Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you. So the song goes (Stealers Wheel if I recall). I had asked my twitter followers what this blog article should be about. I had asked them to vote; Irish anti-semitism or the sectarianism of the PIRA murder campaign. They voted for the latter. Today though, I’m not going to write about either of those subjects. As serious and worthy of study as they are, I’ve decided instead to vent my spleen a little. After all, blogging is supposed to be cathartic. A way of letting off steam. So today I’m going to write about a group of people that (rightly) receive little attention from those who study, write about and analyse ‘The Troubles’. A group of people that have, in the last 2-3 years suddenly become very vocal and very opinionated. I would describe these people as the middle class but that would be unfair to middle class Unionists and nationalists, so I will instead use the term ‘pseudo liberals’ to describe this small, spiteful, cowering clique.
These pseudo liberals (or rather their parents) used money, privilege and the artificial social construct of ‘class’ to insulate themselves from the ravages of war. When Ulster burned around them, they sheltered in the leafy suburbs. They exempted themselves from the Conflict, yet were (and are) only too eager to offer their half-baked opinions and ill conceived ideas about how that conflict should be brought to a close. Politically and personally, they invested little or nothing in the communities on either side of ‘the divide’. Their motto, if they had one, would surely be ‘sod you Jack if I’m alright’. In terms of the history of The Troubles, they are an irrelevance, not even worthy of a footnote in the multiplicity of books written on the subject. In terms of the present however, as these pseudo liberals, emboldened by years of relative peace, suddenly find their voice (and a shrill, hectoring voice it is too), they are, at least, worthy of some study, albeit a brief and cursory one.
The Price of Everything, The Value of Nothing
The pseudo liberals of Cultra and the Malone Road (for example) do not think like ordinary Ulster punters. They think only in terms of money. For them, money is a sort of ‘cure all’. A wonderful remedy for all of life’s ills. For them money brings, not only happiness, but social standing, respect and a feeling of superiority too. The pseudo liberal looks down upon the ordinary mortal. Snubs their nose at the ‘spides’ and the ‘chavs’. In the mind of this repellent clique, such people shouldn’t be allowed out of their ghettoes. The pseudo liberal, faux intellectual, why-can’t-we-all-just-join-hands-and-sing-Kum-by-ya set cannot see the quiet dignity of the working class. Just as some maintain that might is always right, so the pseudo liberals maintain that money is always right. Not that they would ever admit to such a thing mind you. Oh no, the pseudo liberal will always think of themselves as a friend to the poor, unfortunate, vulgar ‘spide’, in much the same way as Colonial missionaries thought themselves to be the friend of the ‘savage’. Indeed, had some pseudo liberal ‘wit’ not coined the term ‘spide’, I’m pretty sure that ‘savage’ is what the spineless wonders would call us working class oiks.
“Civilisation you say? No thanks, we’ve already got one”
Bad enough for people to harbour such elitist, petty bourgeoisie views in private. The pseudo liberal however, was not content with that, they had to make their twisted Weltanschauung, their malicious outlook on life, known to everyone. Well, everyone who uses social media in Northern Ireland. In 2012 the flag protesters stole Christmas, at least according to the pseudo liberals. Therefore, in their silly wee heads, the flag protesters ought to be vilified, lampooned, ‘satirised’ and attacked at every turn, on a daily basis, for the foreseeable future. And that is exactly what they have done. Every single day. Ad nauseum. At first Irish nationalists/republicans thought they had found a friend, somebody (actually a small cabal of people) who loathed and despised the pro-Union community as much as they do. Sadly for them, they were soon disappointed, for although the online anoraks hate Loyalism with a rare intensity, they seem unwilling to wholeheartedly embrace the tenets of Irish expansionism (for now at least). The reason for the pseudo liberal hatred of Ulster Loyalism and working class Unionism? The answer is simple…
Fear and Loathing in Helen’s Bay
(May Hunter S. Thompson have mercy upon my soul)
The pseudo liberal is one of nature’s true cowards. If Northern Ireland society was an ocean, the pseudo liberal would be it’s jellyfish. A nasty little sting but absolutely no backbone! The use of violence for political ends is an alien concept to them. Many would consider that a virtue, I consider it a contemptible vice, an irrational aversion to the realities of a cruel and inherently violent world. Politically motivated violence is not always wrong. Indeed, in certain situations, and at certain times, it is the only realistic option. During The Troubles, the pseudo liberal clique failed to see the big picture. Loyalists faced annihilation, extermination, at the hands of an enemy that, at times, seemed wholly psychotic. Violence, or rather, counter violence, became absolutely necessary. The Ulster-Scots people were fighting for their very survival. The pseudo liberal though saw only the detail, never the whole picture, and thus the handwringing and condemnation began.
To those safely cocooned in their mock Tudor villas and turnkey townhouses it must have seemed like their ‘social inferiors’ would tear Northern Ireland apart, and at any moment, rise up out of their sink estates and terraced streets, seize power or trigger a lengthy, all out, no holds barred, civil war. For these people, with their pseudo liberal sensibilities and their unrealistic political outlook, the Ulster Conflict was an inconvenience. A terrible, bloody sideshow. As long as the bombers and the trigger-men stayed out of their cosy little affluent enclaves, they couldn’t care less about who was winning or who was losing. They did not pay the price of failed security policy in blood. Their homes were never ransacked by the RUC, or damaged by republican bombs, the bars they frequented were never bombed or riddled with machine-gun fire. Money gave them distance from it all. Not distance as measured in meters or miles but distance nonetheless.
To the pseudo liberal, Loyalists were no better than the Provisionals. Today they will often recite the mantra of ‘both sides were as bad as each other’. Really? Because in my book murdering babies is a lot worse than killing a grown man. Let’s not forget though, the pseudo liberal doesn’t think like the rest of us ‘plebs’. To them it’s all the same. Mainly because it was happening to someone else. Anyway, somehow, somewhere down the line, the pseudo liberals came to hate Loyalists (and to a lesser extent ‘mainstream’ Unionists) with a passion. Maybe Mummy and Daddy were detained briefly at a UDA roadblock during the UWC strike. Maybe Daddy and wee Jonathan/Tarquin/Joshua missed the rugby two weeks running because of the Drumcree crisis in ’95. Who knows? What is obvious though is that the hatred runs deep. Today, in the mind of the pseudo liberal, Loyalists are worse even than the republican mad men who bombed and murdered, mostly it seems, simply for the pleasure of bombing and murdering. My own pet theory is that the hatred of Loyalists stems from pure fear. Undoubtedly the cowering, snivelling pseudo liberal fears republicans too, but Loyalism would have been, simply due to geography and demographics, a little closer to home. More familiar, and thus in a sense, more real? It is a curious quirk of human psychology that it is easier, more internally acceptable, to hate that with which you are more familiar. Maybe. Or maybe some (or most) of the middle-of-the-road brigade really do desire a unitary all-island state. That would at least explain their irrational hostility towards Loyalists, (and their moronic obsession with the Ireland rugby team!)
An Impotent Minority
The ‘two communities’ in contemporary Northern Ireland have reached an uneasy kind of plurality, no one ‘side’ can realistic hope to dominate (or obliterate) the other. There are however, still many minorities in the ‘new’ NI. Ethnic minorities, so-called Dissident republicans (who ironically have not deviated from republicanism’s stated principles as PSF has), religious minorities (such as the fast growing Mormon community) and, of course, the pseudo liberals. I sometimes wonder if minority groups, in any setting, feel a sense of impotence. A powerlessness that they can do little to change. In the case of the pseudo liberals, I am convinced that this is the case. Perhaps uniquely though, the pseudo liberal minority does have an infinitesimally small chance of overcoming that powerlessness. The pseudo liberals do not have to get the majority to change religion or somehow magically change their ethnicity, they just have to get the majority to change their outlook, their politics, and get the population to think like them. It’s a forlorn hope. It is impractical and outlandish, but still, it would seem that it’s a pipedream that is being actively pursued by a small number of pseudo liberal ‘clicktivists’, who naively believe that internet trolling and outright stalking can “change society here” (a direct quote). If nothing else, one must admire their sheer bloody-minded optimism, as misplaced and flagrantly unrealistic as it is.
Most within the ranks of the pseudo liberals however know that there is no possibility of turning the majority of people here into clones of themselves. They are, at least, realistic. For them, the sense of impotence must be palpable. No doubt some of them put it to the back of their minds. Play golf or drink chablis instead. Others get angry and frustrated, taking to social media to berate and sanctimoniously lecture others. Then there are those pseudo liberals who decide that they can not only launch malicious online assaults on Loyalists and Unionists, but also sneakily make a few pounds as well. Though maybe someone should have explained copyright law and intellectual property rights to them beforehand!
“Someone Has To Make The Coffee”
Much to the chagrin of pseudo liberals they do not really have any credible political voice. The lamentable Alliance Party of Northern Ireland being the closest thing they have to political representation. The pseudo liberal’s feelings of powerlessness must have reached an apex during the negotiations that led to the signing of the Belfast Agreement in 1998. One would have thought that ‘The Agreement’ would have been a time for rejoicing in the cloistered suburbs and cul-de-sacs that the pseudo liberals call home, but no. Pseudo liberals, with their inflated sense of self worth and their utter contempt for the ‘riff raff’ (especially Loyalist riff raff) couldn’t quite bring themselves to celebrate. Yes, no doubt, they were delighted at the prospect of peace and so-called ‘normality’ (as most people were) but why, oh why, did that lovely Mr Blair have to include those Loyalist ruffians at the talks? The presence of Provisional Sinn Fein they could just about handle but the fact that ‘low-downs’ and ‘spides’ like the Ulster Democratic Party and the Progressive Unionist Party were playing an active (and vital) role in deciding the future of Ulster must surely have been too much for them to bear. They failed to recognise (as evidenced by contemporaneous online rants) that it was armed Loyalism that had forced PIRA/SF to the talks table. They refused to see Loyalists as anything more than thugs and cornerboys. Oh how they must have fumed when they watched the national news and saw Secretary of State Mo Mowlam, go cap in hand into Long Kesh, giving assurances to the Loyalist POWs, in order to obtain their support (which they had recently withdrawn) for the ‘Peace Process’. Oh how their bile must’ve risen every time they switched on the TV and saw Gary McMichael, David Ervine, Davy Adams et al, strutting confidently in or out of Parliament buildings.
David Ervine MLA
I am reminded of an amusing anecdote from that time. An off the cuff remark that illustrates just how irrelevant the pseudo liberal minority really is. A reporter asked a member of the Loyalist negotiating team what he thought of the Alliance Party’s input into the talks, completely deadpan he replied “Well, someone has to make the coffee”. That rather nicely sums things up. Alliance, the only real voice the pseudo liberals have ever had (ignoring the farce that was NI21 of course) were only in the room to make up the numbers. They couldn’t be excluded because they had a mandate, though who would vote for the likes of Davy Ford I’ll never know, but they were never considered serious players in the political process. At the time, everybody knew who the big players were, and aside from the UUP and the SDLP (Europe’s only right-wing Social Democrats) the ‘big players’ were the parties that spoke for the ‘men of violence’. Something which sticks in the craw of the pseudo liberals even now. The fact of the matter is, it was down to those who had made war to make the peace. Loyalism had made war very effectively, Loyalism had forced the Provisional republican movement to the talks table. Loyalists have a lot to be proud of. Pseudo liberals have nothing. For to have something to be proud of, or indeed ashamed of, one must first do something. The pseudo liberals of course, are renowned for doing nothing, aside perhaps, from bellyaching and complaining. My message to them is simple: You are powerless and irrelevant. Criticise Loyalists all you want, free speech is something Loyalists cherish after all. Keep bitching and moaning. Sit in your nice house, mortgaged to the hilt, dishing out sarcasm and self righteous dogma. Better still, do what your parents did throughout the Conflict, absolutely sweet f**k all.
‘The Troubles’ were fought by the working classes. Peace, as flawed and unjust and fragile as it is, was brought about by the working classes, the ‘spides’, the riff raff. The people you so despise. It was us, the nobodies, the ‘scroungers’, that determined the future of Ulster and we still determine it. You, pseudo liberals, will never know what that feels like, because you are political and moral cowards. Figuratively speaking, you crawled under the duvet in 1969 and have only recently found the courage to re-emerge.
“To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards out of men” – Ella Wheeler Wilcox