Sunday, 6 December 2009
Noli me tangere
I’m continually amazed at how adept people are at double-think, and I’m doubly amazed at the way they can double-think about political violence. Years ago, I remember talking to a friend of mine from Canada and I happened to mention that I’d met and talked to Martin McGuinness. “My God!” he said. “He was in the IRA. He must have killed people!” And he sort of took a step back, as though it might be catching and I might try killing him. I agreed that that what he suggested was a possibility, and pointed out that quite a few politicians had been responsible for killings: Thatcher for the lives lost in the Malvinas dispute, notably the crew of the Belgrano; Tony Blair and George Bush for the thousands who died in the Iraq invasion; and of course Harry Truman for the several hundred thousand who died in the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. He murmured something vague but it was clear that these people who weren’t just maybe killers but definitely killers didn’t seem nearly as horrifying to him as the possible killer Mr MrGuinness.
The same sort of thinking has surfaced today over a Channel 4 programme called ‘The Bible: A History’ that will be aired in February. It’s a series that will involve seven public figures giving their interpretation of the story of Christ. One of these figures is the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, who will “examine Jesus’s teachings on love, forgiveness and repentance through the prism of his own experience”, according to the channel. This has upset a number of the other public figures, notably the Conservative MP Anne Widdicombe. She discovered that Mr Adams would be part of the series only after she’d filmed her own contribution. She says she disapproves of his involvement.
The obvious question is ‘Why?’ Ms Widdicombe is a life-long Tory and has never, as far as I know, voiced any objections to the various warlike excursions on which her party or the Labour party have embarked, so we can only conclude that she doesn’t in principle object to political violence. If she sees Mr Adams as associated with republican violence, what is there about such violence that makes it different from the violence Britain metes out – and always has meted out – to those who oppose her? After all, Irish republican violence has at least the merit that it happened in Ireland, against foreign troops; most British violence has happened abroad, sometimes thousands of miles away.
Overall though, my brain simply isn’t supple enough to take in the kind of double-think that decorates some people for the amount of killing they’ve done and can’t bear to be anywhere near some other people they think might have been involved in killing.