We used to be far too busy with Sectarianism (a specifically local problem) to worry about one of the great global problems like Racism.
As “Lord” Brookeborough, one of the founding fathers of the Norn Iron statelet put it (when referring to Catholics) “I wouldnt have one about the place”.
We have a settlement of sorts to our Conflict which forces unionism to accept that 45 per cent of the population are equally entitled to be about the place.
And there is a strong strand of unionism which is hostile to it, even if they accept it …just to stay in some kinda power.
Lets be frank here.
Imperialism is about Supremacy. The “right” often attributed to GOD to ownership of land and the subjugation of people.
The Israelis claim GOD on their side.
The Americans talked of their Manifest Destiny as they moved west.
The Nazis had the “natural” right to elimate other races as they moved east.
The English claimed that a (coincidently English) Pope gave them lordship over Ireland.Even yet the English will claim to have civilised the world.
Er…thanks for that England. Dont think I am not grateful.
Thats how it works.
But Imperialism leaves a legacy…as much on British people as ingrates like myself.
There are different ways to react.
The good Guardian reading English liberal will trip over himself to apologise to just about anyone for the historic crimes of the Past.
The cliched German tourist portrayed by Harry Enfield will apologise to random English tourists “for what my country did in the war”.
The average English suburban moderate will think that there were past injustices…everyone was to blame…but “hey we are different people now and are we not all multi-cultural anyway…I have Indian/Nigerian/Jamaican friends”.
And there is a third attitude…unapologetic and strident. The attitude that appeals across the Conservative range…Tory, UKIP to BNP.
Few who have benefitted from Past Injustices are overly worried about it.
There are very few ranchers in Arizona prepared to hand their land back to the Apaches.
And very few Israeli settlers on the West Bank who are are going to hand their land back to the Palestinians.
I dont really get the GOD argument.
It seems in the truest sense of the word…unreasonable.
To those of us who believe in that possibility, then the case is unanswerable.
To those of us who dont believe in that possibility, then it is unarguable.
And this brings me to Norn Iron.
I live near a town that was part of the Ulster Plantation…a form of Manifest Destiny.
Natives…Irish Catholics …were disposessed to make way for English settlers. (And nearby Scottish settlers). And of course that makes perfect sense in the context of a GOD-given right.
“To Hell or Connacht….or at least further away from our settled towns”
But as people such as Northern Protestants (later unionists) accept this lack of REASON, they are tied into other forms of UNREASON, merely to be consistent.
The “GOD supplied this land specially for us” argument is probably not really believed by people who say it. But they need to believe it and say it, if only to justify the means of acquiring the land and maintaining it. For the same REASON, they believe in Creationism, even if they look slightly embarrassed when claiming that the Giants Causeway is only six thousand years old.
The UNREASONABLENESS must be consistent.
We are in Norn Iron left with the legacy that the vast majority of public representatives of unionism and Britishness are disproportionately UNREASONABLE and anti-intellectual. They need to be.
They hold a position that cannot be justified REASONABLY so defend it UNREASONABLY. Right down to Creationism.
The vast majority of DUP people SAY they believe in Creationism but surely they have been educated to the point where they actually KNOW that it is pure unadulterated bunkum.
The DUP and indeed most political unionists are “conservative” and most seem to belong on the outer reaches of 1950s (at best) British Conservatism which would embarrass mainstream modern British Conservatives.
It is inevitable that DUP and most unionism, backed by Orange Order (at least the Ku Klux Klan have enough shame to wear hoods in public) are sectarian…and necessarily will fall in line with all unreasonable stances…such as Homophobia and Racism.
Mainstream liberals (including a small number of unionists) have reacted.
DUP Homophobia…which uses words and phrases like “abomination”, “revulsion”, “sin”, “illness”, “perversion” and “mental illness” has been challenged in recent years.
And in recent weeks loyalist Racism is being challenged.
It is of course unreasonable that Irish Flags have been burned on loyalist bonfires for generations. It is…traditional. And therefore the Media never mentioned it. But when the Flags of Poland were burned…well this was an act that the Media could not ignore. It was an outrageous act of sectarian …Poles are Catholic and Foreign. When Polish, Lithuanian, Czech, Filipino and Chinese people were being verbally and physically abused and their homes attacked…the Media were forced to notice. But really loyalists were just being consistent in their historic unreasonableness.
Thats how Hatred works.
Its a slippery slope. If you hate Catholics or the Irish…there is no reasonable excuse not to hate Poles, or Jews, or black people or gay people or whatever.
There is a very reasoned argument (with which I dont agree) to be made in defence of the flying of the British flag at Belfast City Hall. The problem is that unionists dont do Reason and hate-filled leaflets circulated in East Belfast, targeting the Alliance Party. Their offices and on occasions homes have been attacked. Again the Media were forced to notice.
And like playground bullies, the loyalists focus on the most visibly "different" of Alliance Party members, Hong Kong born Anna Lo. Ms Lo is probably the most liberal minded of senior Alliance people but LOOKING "different" is enough for the nastiest abuse.
And the mainstream media again forced to notice in a way that they did not do when the abuse of Catholics was considered mainstream…as in the Brookeborough Days. But again unionists were being consistent in their lack of REASON.
Anna Lo was in many ways the logical choice for Alliance candidate for the European Elections. She was never likely to win of course but she damaged her chances…and the Alliance brand. In a newspaper interview she seemingly "came out" as an Irish nationalist and analysed the Norn Iron problem as a "colonial" one. By extension, she was thought to be saying that Norn Iron unionists are colonists.
It would be reasonable for unionists to say that they have in fact been here for centuries.
And entirely reasonable for Anna Lo to say what she said.
But unionists do not conduct reasonable arguments…Having already ridiculed Lo's ethnicity, birthplace, appearance, colour and accent….they accuse her of being racist towards unionists. By any stretch, this is an unreasonable argument but entirely consistent with unionist unreasonableness. And of course the Media notice.
I have to say that the REASONABLE Belfast public…nationalist and unionist and the normally apathetic did rally round Anna Lo. The "hashtag" campaign "I Stand with Anna" was ultimately clumsy. Alliance DID try and spin it all as "vote for Anna", looking for an electoral advantage…which tended to spoil it. Its perfectly possible to support Lo's human rights and find the policies she advocates repulsive.
It is of course entirely reasonable to argue against Equal Marriage. Perfectly feasible to have a nuanced view or perhaps disagree with the vocabulary. And reasonable to agree the premise that same sex couples can form potentially lasting bonds and go thru a civil ceremony of marriage.
What is clearly unacceptable is to argue that such couples are “perverse”, “sick”, “evil” and the rest. To use the Bible to invoke Homophobia is as vile as it is UNREASONABLE. A Belfast Telegraph poll (I know, I know) published today finds that 56 per cent of DUP members say that Homosexuality is “wrong”. Impossible for REASONABLE people to argue with that mindset.
The Media wake up. But of course this Lack of Reason is how the DUP work.
So it cannot be any surprise when a Pastor in a North Belfast church attended by DUP grandees preaches that Islam is heathen and satanic. Nor can it be any surprise that DUP rush to defend him when he is criticised by the Media…even though the “heathen and satanic” nature of Catholicism as preached in similar churches has gone unreported and taken for granted.
When Peter Robinson, the First Minister of Norn Iron (at his most boorish) says that he would not trust Muslims for “spiritual guidance” but would trust them “to go to the shops”, reasonable men and women and the Media raise a storm of protest.
The Pastor of course makes a complete idiot of himself in TV interviews.
Robinson is forced into (at first nuanced) apology. It is entirely consistent with supremacist attitudes and entirely consistent with the DUP view of Life.
Who needs Sharia Law when a DUP MLA (Paul Girvan) can make this kinda statement.
It is of course entirely reasonable for William Humphrey MLA (North Belfast) to argue that the Orange Order be allowed to march along the “Queens Highway” at Crumlin Road.
And entirely reasonable for Catholic residents to live in peace, unsullied by marching sectarian knuckle-draggers.
It may or may not be reasonable that a “human rights” camp has been set up by marchers and occupied at enormous public expense for Policing…for ten months as marchers have “not been allowed to go home”.
All this might seem risible in any normal Society.
But Humphrey asserts this as a Human Rights issue…but when asked if Catholic marchers have the same human right to parade past Protestant houses on the contested route….he says that they havent….because the Protestants have been doing it for 150 years.
How is it possible to counter such lack of Reason.
Which is back to where we start really.
Sectarianism….is that ok?
If it is NOT ….well we have actually institutionalised it.
Because the men and women of the DUP and their fellow travellers are in Government.
And Racism, Homophobia and Islamophobia are inevitably growing because we have accepted Sectarianism as “normal”.
Increasingly the Norn Iron Conflict is NOT about Catholic-Protestant or Nationalist- Unionist. If it was, then a Solution might be possible.
Increasingly this is a struggle between REASON and LACK OF REASON.
We are not defined by 1690 or 1916.
We are defined by 1789… a convenient enough date to mark the line.
Tomorrow REASONABLE PEOPLE…people who believe in the Modern World will protest against Racism. I will be one of them.
It is a tragedy for Unionism (not that I am bothered) that unionist politics is so embedded with UNREASONABLE causes. Unionism (in itself) is not an unreasonable stance to take.
I would of course argue that Nationalism and Republicanism are ideas from an Enlightened Era.
And I think that this is something that Republicans in SDLP and Sinn Fein need to emphasise.
NI21, the great hope of modern, multi-cultural Britishness has imploded.
And Alliance cant really be counted on to rock any boat or look after any interest but their own.
Certainly Edwin Poots, DUP Minister of Health thinks that “educated” Catholics might vote DUP…That would be the same Edwin Poots, who believes or SAYS he believes in Creationism.
Yet …maybe Republicans and certainly the Media are culpable in one respect.
To institutionalise Sectarianism gives the “green light” to other forms of unreasonable behaviour….xenophobia, homophobia, islamophobia.