IF you’ve ever sighed with exasperation or clenched your teeth with frustration every time you heard someone say “we are all to blame” for the Troubles, you may find Malachi O’Doherty’s latest column somewhat cathartic. The peace process patter that has evolved in our political discourse may be natural and second nature to those who wish to absolve themselves, but for the vast majority who got on with life and our neighbours, it can be uncomfortably Orwellian.
For the majority without blood on their hands or hate in their hearts, it can be grating to hear that vocal minority lecture us about how “we all” have a responsibility to build peace. Yes, but for most it means doing what they pretty much always did, although now they are supposed to be grateful for not being slaughtered at random.
Rewriting history through language, painting former ‘combatants’ (ie terrorists) as peacemakers, and heaping praise on the intransigent for finally seeing the error of their ways was all well and good to get them over the hill. But we are not ‘all’ victims, any more than we were ‘all’ responsible, and this tired message has been grating for a long time.
Anyway, here’s Malachi:
The point of all this sermonising we have endured about how to make peace with each other is to absolve those who did the actual killing and to make all of us responsible for what they did.
Those who love that message most are the killers and political movements which encouraged them, because it absolves them.
It seems not to matter to the peacemakers that those groups were always minorities; that peace came about through those groups moving out of the dark corners they occupied to take the very political ground they had previously sought to eradicate.
This blather, however, stems from the language used to initiate the peace process. Before 1993, no one ever called the Troubles a ‘conflict’. This was a new word to establish the idea that, at heart, we had a disagreement between equally legitimate positions inherited from history. It was clever, but it was a lie, for it overlooked the simple fact that there were attackers and attacked, that there were assailants and victims.
It even implies that the victims were part of the problem; they wouldn’t have been shot, or bombed, if they had not been part of the conflict, too.
If anyone was to blame, it wasn’t the person with a gun, but history and the failure of us all to find love and peace in our hearts. I feel like slapping people who say this.