You do have to feel a bit sorry for UUP election candidate Bill Manwaring. Writing in the BelTel he discusses how his 7th election defeat in 13 years has affected his mental health – spoiler alert, it is not positive. Bill admits his mental health is generally not great, so you wonder about the wisdom of engaging in politics, a famously cruel and combative arena at the best of times.
Moving on from the personal, Bill reflects on the state of Unionism. To quote:
One of the biggest challenges I have had to deal with, inside my head, is the over-powering self-hatred and belief that I am useless, worthless and incapable of doing anything of value.
Over my life it has led me to the point of self-destruction many times, impacting on others in a way that only reinforces the initial belief of my worthlessness.
Unionism suffers from similar symptoms to me. We see no value in what we have, we listen to the voices that tell us we have nothing to offer, we believe we cannot do anything of value and that we will always fail. We hate ourselves more than any other has ever hated us. We look for failures and ignore any success.
But, instead of building a strong, successful, welcoming Northern Ireland, the kind of Northern Ireland nobody would ever want to vote to leave, we listened to the dark voices in our heads — we had failed, we were proving how useless we are.
This created a 25-year cycle of anger, despair and self-hatred that has taken unionism to the brink of self-destruction. It has allowed others to manipulate this weakness to the point where we can no longer see any hope for tomorrow.
Unionism faces the same challenges, with the spiral tightening every day, as we allow our self-hatred to grow, lashing out blindly without thought or plan.
We have a beautiful country, with amazing people and opportunity to lead the world in so many ways.
We cannot allow Winston Churchill’s “black dog” to blind us to the opportunities we have and successes we have achieved, we can lift ourselves out of this darkness and recognise that the enemy we have been fighting for the last 25 years has been the one within ourselves.
I hope it creates a conversation on the psyche of political unionism in Northern Ireland and how we can break the ever-decreasing circles.
We have so much potential, we just need to stop listening to those voices, within ourselves, that have given up on us.
One for all you armchair psychologists to mull over…
I help to manage Slugger by taking care of the site as well as running our live events. My background is in business, marketing and IT. My politics tend towards middle-of-the-road pragmatism, I am not a member of any political party. Oddly for a member of the Slugger team, I am not that interested in daily politics, preferring to write about big ideas in society. When not stuck in front of a screen, I am a parkrun Run Director.