There are those who think that school sex instruction only encourages teenagers to turn instruction into practice. There are those who think the same thing about political unrest. Those involved wait for the cameras and then step into focus and do their violent thing.
Michael Kelly, writing in The Scotsman last week, takes up a similar theme. He suggests that Catholics in Scotland harping on about anti-Catholicism may in fact encourage it.
“Agonising over sectarianism is going to exaggerate its importance in the list of social problems that we face. Poverty, unemployment, deprivation generally, education and health all demand public resources ahead of relatively minor inconveniences to relatively few individuals”.
Whether or not you agree with his analysis, there’s an argument to be made that sometimes those things which catch the headlines - blatant discrimination, street violence, maybe even issues like gay marriage or abortion - are deliberately highlighted by politicians and a compliant media in order to distract public attention from less sexy but more deep-rooted problems in our society. Gerry Adams was in the Short Strand yesterday and he said that it was but for the grace of God that no one had so far been killed. He’s right. But there’s one thing the people of the Short Strand and the flegmen share: poverty. And it’s at least as dangerous as the fleg thugs.
Take a few statistics from Britain. Both men and women in Blackpool die ten years earlier than men and women in Kensington and Chelsea. Children in poverty suffer similarly: three-year-old whose parents earn less than £10,000 a year are more than twice as likely to suffer from chronic illness than children whose parents bring home over £52,000. Like their parents, infant mortality is 10% higher in poor households than in the average British household. The Short Strand or East Belfast may not be as British as Finchley, but I’ll bet the gap between them and the leafier areas of Holywood or Malone is just as great.
When people are injured or killed in street violence, the rest of us feel shocked, outraged even. Yet we accept that the poor - with their illnesses and earlier deaths - are always with us. No outrage expressed; if anything there's a half-assumption that the poor have only themselves to blame.
Maybe that’s why the flegmen keep getting their Britishness mixed up with their deprivation.