Thursday, June 14, 2012

June 14: Scotland the Brave....

As an officer (captain-lieutenant) of the Fraser Highlanders (a Scottish regiment, to be sure), I was delighted to see a photo on p. 1 of section D of what appeared to be a piper of my regiment.

Alas, the regiment was disbanded just a few years after its victory under Wolfe at Quebec, the only British regiment disbanded without first returning home. (The British government was afraid to return a seasoned regiment to a Scotland that was already close to revolt.)  The disbanded soldiers were given land in the area of Riviere du Loups, where most of them them married French wives. That's why the main street of Riviere du Loups is Rue Fraser; and why you can still find people with names like Angus McDougall who can speak only French.

The Highland Games to be held at Bernice McNaughton High School this Saturday are a mix of phantasy and reality, of an imagined history of Scotland and a real  history. But it's a mix that works.

The reality is that old Scotland was a place of hardship and violence, perhaps the poorest and least educated part of Europe. ( And they didn't wear kilts. Those were a later invention - and an English one, at that.  In the old days, Scotsmen wore a long shirt - a dress, really - belted at the waist.)

The change came with Presbyterianism, a variant of Christianity that required its adherents to read The Bible for themselves in order to find their own meanings in it. That meant everyone had to learn to read, an idea far in advance of any education policy in the world. Very soon, Scotland was producing so many of the world's leading thinkers, writers and inventors that this very tiny nation became  the great producer of politicians and business leaders for the whole British Empire, and the model of modern education for the whole world.

When Queen Victoria chose Balmoral as her holiday home, she did what English aristocrats and other wealthy visitors had already been doing, copying old Scottish customs, and along the way changing them to be cuter (like the kilt). It was called the Balmoralization of Scotland. Robert Burns despised balmoralization, and despised the monarchy even more. But even Burns has been balmoralized over the years.

The Highland Games are a mix of tradition and invention; but it's a mix that works. And it's full of reminders of the tiny nation which was, arguably, the major factor in producinig out modern world.

Oh, I know this is off the point. But there's little else in this wretched paper to talk about.

There is a remarkable, well-written and courageous letter by Julia McKnight about homophobia at Crandall university. There is another one by Marilyn Lerch of Sackville that gives us news and information about shale gas -  news and information that the government and the Irving Press have been promising for years. So far, they have delivered nothing but propaganda binges paid for by our tax dollars - like the forumE farce. I would urge you to read both of those letters.

Otherwise, the only items worth reading in the whole paper are the columns by Alec Bruce and Jody Dallaire.

Essentially, The Moncton Times and Tribune is a sleepy, small town, big boss newspaper of 1910. It takes no account of the spread of computers, of TV, or even of radio.  People who want news don't need papers like the Times. The whole layout should be rethought with this in mind.

But even that can't save it.  There are such things as journalism ethics. I taught it for a school of journalism. But I see not a trace of ethics in The Moncton Times. It withholds news - as in the case of fracking. It publishes endless trivia. I publishes "news stories" which are really just press releases. It publishes endless trivia. And the latter is the clue to its real purpose.

It's real purpose is to keep people ignorant of what is going on, to spread propaganda that amounts to lies, to tell people only that news the owner wants them to see, to produce a population that is ignorant of what is going on, and indifferent, unengaged, passive, and as trivial as The Moncton Times and Transcript itself is.

Even changing the format will not help when the real problems are dishonesty and the Irvng near-monopoly of newpaper ownership in this province. Until that is dealt with, New Brunswick will be a backwater, forever looking with only a dim comprehension at its own decay.

Meanwhile, enjoy the Highland games. And remember the Scotland that gave us the education, the ambition, the independence and the will to stand up to the Alwards and he Irvings and the gas producers of this world. Now, there'a country that has punched way over its weight.




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