a liberty or two with one of the wives, so the look of guilt was unmistakeable.

“Will you please tell me what you’re talking about?”

“You really don’t know ….”

“No! Now will you please tell me.” Panic was setting in. “I don’t want to be late for work.”

The Old Man drew long and hard on his pipe. He was clearly going to stretch this out.

“Well, Iain,” he said, “you must have done something. Not long after you came back to the house, there was a strange and mighty rattling sound coming from the window above your bed.”

“I don’t remember that.”

“No, you wouldn’t. You were fast asleep. Well, I got up to have a look and in the name of the wee man, if it wasn’t a great big black bird trying to get in. It was making one godalmighty commotion, flapping its wings and pecking at the glass with its beak.” He lowered his voice to a near whisper. “It was trying to break the window ….”

Iain’s fingers were trembling, his face ashen, when he stubbed out his last cigarette of the morning.

“Really?”

extract from Close Call: Short and Bittersweet, published April 2015

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2014

NATIVIDAD: Chapter Two

nativity

IT IS 1961. Tensions between Cuba and America are at an all time high and an Englishman and his heavily pregnant Cuban fiancée flee New York for their lives. The Cubans just want the baby. The Feds just want the Englishman. Who knows what the CIA want …

I’ve written this ‘modernisation’ of the Nativity in a biblical style to give it a more ‘genuine’ feel. It is not a political tale and is not pro-this or anti-that, so don’t be put off by the revolutionary backdrop, which is necessary to the story in its symbolism.

It’s more ‘realistic’ in biblical format here.

CHAPTER TWO

FIVE months passed. During this time, Percy forgot about the dream and was too preoccupied with the demands of his profession and the infidelity of his once beloved to pay much heed to the host of vehicles regularly parked outside.

When it was made known to Percy that Federal agents were about to apprehend him for being a Communist spy, he knew that he had no choice but to flee to England.

He found a listening instrument in his apartment but left it in its place.

Meanwhile, Eva’s father had bade his time before he sent an agent of his own to persuade his daughter to return to the land of Cuba and bear her child there. But she refused.

The agent said to her “Verily, if you come with me now, and bear this child in the land of your forefathers, I shall guarantee you safe return to New York.”

Realising that her father had interest only in the child, she kicked her abductor in such a manner and with such force that he might beget no offspring of his own and ran for her life.

Then she pleaded with Percy to take her out of the country. He agreed to this but only on condition that she spoke quietly so that no-one might hear them and promised to have the child given away.

To be contnued …

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2017

Writing a memoir

WITH a pandemic in full swing and many of us having more time on our hands than we might like, there has never been a better time to write one’s memoir. And you don’t have to be famous to have a tale worth telling. They say that everybody has a story in them – if you can extract meaning from your life experiences, then the chances are that others will also find meaning in your words.

The whole point of a memoir is that it should be written with abandon, no holds barred – worry about reactions later. Many memoirs never see the light of day because the content is too sensitive but if a greater good can be served by sharing a universal truth, then upsetting people might be a price worth paying.

Memoirs are best written after the passage of time to allow for processing and absorption into the psyche. It involves the same level of craft as writing fiction. The storytelling devices used, such as plot arc and character development, are the same, even if they are formed from memory rather than imagination.

It is important to stress that memoir is not autobiography, which charts an entire life from the beginning. Instead, it homes in on an aspect of someone’s life or a period of it in depth.
Memoir is less bound by formal expectations of chronology or factual accuracy. However, it is universally understood that, aside from some tweaks here and there, often in the name of confidentiality or simplification, in essence the story is true. Where factual deviations occur, events and people are more likely to have been removed (or fudged!). Fortunately, for writers who wish to embellish, there exists a form of memoir known as autofiction. Here the reader cares less about what is fact and how much is fiction. What is expected though in the former is a degree of candour and authenticity that might not be found elsewhere.

For the writer, irrespective of whether publication occurs, the benefits of such honesty (even with oneself) are immeasurable. The very act of organising one’s life into a coherent whole is the best way to make sense of it and even the most chaotic life looks less so when viewed through a the widest possible lens. Airing painful experiences that have hitherto been hidden is liberating and cathartic. Writing your own memoir is in my opinion the most effective source of self-healing and it costs nothing.

And the healing can be extended to the whole of humanity. Often one person’s life experience can showcase universal truths that need to be shared. Particularly when dealing with ‘difficult’ issues such as childhood sexual abuse or modern slavery, memoirs bring them into public consciousness, emboldening others to share their stories and from where real attitudinal and social change can occur. They also become a valuable part of the historical record.

Having gone about writing my own memoir, making up the process as I went along but realising later that despite some rookie mistakes, I had largely gone about it in the ‘right’ way), I have attempted to compile this guide. It combines my own direct experience, along with a handful of sources. As my own memoir is still in mid-flow, I still have much to learn but if you’re thinking of writing a memoir, then this is as good a place to start as any. At the end of the day, writing your memoir is your journey and this page only a guide.

Getting started

– If you aren’t already in the habit, start a journal. At the very least, it will allow you to keep track of any new material (thereby making writing the sequel much easier!). Also, keep your journal, or a separate notebook, with you when you are out and about or travelling. This is often when memories pop up, so you need to ‘catch’ them before they’re gone – poof!

– Whatever you do, don’t start at the very beginning! Whatever memory or insight prompted you to think of writing a memoir in the first place, start there.

– Don’t hold back. Tell the truth and be damned. Think about the consequences after you’ve written it.

– Brain dump what you already know about that part/aspect of your life (and other related areas), as it comes and in no particular order, until you can’t think of anything else. You’ll be staggered at what pops up. Add dates where you can, even if they’re only approximate.

– Type your notes into bullet points.

– Approaching it as you would a CV, organise your notes into chronological order.

– Use external reference points as necessary, for instance, a movie that you saw the day a significant life event occurred. Googling the release date for that movie will refine your timeline.

– Home in on key bullet points and repeat the process.

– If random details pop up that you cannot place, write them down anyway along with a question mark.

– Some details might be superfluous but rather than delete them, save them to one side or stick them to the bottom, on the off-chance that their importance might become apparent later. Contradictions and ‘holes’ early on are not uncommon.

– Reduce your cast to the major players. As above, put the ‘extras’ to one side, as they might yet unleash further memories that are important.

– Where your story has a strong psychological or spiritual theme, look for metaphor, archetype, symmetry, synchronicity to add more depth. The more opposites (and harmonies) you can work with, the better.

– Continue adding more layers and details until a story structure becomes discernible. If you’re not already familiar with plot arcs, there are plenty of resources online to help you ensure your main plot and sub-plots tick all the boxes. Your character arc, as you metamorphosed from the person you were into the person you became, should also now be clearly visible. By now, you should have a clear idea of where your story should start. The best stories start with a hook that draws the reader in before going ‘back’ to the beginning.

– Throughout, showcase your personal growth and, whatever themes you have chosen to develop, keep them front and centre.

– As you arrange your document into a more structured plot, you should begin to see your emotional journey. You can also then start to think about splitting it into sections/chapters. You may want to stick to a chronologically linear storytelling structure until you have a better idea what structure style suits your story best. Memoir has a life of its own, so be open to your story letting you know how it wants to be told. The most appropriate way for me to structure THE LOST SECRET was through a present and a past timeline running in parallel.

– I do not recommend attempting to flesh the bones of your memoir until you have established where/when your story starts and where it ends, although it can be done.

Development

– Embellishing or bending the truth will catch you out so don’t even think about it.

– If you have done a thorough job of structuring your memoir, you should already have a series of bullet points that just need expanding and be able to get through the ‘writing’ phase with relative ease. Keep a note of any new memories that crop up but belong elsewhere.

– Establish your own unique writing voice.

– Stick to one point of view (for instance, if you’re writing about your childhood, are you speaking as the adult or the child?).

– Choose your tense carefully, bearing in mind that it is possible to use both past and present (though don’t mix them). Keep your dates as headings. Even if you intend to dispense with them in your final edit, hang on to them for your own navigational purposes.

– In recounting your life experience, be as detailed and as vivid as possible. Use all your senses to tell the story – sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, intuition even (this doesn’t mean ramble!).

– Put readers in your shoes.

– Pace the story. Don’t ramble but don’t rush a highly dramatic moment either. Establish a rhythm.

– Show not tell. I won’t cover this here – there are plenty of resources online.

– Use speech as much as possible to avoid long tracts of narrative. The reader will understand that any dialogue can only ever be an approximation of the truth of what was said.

– When sharing traumatic experiences, avoid victimhood and the language of blame. While you do want to crank up the emotional impact, your story is about you and how you dealt with what happened to you, not the people responsible. If for instance, you have an abusive ex-partner, humanise, don’t demonise them. Try to remember their redeeming qualitiies as well as the bad.

– When dealing with death, avoid being maudlin.

– For more complex works and memoirs with a ‘message’, you will need to include signposts along the way, so the reader knows where they are.

Finally, not only will you get out of your system that which you alreay know, you will learn so much more about yourself. You may well be shocked at what ‘new’ memories crop up and how the version of events you’ve remembered ‘clearly’ for years is sequentially incorrect. By the time you’ve started fleshing out your memoir, you may even notice repeating patterns (aka lessons). As the penny drops that your chaotic life wasn’t quite so random after all, it is as if you really knew what you were doing all along.


Additional sources
https://www.masterclass.com/articles/6-tips-for-writing-a-memoir
https://thewritelife.com/how-to-write-a-memoir/
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/dec/14/the-naked-truth-how-to-write-a-memoir

NATIVIDAD: Chapter One

nativity

IT IS 1961. Tensions between Cuba and America are at an all time high and an Englishman and his heavily pregnant Cuban fiancée flee New York for their lives. The Cubans just want the baby. The Feds just want the Englishman. Who knows what the CIA want …

I’ve written this ‘modernisation’ of the Nativity in a biblical style to give it a more ‘genuine’ feel. It is not a political tale and is not pro-this or anti-that, so don’t be put off by the revolutionary backdrop, which is necessary to the story in its symbolism.

It’s more ‘realistic’ in biblical format here.

CHAPTER ONE

IT WAS Nineteen Hundred and Sixty-one in the year of our Lord. In those days the leaders of America were most incensed that Communism had taken the land of Cuba. So too the new government of Cuba was greatly displeased that America had secretly taken its children on the pretext that they were saving them.

And living in the city of New York was an actress exiled from the land of Cuba called Eva. Her betrothed was an English advertising consultant by the name of Percy.

And it came to pass that two months before the day of their legal union, Eva declared that she was three months with child. By the time she realised that her physician must have made a mistake, it was too late. Percy did not believe that the child could be his, for he was on business far away at the time of its conception. Eva was aggrieved that she could do nothing to persuade him otherwise.

And so Percy made it known to Eva’s father, who happened to be a high-ranking official in the court of Fidel Castro, the King of Cuba, his displeasure, in the hope that he would come and take her away. Until then, he would renounce their betrothal but not put her to shame, instead continuing to keep her, but in a separate dwelling.

One night Percy became so intoxicated that he fell into a deep but fitful sleep on a park bench.

A well-spoken man wearing a fedora and a belted overcoat appeared to him, saying “Behold. Marry your beloved and go to England. She speaks the truth. Verily I say until you, the child is of your seed and you are all in grave danger.”

When he awoke, his head was as if cloven in two.

To be contnued …

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2017

The Inner Journey

During the writing of my memoir, THE LOST SECRET, I didn’t have much time or mental energy to research the psychological processes I was going through. That came later and even then, there was a limit to how much time I could devote to study, given that I have more to offer by allowing myself to experience the reality first hand.

Although I have sought to detach myself from belief systems and existing theories, it so happens that the work of Carl Jung best describes my journey, even if the specifics are entirely unique. I also draw on the work of Joseph Campbell and James Hillman. Although coming at it from their own angle, Jung, Campbell and Hillman all point in the same general direction.

It also has to be said that some of my experiences may challenge these theories, for instance, the way Jung differentiates between the Shadow and the Animus. This is to be expected given the evolutions that have taken place since his time. Jung said himself that it was up to future generations to build on what he had started.

While it is my intention to stick to what I know to be true for myself and leave the explanations to others, I do occasionally ‘break’ this rule. However, where I do, I merely dip my toe in the water. I avoid statements of ‘fact’, erring instead in favour of perspectives based on personal experience and insight. After all, the whole point of all this is that we are, and should always be, a work in progress. Your experience may bear different results.

To some of you, the ideas I touch on will be already familiar. Many of you will never have heard of indivduation/psychosynthesis or archetypes. Some of you might already be in the throes of your own personal journey and like me would benefit from some sort of explanation for the bewildering changes you are experiencing.

So I felt it would be useful to signpost readers in the right direction should they decide to undertake their own research (regardless of their level of exposure to the ‘real deal’). My Resources page is also a work in progress. It includes a handful of articles I wrote on key elements of Jung’s work. These are not in-depth and are intended only to whet the appetite.

Resources page at https://mkmacinnes.com/resources/

Please feel free to suggest amendments or additions.

The Other Half

BY NOW, it’s pretty obvious that I am a big fan of Carl Jung. In an earlier post, I spoke about the Shadow, the collective name for those parts of our psyche that become consigned to the unconscious for reasons of conditioning or trauma, to name but a few. Fortunately, through the self-healing process of individuation (or psychosynthesis), a person could painstakingly reassemble their fragmented psyche into an integrated whole. A satisfying never-ending journey not for the faint-hearted. Jung spoke of yet another aspect of the psyche, that is not entirely separate from, yet distinct from, the Shadow. He called this the Anima/Animus.

For a woman, the Animus represents those parts of her psyche that are regarded as masculine and have been repressed since childhood, such as confidence and leadership, while for a man, the Anima represents the feminine, repressed parts of his, such as compassion and intuition.

So for instance, speaking only of my generation and coming from a mixed-sex school environment, girls were raised not to stand up for themselves and put other people’s, especially men’s, needs over their own, so typically, a little girl might grow up as a pleaser with low self-esteem. Boys on the other hand were taught to act tough, suppress their emotions and fight their way out of difficulty, so typically, a little boy might turn into a bully with an over-inflated opinion of his abilities and who does whatever the hell he wants. I am, of course, generalising – the reality was far more nuanced.

Carl Jung believed that when it comes to peeling back the onion layers of the unconscious, the Anima/Animus is stored in the very deepest recesses and so represents the final stage in the individuation journey once the Shadow stage is complete. However, I have found the two to be interchangeable and the work on both to be in parallel. The extent to which the Anima/Animus is distinct from the Shadow may well depend on the environment into which a person is born. Gender-based expectations were more pronounced in Jung’s time, so it would follow that the personal journey that informed the bulk of his research is coloured accordingly.

Jung also did not account for greyer areas in sexual identity and it is generally recognised in therapeutic circles nowadays that both men and women exhibit/repress both anima/animus traits. If Jung were to time travel to the present, he would almost certainly have to revisit many of his assumptions. The key is not to take his ideas too literally.

Of course, the notion that men and women are fundamentally different has been around for millennia. With the advent of Christianity, the onus was on women to be ‘saints’, while men had carte blanche to be ‘sinners’ if they felt so inclined and as long as nobody was looking. Scientific dogmas for gender difference are more recent – Men are from Mars and Women from Venus seemed to knock on the head once and for all any ideas I had that men and women were sexual equals. Based on what I know now about the part conditioning plays in identity and behavioural development, it turns out that I may have been right all along, and we are in fact all a dizzying cocktail of what we might term ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ qualities. Just as ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are man-made, so too are gender behaviours. There are indeed natural differences but these are far more subtle that we have been led to believe.

The end result of generations of societal cherry-picking is that noone but noone operates on full capacity. If for argument’s sake we say that we exhibit 50% of our full potential (chances are it really is 10%), then you can see how so many people feel a gaping void and the concept of a missing other half arises. As harsh as it sounds, putting all the hormonal, physical aspects of biological sex to one side, when we fall in love, we are in fact falling for the missing parts of ourselves whom the object of our desire just happens to best represent. This is the X-factor, that thing you cannot put your finger on and why when they say “It’s not you, it’s me”, they really do mean it (though it doesn’t seem that way at the time).

So if Jung is right, then romantic love as we have come to know it is nothing more a societal construct, a projection, the outcome of millennia of conditioning. Yes, boooooooooo!! Romantic love would not exist if we were whole.

Much is currently made of the Patriarchy that has held sway for what seems like an eternity across the world. What tends to be overlooked is that both sexes have been hammered into conformity. Even in these crazy times, what is exciting is that men and women have an opportunity to liberate themselves from centuries of bullshit and rediscover the truth of their entire being.

We are the One.

See-saw

WITH all this talk of a new vaccine, i can’t help but feel a little disappointed that things will eventually ‘get back to normal’. So, what, we’ll just act like nothing happened and swing back into a state of excess to make up for lost time, making us sitting ducks for the next pandemic.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat …

This isn’t the first pandemic and it most certainly won’t be the last. Why waste an opportunity to make some of the behaviours we have adopted to combat the virus more permanent and moderate our extremes in order to soften the blow when the next one comes along?

I for one like the idea of maintaining a one meter default setting. And handshakes seem so outdated when other gestures do the job just as well if not better.

What habits developed during Coronavirus would you like to keep post-pandemic?

The Magic Potion

potion

THERE once lived a man who imbibed a skinful of whisky and fell asleep in his armchair. His wife had long gone to bed, leaving all three bars of the electric fire on. When the man spluttered himself awake in the wee small hours, he became aware of an excruciating sensation in the inside of his left shin and found that his jeans were singed. When he removed them, he realised that although they had not been set alight, they had conducted enough heat to leave a huge burn. In one place there was a dead dark patch where he felt no pain at all, even when he poked it with his finger. Though still groggy from booze, he had enough wits to know what had transpired. He had cooked his leg.

The following morning, his wife persuaded him to get it seen to.

II

THE DOCTOR informed the man that he would require a course of antibiotics and a skin graft as soon as one could be arranged. This was unavoidable and the replacement tissue would be taken from his backside. He should come back in a week.

On leaving the surgery, the man decided no flamin’ chance. And so he paid a visit to the other place. But he was not so stupid as to reveal to the vet why he was asking for a bottle of horse liniment.

III

THE MAN took the antibiotics as directed. And every day his wife was subjected to the foul stink of horse liniment. After a few days of faithfully wrapping his leg in bandages soaked in the odious compound, it looked as though progress was being made. Within a week, well, it was nearly but a scabby indentation and some of the feeling had returned.

It was quite out of character for the man to return to the doctor’s surgery without being pushed but he was keen to gloat at the success of his own ministrations. When he pulled up his trouser leg for the doctor to examine what evidence remained, the latter was close to speechless.

It stuck in the doctor’s throat to admit that he could no longer see any reason for an operation. When the man told him how he had achieved such a miracle, the doctor just said “You cannot be serious”, before suggesting that he could perhaps continue doing whatever he was doing and come back in another week.

The man had no intention whatsoever of letting on that without the antibiotics, his leg would have become so infected from such a rapid healing that it would surely have killed him.

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2015

The Slippery Slope

THEY told me I was too small. Too loud. Too quiet. I was eating my food all wrong.

HE told me that’s just human nature. It’s a dog eat dog world. He told me I wasn’t aggressive enough. I had to toughen up. And yet, he told me to tell no-one.

SHE taught me I was too clever for my own good. It was better to keep my mouth shut.

THEY told me i was too nice. I couldn’t understand why consderation of others was regarded as a weakness. I tried to live by example, but gave in. I even became ‘bad’ for a brief moment and hated myself even more.

I taught MYSELF to suffer in slence and in time, my self-loathing was complete. Soon the whole world would walk all over me.

Hand to Hand

I have a former work colleague who is happy to watch people arguing partisan politics online for hours on end. Me, I couldn’t do it, it would drive me insane. But so she tells me, she has spotted an interesting trend. Something interesting is happening in the Brexit/Scottish independence debates.

We all know the script. Usually, it is the conservative/defending position that takes the more aggressive stance. The opposing side is the ‘enemy’. Although generally speaking, the progressive position plays less dirty, with repeated exposure over time, both sides can become as bad as each other.It is now standard practice for political campaigns to use paid agents provocateurs to veer public opinion in their favour or away from where the discourse might naturally flow. These campaigns also act as magnets to organic trolls acting out their fear of the unknown. You can always tell which ones are which. The paid trolls give themselves away every time in their sheer stamina and consistency in their use of poltical jargon. It is laughable to think that only the Russians could be capable of such a thing!

The organic trolls, however, are real people. Sad, maybe. Bitter, maybe. But real nonetheless.

And this is where tentative change is occurring.

Taking an argument about COVID resrictions in the UK as an example, the engagements might start with the usual mudslinging but if the time is taken to interrogate the reasoning behind certain assumptions and postions, what becomes clear is that a) the ‘troll’ is acting on misinformation, a misapprehension or a misunderstanding b) they genuinely believe what they are saying c) they are over the moon to discover that they have the wrong end of the stick and d) they are really just scared and want someone to take the time to listen to their concerns. The overriding theme is loneliness.

Of course there are maldoers and idiots among them, but contrary to popular misconception (promoted by the media I have to say), the majority of these bitter, angry people are as sensitive as you or I, they have just learned to process their emotions differently. In the rush to embrace other disenfranchised parts of the community, such as ethnic groups, women or the LGBT community, the old mainstream was pushed to one side by the progressive elites.

Obviously, there are individuals out there who have figured this out and who are willing to take the time to engage on a more human level with their political opponents. They are not engaging from a position of moral or intellectual superiority but as equals. Friendships are forming. Some are meeting in real life over coffee.

I am writing this because I feel strongly that our brothers and sisters across the Pond need to be reassured that this is how it is done. Not by Washington, not Westminster – just us.

Reunifying a divided population is possible but it has to be undertaken in a sprit of compassion – at the grass roots, on an individual level. It is less about finding common political ground than about rediscovering our common humanity. If we can do that, the politics will do just fine.