Belfast Telegraph

How politicians keep steering the good ship Peace onto hidden rocks

By Nuala McKeever

In the 1970s there was a window sticker doing the rounds here. It read, "What price peace?" As a child I didn't really understand it. "What does that mean? Do you pay for peace? How much does it cost? If we all clubbed together could we afford to buy some? And what colour would it be?"

All very philosophical questions except I didn't mean them that way at the time, I meant them literally.

As well as confusing, it also sounded a bit limp. Wimpy. All the power lay with the men with guns and bombs and uniforms.

A window sticker in the face of an AK47 and a secret dirty tricks department was embarrassingly lame. No bite.

Like a huddle of wee weemin standing in their headscarves, shaking their heads, tutting and muttering, "Och it's terrible isn't it?"

But at least, looking back, I realise the people behind What Price Peace? were well-intentioned.

I don't mean that as a caveat to criticism, as in, "They didn't have any impact whatsoever, but they were well-intentioned." I mean it sincerely.

I say all this because I've been looking at our politicians' behaviour here over marches, demos, counter marches and the Maze peace centre and it's clear the problem is that they are not well-intentioned.

Oh the espoused intention is fine, "We want a shared future where everyone lives in peace in mutual respect for each other's traditions."

That's what it says on the tin. But open up the tin and you'll find the real intention, the real commitment.

"We want a future where we're constantly proved to have been right all along, where our version of identity is accepted as being better than any other and where we get praise and money and a feeling of smug self-righteousness seeing the other side ground into the mud."

No wonder their great strategies don't work. There's a counter will working against them in the background.

It's like a ship setting off to go west but it keeps going north. Why? Because even though the captain is declaring, "Set a course for Florida!!" what isn't visible is the huge submarine, attached to the ship underneath, with a much bigger engine, pointing towards Iceland.

And we're onboard, all dressed for the sun, wondering why it seems to be getting colder by the minute and we're feeling foundered.

They say, "Set sail for peace!" while underneath, they've had their sights set on Being Right all along. Any wonder they have to U- turn sometimes?

I see the same contradiction in my own life. I say I want to feel only good towards everyone, but actually I'm still given at times to jealously, resentment, self-righteousness, smug superiority. Why doesn't my daily meditation and thinking good thoughts work?

Because underneath, my compass is not actually set to unconditional love but rather to wanting to be special, to be praised, to be successful above others and to be right that I'm right. And it's not rocket science, it's simple – you go in the direction you're actually pointing.

So, never mind the price of peace, it'd be a good start to ask, Who actually wants to go to Peace? At least then we could begin to see why it looks on the surface as if we want to move forward but we're actually going round in circles or worse, moving backwards at an alarming rate.

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