Many people have pointed out the absurdity of outlawing a human emotion – Hate. Apart from the fact that, like the opposite emotion -love, it is a word which is lost without its object. You have to define what is to hated and what is to be loved for it to be rooted in any meaningful reality. Of course, we know that the people who drafted the law were clearly not thinking about hatred of bad things like war or violence or cruelty or slavery or child abuse etc. it was hatred of people with certain innate characteristics. These categories could be defined but could also be enlarged and broadened to include many other groupings, who could be victims. The idea could also be expanded to include other undesirable human emotions such as greed, lust, anger, rage or vengeance.  But it is absurd, because who can tell what is in a person’s heart. Who can decide what it is I am thinking? Yet that is the direction that this move is taking.

The policeman who interviewed Harry Miller, a suspect in a “non-crime hate incident” reportedly said “I need to check your thinking”. He had clearly overstretched his arm as the courts later found in Millers’ favour, but the officer was simply following the logic of the thing. It’s easy to mock this of course, but it’s not difficult to see where it comes from and that those moving and creating the legislation are clearly on to something. For the reality is that actions follow words, which in turn follow the thoughts in our head. So, if you really want to get to the root of criminal behaviour, it has to start with thinking. Racist violence is often preceded by racist language and from racist thinking. Domestic abuse from misogyny, Adultery from lust, Murder from hatred of someone.  Evil comes not from outside but from inside the person. Jesus said that.  You don’t just steal something from the supermarket shelf or cheat on someone, if you hadn’t already cherished and embraced the desire in your heart. Then when we get the opportunity, we think we can get away with it and no one will know, we take it. It is only when we are found out, when we are exposed, that we come out with our regrets and remorse, with fake repentance and the disingenuous plea “I don’t know what came over me” “I don’t know how it happened” “It was an aberration totally out of character”. And many will believe it. But, if we examine our own hearts, we know the truth, that it was not an aberration, it was totally in character. This is what we are like. It’s called sin.

So, it is perfectly understandable that a government should make laws to root out bigotry and racism and all the evils of society by addressing what is in our heads. But there is a deep flaw in this. And there are two reasons why it is not in any human agency’s  gift to examine and direct what is in our minds. Human institutions have neither the qualifications nor the authority to do so. They are not qualified because no one knows what is in a person heart. Only God does. And they don’t have the authority, because they are under a higher authority and there’s is a limited one;  limited to their responsibility to govern, to protect against bullies from outside and within, to uphold justice, to punish evil actions and to defend the poor and the innocent. They are neither qualified nor have the authority to tamper with what the creator has ordered and any attempt to try is futile and will sooner or later end in failure. The Bolsheviks tried to abolish marriage and the family and to re-order the week into ten days, but that didn’t last long. In our day it is the re-defining of marriage, male and female, the beginning and the end of life and for some that two plus two could equal five. We know it will end in tears and the tragedy is that, while focusing on things out with our control and authority, we fail in the very things we are able to do. Witness the Scottish Government’s flirting with these things and their abysmal failure in just about everything else they touch.

But the ideology of progressivism is deep rooted and strong. It is also perfectly logical and reasonable because, If there is no God then we have to somehow take on his role. God is dead, long live humanity.

The same can be said of critical race theory with its dogma of whiteness – white privilege, white supremacy, white complicity, white equilibrium, white fragility and white denial.  Because if you seek to justify yourself, you are in denial. Despite your personal circumstances and background, despite how desperate or disadvantaged or poor you are, if you don’t see it, it is because you are blind to its reality. You are guilty, it seems by virtue of being born into a particular race. It almost sounds as if the principle has been borrowed from the traditional doctrine of original sin-  tainted and suffering under the sin of Adam. The difference with critical race theory is that it only applies to the sin of whiteness and there is no redemption, no salvation, only perpetual penance, continual sacrifices and reparations that will never be enough. 

So like progressivism, critical race theory and the canon of climate change, for that matter, there are truths that cannot be denied. Bad thoughts lead to bad actions, privileged is real and the abuse of creation will bring about terrible results, but all expose the stark reality that we cannot save ourselves. No amount of legislation, no amount of self-flagellation, no amount of personal sacrifice will do the trick. We need a saviour.

The Lock-down

For anyone who has had a connection with a prison establishment the term “Lockdown” will carry a lot of resonance. It is an emergency procedure where inmates are literally locked back in their cells to allow some form of order to be restored. Why the government and the media and everyone else, it seems, have adopted this term in the Co-vid crisis is intriguing. It is not a lockdown. Any locks that are thrown are done from the inside of people’s homes. No one, other than those in secure institutions, are actually locked down.

But when words are used and given creative new meanings, it is inevitable that we smell a rat. We have George Orwell to thank for that. When specific instructions and guidance is given by experts, by people who know, to the rest of us, plain folks, it is inevitable that I become cynical.  I have my big brother to thank for that.

Of course, there are other terms that could have been created for the effort, so why this one? Could it be that it carries a barely concealed hint of authoritarianism? After all, while a government’s chief responsibility is to protect it’s citizens from bullies within and without, the lure to control them must be a very persistent and powerful one.  A compliant controlled population is easy to manager especially if you get them to do what you want them to do. If you can get people to stay in their houses then at a stroke it deals with a whole host of policing issues, crowds, football hooligans, protest marches, music festivals and religious gatherings.  It must be very seductive. And I must be very cynical.

But I do wonder if anyone has actually thought of the effect this kind of language might have on the population? I wonder if anyone has actually considered where this most unusual and probably unprecedented action will lead? I wonder if anyone actually knows what it means to force social beings, who thrive by the interaction with others, in a whole network of relationships, not to be social? Well we should do. We have plenty of evidence of what happens to human beings when they are forcibly placed in solitary confinement. It destroys the person. It could be the most inhumane form of punishment. And has anyone thought about how humiliating is to have work and being able to work but being prohibited from doing so because your work is considered non-essential. The fact that it is the way you provide for your family seems not to count. That the government will offer compensation for employed and self employed, who are affected, sounds good, but it only rubs salt in the wound. Being paid not to work is the final straw.  And of course, the real tragedy is that we cannot know for certain if these extreme measures will actually make any difference at all.

As for me, I am enormously privileged. I share this large house with two others and we get on well. We have a garden front and back and 100 yards from a beautiful garden (which the authorities would find difficult to seal off). I work from home and have done for many years and I know how to organise my time. I have many interests and ploys and can easily be absorbed in them. So, it is easy for me. I am sure it is also easy for those who have made the decision to force the shut-down but I shudder to think of what it will mean for possibly the vast majority, those in cramped accommodation in high rise flats with young children and those coming to the end of their lives to spend these days in solitude estranged from those they love. It sounds like a particular cruel form of punishment. It is not of course, but it sounds like it and calling it a “lock-down” reinforces that.

There does seem to be a complete disconnect from the middle-class office workers retiring with their laptops to the leafy suburbs and those who actually work in manufacturing, agriculture, construction or the energy industries- ie the ones who actually power the economy and who now are told that there work isn’t really important. And this is where the divide is so scary, because if the economy is driven on the rocks then all the services fail and the biggest gobbler of public finance, the NHS, will be the first to suffer. So to protect the NHS we may actually be dealing it a death blow. It’s all been said before, of course, and better.  

It is tragic and I hope I am wrong, but I genuinely worry that the treatment might end up killing the patient.

Crawford Mackenzie

Living in the Compound

Stepping into the third world is a strong experience: like venturing beyond the garden gate for the first time, like being blindfolded and swung round in a party game. It is disorientating. All the comforting re-assuring things we rely on to guides us through normal life are gone. We find ourselves in a world without the norms and mores we expect and take for granted: of language, culture, food, smells, toilet and sleeping arrangements, customs, services, institutions and time, especially time. It is as if we are set loose in a wild landscape where nothing is certain any more.

In the west, it seems, we have a very skewed view of the reality of world. We describe the third world as if it were an undeveloped part of our world, when in fact it is the world and we are only a tiny part of it. We are in a very small walled garden, a compound with its walls, gates and barbed wire. Inside we are protected, safe and warm and free to think and discuss and plan and be creative without the crippling business of surviving.

My sense is that the walls of our compound will not, in time, be able to hold out against the inevitable tide which will overrun them. We will not be able to protect our way of life forever. It is not sustainable. Anyone can see that. It is patently clear, yet the impression I get is that we are in denial. We have confidence that we are able to respond to crises that come our way and carry on with our lives. Whether it is a financial collapse, a terrorist threat or the current refugees’ crisis we feel we will be able to sort it out and it won’t threaten our existence. (Interestingly enough the big three still very much threaten us and don’t show any sign of going away.) Even using the word “crises” suggests that they are nothing more than temporary irritants and so we are seduced into thinking that everything will be ok and our culture, so strong, it will see off all comers. Witness Andrew Neil’s rant on BBC (, following the Paris attacks. It is a belief that our democracy and civilisation will not only last for a thousand years but for ever.  This unashamed arrogance is astonishing as it is breath-taking in its blindness. We seem to have a collective short memory and are wilfully ignorant of the reality of history and of biblical prophecy.

So my heart is not in reinforcing the walls and securing the gates. My heart is for reaching out, sharing what we have left, while we still have it. All the good things:  our education, culture, structures and institutions, laws and orders, the sense of the common good, honesty and integrity in public life, what we have learned and found to work, most of which has, it has to recognised,  come from the Bible.  Sharing as much of it as we can before the wreckers and vandals destroy it completely. In my experience it is what the people of the world want. It is what they come here for. It is not for the weather. The business of trying to protect and shore up our way of life, our British values, whatever they might be, by building walls, and bolting doors is in itself a hopeless and futile project. It is futile because the destruction of our way of life is happening from within. The vandals are home grown. Bit by bit we have chipped away at the foundations, grubbed out the roots and the structure has become very unstable. It won’t take much to push it over. We have broken away from our moorings and set adrift in an uncertain sea, scrambling about for anything, any common denominator (usually the lowest)  that will hold the thing together. Yet still we carry an over inflated confidence in our ability to ride out any storm. We believe that our way, the way of liberal democracy, is somehow invincible. It isn’t.

This is not the time for erecting fences, getting the wagons into a circle or retiring into a lager. That will only prolong the agony and the inevitable fall. This is the time for breaking out. It is the time for opening our hearts and our lives and telling the Good News while people are still listening.

Crawford Mackenzie

Bartlett and the Bible

Glynn Harrison has written an extraordinary article in the new edition of “Solas”  “The long shadow” with a very telling insight into the impact of the sexual revolution on our society, from a Christian world view. It is a challenging critique of how the church has failed to respond to this revolution, been caught napping and generally been unable to speak the good news into it. “Our culture has a good sense of what we are against, but what are we for?”  With some noble and notable exceptions, the church has, in the heat of the debate, been found wanting. There has been a deficit in intellectual integrity, a deficit in creativity, a deficit in articulation and a deficit in humour. In contrast the sexual revolution, which was a revolution of ideas, held all the cards and knew how to present the case: the use of the media, being one of the principal planks of that presentation.

For me, nothing exemplifies this more than “Bartlett and the Bible” a scene from the television series “The West Wing”. Jed Bartlett is the president of the USA and throughout the series he exudes a quality of humanity that somehow you do not expect in a politician, far less in the leader of the “free world”. You cannot but warm to him and take to the way he acts, how he responds to his aids and his family, how he seems to genuinely care for the people and takes the responsibility of his office so seriously and even how he shows his failings. It is very endearing. He comes over as such a genuinely good man that people often say they would vote for him if his name was on the ticket. Many have even tried to persuade Martin Sheen, who is a real person, to do just that to stand for president.

The scene in question can be found at but there is hardly any need to supply the link as you would have to be a stranger to YouTube or social media not to have come across it.  It is a very clever, funny and accomplished display by the president of the United States of America where he wipes the floor with the priggish upstart of a radio presenter, in what has become an iconic put down. At a stroke he exposes the inconsistency, hypocrisy, sheer stupidity, and the censorious and unloving attitude of the conservative biblical right. It’s a great laugh and so often as I have engaged with a facebook discussion on the subject it has been brought in to the thread to prove a point and it does just that. It is the killer punch which finally finishes off the argument. There is no more that can be said. The argument is won and lost.

But take a moment to look at the clip, for it is a perfect example of how the media can be used, not simply to make a point but, to close an argument. Ged Bartlett is a fictional character and the scene has been invented in someone’s mind. The dialogue has been written. It is not a real discussion. In fact it is not a discussion at all more of a monologue in which the president berates the limp presenter with a series of quick fire questions.  He does not allow her space or even the opportunity to answer the questions. The implication is clear. There are no answers. Any fool would see that.  He roundly castigates, viscously mocks and abuses her verbally, in way that would make any misogynist proud. It is a blatant display of merciless bullying by a powerful man, while his staff and advisors stand pathetically bye, sheepishly silent, unwilling or unable to take him to task. It ends when he completes the ritual humiliation by forcing her to stand, as everyone must do, in his presence. It is from every angle an appalling display yet I have heard nothing but applause for it and the way people continue to share the clip shows that they see nothing wrong with that aspect of it.

Leaving the bullying and the abuse to the side, the fact that there is no space for a response, a challenge or even offering answers to the questions, shows how propagandist the piece really is. Given the space and the opportunity, which any fair minded person would, there are very obvious responses that could be made. There are answers to the questions too. Timothy Keller at gives a perfectly reasoned and convincing response to the charge of inconsistency and others have done so too. But in the media world, these voices are hardly ever heard and it is left to a few to speak out, to challenge the omnidirectional flood of thought, to stick a head above the parapet and face the torrents of abuse and even death threats that come with the territory.

Glynn Harrison’s challenge to the church is simply to tell the good news into this long shadow. “The good news that God has not left us alone. In scripture he not only reveals who he is, but he shows us who we are: he speaks our identity to us.”. That will need resourcefulness, intellectual integrity commitment, creativity and courage, but more than anything, belief in it.

Crawford Mackenzie


managementarianismI don’t know when it started or where it came from but the relentless onward march of Managementarianism is slowly and subtly strangling the life from almost all of our creative endeavours.  We have been aware, for some time now, of the deadening effect of this culture on health and education, where educators and clinicians are replaced with managers and where the end result is not health or education but efficiency and exam results. But we have been almost taken by surprise in the way that it has wormed its way into almost every aspect of our lives.  The pursuit of targets, quotas, waiting times, performance, results, outcomes, good and best practice, all with the laudable aim of improving and reforming so that they become better organised and more efficient, is increasing. The imposition of targets themselves often back fire.  Whenever I make an application for Planning Approval I know that the authority are duty bound to  give a decision within a fixed period of time and their performance, in this regard, is monitored. What happens is that the administrators appear to make it their priority to delay the registration process (before the clock starts ticking) as long as possible by scratching around for anything that might need clarification, no matter how miniscule or irrelevant, so that the process, in the end, takes longer. It has all been said before, of course, many times and better.

What has taken me quite by surprise is the way that this culture has wormed its way into surprising places.  My own profession, which at its best is concerned with one of the highest forms of art, is governed by a body that is only interested in a measured standard of practice. It takes annual fees from architects which are then used to pursue the same architects on the basis of complaints from “consumers” however spurious. Inevitably results and convictions are what is important, so the body focuses on the small and sole practioners rather than the big boys who are better able to defend themselves. The results of successful prosecutions are then gleefully posted in press releases in order to put the wind up the lone architect. All of this has a deadening and negative effect on the real work of designing buildings. When you are called up to face a tribunal only one is an architect. The chief executive is not an architect and we wonder how this has all happened.  So from the top down we are not concerned or motivated to produce architecture that inspires thrills and delights but to devote ourselves to ticking boxes and covering our backs and if there is time or energy left over, then and only then can we think about design.  It is all very very depressing.

The obsession with quantifiable results is fearsome and not only does it stifle creativity but it ditches ideals and principles. So we no longer speak of good but better, fairer rather than fair, more just rather than simply just. Crime and justice are managed so it is question of keeping the lid on things, reducing figures is what matters and seldom is there time to consider what actually might be the cause of it all.  Drugs policy is about reducing harm not about what the problem really is. A health and safety policy is successful if it can bring down accident figures. I heard a health and safety officer declare that his aim was to reduce fatalities on building sites by a significant degree. “There are still too many needless deaths” he said.  The aim to avoid any death wasn’t itself seen as an aim. Economic policy is about management, so that David Cameron advice, to us all, some time back,  “to pay off your credit card loans” – the good common sense advice that my granny would have taught me, was stifled before it was actually said. It was important that people pursued debt to keep the high streets turning over and the so the economy is managed.  The same influence is found in politics where party managers and spin doctors ditch idealism and visions in the drive towards a safe harmonious superficial unity, so that, in the end, the parties resemble each other.   It was something that saddened Tony Benn.

What is really astonishing is the way that this culture has wormed its way into the one institution, the one body which should not be following the rest but be a shining light in the darkness and confusion, which should be a haven for the oppressed, the lonely the hurt, which should be speaking courageously with a prophetic voice to the nations, the one body which should not be managed – the Church of Jesus Christ.  And yet that seems to be what is happening.  Congregations become consumers of religion and pastors service providers with job descriptions.  Stipends that historic term that beautifully defines the way a minister is to be supported becomes salaries and the church simply becomes just another modernist machine with stated aims and objectives, standards and values with just as much box ticking and watching the back as in any other field. How did this happen?

A medic friend suggested to me that it was like this: The benefits that were brought to society by Christianity who pioneered them, such as in health, education and welfare, in institutions which were subsequently handed over to the civil authority, lost their Christian base, their grounding reason for being and the only thing to fill that vacuum was a pursuit of a humanist atheistic mechanistic agenda with measureable goals. It is a scary analysis. It is scarier still if the church itself is in danger of being consumed by the same Managementarianism.

Crawford Mackenzie

It works, don’t fix it

I don’t know what it is about me (honestly, I don’t try it) but I seem to be perpetually swimming against the tide. Just when everyone seems to be leaning, swaying and swinging towards a yes vote I am becoming less and less convinced.

I was so looking forward to this debate, but it has been such a dreadful disappointment. I hate the slick TV commercials, I hate the promise of Nirvana that no one can believe in. I hate the dreadful warnings and the threats. I hate the celebrity endorsements.  Really, we don’t need to know how musicians, TV cooks   and dancers chose to vote. We can make up our own minds. But what we do need is leadership and of a kind that we have, so far, not seen.

Somehow I naively believed that out of it all would come some clear leadership, some visionary, some prophet, someone who would grab the attention of the people and fire their imagination, someone who would point a way beyond petty kale yard parochialism to a hitherto unseen horizon, a Vaclav Havel, a Jomo Kenyatta, a Mahatma Ghandi a Nelson Mandela an Aung San Suu Kyi. But no one we have, comes anywhere near the stature of these people. Inevitably it has become little more than a playground scrap following the same old predictable lines and no one seems to be able to rise above it. Some like Jim Sillars and Gordon Brown make an effort and hint at what could be, but others have let it slide into a grubby political game promising a paradise, issuing threats and knocking chunks off each other. When people like Nicola Sturgeon says “we have everything to play for” we know it is as a game.  The scary thing is that it is not a game.

So, while they are unlikely to listen, this is what I have to say.

To the Yes side: “Forget about politics and economics, monetary policy security, child care, the just and fair society that we all want etc etc.  You know and we know that it might not be possible to deliver on any of these. There are no guarantees. You might not be in power to do it. Focus on nationhood, inspire us, make us believe in it, and don’t promise anything, other than that it’s going to be hard. That was what Wallace (aka Mel) and Churchill did. Whatever you do, don’t give us sweeteners. We are not fools and we see through all of that as we have done before. Promises of a better world, simply by putting a cross in the right place never convinced anyone. But if I heard a speech that said “it’s going to be pretty tough, the economy might not go well for some time, it will takes us several years to sort all the things out and get it right, we may have difficulty working out who are our friends, It will take a lot of patience, you might find yourself worse off for some years and frustrated with us because we can’t do it all at once but… but, and here’s the thing,  it will be worth it.” Then I just might just be convinced.

To the no side: “Don’t say anything. Everything you have said, so far, has backfired spectacularly.  You don’t have to argue for the status quo. People know what it is. The other side need to do the explaining. It’s not perfect, it’s not all good, there are lots of flaws but it works, don’t fix it.

Crawford Mackenzie

The Great Divide

In a recent article in Scottish Review1, Gary Hasson powerfully opens a lid on what is possibly the biggest problem threatening our society, yet is hardly ever spoken about. It is the festering wound and the major source of division in contemporary Scotland. It is the elephant in the room, the war we mustn’t talk about, the brother we never had.  It is starkly illustrated by the sharp difference between life in the peripheral housing schemes and the leafy west ends of our cities. Yet it is possible to live out your life without ever noticing it. Maybe you have to be in a prison waiting room, be searched and have your arm stamped or live in a burned out close which has become a shooting gallery, or see a gang fight explode at close quarters, or be routinely insulted and humiliated by some wearied official behind a grill, or just had to learn to accept tenth rate service from medics, educationists, and councillors just because they can get away with it.   It sounds like something that every politician should be agitating for but I do not believe it is within the gift of politicians to fix even there was the will. I don’t believe it is to do with money or a solution could be bought. I don’t think the psychology and sociology and educational theorists have the whole answer either. Neither Darwin, nor Marx nor Freud,  “Three most crashing bores of the Western world” 2come anywhere near. The problem lies much deeper. On one side is the arrogance, greed, pride and indifference or simply obliviousness of those who have the power the wealth and the wit to be sorted, on the other an almost total lack of self-esteem, self-worth and self-respect of those on the other side of the tracks. Apart from the odd outburst, the odd riot, the odd march, there is a resigned acceptance that this is just the way it is. It all became very clear to me early on in my work with the Mains of Fintry Urban Ministry Trust and it is not new. Nick Davies wrote about it in 1997 “Dark Heart, the shocking truth about hidden Britain”3. The book was, and is, a desperately depressing insight into the underbelly of urban life in the late 20c, but he was simply an investigative journalist and had no real answer.  The crippling lack of self-worth and the sense of being trapped with no way out is deeply ingrained in the psyche. It is reinforced with every attempt by those with the resources, time, skill and money to help. “You are only helping because you can and we can’t”  Even the acknowledgement of gifts, the positive strokes, the affirming comments are taken as yet another nail in the coffin “You are only saying that to make us think we are good when we know and you know we are rubbish”  It is seen as yet another patronising put-down.  Our Kosovar friend made an interesting comment on this. When volunteers and NCO’s came to her country to help rebuild the nation, after the war, they were treated with disdain and suspicion.  “They must have done something really bad to be sent to a dump like this” was what they said.  It was only later that she saw the thing differently.

So what is the answer?

I have only one: one solution, one way, one truth, one life- Jesus. If God was prepared to become one of us and go through unbelievable pain and suffering and die for me then I must be worth it and that changes everything.

But it is also not just a theory. I have seen it happen. I have seen people find God and become Christians and find their lives being transformed. They were no longer cowed and subservient but, without turning their back on the traditions, families and cultures, they stood tall with dignity. I have seen it in both individuals and in communities in the east end of Glasgow, in the north end of Dundee, in the pueblos Jovenes in Lima and in the Quechan communities in the Sierra of Peru. It was something that even an atheist like Matthew Parris recognised, after visiting Africa in 2008 “Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good…..The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world, a directness in their dealings with others – that seemed to be missing in traditional African life”. 4

So, for me, the hope for our nation does not lie with politicians, civil servants and the ruling classes, nor with the educationalists, sociologists and social scientists, nor with the economists, entrepreneurs and  traders in money, nor  with the artists, poets, musicians and architects, nor with the entertainers, celebrities and comedians but, strangely as it may seem, with the humble preacher, who faithfully and carefully studies the bible and brings out its truth and majesty in words that people can understand.  In this simple act the whole of life, for the individual and the community, can be transformed and the great divide breached.

Crawford Mackenzie


2              William Golding: Marx, Darwin and Freud are the three most crashing bores of the Western World. Simplistic popularization of their ideas has thrust our world into a mental straitjacket from which we can only escape by the most anarchic violence.”

3              Nick Davies: Dark Heart, the shocking truth about hidden Britain, 1997, Vantage



I have always thought that independence was an honourable aspiration and something to celebrate when it was achieved. I remember, as a boy, sensing the excitement and interest when Ghana achieved independence from colonial rule in 1957, the first sub Saharan country to do so. Others followed. Zambia became independent in 1964 and while I remember little of that event, was able to visit that amazing country in 1985 and later in 2010. Despite many intractable problems there was still a real sense of celebration and pride that they had finally broken the chains of their colonial masters.  Last year I visited friends in Slovakia and when language allowed, asked how they felt about their break up with the Czech Republic.  The overwhelming view was that, while the economic difficulties were grave, still it was a good thing. “We are able to be friends again” said one.

So when it came to considering independence, I warmed to the idea.  I wanted to believe in it and I still do. There seems something good about being grown up, being able to stand on our own feet and more importantly take responsibility for our own decisions and actions and stop whinging and blaming someone else for our ills. But Scotland is not Ghana nor Zambia nor Slovakia. It isn’t Norway nor is it East Timor.  England has not colonised Scotland, we speak the same language, our families, friends, business, professions, scientists, academics, musicians and poets crisscross the border. Our histories are intertwined. Scotland’s golden period followed the union of the crowns and only in the past century have we begun to feel the poorer partner. The union seems to have been good for us.   And when it comes to emotion and passion, the things that seem to matter most are football, “bank” holidays, “For sale” signs which turns homes into commodities, using “shall” instead of “will”  and the south easterly bias of the weather reports.

What has finally disillusioned me and cooled my enthusiasm is the way the debate has been conducted over the past year. I have become less and less convinced that the leadership of the “Yes” campaign actually believe in it themselves. There has been an astonishing loss of nerve. Real conviction seems in short supply. There has been so much back tracking so many questions fluffed and unanswered. I am almost coming to believe in the perverse notion that the aim of the campaign is to be deliberately muddled and confused so that people vote against it and some semblance of pride can be retained.  They will be able to breathe a sigh of relief. “At least we tried” they will say. Like David Cameron’s very palpable sigh of relief when the commons voted against intervention in Syria

The most confusion, however, surrounds the word itself.  Politicians and pressure groups know how to reinterpret words to their own advantage so that it can mean something different from what you thought it did.  I thought I knew what marriage meant. Now I don’t. I thought being independent meant being in total charge of your own affairs. Now it seems to mean being dependant on another country, sharing a currency and a bank of last resort, being subject to a monarch of another country, submitting to a military authority based on the use of nuclear weapons and being subservient to the multinational giants who will always dictate the terms. It doesn’t look like independence. It looks like being fully dependant in all but name. It is like being an adult but still living at home with your parents on call, ready to lift and drop you, pick you up, dust you down and bail you out when you are in trouble. That is not independence so I think I will vote “No”

Crawford Mackenzie

Carers, Wasters and Losers

Lessons from the elephant herd


We were travelling the short distance form the ferry which had taken us across the Zambezi from Zambia on our way to the game park in Botswana, when our driver and guide suddenly brought the Landrover to a stop.  He had spotted a lone elephant at the side of the road and swung the vehicle as near as he could without startling the animal.  He need not have bothered. The elephant was fully absorbed in the business of grazing on the grass and small trees and quite unconcerned at his audience of wild life enthusiast leaning out of their seats in the high Landrover with hats, sunglasses and cameras clicking.  “This is an adult male” said our guide and he went to explain how, in common with other wild animals there were three groupings: the first group, the breeding herd, which consisted of the young , females and one significant male, the second group which he termed the “bachelor herd” which was made up of males who were kicked out of the breeding herd at puberty, and the third group which was not a group as such but consisted of the males who did not fit in or were kicked out of the “bachelor group” and who wandered on their own through the bush.  We watched this lonely looking creature with his dusty skin and deep sad eyes pull and munch at the long grass for some time. “This is a lone male” said our guide “He is a loser!”

The rest of the day was spent exploring the game reserve with many close encounters with, kudus, impalas warthogs, water buffalo, elegant antelopes, sinister crocodiles, sad hippos, numerous brightly coloured birds, majestic giraffes and the purposeful elephant breeding herd making their way through the bush in well remembered tracks.  What could not leave my mind was the thought of how the three groupings seem to mirror groupings that exist in society, and  in some measure, in the church. Here was a fascinating insight into clearly defined and differing roles.

We have the “Carers”, the breeding herd,  who are by far the largest and most influential group.  Their principal concern is with the care, protection and nurture of the young.  This demands the greatest priority, resources, time and money. This is necessarily so, as this group protects the future of the species.  The first responsibility of any grouping is just that, the care, protection and nurture of those who will come on after to continue the line.  Within the organisation of the church this is the dominant theme; children, young people and families.

Inevitably this means that there are those who do not fit in to this programme. They have no particular skill to offer and no emotional pull or burden to allow them to participate in this work. These are the “Wasters”.  They may not be described as such, or even spoken of as such, but deep within the psyche is a feeling that, as they don’t have a role with caring, they are in some senses irrelevant.  Perhaps they can find some non caring function on the edge of things but that only reinforces the feeling that they are on the outside.  The result is that they find their home and their fulfilment with the “ Bachelor herd” in sports activities, drinking, and work particularly in the heavy industries ,the miners and shipbuilders of previous years, trade unions and the armed forces. Here they find a common bond and a very deep loyalty to each other. Jackie Bird’s diary of her time with Scottish troops in Camp Bastion illustrates this very clearly. She spoke of the fierce loyalty that the troops had, not for their country, nor for their commander but to each other. In the past these would have been the ones who created the wealth, protected and defended, came to the rescue in disasters and emergencies and often with bare hands and physical strength brought the supplies, made the repairs, restored the peace. In a time of relative ease and calm, when military adventures are despised and when heavy industries have been degraded, their role is diminished. In the church it is almost non-existent.

Despite their complimentary and co dependant roles the carers and the wasters regard each other with a degree of mutual disdain. But there is another group the “Losers” who don’t fit with either “Breeding herd” or the “Bachelor herd”.  They are not club people have no affinity either with the macho world of sport, machines and militarism (usually of men) or with the homely world of the “Carers” . They wander through life on their own. They may have partners and families and they make take part in activities but that is not where there soul lies.  It is in the other world of solitude, of ideas, of beyond.  The “Carers” pity them and think they are lonely. The “Wasters” despise them and think them pathetic. Strangely they may not actually be unhappy and the sad look in their faces often belies a stout contentment.  They wander around on the fringe of society and while not strangers to the church, never seem to have found their potential there and sit on the edge

In our 21st century western smugness, it is easy to be lulled into an illusory sense that we have reached a plateau of civilisation and progress where we no longer need armies or miners or shipbuilders and that the “Wasters” should be given some soft toys to play with, fight with paintballs and vent off steam running naked through the woods. There is no place for the “Wasters” here.

It is also very easy to be lulled into a false sense of security and belief that things will go on just as they have done before.  The worst disasters happen elsewhere and are eventually tamed by television.  Even the most complicate international event will be explained once John Simpson gets to the scene. In this illusory world secured by health and safety, glossed by celebrity and covered by insurance, there is no place for a prophet of doom or a prophet of any kind for that matter. We know the future and there is no role for someone who sees over the hill and round the bend. There is no place for the “Losers”  here.

But the point is that in a healthy society each must have a part to play and in the Church every individual has a gift to bring to the work of the kingdom. Without the “Carers” there will be no future generation.  Without the “Wasters “there will be nothing left after the marauders, bullies and earthquakes have had their way. Without the “Losers” there would be no vision and where there is no vision the people perish.

Crawford Mackenzie