Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Peace in Ulster - The Hand Of History Over Belfast's Future

Northern Ireland, Ulster Troubles, Belfast

So just as the bonfire of Savilegate re-ignites after a Christmas lull to spew more foul putrescence into British society and national memory alike we now witness across the Irish Sea the outplay of our hammy and extremely dodgy ex-Prime Minister's finest hour as global playmaker of Christian peace and security.

As catalysed by a Belfast City Council political decision over the flying of the Union flag that was as ill-conceived and ill-timed as Italy's invasion of Greece in October 1940, the past few weeks have witnessed both appalling civil disorder and blanket political directionless amongst Unionist parties. The current Secretary of State Theresa Villiers' insistence recently that such undermining of the civil power and the local economic base warrants the deliverance of severely worded editorial pieces to the mass media thus underscoring the comparative JFK-like qualities of her illustrious predecessors of the ilk of Merlyn Rees and Humphrey Atkins.

The failure of the Sunningdale Agreement in 1974 was indeed both the metaphorical and literal Point of No Return for any rational end to the Ulster Troubles that would not entail the inclusion of political extremes and political toxins. Selective blindness over such realities being a fond leitmotif of 20th Century Irish history as stretching back in turn to the true geopolitical dynamics behind the creation of the Northern Ireland state and the acceptance of partition in the early Twenties by two devolved governments on the island of Ireland.

The search for black and white political stratifications in a fog of greyness will produce every bit as much insecurity as the greying of issues surrounding communal guilt engenders within the framework of black and white moral polarities.

And thus Ulster's fragile peace is now under threat by way of the most inflammatory issue in modern British life - emotional connectivity to British cultural identity itself - and as fundamentally hamstrung in turn by ancient loyalty to a Britain which in its mainland cityscapes, sense of place and broad socio-economic purpose no longer even exists.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Reading The Runes - The Boys From The Blackstuff

The Boys From The Blackstuff

Earlier this week I read an article in a major British broadsheet newspaper where the citizen-writer expounded upon his  degrading experiences at a UK Job Centre following redundancy. The online public commentary associated with the piece was corroboratory in the extreme by way of collective short-term memories of threatening environments and so-called advisors trying desperately to manipulate claimants out of the system through pure despair, anger and self-respect.

It is essentially a given nowadays that any form of constructive employment is realistically better for one's mental health than deliverance into that particular pool of human misery yet of course this rationale creates by default a fundamental jigsaw-piece lodged within the structured landscape of compound problems affecting modern British life in the past decade. As discussed beforehand several of these are of nation-destroying consequence in themselves by way of internship abuse, property hyperinflation, interest rate manipulation, the credit famine and the inability to fund private pension provision through cost of living rises.

Alan Bleasdale's extraordinarily moving The Boys From The Blackstuff  plays from 1982 covered similarly irreversible social changes within the remit of a deindustrialised Northern Britain and the fracturing of local communities and regional self-containment. The focus in this instance of course being the dehumanising effect of long term unemployment upon the working class of Merseyside.

It is indeed a sobering thought to consider how such a benchmark of British dramatic art was not just a reflection of hard times in itself but indeed prefigured a fundamentally broader wave of social disruption and financial insecurity ahead for the clear majority of people in the British Isles. This by way of another cultural revolution of dread consequence and yet again with radical financial deregulation at its core.

The BBC transmitted Bleasdale's plays four years after the original Play For Today drama The Black Stuff in 1978 - halcyon days when terror tended to emit from scary terrorist quarters, bankers were still associated with the ubiquitous George Mainwaring and a time when a neutered press and cowed workforces only existed within the remit of television documentaries about the spooky Eastern Bloc.

But now this is our present and this is our future - the framework within which we must live our todays and plan our tomorrows. A total blanket dissassociation from time and place for millions and millions of British people being the foregone consequence as our communal sense of worth, pride and hope disappears year upon year leaving the land of shadows we see around us today.

...the eyes fill with tears that sting not from the cold but the hurt, the lies they tell and the pain they bring, the loneliness and the ugliness, the stupidity and brutality, the endless and basal unkindness of every single person every single minute of every single hour of every single day of every single month of every single year of every single life - David Peace 1983