Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Backward politicians haven't a prayer in stopping progress

Finally staged: controversial play

I saw that Reduced Shakespeare Company show about the Bible, and I have to say I WAS offended – some of the jokes were so tame. It was silly, goofy and daft but what it wasn't was edgy or satirical. I've seen TV ads with more bite.

But it was worth being in the theatre just to be part of the huge roar of appreciation and freedom that went up when the show started. It felt as if we as a family had managed to wrestle the embarrassingly inappropriately behaving old aunt and uncle back into their cupboard and were able, once again, to mingle with the nice, civilised neighbours without having to explain away the cringe-inducing antics of our dear deranged relations.

"Yes, yes, just ignore the muffled shouts, it's just good old Aunty Scary and Uncle Methuselah. No, no, they don't want to join us for the party, they just want to express themselves loudly and spoil things for everyone else. Best just to let them be. Yes, I know, we all hope it's not infectious or hereditary too ..."

Part of me does admire people who stick to their principles even when those principles aren't populist. And I have some respect for individuals who give their time and energy actively to stand up for what they believe in. The problem here, as I see it, is that the protesters have admirable drive and energy but in a most unsavoury cause.

Liam Clarke wrote last week about how fundamental evangelical so-called Christians wield a disproportionate amount of power and influence in the DUP. The tail is wagging the dog, as he put it.

A few days earlier, Leah Totton, the young woman who won the Apprentice last year with her plan to open a cosmetic surgery clinic, talked about her ambition to stand for election. Given the po-faced nature of a lot of the debate over the Bible show, she ought to feel right at home among the stony-faced evangelical right.

But seriously, there is the beginning of a sense that in a generation or two, we WILL have new types of politicians here. People who didn't grow up through the Troubles. Part of this "normalisation" of politics is definitely thanks to the power of social media.

In the past, only those who bombed, shot, rioted and protested with aggression made the headlines. They mostly lived in fairly tight-knit communities where messages passed around the area easily by word of mouth.

The so-called "silent majority", the middle-classes, the professionals, the people living semi-detached lives, didn't have the same quick lines of communication.

Individuals sat on their Parker Knolls tut-tutting at the horror of it all in the daily newspaper. Collectively there was a huge thought bubble above suburbia – "Something should really be done about this." But not given to rattling bin lids to rouse fellow golfers and artists and "nice people", much of their desire for peace went unexpressed.

But, as they say here, "not no more". Now, Facebook and Twitter have armed the armless with the powerful weapon of mass, fast communication. It's so much easier to mobilise the cappuccino crew now and they're so articulate and they have something to say and a way to say it that isn't old-fashioned and confrontational.

And they offer alternatives, not just the tired old "what-aboutery". A small example is a delightful short video doing the rounds, made in Belfast recently, called Belfast Is Happy. Watch it on YouTube, share it, enjoy it. This too is Belfast. Our city is not owned by those who shout the loudest.

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