You could be forgiven for thinking that we are living a political groundhog day. Elections and referendums come thick and fast and leave us all wondering a) what’s changed and b) what’s happening. And the media ‘spin’ has become a constant till it becomes difficult to know who, or what, to believe. Leatham has an explanation for this:
All the organs of public opinion – press, Parliament, radio, pulpit, are in the hands of careerists who support the established order.
It was to counter such dominance that Leatham set up The Gateway in 1912. His ‘propaganda’ press – maintained by himself without advertising or financial input stands as a testament to his beliefs. It is interesting to note that this month as Leatham’s autobiography was published for the first time (surely something of an ‘event’) not one of the mainstream national papers was interested in a free review copy or found Leatham and his life/work worthy of a feature or article. Apart from the Press & Journal (who made it Book of the Week) ‘60 years of World-Mending’ is still more or less invisible. That, I believe, tells us a lot about the reality of our so called open, democratic interweb world. Social media adopts and reflects the same patterns as ‘traditional’ media and politics organisations and one should not for a minute believe that they do anything else than ‘support the established order.’ Yes we can all comment to our hearts content, but to see social media as more than a tower of babel is to imagine that mainstream media or politics has a social conscience. It’s a pay to play world I’m afraid, and one in which disseminating for free is an act of resistance which goes overlooked by the majority. For most, free speech is a wasted gift and the commercialised view of ‘product’ means that people act more like sheep than discerning individuals. Maybe sheep is not the right analogy – too many people these days devour culture, politics and information like goats – omnivorously without much discrimination. And certainly very little thought. Of course if you are still reading this, you are probably not a goat or a sheep – but it’s worth reflecting on the passivity of our cultural (and political) consumption and what the consequences of this may be today and in the future.
This month (as always) we certainly aim to give you something to think about at Gateway. What you choose to do with your thoughts is up to you – we just encourage you to think for yourself and make your own choices with a healthy disrespect for what you are being told by those with agendas that may conflict with your own.
It is a hundred years this month since James Leatham moved to Turriff and established The Deveron Press. This month’s articles deal with politics and culture in a variety of ways that still have something to offer to us today – if only to throw down a challenge against what we believe to know to be true.
In If I were a Dictator Leatham discusses 10 principles of Social Reconstruction. These include his thoughts on railways, agriculture and trade. It’s fair to say Leatham wasn’t in favour of what we now call ‘Free Trade’. I wonder what his views on the EU would be? It’s worth reading this piece to gain insight into quite how much has changed on a social level over the last century.
In The Place of the Novel Leatham is similarly provocative. I admit, I struggle with his notions of ‘high literature’ – finding it difficult to square this with his wider political principles. However, one has to remember that context is everything. If, instead of ‘novels’ one thinks of reality TV or Twitter or Action Movies, then it becomes easier to see that however egalitarian one wants to be, there is still some division between cultural experiences which offer something positive and those which are simply ‘bread and circuses.’
Reading Leatham is not about always agreeing with Leatham, it’s about challenging both him and oneself -especially onself – to gain deeper understanding of our country as it is now and as it used to be – and how one became the other.
The Orraman gives us his first pass at ‘Digging up the Kailyard.’ These are weed infested fields culturally and hopefully his comments will at least open the mind to the story behind the story – always reminding us that culture is always a political (and commercial) battleground.
A bit of light relief is offered in ‘The Smuggler of the Clone’ short story. I’m not sure whether Leatham would have approved of this story, but in the new Gateway he can’t be expected to have it all his own way every month.
And finally, for those who are interested in the detail (wherein lurks the devil of course) we have posted the index of Gateway from 100 years ago. I am working my way through a complete indexing of the 30 volumes. Each month throws up more nuggets, reminding me both of the value of the job I’m doing, and the hugeness of the task.
Rab Christie, Editor
To find past articles please use monthly archives.