Tuesday, February 01, 2022

Where's the 3D thinking?

A while ago I took part in a one-hour community event not far from where I live, giving a presentation about two centuries of published Ulster-Scots flavoured poetry and songs from our own locality – some quite 'dense' and some quite 'light' – aimed at a very general audience and all just intended to be a good evening's crack and to show how rich local tradition actually is.

At the end of the night a man in his late 60s came over, confused-looking, and asked "But isn't this all just political?". I have no idea who he is. Evidently his body was in the room for the duration, but his head was seemingly in a different room entirely – or else it was functionally unable to process the presentation, which showed a non-political local cultural richness. The shock of the bright daylight realisation that politics isn't the only way to perceive our local world had forced him to retreat back as fast as he could into that familiar, yet dark, shell. 

The constant diet of two-dimensional adversarial politics reinforced and institutionalised across all of Northern Ireland society has, for the last 50 years, irreparably forged a mindset beyond which many people are unable to think. I have been shocked to see seasoned academics online in the past few days peddling two-tribes adversarial nonsense. Dismissing the cultural prism. 2D political thinking, not 3D cultural thinking. But maybe for some people their careers have been forged on the 2D and their salary relies upon it.

What is exciting though is that that narrative is not the full picture. There are at least three cultural traditions here. And there is a new generation growing up who are unshackled by local parochialisms, not immersing themselves in the type of current affairs journalism which perpetuates that binary. The younger people aren't so obsessed with the old divisions, they live in more interesting and truer Ulster, and with a far bigger, connected, diverse and open world within their reach.  

May they think in three dimensions.