Honestly, the sun always shines on the Glencoe Car Park Run.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Shooting An Elephant

Many years ago George Orwell wrote an essay called Shooting an Elephant. It was an honest account of how, during his time in Moulmein, Burma as a sub-divisional police officer, he shot and killed a rampaging elephant because it was expected of him. To not shoot the elephant would have shown him to be weak in the eyes of the locals, many of whom despised the white Europeans in what Orwell describes as an aimless, petty kind of way.

Being in a position of authority made him an obvious target and he was baited whenever it seemed safe to do so. One example he used to show this was after him being tripped on the football field by a nimble Burman, the referee deliberately looked the other way, much to the hilarity of the locals gathered for the game. Ironically, he points out that the worst for dishing out abuse and jeers were priests: Bhuddist priests.

The essay was written at a time when Orwell was realising imperialism was an evil thing, and something he no longer wanted any part of. He had witnessed the dirty work of empire at close quarters. He wrote:

The wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups, the grey, cowed faces of the long-term convicts, the scarred buttocks of the men who had been Bogged with bamboos – all these oppressed me with an intolerable sense of guilt. But I could get nothing into perspective. I was young and ill-educated and I had had to think out my problems in the utter silence that is imposed on every Englishman in the East. I did not even know that the British Empire is dying

The British Empire is, of course, long gone. Well, most of it has. Britain still clings to a tiny group of islands in the South Atlantic that no-one really cares about, other than the few inhabitants shipped there by the British long ago. ‘But the shipped-in population wishes to remain British’ is the message sent out by the British government. ‘We must promote democracy and respect the will of the people.’ Mmm, yes, well.

There is another part of the world the British still claim as part of their empire: an island to the west of mainland Britain. An island called Ireland. To be fair to the British, they don’t claim ownership of the whole island. Well, not anymore. They only want a tiny chunk in the North East of Ireland. Apparently, it is the wish of the shipped-in inhabitants of that tiny corner to remain British, and, of course, the British must promote democracy and respect the will of the people.

We’ll come back to the will of the people later, but for now let’s get back to Orwell and his elephant dilemma.

It had already destroyed somebody's bamboo hut, killed a cow and raided some fruit-stalls and devoured the stock; also it had met the municipal rubbish van and, when the driver jumped out and took to his heels, had turned the van over and inflicted violences upon it.

By the time Orwell located the elephant it had also killed a man so he asked for a rifle in order to defend himself should the elephant attack. When he first saw the elephant he knew he ought not to shoot him. The elephant’s attack of ‘must’ had passed and it was peacefully grazing in the Paddy fields. But the damage had been done and an expectant crowd had gathered to witness the shooting. To not pull the trigger now would have brought ridicule from the natives. And in the world of empire, ridicule cannot be entertained.

Many years later, here in Scotland, an elephant also suffered an attack of ‘must’. After deciding it ‘must’ have everything its own way this beast went on the rampage untouched for decades. Because it was the biggest animal in our little jungle it believed it was untouchable and didn’t have to follow the same rules as everyone else. It believed, and with some justification due to the way it was treated differently by the establishment, that it represented the people.

But it only represented a minority of the people.

Like the people in the North East of Ireland this minority of people relish a sense of supremacy and entitlement, and parochial sectarianism in the form of anti-Irish Catholicism. They hark back to the days of the Indian Raj and a time when Britannia ruled the waves while reigning over an empire on which the sun never set.

But those days heady days of empire are long gone.

These people are an embarrassment to a modern Scotland who views itself as a multicultural society. This modern Scotland opens its arms to immigrants. refugees and asylum seekers from all over the world. Not that these native white Anglo-Saxon people of Scotland care. They don’t claim to be Scottish. They claim to be British. British Unionists and proud.

Last week’s jubilee celebrations allowed them to put up the bunting, sit at home with their feet up and enjoy the pageantry, the live concert and the fireworks display while thinking to themselves, ‘I am proud to be British.”

What they don’t realise is Britain doesn’t want people like them either. What they also didn’t realise was their elephant wasn’t untouchable. Much to their total surprise and utter dismay the British establishment decided the time had come to shoot their elephant.

On the 13th February Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs pushed the elephant into a big hole called administration.

Many would-be heroes tried to save the elephant by getting it out of the big hole, but their attempts were feeble and ultimately in vain.

Many onlookers came from distant lands to view the elephant.

Some said it was a shame to see such a powerful and dignified beast in such a sorry state.

Most said the elephant was lucky to still be alive after the damage it had caused.

It became obvious to the majority that the beast, although still capable of garnering enough support to lash out with threats, was on its last legs and death was inevitable.

Like all wounded beasts with no hope of recovery the best and most humane course of action would be to put the beast to sleep. In Orwell’s case he had to pump many bullets into the elephant, and even then it still took an age to die.

He wrote:

When I pulled the trigger I did not hear the bang or feel the kick – one never does when a shot goes home – but I heard the devilish roar of glee that went up from the crowd. In that instant, in too short a time, one would have thought, even for the bullet to get there, a mysterious, terrible change had come over the elephant. He neither stirred nor fell, but every line of his body had altered. He looked suddenly stricken, shrunken, immensely old, as though the frightful impact of the bullet had paralysed him without knocking him down. At last, after what seemed a long time – it might have been five seconds, I dare say – he sagged flabbily to his knees.

Today Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs fired another bullet into the heart of Rangers Football Club. It is not yet dead, but is on its knees.

The SPL clubs will meet again shortly to decide whether or not a newco Rangers can parachute straight into Scotland’s top league. A No vote will pump another bullet into the old elephant but it still wouldn’t kill it.

The SFA Appeals Panel will have the opportunity to pump the last bullet into the old elephant. Having already opted out of that course of action they have been forced, by Rangers’ own stupidity and reluctance to play by the rules, to reconsider their position. Included in their short list of punishments to choose from is expelling Rangers from football. They have it in their power to kill the old elephant.

Will they take their chance?

No, I don’t think they will.

In a jungle as small as Scottish football the old elephant is too big to die. Too many scavengers and vultures rely on the old elephant for their own survival.

The old elephant may be sick and apparently on its last legs, but there are too many people out there wanting it to survive in one form or another. Whether it is other clubs who need the money the old elephant generates, or sports journalists who have acquired the taste of succulent lamb, or the self-proclaimed minority of delusional people who think they are entitled to win everything by cheating and lying just because they are…how do they put it…because they are the people.

At the end of Orwell’s essay he pointed out how the opinions of fellow Europeans in Burma differed as to whether or not he should’ve shot the elephant and wondered if anyone realised that he only shot the elephant in order to not look a fool in front of the natives.

I wonder what his views would be on shooting the old elephant called Rangers.

Perhaps we can surmise that, given the prize in his name for political writing was given to an anonymous blogger who focused on how the old elephant and the media worked together to carry out a major cover-up of the old elephant’s misdoings, he wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger one more time.


  1. Great article,put that elephant to sleep,at least for a while until it realises it isn't as big anymore and hopefully it will learn a harsh lesson for the trouble it has caused.

  2. Cheers bud. I wonder if it's possible to teach an old elephant new honesty, integrity, dignity,