Please – don’t befriend me. Just play straight.

OK, cards on the table. I like William Crawley. He’s smart, cheerful and maybe the best presenter in BBC Belfast. ‘Sunday Sequence’, the radio programme he presents, has become a must-listen for anybody interested in political as well as religious developments here and elsewhere. 
Right, that’s the nice stuff. Now the point on which I disagree with him. Yesterday on Twitter he said “We need to learn how to talk about one another without alienating the other. We can’t do that without befriending one another.”  I agree with him on the first bit, I fundamentally disagree with him on the second . He’s quite right that there’s not much point talking to someone if all you’re doing is getting up his/her nose. But the notion that we have to be friends with people in order to talk to them is plain wrong.
It’s also dangerous. During the Troubles there was a view touted, mainly but by no means only by the Churches, that what was called for was a conversion in each of our hearts. If we could all go through the day being nice to each other, the Troubles would be over. The gap in that reasoning is that we act towards each other partly through free will but to a considerable measure by the kind of society structures we live within.  In other words, politics matters.
The present flag dispute is a perfect example. Working-class unionists, or some of them, appear to believe their Britishness is being torn down, stripped from them. The facts contradict this, in terms of what flag flies on public buildings, what iconography and imagery adorn public buildings, what names streets have, what political view is exemplified 3,000 times over in marching form each year. Leave aside the brute fact of partition for a moment. The existence of the conditions described above are what need addressing, in an open, logical, fair-minded manner. Certainly if people involved are also friends, that’s fine. But I don’t like everybody and I wouldn’t presume to expect that everyone likes me. I will insist, and so should everybody, that society is organised on a basis of fairness and justice, and if there are competing political viewpoints, that the cities and towns and society people live in reflect this. Forget the ‘befriending’ bit, William. Let’s just start building in a business-like, decent-minded way. Then friendship will flourish.

13 Responses to Please – don’t befriend me. Just play straight.

  1. Anonymous December 19, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    It has occurred to me this past few days, that surely in the eyes of the middle ground/observers from afar – the recent events have once and for all dispelled the myth that a mirror image occurs on Nat/Union sides in terms of community outlook, politics and culture.

    It's just so nice and cosy and convenient for lazy reporters and commentators to draw parallels all the time. The conclusion I've come to is that everyone in N.I. needs to examine what he or she means exactly when they say the words “identity and “culture” – increasingly I feel for (hardline at least) unionists this simply doubles as “SUPREMACY”.

    It is unionist supremacy which is being eroded when orange parades in Nat areas are challenged or when public buildings are made more neutral shared spaces …NOT “BRITISH CULTURE”, at least it falls under no definition of culture I can comprehend.

    As for the word identity, is that identity defined by being a supremacist? Every year the great and good either ignore or facilitate the blue bag rabble during the bigot fest known as the “marching season” which perpetuates from generation to generation this notion of identity and culture revolving entirely around reminding themuns – WE STILL RUN OUR WEE COUNTRY! NO SURRENDER!

    Culture covers many diverse things, art and story telling, most would agree falls into this category, murals for instance. A simple but illustrative point about loyalist “culture” – most of their new, more kosher “murals” are manufactured out of plastic by computerized machines in workshops then screwed to the walls (the replacement for Mr. Balaclava at Sandy Row for instance).

    …a far cry from the genuine passion and artistry that goes into works such as those on the International Wall on the Lower Falls on the Nat side, with people like Danny D who recently did one of Rory McIlroy in the Holyland area.

    …mural artistry is real culture, using a CNC machine is quite literally manufacturing culture…

  2. Anonymous December 19, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

    'It is unionist supremacy which is being eroded when orange parades in Nat areas are challenged or when public buildings are made more neutral shared spaces …NOT “BRITISH CULTURE”, at least it falls under no definition of culture I can comprehend.'

    I love this paragraph – couldn't have written it better myself.

  3. Hugh Odling-Smee December 19, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

    I'm not sure. I think a basic premise of business is that you have to want to buy what the other party is selling. You could go in and buy some goods, but in most people's hearts they just want to burn the ground and dance on the ashes.

  4. Anonymous December 19, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

    ah Anonymous, but you did write it yourself, pedantically speaking that is… 🙂

  5. PMac December 20, 2012 at 12:21 am #

    What a lot of nonsense Anon. The whole point of partition was a compromise whereby that Northern Ireland (1/6 of island) is part of the Unionist system and the Republic (5/6) was part of the Republican system so that both sets of self-determination could be respected.

    Northern Ireland is a TINY TINY piece of land, and is pathetic that those who really got the short straw and compromised most should somehow have what is a tiny recognition of their homeland eroded. I don't see any complaints complaining about how Republicans in the Republic are “supremacists”, or how the French in France are “supremacists”.

  6. Anonymous December 20, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    Partition wasnt a compromise it was a case of this is the best you are going to get so take it or else! Explain to me now unionists have compromised most Im all ears. A bit of a difference between the Republic, France and Northern Ireland but if you cant see it then I wont bother explaining it to you snd you should continue pretending you are in some super protestant orange free state which has only a a handfull of troublesome taigs

  7. Anonymous December 20, 2012 at 9:48 am #

    There is no point in making a reasoned response to you PMac, clearly in your book the last 90 odd years have been quite utopian for Nats/Taigs in Norn Iron; not a bit of bigotry, gerrymandering, discrimination or unionist supremacy to be seen. Why can't them taigs get it into their wee heads that us settlers took there land off them a couple of hundred years ago, told them they were british and be happy…?!

  8. Anonymous December 20, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    Wow, what planet have you been living on?
    MPG …..

  9. giordanobruno December 20, 2012 at 11:07 am #

    Anon 17:03
    ” far cry from the genuine passion and artistry that goes into works such as those on the International Wall on the Lower Falls”
    You must be joking. That is just an embarrassing mishmash of leftwing cliche from student badges circa 1979.
    'Look at all these just causes on our wall. So our cause must be just too'

  10. Anonymous December 20, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    giordanobruno – I'll take your fair criticism, the murals thing was a side issue to my initial comment. Care to comment on the main part of what I said though…?

  11. giordanobruno December 20, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

    As you took my (perhaps a little harsh) criticism on the chin I will try to reply to the rest of your post.
    If we can assume that in terms of art,literature, song, the protestant community has produced its fair share then I think what you are mainly addressing is the marching band 'culture'.
    To me that really is more about identity than artistic expression.
    The separate elements, marching, lively bands,lambeg drums, are all fine in themselves.
    (I would be sorry to lose the sound of the lambeg drum in our rural townlands.)
    Sadly the way they are used is ugly to me, possibly supremacist yes, but underscored with insecurity.
    I've tried to argue with Jude before that the Loyal Orders could evolve into a benign and positive part of our society,but I don't know if I even believe it myself.
    I notice that our culture minister has said in the past
    “My department does not recognise the term/designation 'Protestant Band culture'.

  12. Anonymous December 21, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

    I just have a sneaky feeling that Mr.Crawley who likes to portray a middle of the road type person,is in reality a dyed in the wool Unionist.

  13. Anonymous December 21, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

    Not that sneaky of a feeling really is it though if we're being honest… He seems like a pleasant enough guy though, I'll not hold it agin him!