Saturday, June 09, 2007

Scots whae hae: No targetting poor kids as cannon fodder

Teachers are supposed to educate their students. Part of that education is to teach students--particularly poor students--that they have more options than the power structure wants them to recognize. Escaping an educational culture that believed poor kids should be slotted into job tracks by the age of fourteen or fifteen is a good thing--but dying for an imperialist's dividends is not a good route.

Scotland's biggest teaching union has voted by a clear majority to call for a ban on the armed forces targeting recruitment campaigns at schools.
Part of freedom is the right to choose which causes and whose benefit you'll fight and die for. Sometimes the most courageous battle is the one that refuses combat, or helps others similarly refuse. Part of the job of the teacher is to educate students to make positive choices on behalf of good causes. Choosing under-armed, under-manned, poorly-equipped service on behalf of imperial profits is not one.

Supporters of the motion claimed the military was tackling a shortage of recruits by targeting impressionable teenagers in deprived areas...Supporters of the ban claimed the military targeted teenagers with t-shirts, pictures of helicopters and even Christmas cards from the recruiting officers.

Not Like Here, of course. No, certainly not.

A lot of my students wind up enlisting so they can pay for school. A lot more of my students have loved ones who've done the same. Military service is an honorable and noble profession. But those who enlist should be able to choose that path--not be forced into it absent other options, or to earn citizenship (the latter being usually an indicator that an empire is on its last legs). A universal draft may not be the answer, but I understand the political power of a gesture that says the burden of elective wars of greed should fall on all classes, not just the poor, marginal, or illegal.

Robert Burns, speaking in the voice of Robert Bruce, put it well. The explicit reference is to Bruce's speech before the Battle of Bannockburn (1314), but the metaphorical layers referenced much more recent (1793-4) Scottish Radical attempts at independence. Burns said the song was "inspired by Bruce's 'glorious struggle for Freedom, associated with the glowing ideas of some other struggles of the same nature, not quite so ancient.'"

Scots Whae Hae

'Who for Scotland's King and Law
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand or freeman fall,
Let him follow me!

'By oppression's woes and pains,
By your sons in servile chains,
We will drain our dearest veins
But they shall be free!

'Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty is in every blow!
Let us do or die!'

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