Big Problems, Small Minds.
I am a unicorn; this means I was born in the catholic community and yet am also a small ‘u’ unionist. (http://wp.me/p2XnX7-3). Although that is short-hand, a pro-union, liberal, secular curmudgeon from a catholic background might be more appropriate.
If we are to build a better future it will require us to address the legacy of the past and of the hatred which rips our country apart. That is about healing open wounds.
However we must also look at some key root causes. Deprivation, disaffection and despair create a fertile breeding ground for resentment and hatred to flourish. If this place is to be fit for our children to raise their children, we must also create a sustainable economy and environment for all of our people.
Unfortunately, while the UK’s economic performance is poor, we were at the back of the class in the good times and are getting worse in the recession. Economic inactivity, productivity, child poverty, NEETs, you can take your pick, but on any objective measure Northern Ireland is failing its exams.
In any normal democracy the governing coalition would be addressing these issues as an existential threat to the state and to its own political future. The opposition would be having a field day picking apart the failing policies and also preparing its own solutions for implementation when it wins power.
Here our parties, too often devoid of ideas or policies, and safe in the absence of a proper opposition default to the politics of paranoia.
The Australian spin guru Linton Crosby coined the term ‘dog whistle’ politics and the sad fact is in Northern Ireland we all find it too easy to prick up our ears at the barely disguised code words which make us angry or defensive. It appears to this unicorn that it is a perfectly rational strategy for parties only interested in the short-term political advantage. The problem is that such politics are contributing to a downward spiral that can only make things worse for the population.
At some stage, and I suspect we are getting there, the ‘ballot fodder’ starts to question what it is being told; perhaps because the remedies promised don’t happen such as “United Ireland by 2016”; or else people are called out on to the streets and then disowned by their political ‘leaders’ . And, of course, our biggest parties are all in the Executive, so they can’t blame them’uns as easily because they are also collectively at fault.
In short, we face big problems that will not be solved by small minds.
(I am aware that this is all very negative, but I will blog soon about a few things that could make a difference)