Citizen Ship Belfast 2013. Nos 24. Peace Blocked by Gate Keepers. The Flag…

Citizen Ship Belfast 2013. Nos 24.

Peace Blocked by Gate Keepers.

The Flag Issue rolls on as we build bonfires to celebrate “the twelfth”. For those of you who don’t know what this folk festival is, go check out “the twelfth of July/Northern Ireland” on Wikipedia. I’m sure it will fill in the blanks for you.

In some of my previous articles I have suggested that while some of the working classes openly rioted, fought, looted, murdered, lied, discriminated and beat anything that moved, during the more violent period of the Troubles, there were those in the middle classes who honkered down, to be involved, from the shadows of a desk job, a clerical job, a teaching job, as a priest, a minister, politician, councillor or professional.

These people could be found in all walks of life throughout the island of Ireland and Britain. It didn’t matter what Christian denomination they were from. The darker, furtive, more secretive side of human nature at work, and what work they most surely did, as we were distracted, watching working class protestors on the streets, doing what some do well to this day, destroying things. (Now, that’s an exaggeration. I’m only talking about minorities, amongst our, still divided community. If everyone did that, we would just be living amongst smouldering rubble).

If there was ever an Olympic event called “The Riot” we could win the gold medal.

However, with the stroke of a pen, a misplaced file, ensuring that a building application wasn’t passed, or money diverted from some community organisation, blocking particular promotions, ensuring lack of support for a worthy colleague or spreading their vile ideas beyond their own heads, while on the surface, seeming to be respectable, employed and helpful, these people may have caused as much destruction to the fabric of our society, our northern community culture, more effectively, than any physical destruction or violence.

My next poem is dedicated to all those people, most of whom, have either died or are well on their way to the reckoning, upstairs, with management, when they have to account for their slippery, dark and damaging work, throughout the forty years of violence. They know who they are and I hope they feel satisfied with their pile of spiked hopes, rejected ideas and hidden projects, still waiting for the go ahead. This is the kind of diverted positive thinking that brought us to the Troubles in the first place. Allowing our darker thoughts to rain down upon this wee place for far, far too long.

This poem is for all the Gate Keepers. Every last one of them. Sadly, a new generation of gate keepers will always be with us. They are one step down from the rat, the blue bottle and the maggot. They too, work in the shadows, never in the light, or out in the open, for their work cannot exist in the light. It relies on secrets, lies, ambition, greed and closeted hatred. In a suit, in a bank, an office, a church, a manse, a school or a business.

You see, the middle classes, have fooled them selves into thinking that they were, somehow, on the sidelines of this conflict, when in fact they were the very filament in the bulb of our consciousness, that carried the current of the troubles to and fro, throughout the whole conflict.

For instance, they ran the media, the newspapers, staffed all the programmes and shaped opinion, on both sides of the community. They edited every image we saw, every article written, created every interview. They framed the Troubles for us, at least, they framed what we were allowed to see of the Troubles.

For what did we not see? What ideas didn’t reach us via the papers? Whose voices were rarely, if every heard? The answer might be, the majority of the ordinary people, going about their business, taking part in our shared society, as citizens, but not actually harming anyone at all.

This quiet voice of the majority, has rarely been heard, throughout the history of the Troubles, due to these “gate keepers” spread throughout our society like bad seeds.

In different ways, big or small, we too have all been gate keepers to letting peace evolve or not evolve here in Northern Ireland.

The Gate Keeper.
By Randall Stephen Hall. © 21.7.11
(Sometimes narrated by J. Sniggly-Woodbine (gate-keeper).

I am the gate keeper.
I sit by my gate.
I sit and I wait
And I wait and I wait.

I sit and I wait
For the likes of young you.
I’ll play with your head
For I’m blocking you.

My one raison d’étre
Is to sit by my gate.
I sit and I wait
And I wait and I wait.

For the fit and the talented.
The young and the strong.
For they have no power.
They just don’t belong.

The young and naive
Are a danger to power.
So they can stand in my queue
And just wait their hour.

For I was young once, you see.
Oh, it’s a long time ago.
I too was naive
When my talents did show.

But they gave me this gate
And the stuff that came with it.
I’ve forgotten my reason
For this dark position.

I’m jealous of those
Who come by, up here.
It’s great when I snag them
On some auld bum steer.

Though I wish, I was young again
With a reason to be.
A man with a plan
And a girl on each knee.

For the gate has destroyed me.
It’s rusted and broken
It’s just like my jaw
On a hinge, rarely opened.

One day they’ll replace me
With some young buck soon.
Then all I will do
Is go bay at the moon.

The fate of old keepers
Is a pension and bones.
To wait and decay
In my house all alone.

With the power and the wealth
All emptiness rings.
My bell has no clapper
And my heart rarely sings.

Like a guard dog I’ve been
Mean to many and man.
I am the gate keeper.
Pass me if you can.

By Randall Stephen Hall©
Citizen Ship Belfast 2013. Nos 24.