I’ve often wondered if a nation, or at least a culture, could be said to have a personality. Is it possible, for example, to describe the entire Scottish Nation as though it were a single, homogeneous, person with distinctive character traits.
We’re all familiar with the idea of stereotypes of course, and with the stereotypical Scot: He of lank ginger hair and sickly pale skin. Constantly drunk, abusive, aggressive and tight-fisted but at the same time generous and warm hearted. Normally dressed in a Tam O Shanter bunnet, kilt and munching on a raw haggis.It’s an image that’s travelled the world, and it’s quite often there to meet we Scots however far we roam. God help us if we make first contact with intelligent alien life. They’ll probably claim to be descended from someone on sky and then try to copy the accent.
How much of this is true though, and how much of it is invention. I can count on one hand the number of ginger people I’ve met, and I’ve lived in Scotland all my life. Drunken, aggressive Jakes are a fact of life in every urban area whither you’re in Kelvinside or Kathmandu.
Stereotypes aren’t personality though.
If I were to try to describe the personality of Scotland I would say we’re stoic, serious and dour like a church of Scotland minister on a wintry Sunday morning. We’ll bear indignities that other nations would tear themselves apart over. We’re proud of ourselves, proud of our people and proud of the people that left Scotland and change the world no matter how small a part of the world they changed. We’re patient, slow burning and wise in our judgements, but we can be hot headed and quick to anger when the touch paper is lit. We know in our hearts that no man is our better, and that all are deserving of respect. At times we see the world with a fatalism that is at odds with our inventiveness, inquisitiveness and the optimism that hides in our heart.