Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Troubles


I’ve been thinking a lot about Northern Ireland lately. About how Britain got caught trying to establish peace between the Catholics and the Protestants there, while also trying to protect its own interests in the area. About the over 3000 people who died in the troubles, about how just the most violent part of the conflict lasted 30 years, and about how two different religious groups, whose differences might appear so slight as to seem humorous to someone like me, have an almost unlimited capacity for hatred and fear of one another.

15 comments:

Skylers Dad said...

About a little over a year ago, I was traveling back east to meet with some fellow employees. We all went out to dinner and after quaffing down a lot of beers, the talk was about America and Great Britain and what was going on in Iraq.

I remember one of the Brits turning to me and demanding to know why America had been supporting terrorism for so many years by shipping weapons to Northern Ireland?

I remember mumbling something lame like America doesn't support terrorism, but because of our society being free we didn't control what the gun manufacturers did with their products.

I was a lame response then, and it still is... sigh...

vikkitikkitavi said...

If you've ever been in a real Irish bar in Chicago back in the day, you wouldn't have passed much time before someone would approach you and ask you for a donation for "widows and orphans." Of course it was known and accepted that this man or woman was really collecting for the IRA.

Also generally accepted was a certain amount of sympathy for the IRA. Look at it this way: if the Brits had come into our country and done what they did in Ireland, we'd be pretty pissed. We'd want back what they took, and many of us would not care too much how many people had to give their lives for that struggle, willingly or unwillingly.

Let's face it, for a country whose official beginnings were all about a ragtag guerilla army resisting the imperial occupier, we've got damn little insight into how those same people think and feel today.

Phil said...

Tis sad, but true.

kiki said...

i heard more died than that. a lot more.

especially if you include all the IRA attacks on london too

Megan said...

Weird. Topic of my class today? The Troubles.

I actually don't think the conflict in N. Ireland has much to do with religion at all. Protestants don't care that Catholics are Catholic and Protestants don't really give a shit that Catholics follow the Pope. But Catholics have experienced centuries of economic and political opression of Catholics at the hands of the Protestant majority in N. Ireland and I think that, rather than their very very minor religious differences are at the heart of The Troubles.

Of course, I don't think even centuries of systematic oppression gives one the right to blow up one's oppressor. . .

Phil said...

Megan - Do you think that religion is what lead to the Catholics being put in that class to begin with?

vikkitikkitavi said...

It's not the religious affiliation per se, it's the total identity of the sect. Catholics in Northern Ireland were not just the group that never made the English king the head of their church, they were the group that never got backing from the English lords and merchants who came to their country handing out rights to land, and contracts to sell the goods that England began to ship in, and the decent jobs in the manufacturing plants that began to appear. And what started as a religious identity became a economic & political & moral identity based on relgious affiliation.

My point was that it is a mistake in Iraq to shake our heads at the miniscule differences between the Sunni and Shia sects, because the differences between them have little to do with the actual practices of their sect.

It's the way in which religion becomes the canvas upon which identity is painted. Because religion is taught to be the most important aspect of any one person's life, the totality of their religious identity becomes the overriding focus of their lives, and the ways in which they believe that religious identity is thwarted becomes the negative focus of their lives. Wars ensue, etc. etc., in perpetuity throughout the universe.

Phil said...

If there had been a lack of religious identity, do you think another excuse would have been created to justify the oppression?

vikkitikkitavi said...

You mean light skin vs. dark skin? That's a popular one, too.

Anonymous said...

Britain's only "interest" in No. Ireland is to continue their ruthless oppression and suppression of the Irish people and their culture, they are not at ALL interested in TRUE peace, only a "peace" that serves their arrogant, imperialistic purposes, and one that allows them to continue to lay claim to a land that they have ABSOLUETLY no right to. It's a shame Sinn Fein sold out their people and signed some bullshit, so-called 'treaty' with the Oppressors.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Hey, anonymous possibly Irish person.

I don't disagree with you. What I hope my country understands is that while we may tell ourselves that we have got to stay in Iraq in order to defend the Sunnis, or the Shia, against the other faction, what we are doing in fact is making a bad situation worse by continuing to insert our influence and the defense of our interests where it does not belong. It is unlikely we will learn that lesson, though, since our sole purpose for going in was to insert a defense of our economic interests.

Phil said...

Viki - Yes, that's what I was thinking.

Megan said...

Hmmmm. Having spent almost the entire day thinking and talking about Ireland, I was still in an Ireland place and therefore totally missed the Ireland-Iraq parallel. I, of course, agree with you about Iraq, Vikki.

And Phil, I DON'T think religion is what led to the Catholics being oppressed in the first place. The British are equal-opportunity oppressors. They've pretty much oppressed every native population (America's included) they ever came in contact with, regardless of race, sex, or creed. I think religion is an easy scapegoat here, as with many other conflicts that can be traced back to British imperialism.

vikkitikkitavi said...

But in Ireland, the British said to the Protestants, "You will be our collaborators. We will reward and protect you for your cooperation with our plan." And they said to the Catholics, "You will be the underclass. You will toil where we tell you, or we will take what little you have left away from you." During the potato famine Catholics were given bowls of soup IF they would convert. Thus the term "souperism" as a synonmym for proselytising. Those that converted were referred to as "soup protestants," an insult that I first heard in Chicago in the 80s, so it's still around today.

Anyhoo, I don't argue that the British were equal opportunity oppressors, but they did use the Catholism of the Irish as the cudgel with which to beat them.

Sans Pantaloons said...

I think all the discussion regarding race, colour and religion begins and ends at the same origin.

Mother Nature has decreed that division is a beneficial survival tactic for the Human species.

And thus we have it, division along any and every possible thing we humans can concoct; leading to destruction of humans, sometimes on a massive scale.

I know that hypothesis not provide any answers, other than an understanding of why it is happening. Probably I'm trying to suggest that we have zero choice.
It doesn't matter what we do or how civilsed we try to be, we are our own natural predator and are doomed to go on killing each other for any reason we care to dream up.
Any deeper analysis of the killing becomes closed loop and we go around in circles like a dog chasing its tail.

Is there any conclusion or any solution?

No. None that I can think of. Most of the great humans who stand up and shout stop the killing are themselves killed.

I apologise vikkitikkitavi, for this rant. I have not visited before and the red mist came over me reading this post.

I firmly believe that we should not forget that we are animals.