Apparently we have launched a dialogue! Outstanding because we love to talk! From the looks of it, we have quite a bit of talking yet to do to convince some of our Scottish brothers and sisters that we are just people of Scottish ancestry who enjoy knowing where we came from and at least the Scottish part of who we are. Just.Like.Them. We all have different stories to tell, but when it comes to that undeniable system of ancestral markers called DNA, we tend to have more similarities than differences in our makeup with Scots in Scotland.
Scottish blogger Phoenix45.org has offered up a really wonderful example of why the Scottish Ancestral Diaspora has some work to do if we would like Scotland to understand who we are instead of who they think we are. As we often remind people, Scotland is where the hard evidence of our pre-emigration Scottish heritage lies. Scots in Scotland have jurisdiction over the maintenance, use and ultimate fate of those historical assets. If Scots in Scotland do not value their history and heritage – indeed if they actually run and hide from it – they are not likely to prioritize preservation to the extent that we who no longer live in Scotland would like.
So what does Phoenix45 tell us. First, we need to understand that he speaks from a very strongly held political perspective and pursues a clear agenda in line with that perspective. He may be biased and unfair in his writing or not. On the subject of the Scottish Ancestral Diaspora and the Scottish clan and family tradition and history Phoenix seems to be just really poorly informed.
By way of explaining the title of his work Phoenix states “Now I called the organisation (COSCA) the Scottish Feudal Council for a reason; the ‘heritage’ which this organisation wishes to preserve is one of a fundamentally feudal nature. It is the relationship between clan chief and clan. They view this relationship through tartan tinted glasses as one which is benign, however the history is somewhat different …”
It is already obvious where Phoenix is headed with this. Scottish heritage is not “fundamentally feudal” for goodness sakes. True for some 80 – 100 years during the latter part of the 18th Century and almost the entire 19th Century, many Scottish people were first removed from traditional family lands to other locations more convenient for Scottish landlords and then eventually many were actually ‘cleared’ off the land, homes and possessions burned. Many of these victims of clearance and removal eventually made their way, some voluntarily and some not to North American, Australia and other places around the globe. Pnoenix45 sees feudal fingerprints underpinning that period of suffering and condemns today’s celebration of Scottish heritage for refusing to understand the realities of the clearances. My oh my Phoenix45, the Scottish Ancestral Diaspora understands what their ancestors suffered.
The influence of feudal ideas of land ownership on the ancient Scottish clan and family system enabled much of what occured during the highland clearances yet it certainly does not fully explain why or how the clearances occurred. Despite the existence of many centuries of Scottish clan and family history and heritage that preceded the infection of the Dualchais by a weaponized form of feudalism, and despite the deep and subtle conplexities in the history of Scotland’s highlands, islands, borders and lowlands, Phoenix seeks to define an entire culture, heritage and history by a tiny slice of experience during the corrupted final fall of an ancient indigenous system. It’s all he knows.
Scottish Americans are so much more than children of the clearances. Indeed the vast majority of Scottish emigrants were not cleared or otherwise involuntarily conveyed to the New World at all. Most Scottish emigrants came to America and British North America by their own choice. Once again, the reasons that they left Scotland, the reasons they chose to head west and not east or south as their ancestors had done for centuries, the experiences of the emigrants when they landed in their new homes and began to build new nations and families of their own – all of this is part and parcel of Scots heritage. Phoenix45 recognizes none of it.
Today, through archaeology, aerial photography and other high tech scientific methods Scottish Americans can begin to understand themselves as Picts and Dalriadic Scots and Vikings, Romans and Anglo Saxons. All of this history and heritage preceded the feudal infection from the South. Yet Phoenix45 recognizes none of it.
The magnificent art and culture of the Lordship of the Isles and the beloved stories, music and tradition of the gaelic culture that found North Carolina, Georgia, Virginai an Tennessee so much like home and stayed to dominate those places even today – Phoenix45 recognizes none of that.
Clearly one could go on describing all that Scottish heritage is that people like Phoenix45 refuse to recognize. The point is, some, perhaps many in Scotland have a very narrow idea of what the Scottish Ancestral Diaspora is. Indeed, as Phoenix shows us, many Scots do not even understand the depth and breadth of their own Scottish heritage. Worse of all, many Scots have come to despise their heritage because the narrow thread of history that they have been shown reveals violence, deception, failure and dependence.
If all of modern forward thinking Scotland would join the Diaspora in an energetic embrace of Scottish heritage and culture, Scotland would see itself in a wholly different light – and a much better one at that!