Are we living in an Orwellian Delusion?

by belfastunicorn

I am a unicorn; this means I was born in the catholic community and yet am also a small ‘u’ unionist. (

We are highly attuned in Northern Ireland to the nuances of language and terminology. The old tell-tales such as how you pronounce ‘h’ are taught to us as kids by peers as a way to identify ‘us’ and ‘them’. (Oh I say ‘aitch’ by the way.)  Yet we are stuck with tribal names which often do not accurately reflect identity.

For example, I am pretty agnostic on the Royal Family, but on balance would class myself as a republican (small r) yet on the constitutional position I am a unionist (small u). In Northern Ireland terms I am classed a Catholic because of my parents community background and my schooling and yet I am a secularist.

And from this unicorn’s perspective, political Unionism (big ‘U’) is too often a bland coverall for a form of Protestant Northern Irish Nationalism rather than a genuine embracing of  the real United Kingdom.

I’ve been reading George Orwell lately:

“A nationalist is one who thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive prestige. He may be a positive or a negative nationalist — that is, he may use his mental energy either in boosting or in denigrating — but at any rate his thoughts always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations. He sees history, especially contemporary history, as the endless rise and decline of great power units, and every event that happens seems to him a demonstration that his own side is on the upgrade and some hated rival is on the downgrade. But finally, it is important not to confuse nationalism with mere worship of success. The nationalist does not go on the principle of simply ganging up with the strongest side. On the contrary, having picked his side, he persuades himself that it is the strongest, and is able to stick to his belief even when the facts are overwhelmingly against him. Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception. Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is also — since he is conscious of serving something bigger than himself — unshakeably certain of being in the right.” George Orwell, Notes on Nationalism, 1945.

One toxic addition which we have added to George’s definition is the ability to also assume that if ‘they’ are happy then ‘we’ must have lost. And if ‘we’ are happy then ‘they’ must have lost. The Unionist Forum looks to this catholic unionist like a retreat to where Unionism is synonymous with Orangism and a solely white, male, fundamentalist protestant identity. That is not a recipe for leading us anywhere except into a spiral of decline which may lead eventually to greater violence. If we accept Orwell’s definition we need a post-nationalist solution which is based on patriotism and mutual respect.

We need a genuine shared future – not greater division and separation and, frankly, we need many in our political class to grow up and start to show real leadership.