“an aggravated form of the tribalism that is increasingly visible across the entire world…”

As if to hammer home my point from last night, the mega bonfire is not just about one culture or the other, it’s about the failure of both work the institutions of the Belfast Agreement. Here’s Max Boot on the generality of the problem political narcissism:

It’s easy to think there is something wrong with the Northern Irish, but increasingly I wonder if their situation isn’t merely a somewhat more aggravated form of the tribalism that is increasingly visible across the entire world, from the Philippines to Italy, to pick two countries at random that are experiencing significant secessionist movements (by Muslims in the Philippines and northerners in Italy).

We see it even in the United States, where Republicans and Democrats increasingly lack a commonly agreed upon set of facts and a common vocabulary: Are Trump opponents the brave Resistance or contemptible Snowflakes? We are more disunited than ever—or at least more than we have been in a very long time.

A visit to Northern Ireland is a bracing lesson in what can happen if divisions—whether ethnic, racial, religious, regional, or ideological—spin out of control. It’s also a reminder of how hard it can be to patch up civil society once its foundations disintegrate.

Aggravated is the key operative.

  • Neil

    the mega bonfire is not just about one culture or the other, it’s about the failure of both work the institutions of the Belfast Agreement.

    No, it is. Really Mick, it’s entirely about one culture, sorry. The failure to tackle it has been that of Unionism and is in keeping with their previous behaviour. They won’t do anything to upset the more hard line element of their base, hence their recent going to ground after supporting the bonfire injunction, aside from the joint letter with the PUP saying ‘blame SF’ and not mentioning the injunction at all. The idea that the DUP would have or are likely to support a regulatory body for bonfires is ludicrous, they still want rid of the PC, a part of the overall picture in yesterday’s peaceful 12th. Jamie Bryson would be up in arms and we don’t want that now do we?

  • Madamarcati

    All those many years ago, as a mature student at Queen’s, I read all the most recent scholarship on what was the referred to as Post nationalism. As I thought I would find an answer to my experience in these studies.
    I was raised across two continents by various parents from different cultures and schooled in different educational systems. Accordingly, as an adult I did not have the luxury of belonging to any one culture, although born in the USA both my creole blood and my socialist European college education having created a fatal cultural rift. But what I found in these studies were dry politically focused sociological forecasts built upon statistics by academics who had no experiencecin the real world. They were obviously analysing others from within the self referencin box of secure national identities and professional roles. So from within this safe place they all believed Internationalism would be a summum bonum through which lives that they found a tad restrictive would become freer. For them it has worked, as they created it for themselves.
    Their dreams that Inter nationalism and its wealth creation would eventually financially gift them a way out from their particular kind of parochialisms has come to pass, for their class. So from my truly internationalised placelessnesd all of these reports were more cargo cult than a cultural investigation.
    So many of us now are caste entirely adrift, truly internationalised whether through conflictual or economic social ‘cleansing’, with no possible safe place anywhere save as a dangerous stranger, a hated scapegoat or some kind of radical terrorist. Take your pick, as I have been framed as all three in my life.
    It angered me greatly this self referencing, ignorant academic canon as it literally ignored all of us who had already been left far behind by the Jekyll Island plutocrats century long globalisation Project.

    Luckily for me and what life I have managed to live safely I was trained in theatre. But it is increasingly exhausting being always afraid, feeling alien everywhere and sometimes not being able to read the cultural cues fast enough to take on the safety zone of the actor’s reflective camouflage. And forget ever being able to have one of those things the globalising social engineers and technocrats and the original plutocrat families have, a career or a place in this socially engineered inter-national society. Which has its own recognisable codes of conduct, closed class system and ideology. And I will never willingly play the victim/winner game and become some placed person’s pet political cause.

    So I would suggest that what you are all freaking out about, the rising global ‘tribalism’ is a simple consequence of over a century of focused social engineering by political ideologists operating out of the governments in the UK and the USA. It really was predictable as it is basic science. If you forcibly over homogenise anything it will begin to curdle and then separate. If you attack its roots with no care of what comes after, disease and death are inevitable.

    Best to look out the early scholarship on globalisation to begin to unravel this filthy humanitarian crisis. The first thing that you will find that it is full of hatred and fear of ‘evil’ tribalism especially nationalist tribalism as the source of world war and conflict. After two world wars it was believed by the US/UK and EU elites that they were just too expensive in real terms. Their consequent ideological war upon any group of people who remained outside direct capitalist-political control has eventually shaken down to include the family unit. No money in social cohesion. The mass media and advertising actively pursued intergenerational conflict mostly through a puritanical use of sexualised imagery. It being so much more profitable to have four individuals buying age appropriate stuff than just one household sharing the one product.
    So underneath the veneer of our New One World Order the class and nationalist conflicts that informed the 19th century are actually still with us albeit in a – I Would Like To Teach The World To Sing In Perfect Harmony – slick mass mediated format. After the second world war anthropologists like Ruth Benedict and psychologists like Edward Bernays were employed by the US/UK global empire builders to solve the problem of culture and engineer a solution.

    We are all of us from whatever class, national or political origins now living with the unfolding disastrous social, political and economic consequences of this arrogant, ignorant attempt to engineer others lives and cultures for absolutist political control and progessive endless economic profits.
    And it is, quite predictably again, making everyone under a certain age or outside the charmed global circles rage ridden and suicidal.

    A Paradigm shift is way overdue.

  • mickfealty

    I understand this is a subtle point, and not one that’s getting much of an easy hearing Neil. But at risk of causing greater offence in this charged atmosphere, you’re missing the larger point.

    It’s all about tribes, choosing one, belonging or not belonging, and denigrating or undermining the other. It’s an inherently dangerous form of political entrapment which actually affects all of us.

    I thought this was an intriguing (and highly pertinent) observation from the Ulster diaspora:


    “Adults” don’t act because, twenty years on, politics has been captured by tribal interests who gain from a high quantum of social rage (not fixing stuff), and who don’t recognise the strategic limits of tactical manoeuvring.

  • Neil

    I can’t disagree with much of what you say, but that big picture view has to be coupled with a more specific look at the situation. It’s the pox on all their houses approach Mick, which has been very popular in Northern Ireland. Every criticism of one must be tempered by criticism of the other. But that’s not always true or fair. I remember the internment bonfires of old, and with very little imagination those bonfires could easily have aped the 11th night ones and we would have two of these events every summer, where both communities really did their best to cause as much offense as possible with what they chose to burn. But a decision was taken by Nationalists to clamp down on the bonfires and now the only one I know of is Divis and most of the residents there look forward to the day it too is gone. In the bonfire example on the Nationalist side of the fence the grown ups did act and it worked, it’s a bit much to spread the blame out here in response to the DUP’s complete cowardice on the issue on their side of the fence.

    Of course the biggest problem now is that it has a life of it’s own, and for people with little to look forward to the whole getting juiced by the bonfire is probably one of the most enjoyable nights of their year. Stopping it being what it currently is is now going to be extremely difficult.

  • mickfealty

    That’s not been me, as you very well know. And if you listen to the audio above I think you’ll see concrete proof of that. But I refuse to get dragged into the wake of the bandwagon that remains blind to the loss of public authority which inevitably comes from this poor working of the democratic institutions.

  • Abucs

    I am in the Philippines now where I spend a lot of my time. It is a country with over 7000 islands and over 100 different languages. It is remarkable how peaceful the different regions are towards each other with the exception of the four southern tribes which are Muslim. I think part of the peaceful co-existence has to with a shared religion and history which allows most to be able to communicate and trust each other. Also the differences are clearly demarked by regional territory based on local languages. I think that is a difference with the growing division in the west perhaps with the exception of the city/rural divide. Although there are clearly other differences in northern Ireland, what we have had over the proceeding decades is an academic led project to create a secular religion based on political correctness. This political correctness spans economics, history and morality. It is led by people who call themselves Progressives because they were taught to believe they were on the right side of history and the values they were taught would prevail. This argument could be made with Progressives holding sway in academia, the education departments, media, showbiz and eventually politics. But there are a huge group of people who realise what has gone on and are actively against it. The breakdown in respect for institutions like academia and government and the mass move of people creating new preferences for alternate news and entertainment media and private education has highlighted the divisiveness and undercut the belief of creating that new academic Progressive homogeneity. I think what people are waking up to across the western world is that the Progressive crusade for unity is fast creating new and deep felt divisions that were not there previously.

  • aquifer

    The British state, downsized and demeaned by the Tory right, is failing to insist on its monopoly of force or protection of its citizens from gangs of paramilitary outlaws.

    MLAs are not well enough protected to speak out about this, so this is a crisis of state security. It also boosts the IRA narrative of NI as a failed state, so do not trust Sinn Fein to resolve this.

    Not a fresh crisis, but it stinks by now.

    The hundreds of families displaced shows that paramilitaries enjoy widespread freedom from prosecution. This has been granted by the UK government, because failing to invest the surveillance and entrapment resource needed to make a small number of prosecutions means that there is not even a token of resistance shown to thuggery and banditry.

  • murdockp

    Here’s a question. If bonfires were declared illegal by the courts (and they are likely to be considered illega many publications and research already direct us to this conclusionl) would the authorities and officials still tolerate them or would the rule of law be applied?

  • Neil

    If I had to guess I would say, at best, the cops would video the bonfire builders and whoever else could be held responsible and go around rounding them up two weeks later. Fleg protests II would start but they would die off eventually.

  • 05OCT68

    Mick in Derry the internment & 15th bonfires have largely gone, I think there’s a big one in Galliagh & one at the flyover near the Brandywell. Local residents are opposed to them but the wee fu)kers keep building them anyway. Now at the Brandywell they used to have a féile, no boney to occupy the kids on the 15th. I don’t know why it’s gone back to building bonfires but I suspect that the weans are seeing 12th boneys & the ensuing chaos & think “If they can do that why can’t we”. Most Nationalist areas have at least tried to curtail bonfires but without reciprocal agreement its a partial success. I agree the “adults” have disengaged most don’t vote & a lot bail out to Donegal or the Costas. In place of the “adults” the statutory bodies using existing legislation will have to step in, if that means putting out boneys or lifting boney material so be it. Something has to be tried to break the cycle re boneys.

  • ted hagan

    I think your reaction just underlines the point that was being made. Each side constantly wages this pointless mission of claiming the high moral ground.
    I think I could recite the slogans in my sleep.

  • Neil

    That wasn’t the point that was being made. No one, literally, is talking about the moral high ground other than you.

    If Republicans were going mad, and SF were refusing to condemn the burning of Loyalist or Unionist symbols Slugger would (rightly) call SF out on it.

    Loyalists go mad every year, burning literally everything that they can get their hands on that can cause offense, and surprise surprise, Slugger wants to take a higher view in which somehow Republicans are to blame for Loyalism going bat s**t crazy year after year.

    Bonfires are a Loyalist problem. Simple. Any Republican tries to do anything about this problem and the bonfires will simply get bigger. Loyalist problem, requires loyalist solution.

    Ach sure aren’t they all as bad as each other? No, not when it comes to bonfires they’re not.

  • aquifer

    Bonfires exist outside the law, unlike other potentially dangerous things like motorised vehicles and dogs, while are permitted under license.

    People are suffering property damage and stress without recourse.

    Paramilitaries back bonfires, but the NIO pretends that this is not a conspiracy of three or more persons to avoid paying criminal damage compensation.

    The privacy and safety of private residences is an important measure of political freedom throughout the world.

    Do we first need bonfires, and flags advertising ISIS, in Finchley to resolve UK law in this area?

  • Deplorable Ulsterman

    Ulster Patriots have every justified right to burn the symbolism of those trying to eradicate our wee country. Effigies of traitors are burned on bonfires in numerous countries throughout Europe. No one is being killed and this is much a fuss about nothing.

  • Deplorable Ulsterman

    The institutions of the Belfast “Agreement” will never work, would never work and can never work. They were a retrograde step forced by useless politicians in London when those behind the terrorist insurrection should have been thoroughly demoralised, not appeased, and long may the non-agreement be confined to the dustbin of history as an abject failure.

  • Neil

    Ulster Patriots – ha the 12th is obviously having it’s effect on you. Funny. These Ulster Patriots have been recently noted as being Loyalist paramilitaries, and while some choose to run interference on their behalf excusing everything they do as long as it’s not illegal actual residents near these bonfires are terrified for their homes and safety, but too scared to speak out as they know what will happen.

    As to whether something is legal and whether or not it’s defensible, these are two different things. If you think this assault on community relations is a good idea then by all means defend it. Effigies of long dead traitors have been burned across Europe – in northern Ireland an effigy of a school child beaten to death by a loyalist mob featured on a bonfire a few years back. But sure, it’s not illegal is it?

  • 05OCT68

    There must be some element of existing legislation that can be used re: boneys, be it environmental, safety, or public order.

  • 05OCT68

    I don’t know about the rest of Europe but I do know that poor old Guy Fawkes and Lundy get burnt every year, it seems to be a particularly British tradition

  • 05OCT68

    Our politicians have the mindset of I’m am the peoples leader so I must follow my people.

  • 05OCT68

    Alternative to the GFA?

  • Deplorable Ulsterman

    Thorough demoralisation of anyone trying to eradicate Northern Ireland, and standard rules of governance as in any other successful part of the world. All PC “liberalism”, and nonsense talk of “equality” between the loyal citizen and the traitor, binned.

  • 05OCT68

    Well it’s been tried & It failed.

  • Deplorable Ulsterman

    No it has not.