Last week at the Wellington Park Hotel in Belfast, I saw a man of my age who was wearing a red button “Stand Up To Bullying”. There was a big anti-bullying day last week. “Bullying” seems to be flavour of the month.
Whether its at schools, workplaces, the internet…everyone talks about Bullying. Apparently one half of the British Labour Party is bullying the other half.
I do not take it lightly.
Back in the 1960s at my grammar school, Bullying was a big thing. The worst bullies were the teachers. Thats how it was. Wrong. Horrible. It ruined lives.
I was surprised that going back to the same school…to help my (then) 11 year old son choose a school, the Head Teacher talked about pastoral care. In the space of thirty years, Bullying had become a very bad thing…officially.
And if you visit your local primary school, you might see spaces in the playground. If your child or my grandchild has no friends to play with he/she stands in the space and a friend will be found.
Changed times. Rightly so.
The standard advice for people being bullied is “tell someone”… a responsible adult.
Which brings me back to the burning of Irish Flags and nationalist/republican election posters on Twelfth bonfires.
This Twelfth has been described as “quiet” …few confrontations. Big events….Garvaghy Road, Ardoyne, Ormeau Road etc took the headlines and as those confrontations fade into memory, the hatred that underpins the Twelfth has been exposed.
Yet it is curious. We are obliged to accept Orange “Culture”, so nobody in the LetsGetAlongerist establishment seemed to notice anti-Catholic, anti-Irish behaviour. But a few years ago, Polish flags started appearing on TWelfth bonfires and suddenly the LetsGetAlongerists noticed. Likewise when Alliance Party posters, particuarly those of Anna Lo, appeared on bonfires….well that was different.
LEtsGetAlongerism compels us to tolerate anti-Catholicism as “traditional”…but compels us not to tolerate hatred towards ethnic minorities. Yet there are some who might say that the Irish are actually the biggest ethnic minority in Norn Iron.
Yet there does seem to be some kinda recognition that these bonfires are very bad. But the LetsGetAlongerists bend over backwards to find a reason to control them…except the obvious one.
Thus we are told the fires are dangerous and a house was badly damaged in West Belfast. We are told the burning tyres are bad for the environment and indeed for animals…a pet cat was badly burned in Antrim.
And yet people tip-toe around the most obvious reason to control these bonfires. Sheer Hatred.
Are they a form of …Bullying? Do they make nationalists, Catholics feel threatened?
Should we tell a “responsible adult”. That after all is the new protocol. And it seems to me that the “responsible adults” we should tell are the Police Service of Norn Iron. But what exactly would PSNI do?
Well “crowd control” is a weak point in any police service. Some excesses regarding litter, public drinking, public urination, rowdiness is inevitable. Whether its an Orange Parade in Belfast, a GAA match in Clones or a Bruce Springstein concert in Croke Park,I dont expect the police to go in heavy handed with tear gas and water cannon but setting out some legislation might be a good start.
Public bullying is no different from private bullying.
Of course, telling a responsible adult is the modern protocol to deal with being bullied. In the past Victims tried other strategies. Suffer it, hoping to win some sympathy (rise above it) or be self-deprecating, the victims effectively bully themselves, allow themselves to become a figure of fun.
Is there a “progressive” way to deal with “political bullying” such as seeing your election poster on an Orange bonfire? Laugh it off…curry favour with LetsGetAlongerists cos you are cool with it.
It is a strategy that does not work for me.
It is not just your name and your photograph in the flames…there is a name of a political party …and whether you received a few hundred votes or several thousand votes, you should maybe consider the feelings of the people who actually voted for you.
As to Flags….If you can get worked up…quite properly …about the disrespect shown to the Polish, Portuguese or Spanish flags, simple consistency means you should get worked up when my flag is torched.
Thats not too much to ask for in return for my family’s vote.
To laugh it off, to stay silent…thats for LetsGetAlongerists. But lets not allow our politicians to hide behind being “progressives”.
“Progressive Nationalism” is a meaningless form of words unless it seeks to defend the dignity of Irish people in Norn Iron.