Sunday, 9 August 2009
I was part of a discussion panel on 'Seven Days', BBC Radio Ulster this afternoon. We did some fluffy topics, like what do you do when the boss is off on hols and what would you like to find in your attic (the head of Alfredo Garcia?). But two topics were interesting – the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster’s pronouncement about the dangers of Facebook and having loadsa friends who aren’t really friends, and the Romanians in Belfast. In both, Raman Kapur, the CEO of Threshold, a mental health charity, took a view I totally rejected.
In the case of the internet and Facebook, he stressed the importance of face-to-face communication. Which fitted into his area of expertise, of course, since he was able to urge the importance of body language. It also missed completely the importance of Facebook and the internet and texting and playback and big screens at sporting occasions and all the virtual world’s developing part of our lives as an adjunct and sometime alternative to face-to-face. If psychologists don’t see that humans can communicate other ways than face-to-face (telephone? Letter? Book? Newspaper? Radio, fer Gawd's sake), then there’s little hope for progressive thinking.
On the Romanian intimidation case, Kapur stressed even more strongly the need for the immigrant community to reach out and link with the host community – they shared the responsibility, he felt. He talked critically of immigrant groups in England playing 'the race card' - even though he underlined the fact that he himself had a brown face, which sounded a bit like playing the race card as well. But the dangerous part of what he urged was that it neatly placed partial responsibility for the moron intimidation on the shoulders of the victims. I expect if Sammy Wilson was listening he was bobbing up and down with pleasure but nobody else on the panel was. And quite right too. We got quite a bit of that line here during the Troubles - everybody got along fine until the civil rights agitation/the IRA were to blame/ don’t speak Irish or you’ll annoy unionism … It sounds good if you see the world as a series of nicely balanced groups who must accommodate each other; only sometimes it’s innocent people or victims versus nasty triumphalist groups who want to keep sitting in the box seat flicking the whip. Which reminds me – the 10,000 culture-expressing Apprentice Boys got to march through Derry with little or no interference yesterday. Was that good, then? Were the nationalist population doing the Kapur thing by accepting an invasion of people who feel the annual urge to celebrate their culture by getting as close as possible to people who reject it? Answers on a postage-stamp, please…