Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Cultural & Racial Genocide

The Gaels, scattered like seeds in the trade winds,
carry the land in their hearts.
While the invaders, with faces like sheep,
carry the land in their pockets.

Two political groups conspired to destroy the Gaels in the Highlands, carrying out unrestrained acts of genocide during the Highland clearances. They were the lowlanders of Scotland and the colonising powers who ruled and directed them from London. The Highlanders of Scotland (Alba) were of Gaelic, Celtic descent mixed with the last remnants of the Picts. The lowlander was a mixture of Norman and Saxon descent who had pushed their way up from the South. The lowlanders accomodated and intergrated with each invading colonial power from the Romans to the Saxons and later the English.

The Highlanders spoke only Gaelic, while the lowlander spoke English. The people of the Highlands were illiterate to the laws passed, in English, by the colonial ruling elite from the South. The inhuman disease of racial and cultural genocide has continued its spread across the world, and is still used as the primary tool of control in the 20th Century.

History of The Highland Clearances
Robert M. Gunn

This account will always stay true to historical facts and conventions, even if ocassionally, given from a Highland point of view. After all, I owe this much to my own Highland ancestors, most of whom were forcibly expelled from their picturesque, ancient Highland glens and lochs by unsympathetic and uncaring eighthteenth and nineteenth century "Improvers". The only thing the 'Improvers', improved, were their own greedy pocketbooks. To tell this emotional and terrible story of our ancestors sufferings -- unknown or dismissed by careless historians for centuries -- I shall willingly endure the slings and arrows of the history critic. After all I am one and I know how critical we can be. Many of these historians and history story tellers' preferred versions, until fairly recently, have been the uncaring and excuse-making perspectives of the 'improver' southrons and sheep fattened Clan Chiefs. In the end, I know I have told the truth of it, and my Highland soul is no longer bound to the revisionist and 'blameless' historians, who would have you believe it was simply a tragic circumstance -- no-one's fault. It simply isn't that simple, nor is it blameless. It was, however, inevitable. To take control of the land, they had to destroy the people.

Before any words can even begin to attempt to describe the 'ethnic cleansing' of the Highlands of Scotland, one must be aware of the circumstances that occured prior to the atrocities of the Clearances. This is especially true for understanding the two nations of Scots and their relationship; the clan systems; the Jacobite wars and most especially that event that led directly to the Clearances. That event is the anti-climatic destruction of the great and proud Highland army, the very last Highland army -- under the command of a young Prince Charles Edward Stuart or "Bonnie Prince Charlie" at Culloden in 1746.

End of The Clan System
At the time there were in truth two distinct Scotlands. One, the ancient Gael, descended from Celtic origins with dashes of Norse, Flemish and even some Norman blood. Whereas the Lowlander had been a more Germanic-English (genetically speaking) or Saxon, Angle, Norman, Celtic, Dane, Flemish and other European blooded racial mix since before the days of William Wallace. The kings of Scotland since MacBeth were more in line with English beliefs than the older Celtic ones -- and the kings of Scotland now ruled from the Lowlands. Therefore, what evolved in Scotland were two different peoples, using the same name and Nationality, but being fundamentally different both racially and linguistically. The Highlander had retained his native Irish tongue (Gaelic), manner of clothing and was by every aspect, very Gael and very Celtic. The Lowlander had adopted many Anglo customs since the days and arrival of Malcolm Canmore (Cean more), Malcolm III, and early Lothian English had become the primary tongue of Edinburgh and other great cities of the Lowlands in the 11-12th centuries.

The Highlander saw the Lowland Scot as a 'foreigner' and more (in their early view) like the English than any Scot. This in itself was offensive to the Lowland Scot who was anything but English!

However, the Lowlander, of this time, saw the Highlanders even worse; as tribal barbarians -- not the 'noble savage' painted in words by Sir Walter Scott in the 19th century. Highlanders were odd, barbaric and 'clannish' to the city dwelling Lowlander, who naturally saw them as more like 'wild Irish' (as they called them), more than Scottish.

Even had there been common ground for both, it seems as if a tragic barrier of mutual incomprehensibility was built between them -- they could not, and did not really ever attempt to understand each other. Is it all the fault of the Lowlander? No, of course not. That would obviously be too simplistic an answer. The tragedies that would occur in the Highlands between Scots, Lowlander and Highlander, were long in the blood of these uneasy allies. A clash of cultures was inevitable at some point. It had flared in some cases before, as in the battle of Harlaw, or "Red Harlaw". But the disasterous depths of the clash coming could never had been predicted by the two races of Scots who never truly understood the other to begin with. Yet, the Highland leaders, the Chiefs, are as much to blame, if not moreso, for the calamity of the Highland Clearances once the horrible process had begun.

Scots-English and Gaelic
Throughout the centuries, Scotland acquired a rich mixture of races through both invasion and immigration. The newcomers were always absorbed into a fairly homogeneous breed. The forms of speech varied widely between Lowland Scots cities, but they were all forms of the English, or the sub-division known as Scots-English, and that is partially the situation even today. Auld Scots is and has been spoken in Lowland Scotland for centuries, but when they write, it is generally in English. Why? This dichotomy is largely due to the translation of the Bible which was carried out in the south of England. It was carried out in that majestic 17th century style, and this helped to introduce, or rather, impose, 'Standard' English as the written language.

There have been periods between then and now when Scots have tried to eradicate the 'Scottishness' of their speech, feeling (under heavy pressure from England) it inferior or somehow lower-class than Standard, even whilst they revered the Scots poetry of Robert Burns, usually very briefly, once per year on the celebration of his birthday on 25 Janurary.

Lately, Auld Scots is enjoying something of a revival and a new respectability. An event this author is pleased to see and promote. The nature and history of old Scots is emotional, turbulent and complex, changing even faster than the history of those who use it.

One group of Scots, those Northern Scots, stubbornly remained outside the homogenizing process; the Gaels. Their ancient language and its cousin languages in Ireland, Wales, Isle of Man, Brittany in France, and to a lesser extent in Cornwall, are descended from the lost tongue of the ancient Indo-European. It tended to move, or be driven, to the Western extremities of Europe, and, much like its people, has regularly been under threat.

Some estimates show that Gaelic is spoken by perhaps as few as 100,000 Scots, out of a population of over four million. Although attempts are underway to revitalise this ancient tongue of the Gael, it is still a very small minority.

But the language divide has always been there, and remains. Children in the Highlands and Islands today learn English as well -- Standard English rather than Scots-English. Thus, the country is still partially separated by language and culture, into English speaking Lowlands and Gaelic-speaking Highlands and Islands, though this division is not nearly as extreme as it was in the mid-eighteenth century.

The language gap or division was much more profound in older times, and played a bleak part in the great tragedy of the Highland Clearances, which left the Highlands void of most, possibly 85-90%, of its people, trees and forests...leaving vast areas bare and deserted even today.

All original material © Robert M. Gunn 1997-2003