It’s a completely Canadian thing to possess a perfectly formed alternative national identity that surfaces on occasion. It tends to emerge when there is a soccer tournament or some other international event happening that precipitates putting a small flag of another nation on your vehicle. It’s always a bit more complicated for those of us from the UK because the soccer teams of each nation within the kingdom united compete separately, except in the Olympics. The 2012 Great Britain olympic men’s soccer squad had no Scots or Northern Irish on it. It was pretty much a foreshadowing of the Brexit vote. They got clobbered as well.
I am continually pressed into service to explain the finer points of the UK and always get the feeling when I’m finished that whoever asked still doesn’t get it or their eyes glaze over when I say things like “…after the Act of Union of 1707…” . I’m never pissed off when somebody inevitably says “Scotland / Ireland, same thing” because in many ways they are the same thing. As a Scot I have always felt an affinity to Irish people in both the North and South. I wasn’t particularly surprised to find that according to my National Geographic DNA test result, which happened to arrive on Brexit referendum day, it seems I am genetically “Irish”. But I wont be flying the flags of either Ireland on my car though, I want little Iceland to win the Euro Cup. Watching them beat England this week was very satisfying somehow. Im not sure if that stems from something genetically based or simply my tendency to always root for the underdog.
A new level of complexity has been added to the dynamic now that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland have decided to leave the European Union by a margin of 2%, which is the same amount of my gene pool that is Finnish/Siberian. The evolving political story is going to keep Open Sources busy for the next few years. I can appreciate everyone has reached total Brexit saturation at this point but here’s a link to a great article about the situation by Laurie Penny of The New Statesman called “I Want My Country Back”. If you’ve had enough yet still have room for one more article, make it this one:
According to her wiki, Penny is “an English columnist and author…of Irish, Jewish, and Maltese descent”. These descriptions are always without context because if I had a wiki and my genetic test results were part of the descriptor it would say “Scotty Hertz is a Canadian ne’er do well of Great Britain/Irish, Southern/Eastern European and Finnish/Siberian descent”. Granted this covers a range of 5-10 thousand years but Scotland and Canada are not mentioned. Every idiot racist who has surfaced from the Brexit morass should submit to a genetic test. Your DNA conclusively proves 100% of the time that nationalism is a completely artificial construct and racial purity is total nonsense.
In her article, Penny talks about the Welsh concept of “hiraeth” and how it played into how people voted in the Brexit referendum. This short word is used to describe a larger idea that many people possess a longing for a home they may never return to. It may be a place that never has actually existed; it’s more of a conceptual homeland. If it does exist, you will likely put their wee flag on your car. A slim majority of people are longing for a Britain that may have only existed in their minds, which seems to be a version Coronation Street minus all of the brown and black residents. No one over there believes me when I tell them that The Street is Canada’s top TV show. If it wasn’t for the advocacy of Toronto born Harry Elton, Coronation Street would never have happened.
A friend of mine refers to the Scottish version of hiraeth as Shortbread Tin culture. You see it in full view at any of the numerous Highland Games across the province all summer long in Ontario, where the image on a deluxe shortbread tin comes to life. The only place where that version is part of Scottish daily reality is on the Royal Mile tourist trap in Edinburgh. Highland games are for the most part a carnival size rendition of a souvenir shop. They are hiraeth come to life. I would love to start a Canadian Games and take it to Scotland. Events would include axe throwing, poutine eating and who can make the fastest Tim Hortons order. Everyone would wear their Joe Fresh lumberjack plaid or Hudson’s Bay blankets. It would never fly these days though; with the mighty pound sterling becoming ever worthless by the day, no one could afford the overpriced mountie dolls or moose slippers on offer. A day at the Canadian Games would be like being stranded at a Pearson Airport gift shop, minus the axe throwing of course.
People ask me all of the time what my tartan is and truth be told I don’t really have one. My family picked “Lindsay” as it’s a family name but it’s not my last name. It has no deep ethnic significance to me. I don’t cry at the sight of it nor am I willing to kill somebody that may have disparaged it or my people. For £70, anyone can apply to have a tartan deemed “official” that they have created. I’d be just as content wearing the Guelph tartan, or the Scott’s Porage Oats tartan, or Singh, or the newly registered one for Scottish Jews. MSP Humza Yousaf of the Scottish National Party said his oath of allegiance in English and in Urdu at his Scottish Parliament swearing in, while wearing a snazzy kilt made of the Islamic Tartan. That moment is a microcosm of how I see Scotland as a nation, the exact opposite of how a Britain First member sees it. It could also pass for a Canadian story if the locale was different.
I’m looking forward to being a citizen of an independent Scotland but not so I can dress up like a Braveheart extra, running around all gassed up on Tennents with a painted face and a random kilt yelling about freedom for the hell of it. Hopefully, a peaceful attempt at a united Ireland may occur and that’s not such a bad by-product of the fallout either, in my view. My hope is I will get to keep my European Passport and continue to move freely across the nations that are my genetic and ancestral homes. What hasn’t been addressed post Brexit is how Canada’s relationship with the “British” Monarchy will be affected. Perhaps Canada will end up footing an even larger share of Elizabeth Regina’s bill or providing exile for the Windsors if they do get run out of town. Keep some tea and biscuits on hand just in case. It’s going to get even messier.