Friday, 29 May 2009

Emerson on Northern Ireland's 'community' problem

I normally try to avoid simply quoting lumps of articles without at least commenting upon their contents. However Newton Emerson’s Irish News column is so good on the topic of community (in the aftermath of the McDaid murder) that I will let the requisite sections speak for themselves albeit with a little unobtrusive emboldening. The author is considering DUP representative Adrian McQuillan's initially equivocal reaction to the murder.

We are so inured to the term “community” that we no longer marvel at its many uses and misuses. In this case, Mr McQuillan conjures up a “loyalist community” which is enough of a corporate entity to react yet not enough of a corporate entity to bear responsibility for its actions. How does that work, exactly? How is Mr McQuillan able to read this mysteriously amorphous hive-mind?

Our readiness to invoke a concept like “community” when a mob beats a man to death is disgusting. It might help to recalibrate Northern Ireland’s moral compass if everyone paused to ponder this word every time they heard or casually used it.

The “loyalist community” is represented at Stormont by PUP leader Dawn Purvis, who issued her own condemnation of the murder. Well, sort of. In fact Ms Purvis told �the assembly that sectarianism is “a deadly virus which affects the whole community”.

Here we have another use of the term “community” to imply something quite remarkable, namely that everyone in Northern Ireland suffers from an externally imposed affliction which can randomly manifest itself as a homicidal rampage.

Ms Purvis inherited this metaphysical perspective from her predecessor, the late David Ervine, who used it to great effect. His fashionable nonsense about shadowy ruling class forces exploiting salt of the earth working class types went down a treat with republican pseudo-intellectuals and New Labour idiots.

However, Mr Ervine’s class-war claptrap amounts to nothing more than Mr McQuillan’s equivocation in a suit. It is just another transfer of responsibility to an abstraction, in this case the “illness” of sectarianism.


Jeffrey Peel said...

Hmm...but then again, Chekov, you too are rather fond of perpetuating the "community" idea by having a softly, softly approach to sectarianism. You are fond of arguing that we need to tease the masses out of their community mind-sets rather than tell them they are bloody minded bigots. I'd prefer the latter approach I must admit. For me too many bloggers, pundits, media peeps are too fond of the "community" labels - and too fond of accommodating every type of crazed dogma that comes with them.

I'm with Emerson. We need to change the language and the euphemisms and start calling spades, spades. There are parts of this society that are rotten and disgusting. The more we dither in terms of side-lining and rejecting so-called communities the better.

Every individual in our society is responsible for his or her own actions. The days of "community" explanation should be over.

Chekov said...

I have no idea what you're talking about Jeffrey to be honest. I have no truck with the notion of unionism being equated with a community for instance. No, I certainly don't accept that the Orange Order can be equated with the KKK, but that's not an illiberal point of view I can assure you.

Jeffrey Peel said...

If one accepts that 'orders' clubs, societies are part of the sectarian problem we have to take a stand. I believe that any group that restricts membership and then states in its rules and regulations that its membership is better or superior to others is to be mistrusted.

The difference between us relates to religion. I have none and I elementally mistrust people who define their lives or their club membership based upon it. Often, in Northern Ireland, people join clubs or orders merely because it allows them to become badge-wearers - a higher order of the brain-washed.

It takes courage to say that institutions that have become part of the fabric of our society are what makes the fabric bad. The institutions create the mentality that resulted in Kevin McDaid being kicked to death by a thug-mob.

When did you last hear an Orange leader plead for tolerance? When did you last hear an Orange leader ask for a parade to be cancelled? Which Orange leader attended the funeral of Kevin McDaid? They couldn't - because it's against the rules of the institution.

As self-appointed commentators we can act as a mirror - and reflect back the repulsive core of our society. We can even criticise it. But at some point, if we are to make a genuine difference, we have to take stock. If what we see offends us we need to be strong enough to say that something fundamental has to change.

I'll leave you and your readers with a quote to ponder (by Sam Harris):

"There need be no scheme of rewards and punishments transcending this life to justify our moral intuitions or to render them effective in guiding our behavior in the world. The only angels we need invoke are those of our better nature: reason, honesty and love. The only demons we must fear are those that lurk inside every human mind: ignorance, hatred, greed, and faith, which is surely the devil's masterpiece."

Chekov said...


I have no religion either. But I absolutely refuse to have contempt for those who do, or disregard their opinions on the basis of their religion. As I have previously intimated I think there's a degree of truth to many of the things you say. But you are driven by them to an extent which, seems to me, almost ideological and certainly intolerant. The Orange Order might reflect some of the ills of our society, but it certainly isn't the root cause of them.

Jeffrey Peel said...

I wasn't suggesting it was but it's certainly part of the root cause of them. Sinn Fein is part. Oh and the DUP. Oh and even the UUP. And certainly the SDLP. Oh and the GAA. And the Hibernian Order. And Celtic supporters. And Rangers. And the Unionist/Nationalist defined Assembly.

But until last July the Conservative Party was non-sectarian and untainted with sectarianism. OK so no-one voted for us, but then again the Party never invested any money in campaigns here nor showed any interest in doing so - including William Hague when he was leader.

And, be honest, what advantages does the UUP bring? As you, yourself, have admitted the first joint candidate still uses the language of the "community".

Our society is choc full of institutions that feed on intolerance.

But I'm a member of none of them. I'm tolerant insofar as I respect peoples' rights to join such institutions. However, surely tolerance doesn't mean that I shouldn't criticise them or challenge them. That's politics.

Anonymous said...

Of course Jeffrey, you are entitled to intolerantly criticise them all you wish, that's democracy for you.

Jeffrey Peel said...

Thanks Chekov. Very decent of you.

Chekov said...

That wasn't me.

Chekov said...

By the way my issue isn't criticism. It is suggesting that people should be excluded from political parties on the basis of belonging to the organisations.