Though I’ve been blogging at the Duck of Minerva for more than 9 years, I haven’t posted much content for several years. My last post here was in mid-February. You can find maybe half a dozen posts in 2013 and 2014. It’s a terrible record. Embarrassingly, I had to look up my username just to log in.
There are multiple explanations for my silence: the U.S. withdrew from Iraq, which was my original blogging muse. I became department chair. My hair is turning very gray. Blah, blah, blah.
However, in my own defense, I should note that I am a much more frequent contributor to the Tweets sidebar here at the Duck. In fact, I can only conclude that I’m now a “microblogger,” at least primarily. Is that worthwhile?
With that question in mind, I’m going to try to post a regular “Tweets of the week” piece. This will mostly be retweets from my Twitter feed, though I may slip in one or two of my own original tweets. I’ll try to highlight major issues of the week.
In the race to Armageddon, looks like viral pandemic is making its move to break away from the pack –>
In March of 2015, a cry goes out in the town centre, everyone reacts quickly. Valuables are hidden underground; women and children are stored in hideaways to be kept safe until the danger is over. The sacred and expensive items in the church are removed and the priests flee – they are often the first targeted. The town moves to the defenses, but there is little that they can do to counter the oncoming scourge. The Vikings are off the coast of Scotland, again.
The scenario described above is obviously an absurd fiction; however, there is little disconnect between this scenario and the context of the current debate surrounding the security of an independent Scotland. I have followed the debate on Scottish independence with great interest and have done so through the eyes of a ‘new immigrant’ to Scotland, one who studies war and conflict as a profession. One of the most troubling aspects of this debate is the continued reference to ‘external threat’ to Scotland. The narrative is framed in a way which suggests that Scotland cannot become independent because it cannot afford to secure its own international environment and borders. It is almost if the Vikings remain a rational fear in 2013.
In my previous post I mentioned the recent broadside against Brave for its anti-Pictish discourse and representations. I’m not being fair, of course, as its author, Melissa McEwan, doesn’t use the term “Pict” any time during her essay. Which is interesting, insofar as Brave is saturated with Pictish symbols. As an astute commentator notes:
The Scots are represented not as a homogeneous group but as a diverse people, including ethnic differences from Pictish, Celtic, and Viking ancestries. While you may choose to see this as an Othering, it is a step above the kind of racial elisions that tend to happen with Native Americans in films (since that got mentioned.)
Regardless, the original post and subsequent exchanges illustrate nicely what happens when there’s a kernel of truth heaped beneath the crazy, but the crazy emerges triumphant.
Of course, one persons’ serious of ethnic slurs is another’s nationalist myth making. Hence I was not terribly surprised to learn that the National Museum of Scotland has embracedBrave wholeheartedly.
So while McEwan (who, naturally enough, admits to never having seen the film) complains about the stereotyping “Scottish people” as using “silly instruments,” the embedded link makes clear she has bagpipes in mind. Bagpipes, which I hardly consider “silly,” are in Brave. But I first thought, rather naïvely in retrospect, that the discussion was sophisticated enough such that she was referring to the carnyx (the rightmost picture above), which makes a prominent appearance in the film.
Listen to a Carynx.
But to return to my main point, about how one person’s ethno-chauvinist mockery of a not-so-oppressed American minority is another person’s nationalist myth-making, let us return to the National Museum. There, a significant chunk of the symbolic repertoire on display in Brave finds itself presented at the cultural origins of the Scottish nation. Lest their be any doubt about that, consider the sign pictured below.
In conclusion. Meh.
A postscript: I enjoyed Brave and all that, but for a series that combines excellent narrative, strong characterization, moral ambiguity, excitement, suspense, deep research, and the kind of exoticicizing of white ethnic “others” that would make McEwan’s head explode, check out Nancy Farmer’s Sea of Trolls series.