Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Plague

"But for all these great powers he's wishful like me
To be back where the dark Mourne sweeps down to the sea."
William Percy French

It has been years since I have been to the Mountains of Mourne and yet they remain the most beautiful place I have ever seen.

Many poems and songs have been written about them, countless pictures painted, all of which cannot describe the awesome sight of those imposing dark peaks sweeping down into the water below them.

It is hard to reconcile such beauty with the ugliness that was (and in some places, still is) found in other parts of Northern Ireland. An ugliness that can only come from seething hatred, bigotry, death, and most of all, fear. Identical streets side by side, divided by walls of concrete and steel, all sharing a love of flags and painting kerb stones. The flags, painted kerbstones and murals not a decoration, but a reminder of who you are, who they are, why you should hate them and stick, stick, stick to your own kind, or else end up stuck to the ground in some alleyway in a pool of your own blood.

Despite this, the Northern Irish, like those in the South of Ireland are known for their friendliness. Which makes the events of the Troubles (the stoicism and dry humour of the people evident in giving several decades of sectarian fighting a name which makes it sound a minor disturbance at a county show,)even more inexplicable.

Attempts are made, to explain, to understand, to justify. Discussion of the injustices experienced by Catholics and the insecurity felt by Protestants.

The truth is the Troubles happened because people wanted it to. Over 3000 people are dead as a result of the blood lust of a minority. Many more have been maimed. The numbers of lives wasted in some way by these events is incalculable.

Whatever the starting point, it was the terrorists, both Loyalist and Republican and those who gave them succour who maintained the conflict. The terrorism perpetuating itself as a classic example of the cycle of violence

Why? Power, money and for some people, sheer sadism.

What power, money and a love of bloodshed all have in common is that they are addictive. You can never have too much money or power. If you think it's an acceptable tactic to kill people, does it matter how many? The justification can always be found later and as Stalin said: "A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic".

Yes, there were the young and idealistic who were quickly bled to the machine by those who seemed to run all the operations but took none of the risks, but the main motives are those outlined above.

In a small place like Northern Ireland, it's nice to be a big fish. The ideology of terror soon providing a facade for some unashamed gangsterism. For while the Loyalist and Republican movements were supposed enemies, they could very amicably divide sources of protection money. The money involved was huge. Enough for all the latest weaponry from Russia/South Africa and to keep you in nasty gold jewellery and child maintenance payments. Certainly more then you would ever make working legitimately.

While the gangster activities continue, terrorist attacks have largely diminished, as the Peace Process shakily proceeds.

What I cannot understand is why it has taken over thirty years to get to this point.
So many wasted lives. As Bono put it: "All the folks the rest of us won't get to know".

In Islam, we believe that on Judgement Day, the Earth itself will be asked about the deeds it has witnessed. What a tragedy that one of the most beautiful parts of the planet Allah has given us has seen so much wickedness.

Photograph found via Google on Flickr. I couldn't find any details of who took it, if this changes, I will post them here.


Cindi said...

Beautifully written! The terrorism I think the world forgets sometimes......

Alina said...

I wonder, in this day of judgement, how long will it take for the Earth to tell about all the atrocities and injustices it has witnessed? The rapes,the betrayals, the killings, everything. Will it be months, years, hundreds of years or even more?

El Matador said...

As someone who grew up at the foot of the Mournes, it's good to see you mentioning it.

However, just to clarify one of your points: "The truth is the Troubles happened because people wanted it to."

Only a very small minority of people wanted it to. The vast majority opposed the violence which took place. Thankfully, most of that small minority caught themselves on, and now recognise the need for peaceful coexistence.

Safiya said...

Cindi - The eyes of the world move on very quickly

Alina - It's a very sad thought

El Mat - I did say "the blood lust of a minority". However the uncomfortable question is: for all those who carried out the killings, how many more, for what ever reason, turned a blind eye or helped them in some way?

Now for the pseudy bit. The title of the post is taken from The Plague by Albert Camus which uses a plague in Algeria has a metaphor for Nazi occupation of France.

The sectarianism that blighted N.I is comparable to a plague for the way it infected most of society there in some way.

In the closing paragraphs of The Plague, it describes how viruses never die, they lie dormant waiting for a chance to strike again.

It seems the virus of bigotry in N.I is on the wane, yet we must all be vigilant against it's return.

For as you state so eloquently on your blog, whatever the motivation, the violence can never be justified.

Bilal said...

the world is gone mad!
no wait, its been like this for a while- really frustrating- what can we do to stop the killings??

Hajar said...

Most wars and fights are fought because some old geezers have figured out how to convince young people that its honorable to fight for their cause.

El Matador said...


"El Mat - I did say "the blood lust of a minority". However the uncomfortable question is: for all those who carried out the killings, how many more, for what ever reason, turned a blind eye or helped them in some way?"

Very few. The electoral results after SF started electioneering in the 1980s are one example of showing this, as they were a very small entity electorally. It was only after the ceasefires that they made any kind of inroads. Latter day support for SF should not be construed as retrospective endorsement of IRA violcence. And the loyalist parties never went anywhere.

The vast majority of people wanted peace and prosperity. Pity it took so long for the people of violence to realise this, but at least now we are getting somewhere.