In Duck Soup, one of the stuffy characters responds to Groucho’s raillery with the protest: “I didn’t come here to be insulted!” to which Groucho quips “Oh really? Where do you usually go?”
I went to Scotland. Don’t misunderstand, the Scots were delightful hosts — friendly, accommodating and, of course, a delight to the ears. The country is as beautiful as advertised, and the castles, museums and lochs live up to their billing.
But a few days in Edinburgh during the “Fringe” festival is enough to bury images of thistles and bagpipes very deep. The two links to the Scotland of legend are the enduring Anglophobia (the country will vote on independence in September 2014) and the fondness for whiskey. A nation of 4 million people boasts more than 100 distilleries and the cocktail hour seems to be interpreted most liberally.
But modern Scotland is deep-dyed in socialism. The Scottish parliament, revived in 1998 in the hope that a measure of self-rule would vitiate the independence movement, is dominated by parties of the left. The Scottish National Party, which favors (in addition to separation from England) “free” education through university, unilateral nuclear disarmament, steeply progressive taxation and the “eradication” of poverty, holds 65 of 129 seats. Labour, the Liberal Democrats and a couple of green parties hold 47 seats, while the conservatives claim just 15. Of the 51 members of the House of Commons representing Scottish constituencies, exactly one is a conservative.
Now, about the “Fringe.” It’s a festival of performances, concerts, dance, circuses and street theater that dominates the city every August. My family was open to sampling (the younger members more experimental than the older). But just based on the descriptions available in the local paper, The Scotsman, many of the offerings were repellent.
We could have seen a play titled, “The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning,” which the Scotsman described as a “shocking indictment of the brutal and relentless homophobia of U.S. military life” and also a “more subtle critique ... of western culture ... that reacts to any breach of discipline or convention with a fierce, repressive violence, and a demand that we all conform, or be silent.”