Anil Dash has linked to a story from Saturday’s Guardian on the growing menace of racism in the North, mostly perpetrated by Loyalist street gangs (though for the sake of balance I’m sure the Nationalists have their fair share of xenophobes too).
Anil wonders why conservative weblogs consistently ignore stories such as this, while those that they publicly and voraciously denounce (left-leaning publications such as The Guardian included) still make an effort. From my own perspective, it’s always seemed that leftist and centrist news sources tell it like it is, good and bad, warts and all, and more importantly _in context_, whereas right-leaning sources seem to cherry-pick facts, usually taken out of context, in order to reinforce their big plastic bubble. Conservatives — specifically the rabid neo-conservative brand — don’t like the real world intruding on their dogmatic conceptions of what constitutes morality, or justice, or whatever.
Yes, I admit, I’m biased. I’m an unashamed leftist. But look at it this way. Which is more dangerous: believing what you read in The Guardian, or believing what you read in The Daily Mail? I think that answers a lot.
But back to the story that prompted Anil’s comment. I’m glad that The Guardian is there to report on immorality in deplorable situations such as this, because the closer you are, in a way, the more jaded you become. Not that I consider myself _close_, per se — even though Belfast is only 130km up the coast from here, north of the border is a totally different world — but I do feel jaded.
When I was growing up I never had to deal with paramilitary terrorism or British Army occupation on my own doorstep. Yet it was there, with us, everyday, on the news and in the papers; reports of kneecappings and ‘punishment beatings’, petrol bombings and daily ‘hoax calls’. It’s so frequent, so commonplace, so usual, it gets numbing after a while. It becomes normal.
Maybe it was a reaction to the horrific nature of what religious intolerance can breed in society, that it’s too horrible to even contemplate, but it seems that most people just shrug it off and get on with things, as if the Troubles —
_What a name, The Troubles! Sounds like a gang of ruffians in a Beano comic. If only that were the case…_
— it’s as if the Troubles are just something that’s there and there’s no sense troubling ourselves about it. (No pun intended.) Every now and again some big event will shock us into national outrage or mourning (Enniskillen, Warrington, Omagh, etc.) but soon after everything goes back to normal. Even though it isn’t, really. And everyone knows it, too. As the Northern Irish writer Bernard MacLaverty is reported to have said, according to an article recently read, the Troubles are
the elephant in our living room.
And here we are well into the 21st century, and things are getting worse. It’s not just the Protestants and Catholics, Loyalists and Nationalists anymore. Now there’s the Chinese, the Eastern Europeans, the Indians, the Africans. And not just in Northern Ireland, either. They’ve come here, to all 32 counties, for a better life. They’ve come to study in our universities, to work in the jobs we (native white Christian Irish) won’t take, to contribute to the nation and experience our supposedly world-famous hospitality.
And what do they get in return? Not much beyond abuse from all corners and in every conceivable manner, as likely from those who should know better as those who know fuck-all. Sad, but true. And these blatantly racist attitudes are now so widespread, they’re becoming transparent. Just like the Troubles became, they’re the elephant in our living room.
(A sad reminder of this is virtually every visit I make to town, coming across an elderly lady selling a copy of The Big Issue near the offices of the Irish Independent, accompanied by an ambient soundtrack of ignorant passers-by informing her so casually to go back where she came from.)
I, for one, am grateful that the liberal and centrist media exists to highlight these issues. Racism is just one of many unsightly sores on the body of our society. Too disgusting to look at, even. But the longer we cover them up and ignore them, the worse they’ll get, until it’s too late to do anything about them. I’m grateful that the liberal media is willing to hold up a mirror and force us to see what we’d like to ignore, to persuade us to do something about it; if we act now, we may still have time to heal these wounds.