Yesterday, there was a painfully funny wee demonstration outside the City Chambers in George Square. It was by an organisation calling itself – and no joke folks – Scottish Protestants Against Discrimination.
Catchy name, and if it was Scottish Protestants actually protesting against discrimination in general I’d have been awed at their sense of civic duty and their astounding, perhaps even courageous, self-awareness. But of course, it wasn’t that at all.
These folks were protesting against what they perceive to be anti-Protestant discrimination in this city and in Scotland at large.
They are so much like the Trump supporters who believe that their country – which is ruled by a fat white bigot who looks and sounds just like many of them do – has been stolen from them that it makes you want to cry real tears.
Of laughter. At their complete lack of comprehension.
There was a time, not so long ago, when the Peepul had a swagger about them. When they marched in July with pride and a sense of their place in the world.
When I was in my twenties I used to take a spell every weekend of the big Glasgow Green march on the door at the Tolbooth Bar down at the Gallowgate; the atmosphere was always tense, but one year it got particularly ugly. So a group of the regulars had a sit-down and decided to take some of the sting out of the following one by throwing a beach party.
As so it was that as they went by that day the following year blasting out their songs of hate the pub was filled with people in sunglasses and Hawaiian shirts, singing The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love. It remains one of the best days I’ve ever had.
Because it was the day I realised that everything they believed in was ridiculous, and that’s how we’d made it look.
I always knew there would be a day when they would realise that it was ridiculous too. What I hadn’t counted on was how tightly they’d hang onto all of it anyway.
That handful of loons who stood outside the Chambers yesterday believes this stuff, the most paranoid and out there of all the conspiracy theories. That this country, this religious state dominated by their church, ruled by their monarch and who’s customs are constructed around their faith, has been captured by the “enemy within.”
Catholics. Muslims. Jews. Non-Protestants.
Forget that all those groups, all those, people only have “rights” here at all because Britain is only a very minor form of theocracy instead of a fundamentalist regime.
Yet Britishness itself is wound tightly up in notions of the crown and the church; it’s unacknowledged, but it is there.
The whole backlash against immigrants is partially rooted in a fear of Islam, and when people on this island spoke of the immigrant, in a historical context, they meant the Irish. And they meant Catholics, although that, too, is barely acknowledged now.
I don’t know who those guys were who were standing outside the Chambers yesterday shouting about their rights and the people they think are taking them away, but I do know there were no Celtic fans amongst them. I do suspect they follow a certain Glasgow club, but it isn’t us.
They are The Peepul after all, and that spells Sevco.
This stuff permeates their forums to a degree you have to see to believe. Follow Follow is a notorious breeding ground for this kind of lunacy. To be fair, there are a lot of their fans who know that lunacy is exactly what it is. But the idea has traction with more of their fans than is healthy for them.
And it is not receding, it is spreading.
One of the most effective campaigns that Celtic and its fans have ever embraced is the Glasgow’s Green And White one. It is stunningly effective in challenging the idea that this was ever a city with Ibrox at its centre. Not only is it an expression of our footballing supremacy, but of the Celtic family’s self-confidence and our central place in the power structures.
And that’s part of the problem for the Peepul.
Those goons who were outside the Chambers yesterday weren’t there because their own rights have been eroded; if you asked them they would not be able to give you a single example of how those rights have been eroded. They have not lost a single right they didn’t have ten years or twenty years ago. The difference is that we have a place at the top table now, and in some cases it’s our guys who are dominating the top table.
And they never expected that. Because they really do believe in this superiority of theirs, and so they perceive any power that isn’t their own as a threat. It means that the climate has turned against them, because how else could we assume any authority unless it had?
They are right of course; the world is changing and their stupid ideology is being driven back to the margins. Nobody outside their bubble cares about 17th century battlefields anymore. Scotland came within an ace of independence last time. Next time it will go the whole way, and that shatters the union from which all their authority comes in the first place.
Yet it is not the change to the cultural makeup of this country, and our strong position within it, or even the political situation going in a direction they don’t particularly like which has sparked their meltdown. That was prompted by what happened to their team.
In 2012, they saw something they never expected to see. They saw that their club, the monolith that had, in their eyes, dominated the game for decades, was teetering on the brink just a year after they believed a billionaire had bought it. And this was happening in front of a backdrop of Celtic sites telling them they were bleeding out and ready to go.
Worse followed. When their club was put into administration they expected Scottish society and the game itself to bail them out. When it became clear that the old certainties were done with and that the rest of the country was in no mood to help they realised that the miracle would have to come from within their own ranks. But that was okay, wasn’t it? Because surely the upper crust was just teeming with Real Rangers Men who would ride in to save the day?
Except nobody came.
And the closer they got to the edge of the abyss the more the realisation dawned that they really didn’t have the muscle they thought, or the wealthy friends. They realised that the state which they had worshiped was not sympathetic; worse, in fact, it was Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs which was holding the knife.
Their club slipped into the grave and nobody came.
The Real Rangers Men kept the money in their pockets as the ship went down, and even when it had sunk and all that was left was for someone to try and glue the broken pieces together it was a fly-by-night chancer named Green who came out of nowhere instead of “one of their own” who bought up the fragments and raised a club from them, with the Rangers name on it.
Evidence would later emerge which proved that he was a co-conspirator with Whyte, and in on the whole scam from the off, and it quickly became clear that he was a quick buck artist in and out for the money, filling his “big Yorkshire hands” with a fortune at their expense.
And all this had to be a conspiracy, right? This had to be a secret cabal working against them, a group of people dedicated to their overthrow, because the alternative was to understand that all their power had been illusory from the start. That their “greatness” was not an inherent thing but simply the largese of a bank and the ego of a chairman who had been able to indulge their whims and his own whilst that bank was giving him the money.
Because Rangers was more than a football club to them; it was the symbol of their supremacy, the clearest manifestation of their status as special. And if it could fall – and it did – then nothing they believed in was secure. Nothing they believed in was built on the foundations they had thought. They realised how weak they actually were.
And that is the feeling that drives them to their anger at the games, against their board, against the press, against the SFA, against all of Scottish football and, lately, against Scottish society itself. They burn with the knowledge that their arrogance and ego in the glory years turned people away from them. Their embrace of Britishness and militarism has never been tighter, even as the influence this country once had in the world recedes with every episode of Brexit: The Shit-Show that airs or is broadcast. And if their club can die, all of this can crumble.
Celtic is now the dominant footballing force in Scotland, and some of those who were telling them in 2012 that their club was on the brink of death have become prominent people on the media scene; you only have to look at the hatred the pour onto Angela Haggerty to see it. Some have gone on to be prominent on the political scene; the SNP earthquake followed on top of the independence referendum which they saw as another attack on their “way of life.” The bloggers have become so pre-eminent we’ve almost destroyed the mainstream media.
None of this happened by chance, but nor was it the conspiracy that they believe. Our people were once the put-upon and the frowned-upon and deliberately held back. The old “what school did you go to?” question was used to exclude us. But still we learned. We got education. We organised. We worked hard. All the rewards we have right now were earned.
They find that hardest to deal with of all.
As this season wears on you are going to see and hear more of this. The idea that we can reach eight in a row scares the Hell out of them, and beyond that they fear the ten and us going for the fabled “55” before the Ibrox operation gets there.
At the current rate it will take them about 55 years.
We can accomplish it in just six.
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