Well, plays have all been performed, to good reviews I might add, and assignments are up to date, so now that I am all rested and recovered, let’s catch up with what’s been happening in the world –
Riots in Belfast? Didn’t we do that already?
They’re at it again.
So, what’s it about this time? Flags, eh!!
You know, when I see people out protesting like that on the street over some perceived attack on their culture, faith or whatever, I often think, ‘You really don’t have enough to bother you’, and it really must have been a slow week for news when this lot made the national headlines.
Now, in the great scheme of things, how ridiculous must this seem to any outsider, the Union flag is taken down and there are protests and riots, for what, a piece of coloured material?
Now, the thing about all this is, you can say it’s about flags, or culture, or identity, or religion, or nationality, or loyalty, and you might think you’re right, but when you strip all that down to the bare bones it comes down to this, and this is what no one else in Northern Ireland will ever just come out and say publicly - identifying with the Union Jack is about clinging to an idea left over from the British Empire (of which NI is it’s last outpost) and that is, to identify yourself as British is to claim that you are superior and not just to the Irish, but to everyone that isn’t white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant, that’s it in a nutshell.
It’s about nothing more than that, ‘I’m British’ means saying I’m better than you without actually saying, ‘I am superior to you’. It’s the exact same attitude that prevailed in the days of Empire when Britain went stomping around the globe terrorising the natives and bringing us heathen types civilisation, and which still prevails today among right-wingers, from the Tory party to the National Front.
Ulster was planted hundreds of years ago by the British, actually it happened about a hundred years before Britain even existed, and Ireland has never been part of Britain, it’s always been the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, or as it is now, Northern Ireland.
So, there are no British here in NI, only a few confused Irish or Northern Irish, for we surely are a breed apart from the rest of the country. I mean, how many years do you have to live in a country before you consider yourself a citizen of it? Hundreds of years later, and they still can’t lower themselves to stand up and say they’re Irish, or even Northern Irish. They treat it as an insult to be considered Irish, and as someone who is Irish by nationality, I find that insulting. What is so wrong with being Irish? What does nationality mean at the end of day, I was born in Ireland so I am deemed to be Irish, they were born in Ireland too, but they’re British. What’s going to happen when/if the Scottish vote for Independence, Britain isn’t going to exist anymore, what will they be then?
When I think about my identity, I think first and foremost, I am a human being, then I am female, and identifying with a country, a flag, or one culture is far down the list of what I am. There are very few singularly, one culture people left in this world, not when you sit down and consider how much of our lives have been influenced by other countries and their habits, especially in these days of globalization. In reality, each of us is a single multi-cultural unit.
As long as people don’t think for themselves, they will cling to other’s ideas of what their identity is. It’s easier to adopt the cultural stereotypes we’ve been spoon fed by our respective communities, than to look at the reality of these things and challenge notions that are as archaic, and out-of-date, as the dinosaurs.
Now, if you really want to go out and protest about something that may be wrong in Belfast then here’s an idea. In October of this year in East Belfast , in the space of 10 days, 7 people committed suicide. Also, in West Belfast this week, apparently 5 people committed suicide. (I haven’t been able to confirm this yet, I heard it at work in relation to the tragedy of another local suicide) The rate of suicide in the North is off the scale compared to the rest of Europe . (see previous post: In defence of young men) With the ongoing stranglehold on the working-class Protestant areas by the paramilitaries, the decades of economic neglect by government and the pressure of culture and tradition, there are communities here in real crisis, and no-one seems to give a damn.
And it certainly doesn’t help when a Chancellor gets up in Parliament and starts sneeringly classifying the working class of this country into strivers and skivers, especially when he got to be where he is, because he had the double good fortune of being born into a wealthy family and the privileged classes, where their money and social connections bought him all the advantages that life has to offer.
There is a lot of pressure in people at the moment, the rising cost of living and falling value of wages, the added pressure of conforming to the social and financial pressures of the season of 'Goodwill', not to mention the fear of losing your job, or of trying to find a job if you don't have one in the midst of a recession. These all make for extremely stressful times and it's heart-sickening to watch this government gleefully slash at the poorest and weakest in this society and arrogantly scapegoat them for the present economic ills which they were not responsible for, while giving all the breaks to the rich and fellow members of their class. All I can say is, roll on the revolution!!!
As always, comments are welcome: