Tuesday, 6 September 2011
Sorry, the past is over. It can't be "dealt with".
God but we're hypocrites. We pretend to be other-centred, focused beyond ourselves - and all the time we're looking for an opening, hoping we can get a chink in the other guy's armour. I was on the Stephen Nolan Show this morning, where people were talking about "dealing with the past". What a glib, stupid phrase. As if the past was something to be wrapped in brown paper and a nice bow tied on top. The past - the past here, as it was experienced over the last thirty or forty years - is a great seething ocean of individual pain. We all know the world from inside our heads, not someone else's. Besides which, the past in all its horror has happened and this is NOT Groundhog Day. No second chances.
And hypocrisy? Well, it's when politicians wring their hands about the suffering of victims and then go on to see can they build a higher stack of injustices on THEIR side than the opposing lot can on theirs. Mike Nesbitt is a unionist politician but I agree with him on this: the best we can do with the past is perhaps unearth the facts of what happened; after that personal perspective and prejudice takes over. If you see the Troubles as a mass outbreak of murderous criminality against the forces of law and order, then you've solved the problem when the criminality is under control. If you see the Troubles as people meeting unjust state force with resistance, then the problem is solved when the unjust state becomes a just state. If you see the Troubles as one in a series of efforts to break the link with Britain, then the problem will be solved only when the link with Britain is ended.
A final thought. I cannot begin to fathom the powers of forgiveness of those who, having had a loved one killed through violence, are content when those who did the killing say Sorry. It's wonderful that it happens but it's certainly not justice.