Citizen Ship Belfast 2013. Nos 30.
To be seen and to be heard.
As we approach the big day, the 12th of July 2013, I’m hoping there won’t be riots in Ardoyne. That people may live and let live, though, going by previous year’s violence and mayhem, I will be surprised if there isn’t some trouble. But, let’s stay positive for the time being.
I still remember many engaging things about “the Twelfth” as a child, through a child’s eyes. I especially liked the music. The thump, the rattle and the crack of the drums. The spectacle and the colour. All of the banners and images, held high, most of which I had no understanding of. The symbolism, lost on me.
Friends waving to and from the crowd. Friendly banter. “Hey big lad! Where’s your Pac-a-Mac?” Ordinary people having a day off, taking a break from the ordinary rhythms of life. To feel, bigger, and more important, if only for a day. To be seen and to be heard for just a few hours must have made, must still make it, this experience, quite an intense thing indeed.
“To be seen and to be heard”. A key element, within an industrialized urban culture. Missing in the lives of most people in Northern Ireland, for we have been merely the passive consumers of our leaders ideas and agendas, be it politics, religion, education or plain hatred, which we have absorbed over hundreds of years, like toxic fast food. The result of which, at the other end of the process, should be quite obvious. We produce, runny, imperfect “shit”. The indication that something is terribly wrong within us.
If we were a mere dog, we would be off to the vet where a change of diet would be put into action immediately. But instead we eat “shit” ideas, fast food, alcohol, and drugs. Disregard exercise and let our doctors pump us full of anti-depressants to stem the tide of our pain, instead of looking at where it’s coming from. To go find the source and take it on, directly.
*I’m using the word “shit” here because I believe in “calling a spade a spade”.
I understand, how marching in a band makes you feel good. Not “The Hun”, “the Oppressor”, “the Bigot” or “The Enemy”. Just People. Individuals with families, relations, children, with hopes and dreams. Everyone there, with the capacity to love and be loved.
The emotions of the day. The sense of family. A feeling of belonging, in the sun, out in the air, with your head up, looking well, rather than in a factory, in any job, reined in, with your head down, knowing your place. A common experience, between “the Orange” and “the Green”. We share the same pain.
We all once knew our place. We once kept our heads down. That aristocratic, industrial hierarchy is all but dismantled. Passed away now. But the thing that remains, that still wants to keep our heads down is the fear itself, and the small number, in the shadows, down our streets, still tied to the old ways, unable and unprepared to change.
I was 11 in 1969. Then, sadly, the sickness came upon our streets, or at least, the sickness in our minds, evolved into extreme acts of violence, right throughout our community. Neighbour hating neighbour. Neighbour hurting neighbour. Neighbour killing neighbour, all because of the sickness in our heads. All because we believed the lies that we were fed by the gatekeepers, the leaders and the elders within our divided tribes.
Spoon fed hatred, fear and paranoia. Lies of division. Distorted political ideals, on both sides, marching us off down the road into the shadows and tunnels of conflict from which we are only slowly emerging now, evolving like the pupa of some transformational creature. The many legged marching orange and/or green caterpillars. These weaving lodges on our narrow streets, like the upraised branches of a tree, looking for the next stage. Searching for a way forward. How to change without losing out, without losing face, without backing down? Without losing your manliness, in public?
The shame of it. (Wise up big lad!) Catch yourselves on.
That’s a tough one for men, to lose face, who still believe in the likes of John Wayne, Steven Segal (Under Siege) and every action hero over the past sixty years. (Never mind the one dimensional heros from computer games.)
Northern Ireland. The highest consumer of anti-depressants in Europe.
It is the morning of the 12th of July 2013. What will have happened by the end of today? Will reason have prevailed? We are all so primed to fail. Our self esteem is so low. Yet within our imagination and our children’s imaginations, there exits the pupa, the caterpillar and . . . the butterfly of change.
Waiting to be seen and be heard.
Citizen Ship Belfast 2013. Nos 30.
By Randall Stephen Hall ©