Belfast Telegraph

The entire world is like a primary school class writ large

By Nuala McKeever

Do you remember your primary school class? Maybe not all the names or faces but what about the pattern of the wooden floor, the metal radiators, the smell from the heating in winter when the man put down rat poison and it obviously had the "desired" effect; the view of your teacher at her or his desk at the top of the room; the big wooden cupboard where the reading books or the pencils and rubbers were kept; the Nature Table with the stinky bits and pieces drying out in the heat.

And the other children sitting at their tables or desks. Faces swim up into your mind's eye – the one with a squint and a patch over one eye; the one who always had a runny nose and no hanky; the blond one always with a jokey comment; the sneery bully; the quiet one you never really had a conversation with in seven whole years of sitting in the same room every day.

The older I get and the more I read about what really goes on in the lives of our public figures, the more I think we are just a primary school class writ large.

Whether it's the Republicans in the USA so afraid of giving their people healthcare they'd rather bring the whole government to a standstill, or the republican here whose dirty family secret has been exposed and punished this week in the courts.

Whether it's the Pope announcing that he's going to make two ex-Popes saints, as a handy distraction from all the bad news that's pulverised the church over the last years, or it's the Top Dog and Deputy Top Dog Ministers here, smiling for the cameras as they announce 1,000 new jobs in a call centre as a nice distraction from all the dissent and division of the past year.

If you half close your eyes, you can see all these people right back in your primary school class. The kid who always had to be first; the kid who lied cos he was so afraid of being punished; the kid who was afraid to share his toys in case they broke so he ended up playing on his own; the kid who was always first to offer to help the teacher cos she wanted to be special cos that was how she felt safe; the kid who defended his brother no matter what, cos blood's thicker than water.

There is no such thing as government. No such thing as 'they' who run the world. No such thing as 'public' people. There are people, plain and simple.

And no matter how much money anyone spends on fancy suits or big cars or elections or TV shows or religious pomp and ceremony, don't be deluded. Behind the robes, the righteousness and the wrinkles, they are all children.

And so are you. And so am I.

I was shocked this week to discover that I am the class bully. I always thought I was just the victim. But I'm also the bully. I bully myself relentlessly about my fat belly, being lazy, not being good enough. And when I get sick of hating myself, I'm nasty about others to deflect the pain.

I don't know what it's like to rape a child, but I've been bullying my inner child for years. But bullying the bully, making it 'wrong', doesn't make it go away. It's part of me. Accepting that it exists, without condemning it, that's what works.

Once it's accepted, it loses its power.

"Behind the robes, the righteousness

and the wrinkles,

they are

all children"

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