Thoughts on Being an Independent Part of a Collective

By Bernie Bell

It took a while for anyone to notice, then Prof. Colin Richards noticed, that the types of stone used at the Ring of Brodgar, were different, as you work your way round the circle. Prof. Richards, and other archaeologists, have since done much research to validate this observation, and, sure enough, the stones are not only different, but from – in some cases identifiable – different parts of Orkney .The idea is, that the different groups of ancient Orcadians came together, bringing stone from their own ‘patch’, to raise the stones, and dig a section of the ditch, at the Ring of Brodgar.

ring of brodgar b bell

Further investigation also shows that the quality of workmanship, differs in different sections of the ditch.

To have produced the whole monument, would have been a daunting, if not impossible, undertaking for just those living in what is now known as the Neolithic Heart of Orkney, but, all the groups, working together, even if some were not so ‘good at it’ as others, meant that the end result, could be achieved.

And this brings me to the point I’m hoping to make.  It can seem contradictory, when I say that I want Britain to stay in the EU, and that unity is better than division. Then I say that I look forward to an independent Scotland, as soon as can be.  But………to me, it’s clear enough.  Independent nations, working together in an equal union ( even if the contributions, as with the ditch digging, might not be said to be ‘equal’ – we all have something to offer, to strengthen the collective) can, collectively, achieve aims and produce desired results, more effectively than one nation, individually attempting to achieve the same aims.

It doesn’t always work smoothly – some sections of the ditch are not as well cut as others – and we don’t know what rows there were, among the different groups,  when the Ring of Brodgar was being constructed, but working together does make the collective stronger, and so, each part of that collective, stronger, and hopefully more stable. “For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack”  – The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling

The Ring of Brodgar has lasted for over 5,000 years.

We don’t really know what the structure of Neolithic society in Orkney, and Europe, was, but, it looks like, in Orkney at least, it’s probable that each group, in each area, had a leader – this would need to be so, for the day to day organization of life in, and for, the group.  Otherwise, chaos and anarchy might ensue!

It also looks like, when needed, those groups would join together, under a different kind of leader, when joint effort was needed, for whatever reason – trade, exchange of goods, exchange of ideas, ease of people moving from one group to another, marriages between individuals from different groups taking place.  Even, maybe, a desire to show other groups, on the outer edges of their collective ‘territory’, that they were united and strong, by constructing  a monument to represent this gathering together.

So, the idea I’m playing with is, the idea of Neolithic Orkney as a microcosm of today’s situation re. Britain and Europe.  An independent, individual Scotland, an independent, individual England, and Wales if they so choose, as part of a European Union. Like the folk of, say Harray, Rendall, Deerness, and further afield, as the water wasn’t in the way, then ( water was a good way of getting about, but maybe not for transporting whacking great lumps of stone!), joining at the site of the Ring of Brodgar, to raise their representative stones  – like the flags outside the EU building in Brussels.

eu flags brussels

Credit: Thijs ter Haar [via Wikimedia Commons

– and hack out their part of the ditch, too.

The slogan “Better together” can  be interpreted to mean that we are better together, working together, as individual, independent parts of  a collective.





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  1. I enjoyed reading your thoughts and totally agree, at least all have a say in the better together scenario and the chance to improve conditions. As a European living in Scotland since 1972, it breaks my heart to see this narrow minded separation develop.

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