I’m glad I was smuggled into Bill Clinton’s talk at Magee College last week because if I hadn’t been, I’d have missed hearing him say that he thought every young person coming out of school or college should have a sound grasp of the economic system under which s/he lives, and know how it operates at local, national and international level. When you see how the bankers and the governments have screwed up the entire economic system, you think it mightn’t be a bad idea. On the other hand, presumably the people who did the screwing up were educated in economics. Hardly an advertisement for pushing the rest of us into the same system.
Personally, if we’re talking about adding to the school curriculum, I’d have one subject ahead of economics, and that’s logic. Not that it’d solve our problems but it would help spot and defuse some piercing voices, and maybe protect ourselves.
Take yesterday’s News Letter. It whipped itself into a froth-mouthed frenzy about the research findings of Professor Jon Tonge. The prof asked people whether they had sympathy for the reasons why some republican groups like the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA continue to use violence. He found that 14% of nationalists said they did. You got that? They said they had sympathy for the reasons some republican dissidents use violence. In the next paragraph, the News Letter goes all moral and expresses concern over ‘the support for the dissidents’.
The same sort of contortionist logic was popular when John Taylor was stalking the land. Taylor warned unionists that when they met their Catholics neighbours, they should keep in mind that one in three supported the IRA. How did he know? Because at that time, something like one in three Catholics voted for Sinn Féin.
It’s hard to know whether a brotherly arm around the shoulders or a firm pair of thumbs on the windpipe would be the best response to such eejits. There is a difference between being sympathetic to the reasons for republican dissident violence and approving of that violence. Honest. The reasons are that dissidents long for a united Ireland and don’t believe one is on the horizon or anywhere near it. Lots of people completely opposed to violence would sympathise with that reading of the situation. I’ve some sympathy with it myself. But only a logical contortionist would equate such sympathy with support for killing or injuring people. Likewise with the good Lord Taylor or whatever he calls himself now. Lots of people voted for Sinn Féin – and still do – but to deduce from that that those people supported or support the IRA is to reduce your logical skills to the level of a half-pissed parakeet.
But hey, why bother with logic when you can hype up the never-trust-a-Fenian quotient in the knuckle-dragging community.