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Freeing ourselves to be free,
This review is from: Blossom: What Scotland Needs to Flourish (Viewpoints) (Paperback)
I must declare an interest. I first got to know Lesley Riddoch back in the 1990s when she became involved in the Isle of Eigg Trust of which I was a founder. Two factors helped the seed set by the original trust to grow strong and produce the blossom of land reform now so apparent on Eigg. One was the local community gradually finding its voice and taking over the running of the trust circa 1994. The the second, intricately bound in with the first, was Lesley's involvement and her use of radio and press to help bolster island voices and confidence.
The reason why Lesley knows what she's writing about in Blossom is that she's actually done it. Her chapter on Eigg is brilliant, an important contribution to the social history (even if, as the author, she has to understate her own role as an agent of empowerment). The rest of the book gives many other moving examples. Lesley Riddoch is that very rare combination of a talker, a doer and a thinker - the Scots genius in its most effective expression.
A few weeks ago she gave a launch address for Blossom in the Centre for Human Ecology - you'll find the video on the CHE's website - and what most struck many of the packed audience was her emphasis that Scotland will only ever be "free" inasmuch as we, the people, become free within ourselves. Political independence is the small question. The big question is whether we're willing to rise to what it means to become independent within ourselves. To find the responsibility, develop the capacity, have the humility, even the love that is necessary for the task.
"Blossom" offers many examples of people and groups finding such independence for themselves. It's not rocket science; only people science. Lesley herself has often been a key agent lighting the blue touchpapers. I remember in the early days of Eigg being at the receiving end of her methodology. I'd come out with something about empowerment in the context of "Highland psychohistory", and she'd say (it happened on a ferry crossing), "Psycho-what? Alastair! Can you repeat that in plain language?"
Damn it! She knew how to make you feel stupid and give you confidence at the same time. She pushed me until it boiled down to saying, "We've got to lance our old boils" or something like that, and I was left rubbing my eyes and thinking, "My goodness - is it really as simple as saying it like that?"
In a nutshell, Lesley helps people to find the words to express their feelings in ways that enables them better to understand themselves, and this is what makes Blossom not just a good read, but a vital one in these times. It is a book that deserves circulation far beyond Scotland, and well done to the wonderful Luath Press for taking it on and making such a nice job of the production.