In praise of the UTV special on the 12th of July…

The great thing about not being on Twitter is that you can’t react or be emotionally affected by the crass actions of some eejit throwing a compost bin at an Orange parade in Belfast to see how they might react.

Or at least not within the nanosecond timeframe of Twitter which “demands” that you take a deeply unserious act of thuggery seriously. In doing so, we reset our standards at the lowest possible level.

Clay Shirky theorises these platforms provide us with a cognitive surplus that enables new forms of online learning, charitable giving, and philanthropic fundraising, but it also has a tremendous undertow.

If we let it dominate our conscious and unconscious waking moments, it will nibble at our ability to think outside the action/reaction cycle, and act in ways that can benefit us socially/politically in the long term.

Taking the deeply unserious seriously is a mark of this action/reaction cycle at work.

With the time that leaving Twitter has restored me, I turned onto UTV’s coverage of the 12th demonstrations last night to get a glimpse of what the 12th really means to those who take part.

Their team of journalists (of differing backgrounds) respectfully reported the family traditions of our neighbours and friends across NI. It did more for community relations than a dozen peace programmes.

Beyond the hotspots of Belfast, it remains what many of our bloggers have reported it to be in the past, ie, a joyful family day out as Protestant communities across Northern Ireland reunite in a public space.

Whilst GAA (a marginalised sport in my youth that only we Catholics attended surreptitiously across the north) has become mainstream, public attitudes towards Orange culture have remained antediluvian.

It’s certainly not my tradition, and as such I’ve no great pull to join in or attend.  But any Irishman who thinks it’s alien or foreign to our wider culture isn’t taking Tone or Meagher as seriously as they ought.

Yes, there are issues around Orangeism. We’ve seen the terrible tragedy that the mega bonfires that have become de rigeur (largely but not solely within the greater Belfast area) has brought to one family.

I’ve also written about how the lack of political will to use proper civil authority to tackle the public safety elements these shows of tribal strength is corroding wider society (and well beyond bonfire land).

In one of his more moderate pronouncements on such matters, Gerry Adams once wrote “breaking down the prejudices that exist within unionism and Orangeism is one of the big challenges facing all of us”.

The case of the compost bin throwing eejit proves prejudice exists in our whole society not simply in one or other part of it. Pretence that it doesn’t prolongs the misery and preserves false grievance.

I don’t have a template for moving forward. As a kid, I loved the music of the old Ballykeel Flute Band and some of the pipe bands. But the blood and thunder lads put (as intended) the fear of God on us.

Given our past, it’s not easy to move on. But I do recall my late mother relating a story of when the Black Institution came to Holywood in the early 60s the hush there was for a local who sang them Kevin Barry.

I doubt it would happen today. But it shows what territory might become available again, if we more consciously unhooked ourselves from the action/reaction cycle to get a better focus on the future.

Good work UTV.

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