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No true Gael

This sentence was written by a graduate student of Celtic and Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh:

Persecution of the Gaels only intensified in 1688 with the ascension of William of Orange to throne of the United Kingdom. It was under William’s regime that government forces of the UK orchestrated the massacre of the MacDonalds at Glencoe, and that occupying British soldiers erected Fort William in the Highlands in order to better subdue the region’s Gaelic inhabitants.

I am sure that several Samizdata readers will spot the historical error, but that ain’t the half of it.

It came from the second of a series of four posts (1, 2, 3, 4) under the heading “Gaelic Promotion as Social Justice” by Adam Dahmer, published in the Scottish Nationalist website Bella Caledonia.

Here is an extract from Part 4: Promoting Gaelic as an Anti-Racist Action

“So, in conclusion, I say to those who insist that promoting a British language in Britain is racist that I agree with them – but only if the language in question is English. The English language is, and has been for at least 300 years, a language of whiteness, empire, settler colonialism, and cultural genocide – not only in Britain, but throughout the world. English was the language of Indian Removal and Black slavery in North America; the military conquest, occupation, and resource depletion of much of Africa and Asia; and the murder, rape, and cultural degradation of the indigenous peoples of Australia and Oceania. ‘English-language-only’ was the explicit policy of the soul-destroying compulsory state schools to which indigenous people in every conquered land of the British and American Empires – including the occupied Scottish Highlands – were forced to send their children in order that they be divested of their ancestral cultures.

“The promotion of Scottish Gaelic in Scotland is therefore not at all comparable to the promotion of English in Scotland. The former is an example of social justice activism, whereas the latter – if undertaken to the exclusion of the promotion of other languages – only furthers imperialism and cultural assimilation. Therefore, while the suggestion that Scottish children should be taught English in school and be encouraged to speak English on the playground ought to meet with grave misgivings and thoughtful caution, the idea that the same children should learn and speak Gaelic should be entirely uncontroversial – especially if the children in question are, in fact, Gaels. To deny the Gaels the right to use and propagate their own language in the country in which they live and in which that language originated – a country which was, historically speaking, wrested from them through coercion, and which was largely built on lands stolen from them by the state – is to actively will their destruction as a people, and to callously and unconscionably deny them the justice they are due. Conversely, to stand up for Gaelic and Gaelic speakers in Scotland is to strike a blow against global English-language hegemony and white supremacy – not only for the Gaels, but on behalf of minoritized communities throughout the world.”

Bella is a left wing site whose readers are sympathetic to “social justice”. The comments to Part 1 of Mr Dahmer’s four-part essay were admiring, but became steadily less so for Parts 2 and 3, and were mostly scornful by the time we got to Part 4, from which I quote above.

Much of the hostility from commenters arose because Mr Dahmer tries to have it both ways when it comes to defining who qualifies as a Gael. In Part 4 he is in anti-racist mode and proclaims that language is what counts and race has nothing to do with it:

…not all Gaels are white. Membership in the community of Gaelic identity has historically depended not on genetics or blood-quantum, but on being raised by Gaels in a Gaelic community. The child of a Gael, if raised with Gaelic traditions, is a Gael – whether born or adopted, and whatever the colour of their skin.

But that is spoilt by his having spent most of Part 1 saying that certain races have the right to forbid others to learn their languages:

Believers in social justice judge, rightly, that the Black community ‘owns’ those hairstyles, and can therefore decide who gets to wear them; just as members of the American Indian community have proprietary rights over their traditional regalia and any depictions, however caricatured, of their own bodies.”) The same logic applies equally well to all cultural artifacts, including languages, that make minoritized communities distinctive. If you belong to a cultural group which has been historically discriminated against, then you have a right to curate how members of more historically dominant cultures use your cultural artifacts, including the way you communicate.

After all that it was a surprise to learn that Mr Dahmer is from Kentucky. But it’s OK, he’s got a hall pass. In his LinkedIn profile he says, “I hope to help build a community of Scottish Gaelic speakers in Kentucky that will produce Gaelic-language-dominant households by 2050 and Kentucky-born fluent native speakers of Gaelic by 2060.”

I would be very happy if that happened. I am not holding my breath. I see no evidence that Mr Dahmer’s proposed strategy to bring Scots Gaelic back to life in either Kentucky or Scotland differs from the failing strategies being followed in Ireland, or in Wales or New Zealand.

The irony is that at one point Mr Dahmer does come close to thinking outside the paradigm that Gaelic will be saved by getting civil servants to translate the labels on the insides of the lids of council wheelie bins. In the passage I quoted at the beginning of this post, he said,

‘English-language-only’ was the explicit policy of the soul-destroying compulsory state schools to which indigenous people in every conquered land of the British and American Empires – including the occupied Scottish Highlands – were forced to send their children in order that they be divested of their ancestral cultures.

(Not just the conquered, old boy. Most of the conquerors’ kids got the same treatment.)

For a moment I thought he might be about to suggest that since compulsory state schools destroy souls and minority languages, we might consider no longer having compulsory state schools. It was a vain hope. All he wants to do is to arrange for his faction to decide the curriculum.

44 comments to No true Gael

  • Mr Ed

    It’s not clear if Adam Dahmer is a relative of Jeffrey Dahmer.

    It’s not as if surnames determine personality or behaviour, but I think that Jeffrey’s ambitions were relatively limited.

    If William of Orange was a primary Anglophone then I’m a Dutchman.

  • WindyPants

    You have to admit though that that is an impressively ignorant rendering of the historical facts!

  • Phil B

    Fine. Speak Gael and teach your children in Gael exclusively but the rest of the world, technology in particular is largely published, taught and run on English. Technical and other textbooks translated into Gael will be horrendously expensive (everyone else must pay!) and as rare as an honest Politician, useless outside their community.

    Once those taught in Gael leave school and cannot communicate with the rest of the world then I suppose every one else will have to accommodate their lack of usefulness. Unless, of course, they are only going to stay inside their Gael enclave/ghetto and forge their own prosperity … based on becoming professional grievance complainers, I suppose (everyone else must pay! because … reasons).

  • Jussi

    This is a slippery slope. What about Sami people and their language? Nobody ever thinks about them! Bloody Finns! My new project will be an autonomous Sami country somewhere in Northumberland, and we wish to have a FTA one day with our Gaelic friends and partners in Scotland AND Kentucky!

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Good guess, Mr Ed, but I do not think that Mr Dahmer meant to imply that William of Orange was actually an Anglophone. The historical error is more straightforward than that.

  • Jussi


  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Phil B, as you probably recall since you commented on it, in 2015 I wrote a Samizdata post called “The morality of not teaching your child English” that discussed the scenario of someone only teaching their child a language spoken by a small minority. As a Libertarian I defended the right in principle of parents to bring up their children without teaching them English, and indeed to bring them up to be monolingual in a minority language so long as the children were not starved of information in general… but my defence of monolingual parenting began to waver as I contemplated smaller and smaller languages:

    Is it wrong to bring your child up to speak only a language with 50,000 other speakers? Surely not, but how about 5,000? Or 500? How about raising them in a language with no native speakers, only writers?

    But to be fair to Mr Dahmer, he speaks of “Gaelic-language-dominant households”. He envisages them speaking English as well, as practically 100% of real life Scottish Gaelic speakers do. (So far as I know the only exceptions are small children and some mentally impaired people.)

    I was not being sarcastic when I said I would be very happy to see more Gaelic-English bilinguals in Kentucky, Scotland or anywhere else. I would be. As I also said in that post,

    The idea that being bilingual confers a cognitive advantage is not utterly universal, but it is very widespread, and, for what it’s worth, intuitively makes sense to me. I have never met a bilingual who wished they were not one; I have met several people who lament that they could have been raised bilingually but were not.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Jussi writes,


    My knowledge of Scottish history is not great, but I think “occupying” was a fair choice of word on Mr Dahmer’s part. (I assume that you were making a guess as to what the historical error I was talking about was.)

  • Fen Tiger

    The United Kingdom didn’t exist in 1688.

  • Natalie Solent

    Fen Tiger, you are the winner. One would expect a pro-independence student of Celtic and Scottish Studies to have known this.

  • Martin

    Is “minoritized community” code for “self-righteous parasites”?

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Martin, not necessarily. Never forget that the last thing so-called progressives want is to have their designated victim groups thrive without government help.

  • Robert

    Mr Dahmer’s argument is, to use a phrase from another imperialist language, a reductio ad absurdum; although I doubt that is what he intended.
    The irony of an American coming over to Scotland lecturing us all on cultural imperialism is also probably lost on him.

  • Mr Ed

    And another thing:

    …not all Gaels are white. Membership in the community of Gaelic identity has historically depended not on genetics or blood-quantum, but on being raised by Gaels in a Gaelic community. The child of a Gael, if raised with Gaelic traditions, is a Gael – whether born or adopted, and whatever the colour of their skin.

    Alter one attribute, mutatis mutandis and it sounds a bit more like the true programme of a certain disbanded political movement, of which von Mises noted the insincerity as the plan was to announce an ethnic policy and define its members by those who got with the programme:

    …not all Germans are white. Membership in the community of German identity has historically depended not on genetics or blood-quantum, but on being raised by Germans in a German community. The child of a German, if raised with German traditions, is a German – whether born or adopted, and whatever the colour of their skin.

    And has anyone asked him if they will distill in Kentucky ‘whiskey‘, ‘whisky‘ or ‘uisge beatha‘ (known to my great-grandad as ‘uisce beatha‘)? I’d hate it if they split over this issue.

    But on a serious note, these people are surely deranged by their take on life. They need to be ridiculed so that others can see them for what they have become, and then perhaps their ideas might wither.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes again we get an post on the Frankfurt School of Marxism which does not mention the words “Frankfurt School” or even the word “Marxism”. This is NOT the fault of Natalie – just about everyone makes this mistake here, it is as if they terrified of the “M word”.

    These students and academics (and government and CORPORATE bureaucrats) do not just get up one morning and do and say crazy things – they are EDUCATED to do this, they are educated in these doctrines.

    An effort to fight these doctrines which does not even mention where they come from (Critical Race Theory “whiteness” and all comes from Frankfurt School MARXISM) is doomed to failure.

    I am reminded of the 1980s attacks on “political correctness gone mad” – which, by that very term, assumed that there was a form of “political correctness” that was NOT mad, and did not even address the Marxist roots of the doctrine.

    If we are not even going to call Marxist stuff Marxist – then we are wasting our time. If we will not even use the name of the enemy (and just treat this stuff as if it just appeared from nowhere – for no reason) then the victory of the enemy is inevitable.

    The reason the “Gaels” have to be presented in this way is because Marxism divides all people into the “exploited” and the “exploiters”, the “oppressed” and the “oppressors”, the “victims” and those who make them victims.

    Class analysis was expanded by the Frankfurt School to such things as “gender”, “sexual orientation” and (most famously) race and ethnic group.

    Either the “Gaels” are part of the evil “oppressors” or they are part of the “oppressed” – basic Marxist analysis.

    And, no, we can not successfully fight this stuff if we will not even use its NAME. Even ministers in the present government have stated, in the House of Commons, that “Critical Race Theory” comes from the Frankfurt School of MARXISM – surely we can also do that on Samizdata.

    We can not successfully fight something if we are too scared to even use its name.

  • Paul Marks

    What Mr Dahmer is trying to do is take his group, and himself, from the “oppressor” class, the the “oppressed” class – that is vital if he and his group are not to be evil (and doomed to extermination – according to Marxist doctrine).

    Arguing against him, or anyone else, is pointless if one does not challenge the basic Frankfurt School of Marxism framework assumptions, that all this is based upon.

    If these assumptions (those framework principles) are correct – then what he is doing is also correct. Indeed what he is doing is the only thing he can do – unless he wants to kill himself and kill the (often dirt poor) whites in Kentucky. He has to take them out of “whiteness” (which makes them automatically evil, and makes it right to kill them), and make them something else – such as “oppressed Gaels”.

    Ironically Classical Marxism (developed by Dr Karl Marx – 1818-1883) would have considered the often dirt poor whites of Kentucky part of the “oppressed” and “exploited” class, it is Frankfurt School Marxism (developed after the death of Dr Marx) that moves them from the “oppressed” to the “oppressors”.

    Classical Liberalism (represented in Kentucky by Senator Rand Paul) would also consider the population of Kentucky oppressed – but (unlike Karl Marx or the French Collectivist Saint-Simon) – but by the GOVERNMENT, rather than by “capitalist” Coal Mine owners and others.

    Classical Liberalism actually agreeing with Hegel (whom Karl Marx “turned on his head”) that the state can be independent of economic class – but disagreeing with Hegel in seeing the state as often a NEGATIVE and DESTRUCTIVE thing.

    It is true that the modern Corporations have often allied with the state AGAINST the people – but this is NOT an inevitable economic process (as Karl Marx taught), and the rich capitalists do not CONTROL the state (as Karl Marx also taught).

    For example, the rich “capitalist” who was Governor of Kentucky was defeated at the last election – and his Democrat replacement has followed policies that are against the interests of “rich” and “poor” alike.

    The common long term interests of “rich and poor – capitalists and workers” is something that Marxism denies. However, their long term interests ARE in harmony.

    Take the next door example of Tennessee – both “capitalists” and “workers” are better off in Tennessee than they are in Kentucky (next door – and a similar sized State), this is because, historically, Tennessee has followed less “Progressive” (i.e. high tax and pro unions) policies than Kentucky has.

    So this is the choice that exists – Mr D. is operating in a Marxist framework, in that framework the only way he can save himself and his family (and his wider kin) is to move from the “oppressor” class to the “oppressed” class (to not be the people who are to be exterminated – but rather to be the people who are to do the exterminating).

    The only way out of this trap is to REJECT the entire Marxist framework of the EDUCATION SYSTEM – the words “both rich and poor would be better off in Kentucky if we had followed the less Big Government, and less pro unions, polices that next door Tennessee has followed” do that – but then why has to explain WHY this is the case.

    In short why Classical Liberalism is correct and Marxism (Marxism being the dominant influence on the schools, universities, media and so on) is FALSE.

  • Rob

    You’d have thought the Gaels were “white, settler colonialists”, given that they came from Ireland and settled on what is now ‘Scottish’ soil.

  • Mark

    I’ve heard of blood and soil nationalists. Not heard of wind and piss nationalists before though.

  • Fraser Orr

    This is a perfect illustration of why the whole of the west’s society is in almost unstoppable collapse. I grew up at the end of the cold war, and the Soviets used to tell us that the west would be consumed by their own decadence. I think that, ultimately, they were right. I also remember as a kid thinking that maps never change, governments never change, then the Iron curtain border began to leak, the Berlin wall fell, and then the Soviet union collapsed. It was unimaginable, but it happened.

    Our decadence is consuming ourselves with our own self loathing, straining on a gnat, forgetting what made the west rich — which is to say, the enlightenment, the individual, the pursuit of our own happiness, throwing off the shackles of the collective for the prosperity of the individual.

    In the article Natalie references we see someone focused on the good of the collective (specifically the Gaelic collective) at the expense of the individual. It is plainly extremely disadvantageous to a child to graduate from school in the anglosphere (actually pretty much anywhere) unable to speak English. Natives in a small language are severely disadvantaged in their access to markets, and are, in a sense, put in a prison trapped by their language with those who can speak it.

    @Natalie says in regards to the establishment of a Gaelic native speaking community in Kentucky “I would be very happy if that happened. I am not holding my breath.” On the latter point you are no doubt correct, on the former, I do not agree AT ALL. It would be an extremely bad thing, cruel indeed, to do that to children in such an area as KY.

    Gaelic is a language not a political statement, the purpose of language is to communicate with people not to trap them.

    (BTW the title of your post, @Natalie, is very clever.)

  • Dalben

    Possibly occupying is the right word, if you question the legitimacy of William of Orange, but then presumably so was England at the same time.

    Otherwise, the monarch he succeeded was the legitimate king of Scotland in addition to England – to whatever extent you consider kings legitimate rulers anyway.

    I’m not so familiar with English/Scottish history, so if he was harsher and more brutal with the Scots than the English that’s terrible, but hardly exceptional for how monarchs have treated their own subjects in lands they have ruled for generations, including favoring one group and subjugating another. You can no doubt find many examples of monarchs of England harshly subjugating English subjects as well. Persecution of Catholics comes to mind, but doubtless other more geographical examples exist.

    Of course you could certainly argue that England *was* under occupation as well, but didn’t resist as much.

  • William T. Reeves

    A Gaelic speaking community in Kentucky? I’d settle for an English speaking one. 😉

  • Robert

    William and Mary had much less legitimacy in Scotland than in England. The English Parliament threw out James Stuart, and invited William and Mary to take his place on the English throne. They didn’t consult the Scottish parliament. The Scottish parliament was then left with the choice of accepting England’s choice for its monarch, or making its own choice and separating the crowns again, which would almost certainly have led to war. This was one of the drivers within the Scottish political class for union with England, as they judged that they’d be better off being part of the decision making process in England than being outside it and nominally independent, but mostly having to accept what England wanted. (The common folk were against this; bonus points if you can think of a modern parallel.)

    The British monarchs’ policies towards the highlands were basically a continuation of, and every bit as brutal as, the Scottish monarchs’ policies, but they were more successful.

  • Mr Ed

    Paul is right, of course. We should point out that this is degenerate Marxism, resorted to by Marxists who realised that their theory of class struggle was (i) bunk and (ii) getting them nowhere. Unfortunately this evil nonsense is only called nonsense, not the evil that it is, we should always call it out as the degenerate Marxism that it is.

    Fraser is right too, that these ideas get so much traction and attention is not good. I am not sure that the situation is terminal, but it is serious.

    At root, this socialist mentality flourishes where the State or not-for-profit institutions are able to prosper. To attack the source, there must be a massive reduction in State involvement and funding for any education or any ‘third sector’ organisations. These ideas flourish where economic necessity does not intrude, and the need to co-operate with ones fellow humans is removed. Many years ago, I saw a ‘Where are they now?’ documentary about the 1970s Trade Union activists who all but ruined British Leyland. One had become a shopkeeper, and he seemed decidedly sheepish about his radical younger self.

  • Fraser Orr

    Possibly occupying is the right word, if you question the legitimacy of William of Orange, but then presumably so was England at the same time.

    Well the irony is that his wife Mary (from whom the monarchic legitimacy derived) was in fact a Scottish monarch. She was the daughter of Charles I, who was the son of James I/VI, descendent of the long running and often disastrous, Stuart line. He was initially the King of Scotland, but inherited the English throne on the death of Elizabeth I of England. So the truth is that the Scottish monarchy took over the English monarchy, not the other way around. James the II whom William and Mary deposed (through a supposed abdication) was gotten rid of because he was a catholic, not because he was Scottish. Moreover, when his grandson Bonnie Prince Charlie tried to retake the throne, it was not the Scottish throne he sought, it was the British throne.

    Perhaps, after this bloodless takeover of England by Scotland, the uncomfortable fact for the advocates of Scotland is that the Scottish King decided to set up his court in London rather than Edinburgh. So it is that choice they try to gaslight us with using all this talk of England taking over Scotland. Simply speaking — it isn’t true.

  • I am a Pict (that is, my mother once told me that we were obviously mostly descended from Picts, and the family’s ancestral locations make it plausible) so I demand that Mr Dahmer and his Gaelic invaders get out of the country that must be renamed Pictland. (That is, I would demand it, were it not that Mr Dahmer – or, more probably, his more recent ancestors – evidently departed Scotland, er, I mean Pictland, a while back; Scots have a great love of their country from a distance.)

    …not all Gaels are white.

    A mutual friend of Natalie and myself was once lieutenant in a London-based unit. A Scottish colonel arrived to take command shortly before Burns day. The colonel wondered whether the mess celebration could do a bit more than usual. He scanned the roster and noted a Private Campbell; might he, by any outside chance, play the bagpipes?

    Our mutual friend assumed that respectful, slightly po-faced expression which warns that his sense of humour is awaking to possibilities. “I don’t know, sir”, he replied. “Do you wish me to summon him so you can ask him?” Presently, in walked private Campbell – who was as black as the ace of spades. The colonel instantly realised the sheer absurdity of asking this private Campbell whether he could play the bagpipes.

    Sandhurst trains its officers to handle the unexpected (our mutual friend never needed training to administer the unexpected to his unsuspecting superiors and colleagues) so the colonel covered well, murmuring something about getting to know his soldiers one by one and then chatting inconsequentially with private Campbell for a few minutes. After the private left, our mutual friend got a well-deserved bollocking, though in fact I think he rather rose in the colonel’s estimation over all. (Sense of humour and ability to trick the enemy are sometimes seem as allied in the British army. Those who have read Sir Ranulf Fiennes autobiography know that he was merely punished, not expelled from SAS training, for losing his training-exercise plan of a bank robbery – and thus cancelling all police leave for the weekend when a concerned member of the public handed it in – because his superiors assumed it was a deliberate joke, not the pure incompetence it actually was.)

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Fraser Orr, as I said upthread to Phil B and at more length in a post from 2015, though I would defend on libertarian principle the legal right of parents to raise their children to speak only a minority language, I would have great doubts about whether they were morally right to do it. But to be fair to Mr Dahmer his reference to “Gaelic-dominant” households makes it clear that he means raising the children to be bilingual in Gaelic and English. I see no problem at all with that. To recycle yet another of my old comments, there does seem to be some evidence that bilingualism is good for the brain, and bilingual education can work as well or better than monolingual when done well. Talk to any Dutch software engineer (I assure you, you won’t need to be able to speak Dutch to do this) to see what I mean. Either the Dutch are a race of superbeings or it is possible to reach very high levels of competence in scientific and technical subjects via the medium of a foreign language.

    Edit: Having said that, it is true that Dutch and English are very closely related. But if bilingual education, or even simply exposure to the second language, starts early it seems to be possible for children to pick up the second language very well even if it is from a totally different language family from their first language. For instance I have met people from Hong Kong with almost undetectable accents when speaking English, even though Cantonese and English are about as far apart as it is possible for two languages to be.

  • England under occupation? What a novel idea!

    Cnut was a prince of Denmark who decided he wanted the English throne as well, and took it in 1016. In 1018 he also gained the throne of Denmark, and deciding he wanted Norway too, he took it. And so it went, until in 1066 William the Bastard killed Harold the second (who had just killed Harald Hardrada) and likewise took England, thus becoming William the Conqueror.

    After that, the whole thing descends into a game of musical beds followed by musical chairs, played by most of the royalty of Europe and Britain. William III invaded, but he was invited. It’s less a matter of occupation, and more a question of who’s in charge. Oh, yes — and what language they speak.

  • I sneeze in threes

    Not Gaelic, but too funny not to remind you of this act of cultural vandalism.

    “ almost the entire Scots Wikipedia was written by someone with no idea of the language – 10,000s of articles”


  • bobby b

    Ah, but Niall. . .

    I attended a small Midwestern college with a Presbyterian-Scot tradition, one so strong that we had one of the finest pipebands in the country, which attracted applicant students from far and wide.

    On my first morning in dorm, I found that one of the better pipers (who, sadly, liked to practice early in the morning in his dorm room) lived two doors down from me.

    A black gentleman from Georgia or Alabama, he was . . .

  • Mr Ed

    bobby b

    Magnificent, and part of what makes the USA great. But did you appraise him of the definition of a gentleman? A man who knows how to play the bagpipes, and chooses not to?

  • bobby b

    Mr Ed
    December 29, 2020 at 7:02 pm

    “But did you appraise him of the definition of a gentleman? A man who knows how to play the bagpipes, and chooses not to?”

    Ha! I like that. But he was a BIG gentleman, and I was a lowly freshman, and he pointed out to us that he made the dorm-hall concession of practicing his skirling with a single-pipe chanter, instead of the full bag, which reduced the Shrieking Harpies to a single Shrieking Harpy.

    It was probably time to get up anyway.

  • Fraser Orr

    bobby b
    It was probably time to get up anyway.

    I believe Her Majesty The Queen is woken every morning when in residence at Balmoral by a piper. So basically this guy was treating you like royalty….

  • Phil B


    Yes, I do recall your original 2015 posting but having thought about it since then and realising that the pearls written on the internet get buried and forgotten, for new readers that may not know about your original, I restated the case. I think that nothing in the original or here is objectionable and is perfectly sensible. Unless of course you are a TRUE Gael where the only thing that motivates you to get out of bed in the mornings is a hatred of the English. In which case, all bets are off.

    …not all Gaels are white.

    Neither, apparently, are Vikings. Take a look at this SAS (Scandinavian Airline Services) commercial – I’ve started it a few seconds before the relevant bit:


    Life can be a bit surreal, trying to keep up with the political correctness/cultural Marxism twists and turns, right enough.

  • Indeed bobby b (December 29, 2020 at 6:44 pm), and in the US or Canada I know that Scots’ love of their country from a distance does sometimes communicate itself to others, so it would be unlikely but not absurd to ask. However in London (I might perhaps have added that private Campbell’s accent declared he was born and bred there), it was indeed an absurd idea for the colonel to summon private Campbell to ask specifically him on the strength of his name alone whether he could play the bagpipes – as my lieutenant friend with the sense of humour knew and the colonel instantly realised. 🙂

    I once spent an evening wandering round a town in south Holland (where I was doing IT work) tracking down the sound of bagpipes. It was from a combined Dutch and Belgian band who were practicing for the upcoming Worlds competition (yes, ‘The Worlds’ is the not-so-modest name giving to the annual international – but always held in Scotland – bagpiping competition).

    For the matter of that, I lived in England for many years, near a town where you could see morris dancing displays, but the keenest morris dancing group I ever met were in New Hampshire (when I was there for a week, again doing IT work).

  • Sam Duncan

    You’d have thought the Gaels were “white, settler colonialists”, given that they came from Ireland and settled on what is now ‘Scottish’ soil.

    Well, indeed.

    Edinburgh was founded by the English (Northumbrians), and occupied by the Scots in the 11th Century. Promoting Gaelic there is colonialist. Prove me wrong.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Sam Duncan
    Edinburgh was founded by the English (Northumbrians), and occupied by the Scots in the 11th Century. Promoting Gaelic there is colonialist. Prove me wrong.

    If you go back far enough we are all Africans.

  • bobby b
    December 29, 2020 at 6:44 pm

    Ah, but Niall. . .

    I attended a small Midwestern college with a Presbyterian-Scot tradition, one so strong that we had one of the finest pipebands in the country, which attracted applicant students from far and wide.

    Could that have been Macalester? I taught optics there once. I also attended one of the strangest concerts ever: bagpipes and banjos. It turned out rather pleasant, if enthusiastic. Banjos are one of the few acoustic instruments that can stand up to a bagpipe, and vice versa.

  • bobby b

    Fraser Orr
    December 30, 2020 at 3:01 am

    “If you go back far enough we are all Africans.”

    Nope. We Norse descended directly from the gods.

  • bobby b

    Ellen: Yep! Cool! But I was there long before your class, I’d bet.

    And I imagine that banjo players and bagpipers sort of gravitate towards each other, as no one else will talk to either.

  • bobby b – A good shawm player could handle them, but a bagpipe is basically a bunch of shawms tied to a bag. Shawms doesn’t count – it would be a family discussion.

    As to being there before my class – I’m 79. Are you an octogenarian?

  • bobby b

    December 31, 2020 at 12:58 am

    “As to being there before my class – I’m 79. Are you an octogenarian?”

    Nope, class of ’79. But I’m assuming you taught an optics class quite some time after your undergrad-age days, and so sometime after my time there. Wrong? Teaching as a young post-grad?

  • Filling in as a young post-grad, for a professor who’d moved on to a better position. Just something to do while I tried to find a better job. It was somewhere around ’71.

  • Paul Marks

    Edmund Burke argued that the great curse of Ireland was “confiscations and counter confiscations” – the idea that “your ancestors robbed my ancestors – so I am going to rob you now”.

    In many Latin American countries who owns the land is contested – think about that. It it fairly pointless arguing over such things as tax rates or levels of government spending if one can not even decide who-owns-what and both governments and armed gangs (such as MS 19 – motto “rape, kill, control” which has THOUSANDS of armed members) used armed force to “redistribute” land – and can turn up at any time.

    In short the contrast between Texas and (say) Mexico and various Central American countries is NOT really about tax rates (still less about “race”) – it is more basic than that. If the answer to the question “who owns this land?” is “well that is contested….” then economic development is doomed, and mass poverty is inevitable.

    As for ethnic groups…..

    Well the Sardinians appear to have been on their island since the Stone Age, and the Norse people who went to Iceland and the Faroe Islands did not find many people there when they arrived (perhaps an Irish monk or two – who knows, and the Norse had a lot of Irish with them anyway, starting as slaved but NOT staying slaves), but that is rather limited.

    Most land was inhabited by someone else at some point in the past – to say that this invalidates private ownership of land now is insanity.

    It would be like turning up in Kent and demanding that farmers give up their land because Hengist and Horsa were robbers.