The Early Days of a Better Nation

Thursday, February 07, 2008

From a typo, a horde of Amazons rampages through my head


We've all seen 'em on fantasy novel covers.


Ah, if only it were that simple.

I was sure that they were a women's rugby team....

And then of course there's the feared and respected tribe of the braburnians.

Steve, if you email me I can give you a drinking-time/place this weekend with a visiting BNF.

British National Front?

Those ones always frightened me: crushed pelvises and servile bondage never helped anyone for any significant length of time.

Sexy barbarians. The very thing for getting one or two big issues up front, and maintaining an appropriate cleavage between them without getting overly inflated.

This is not really a post about it, but I'm writing an integrative, multi-disciplinary paper on the economic, historic & political factors & effects of the Quebec Separatist Movement and I wanted to know if the Scottish Separatist Movement took any notice at all of the similar struggle overseas. I thought of you, first, Mr. MacLeod. =)

By chance, my word verification is "brmen".

Strictly speaking, amazons would have less need for bras, what with the surgery and all.

Back in my day, the parallel the SNP liked to bring up was, "if Norway can become a viable state independent of Sweden, with a smaller population and arguably worse resources (e.g. no coal in metropolitan Norway) than Scotland, what's so ridiculous about that for Scotland?" I don't see such a close parallel with Quebec, either with its natural endowments or with its internal politics or the nature of its association with the enclosing polity. Alberta or British Columbia, might be a closer match for the connections.

Well the reason I brought it up is because in my troll through the academic catalogues, I came accross a few serious Polisci papers which drew those parallels, and I was curious as to what Mr. MacLeod would have to say on the matter, as he has expressed himself on the matter of the move for scottish sovereignty a number of times.

Steven Alleyn - I think those in favour of Scottish independence tend to point to Scandinavia and the Baltic states as good examples of small countries making a go of it, and to Catalonia as a good example of what can be done within a devolution framework. The PQ, in as much as it comes up at all, is usually pointed to by opponents of independence and of Scottish nationalism, as an example of the sort of thing they urge the SNP not to do (or that they claim to fear it will do).

What kind of throws this is that there's nothing in Scottish society equivalent to the anglophone-francophone divide. So as far as I know, supporters of independence regard parallels to the Quebec situation as a red herring.

Ken - I'm not trying to be funny, and having spent several years in Belfast I know this is a touchy subject, but could there be certain parallels between the francophone/anglophone split in Quebec and the sectarian (catholic/protestant) divide in Scotland.

Feel free to delete this one if it's not appropriate.

Oddly enough, about 35 years ago I helped a Catalan journalist interview Donald Stewart for a Barcelona magazine. In those days, the senility of Francism, the Catalans were looking to learn from the SNP. Stewart was all about the Norwegian parallel, even at that date - remember that North Sea oil was just coming on stream - but never went near the Canadian example. Given the record of the PQ since then, I can't imagine his successors would look more kindly on them.

d.j.p., I've never been to or studied Quebec, but going by what I read in the papers I think the division there is a lot deeper than the Catholic/Protestant divide in Scotland. From afar at least, it sometimes seems deeper than the Catholic/Protestant divide in Ireland.

That's the best typo, ever.

LOL, the divide is a very relative thing in the province. I'm on the Island of Montreal, where no one really cares besides the hardliners. The problems start when you get further away from the cities. A few disreputable colleges aside, of course.

The thing is that because of the nature of the political situation there's a lot of shady stuff that's gone on, on either side of the issue; the result has been that in debates on the matter, anyone on either side can pull out a list of grievances as long as their arm.

But economically speaking, Scotland - at least it appears to me - is much more secure than Québec and a succesful separation would likely not be too devastating to the local economy. Most people in Québec understand that we aren't so lucky; we're so heavily dependent on trade with the RoC and the USA that the political instability alone would kill off struggling industries and force massive layoffs accross the board.

The economy would essentially go into the shitter and the city of Montreal would be forced to prop up, with Trois-Rivières and Québec City, the entire provincial economy. (Even Trois-Rivières rides dangerously close to the red in its trade-deficit)

I'm a pragmatist; some people oppose the Québec Sovereignty movement out of principle, I oppose it out of my desire for prosperity.

There are cultural quibbles aswell, but they're more of a smokescreen argument I use to frazzle the hardliners.

Here in Norway, we've decided this one go at independence was enough. We just exchanged incompetent, remote leaders for local incompetents.

We have now joined the EEC, which is equivalent to being an EU member, but without the burden of a right to vote. This puts our incompetent actual leaders at a distance, and so we feel less inclined and responsible for following the laws imposed upon us. Long-term, we are also hoping to join an even more remote christian-islamic Caliphate, preferrably run from New York.

Perhaps a key difference between the Quebec/Scotland analogy (and they are hardly twins separated at birth) is that Scotland is simultaneously devolving political power upwards to the European Caliphate, which numbs both the sting and the thrill of independence. NAFTA doesn't quite provide the same safety net. Blanket EU membership for the former bits (official term) of Yugoslavia would also give Kosovo an easier ride of independence - although you won't find many non-Albanian politicians pushing the argument.

On a slight tangent, does anyone know if there has been any Malthus-type theorising done on the 'natural' size of states? So, for example, if you dissolve the borders of the modern nation state within the enveloping waters of a regional power - the EU, in this case - does some sort of equilibrium based on population size, economic activity and output, geographical area etc emerge or try to assert itself? I'm partly thinking here of the claims that the old Ottoman map of the Middle East was a more natural (again that word) and manageable fit than those drawn up after WWI - Iraq being a prime example.

I have a feeling this may stray into the area of class sizes and collapsing empires. Is there an optimum size for a brabarian horde? Anyway, would appreciate any thoughts and pointers.

The optimum size for a brabarian horde is however many a man can handle, and is generally overestimated by an order of magnitudes rather than of numbers. One brabarian is usually more than sufficient.

As for natural sizes of states, doesn't that depend on communications technoogy as well? Aside from that,

let's leave it up to the brabarians to cut up the empires that have passed their peaks.

Ken, just wondering if your blogging and understanding of leftyblogland has influenced your work in anyway? Can we expect a reworking of the War of Kylie's Arse or other blog wars cropping up in a future novel?

Not lefty blogland as such, but my experiences on Usenet have left their mark, particularly on The Execution Channel (soon to be out in paperback).

edward, 'BNF' stands for 'Big Name Fan'.


Dalziel asks "does anyone know if there has been any Malthus-type theorising done on the 'natural' size of states?"

Well, Aristotle had something to say on the subject, basically asserting that you should be able to see pretty much all of it from the acropolis and at least be able to be acquainted with all its citizens. In his book on the Greeks, Kittow clarifies that by explaining how a Greek of that day and age would have reacted to anyone who tried to sell a megastate on its advantages of size. He compared it with what members of a private club would say on being told of the advantages of a mega-club federation in the way of gym facilities, etc.; "but then it wouldn't be a club any more".

Aristotle's views are not so much wrong today as answering a different question. We can extend them. Scotland's union with England makes sense as part of a spiritually larger whole, the ideals of an empire or of a British Commonwealth which tries to be spiritually larger still than just the sum of the parts - the sort of thing that links Scotland and parts of Canada even today, in a very real if intangible way. But when there is nothing to be gained that way, there isn't even any point to a single England or a single Scotland - if we assume that strategic considerations of defence or diplomatic/economic ones of a better bargaining position no longer outweigh the gains from customising polities.

This is where Malthus might come in; he recommended no avoidable interdependence that might be threatened by enemies or by natural events - and recall that the USSR deliberately created such interdependence to make political fission less viable. Even a united Britain became interdependent that way after 1846's Repeal of the Corn Laws, relying on ruling the waves and access to overseas resources and/or possessions. It lost even the support of a working and viable imperial structure betweeen 1939 and 1945, becoming dependent on the kindness of strangers for access to now-vital markets.

Without a tradition to carry forward or a need to band together, Aristotle's ideals start making more and more sense (adjusting the dimensions according to modern means, of course). A revived heptarchy; two Welsh principalities (north and south); Man and other of Her Majesty's peculiars; Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connaught; Strathclyde, Fife, Dalriada et al; these all make sense once there is no shared tradition and no externally imposed common destiny.

(BTW, I was the anon who first mentioned Norway above - I just forgot to fill in my personal details.)

Let's not forget the chain-mail bikini. General rule of thumb in fantasy is, 'the colder it is, the less you wear.'

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