• The Minstrel

Folk Philosophy: Flower of Scotland

When I make the decision to write a piece of music, it always comes half spontaneously. Before the decision is made, I find myself exploring a lot of topics. Usually these topics cover history, psychology and philosophy of culture, and music theory. The ideas I explore usually come across to myself as simple curiosity, then I make the song to develop a better understanding of the explored topics.


A quick example of this is "Once Flagellant," where I start to explore the idea of "What happens when a person voluntarily suffers in pursuit of God?" (Hint, the Flagellant is also the Old Man in "The Monument")


Usually, I stop at the song, and am usually content with that. With something as seemingly simple as Flower of Scotland, I can't just stop at the song, because there's a lot of information packed into those 2 minutes and 26 seconds of notes.


I've been playing bagpipes since I was 7. I was a part of The Fraser Pipe Band in Regina, Saskatchewan (disbanded around 2010 i believe.) It was a highly competitive setting, where everyone was practicing to take 1st place at the highland games which we toured.


These highland games were well beyond just bagpipes bands competing. There were competitions on the individual basis (just the piper, or just the drummer) yet also Highland Dancing, Cabre Tossing, and even medieval swordfighting.


It was like a highly competitive Renaissance Fair without it literally being one.


What made it that way was the immense amount of cultural pride that hovered over the setting. I say cultural pride and not Scottish pride for a few reasons: First, not everyone there had Scottish genes, but still got to enjoy the culture as if it was their's. Second, if you look at Scottish History, the only way for that culture to have survived was to leave Scotland. Allow me to elaborate.


There are 3 instances in Scottish History that play out similarly: William Wallace's uprising, Robert the Bruce's uprising (The original Flower of Scotland is based off this) and the Jacobite uprising (I based my cover off this.)


Without getting into the details of each uprising, they generally played out like this:


1) The English invade and attempt to take away their land/culture


2) Someone stands up against this in the name of Scottish Pride (see also: nationalism)


3) The Scots (usually) get their asses handed to them, and are forced to assimilate in some way.


So when Roy Williamson of The Corries wrote Flower of Scotland in 1967 (seems like an older tune than that,) he drew from Robert the Bruce's uprising. The English takeover at that time came with a conquering of the land, and a huge upheaval of the rules and culture. Robert the Bruce, the Last King of Scotland, gathered the clans, fought "Proud Edward's army, and sent him homeward to think again"


If you look more into though, they won the battle, but lost the war. The lyrics to Flower of Scotland show this. Though they sent Edward home, they wonder when they'll see Scotland again (by going back to the first verse for the fourth) The Flower of Scotland acts as a representation of the old ways before King Edward forced change.


The Jacobite uprising is where I've focused my bits of research. This uprising came in the wake of the Glorious Revolution (Great Britain's dismantling of the Monarchy system) where cultural shifts were taking place. It appears to me that the breaking point that started this was the attempt by the British to ban the use of clan Tartans (because it promotes Tribalism.) But then the clans formed together to fight over whether Tartans should stay or go (among other cultural choices.)


As much as I'm proud of my heritage, the Jacobite response looks to me like a reactionary movement. This makes sense, against my apparently juxtaposed personal beliefs, because its a counter response to the revolution. Despite their losses, Scottish Culture is still alive today, all over the world. So what does this really mean then?


To me, when something doesn't go away, it means there's a truth that has yet to be discovered or acknowledged.


It leads me to think that people strongly tie culture to land. That's obvious, but what not so obvious is that they're not tied at all physically, only symbolically.


Scotland today does not reflect its fantastical culture. It only acts as the central hub of Scottish Culture. It does this simply by hosting the World Bagpipe Championship.


While the World Bagpipe Championship is the worldwide celebration of Scottish Culture, smaller competitions and celebrations are held all over the world at whatever times they get organized.


So, what's my point? The meaning of Flower of Scotland is "You can take the land, but you can't kill the culture."


There have been 3 distinct points in history where by all means Scottish Culture should have been wiped out, but didn't. If something doesn't die, then there's still some inherent truth within the culture that can't die.


So what's that inherent truth?


I speculate that truth to be that there's something more to the Scottish Clan system than what we've originally looked at.


I think it has to do with the average person's ability to get in direct contact with the highest powers.


Now this kind of thing leaves the realm of Scottish Culture and expands into what I'll call Folk Culture.


We start off with an individual. This individual has a role within their community based off a mixture of their interests/passions and their contributable skills. This role has important synergistic function within the community. Depending on the location of that community, the community works towards a bigger task. This could range from collecting a resource to manufacturing equipment.


That community, like the individual, share certain interests/passions and contributable skills. The community role has important synergistic function to the communities surrounding it: The Clan.


The Clan is a group of communities that share certain interests/passions and contributable skills. The Clan's role has important synergistic function to the clans surrounding it...


Do you see the pattern?


This allows for a person to communicate an idea to the highest powers while also testing it on an incrementally larger scale.



Example: Buddy gets an awesome idea to make change. He takes it up with the village leader, who also agrees it's a good idea worth trying out. So the community tries out the idea for change. If it doesn't hold, then things go back, and the idea dies. If it sticks, it goes to the next threshold which The Clan. After all, they're working on similar things.


If the idea doesn't hold on this level, then it could continue to be contained within the single community, or perhaps a few communities. I'm going with a few communities in this example. If the idea was really that bad, then it will reflect in the health of the community. If it's bad enough, the community will die. The remaining people will scatter to other communities to warn of what a bad idea it was, and find new residency. Some people might try and convince others that it wasn't such a bad idea, or that it wasn't properly implemented. Adjustments could be attempted in neighboring communities that adopted the idea and are also showing poor communal health. And, like the original community, if it doesn't hold then the community will die if it doesn't revert back a couple steps.


If the idea doesn't fail on the Clan level, then it spreads throughout the clans for its final filter. The effects of this would play out pretty similarly too. If the idea is bad, then a single Clan will fall to it, and the rest of the clans should not adopt the idea.


That sounds pretty ideal to me, doesn't it? Of course, human nature isn't quite so idealistic. On all levels, there's egotism. An individual thinks he can lead better than their current leader. A clan gets all hyped up in their pride and attempts to take extra territory. The reasons for those have their own levels of complexity that are generally rooted psychologically.


So where am I going with this? Well, to me, society is looking like it might fall apart. If it does, I'd rather not be scrambling for new ideas to try. I think it would be worth it to tweak an already existing system, that somehow didn't die.


I'd call it Feudalism 2: The Boogaloo


I'm kidding, I'd call it The Feudal Cell System.


Because really, at it's essence, the idea is quite analogous to a biological cell. If we tweak our human societal systems to be a little more like nature, we might have some extraordinary results.


Not bad for 2.5 minutes of music!


But what do I know, I'm just an auto body technician who makes music and thinks too much, right?

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