Friday, 25 July 2014

Freedom Come All Ye, weans of Glasgow, Gaza and beyond

It's been nice being out and around my Games-hosting city of Glasgow, taking in the sunshine and warmth of its hospitable people.

The Commonwealth is an elite fiction - big wealth is never held in common - helping to maintain monarchic-loaded notions of an enduringly benign Empire. Hopefully a Common Weal, rather than Commonwealth, may be a future game in town.

It's been a corporate bonanza too, and, some nice sporting infrastructure aside, we need to look much harder at what social 'legacies' such gatherings really do bring to people, such as those in deprived Dalmarnock who have seen their area taken apart for the Games. But, for all that, it's still good just to simply indulge the happy atmosphere.  

The opening night saw a sweet-jar mix of panto-cringe, gallus humour, gay assertion and some beautiful Glasgow-spirited performance, from camp kailyard, whirling teacakes and Irn Bru props (go figure, global viewers) to the much more authentic Amy Macdonald leading Glasgow punters in a great song and 'flashmob' dance around George Square.

We had all the baton idolatry too, of course, and the strange, republican-churning sight of the Queen addressing her subjects from the old 'Jungle' side of the stadium. And, before that, wee council czar Gordon Matheson with a welcome speech so intensely stated he could have been raising an emergency motion at a party conference. 

More pleasing was Billy Connolly's lovely, quiet meander up the Clyde and around his old city, waxing kindly on its harsh struggles, industrial backstory and relentless generosity. We also had a serene little Proclaimers re-scored ballet, Nicola Benedetti's exquisite violin strains to Loch Lomond, and, most memorably for me, South African township-raised soprano Pumeza Matshikiza with an inspiring rendition of Hamish Henderson's radical anthem Freedom Come All Ye.

Around the Merchant City, built on the blood profits of war, empire and slavery so lamented in Henderson's song, a nice festival buzz, as with Glasgow Green's fun-filled stages, tented stalls, picknicking families and kids running happily with their ice cream cones.

Behind all the security lockdown and upheaval, there really is, beyond the cliche, a sense of 'come-on-in' welcome, a quiet, courteous confidence that, one hopes, translates appropriately on September 18. 

Yet, amid the happy reverie, returning thoughts on the weans. My weans. Your weans. Our weans. All the weans. For aren't all the weans our collective weans? Yes, indeed, the poverty-stricken African weans those celebrities at the Games ceremony asked us to support through UNICEF. But also, not so readily highlighted these last bittersweet days, the weans in Gaza, right now being mercilessly bombed by a violence-addicted state. Aren't they also much-deserving weans?

It's too late, tragically, for nearly two hundred of those weans, now wilfully murdered. And what survival or life for the more than three thousand Gazan weans now terribly injured? 

Israel's war on children has continued unabated, including the massacres around Al-Shejia, the bombing of a UN shelter in Beit Hanoun and other UNWRA schools. To think of the lost, broken and forever traumatised kids across Gaza and the West Bank who can't run freely like those weans on the Green, living without the wanton terror of an occupier's bombs.

Freedom Come All Ye, go the words, maybe a song for a new-coming republic of humanity, here in Scotland and beyond. A place where we act not as subjects, but as true commonwealth-deciding citizens, raising our children in a state of economic wellbeing and moral decency, free from brutal warmongering, helping them to understand the need for other children to live likewise.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

My comment on the NYT editorial.

Seems most of the readers agree, judging from the up-thumbed comments.

Roslyn Ross said...

Ah, I might have known you were Scottish. They always had more balls and integrity than the rest.