Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Tuesday 3 July 2007

National characteristics - some thoughts

I'm not exactly about to leap on the bandwagon that seems to have swept through Scottish 'bloggerdom' in the past few days as a result of the sterling action of a gentleman by the name of John Smeaton when confronted with something that he thought completely unacceptable at Glasgow Airport over the weekend; in interviews afterwards he explained pretty lucidly (click on video link), in authentic Glesgae vernacular, just what thoughts were running through his mind, followed by the quick decision that he and others present were not about to stand by and do nothing and that they had to take direct action to help defuse the situation.

Bellegrovebelle has summarised her assessment of what happened by comparing the immediate reactions to terrorism in New York, London and Glasgow. In fact, though, these differences of 'national attitudes' go back a very long way, if one looks at the mottos associated with various nations:

- USA: (National motto) "In God we Trust"
- England: (Order of the Garter) "Honi soit qui mal y pense" (Shamed be the person who thinks evil of it) and (Royal motto) "Dieu et mon Droit" (God and my right)
- Scotland: (Royal motto) "Nemo me impune lacessit" (No one wounds me with impunity).

Most national mottos try to encompass lofty aspirations, although the former Austrian motto (AEIOU) leaves a cold and sinister feeling in the pit of my stomach, so it is perhaps no surprise that one of its most famous sons evokes a similar reaction in me.

Alone of all national mottos (with the possible exception, in some ways, of the Portuguese Azores islands), the Scottish attitude can be summarised as being pretty peaceful, unless and until we feel ourselves threatened - but anyone who infringes on what we see as our interests had better watch out. Generally I think it is a pretty good attitude, except that it can be (and appear to others as) merely a sign that we are occasionally rather too beligerent for our own good - the perceived 'dourness' of some Scots can mix alarmingly with a Celtic emotionalism; the yin and yang of our national psyche.

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