Heritage

Mollie gave me Rory Stewart's book The Marches as part of my Christmas present, a travel book based on his relationship with his father and the land on either side of the Scottish border. Both of them had been in the army, in Scottish regiments, and both had served as foreign diplomats. The world he describes is very unfamiliar and occasionally off putting in its antiquity and stuffiness. But he sees this too and so far the book has been about him balancing this world of heritage and tradition with "the real world" that he knows they both now live in.

It made me think, again, about my own Scottishness. I come from a lowland heritage rather than Highland and therefore am more English than truly Scottish if, as I do, you consider the real Scotland to start above The Highland Line. I have lived more than half my life in the London area having moved down here in 1984. I also spend a lot to my time with people from all around the world and, although I feel very connected to the wonderful landscape here in The Chilterns, I am not involved in many things socially local to where we live. I sometimes even go so far to say that I don't think of myself as Scottish any more. I am where I am, I talk to the people I talk to, and identifying myself with tribes, whether online or off, feels increasingly alien.

But who am I? We define ourselves through our relationships, our sense of self coming from those we pass time with, our opportunities are steered by those we connect with most. However much time I spend traveling or online I am still a citizen of Britain, subject to its laws and norms. On a good day, and despite Brexit, I think there are many characteristics of those who live in these islands that are to be celebrated and shared.

But if I identify too much with the tribe, if I conform too much to its societal norms, then I stop thinking for myself, I become a passive pawn, I become too easily manipulable. Working out the balance between the individual and the group, the cells and the network, me and the world around me, takes constant work and matters more and more.