We are the Troubles limbo babies. I and thousands of others born during and after the Hunger Strikes era thankfully missed the horror of seeing people being shot dead at point blank range or blown to bits in front of our very eyes.
We were also too young to have joined the XTC generation, those that came together to blank out the pain of carnage by getting off their faces on white doves at illegal raves. It has been academically proven that recreational drug use stopped Northern Ireland from descending into all out civil war because when the MDMA was in, the hate was out.
We’re the children Bobby Sands spoke about. We are supposed to be wreaking revenge with our laughter. But what is there to laugh about? Our housing estates are still gerrymandered to keep themuns out, our schools are shared rather than integrated, we don’t eat properly and mortality rates among physically fit people are still unacceptably high. Not because of cold blooded murder but rather untreated mental illness.
I was 17 when the people came out in favour of the Belfast Agreement. Too young to vote but old enough to punch the ‘wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the time’ kid and get away with it. It’s 18 years since the deal on the Good Friday Agreement was sealed but we’ve had nothing but clichés, sound bites and bitch fights.
Reading Sam Thompson’s piece in Slugger O’Toole today, I felt the need to ping back with my own thoughts. He asked why we can’t get over the Troubles.
Irish culture is pessimistic in general, English people are even worse. We love a good death and we instinctively begrudge ourselves of happiness. It’s who we are. We’re miserable bastards. We don’t want to move on because it will take us out of our comfort zones.
We feel the need to re-enact every anniversary with marching bands, bowed heads and minutes silences. We allow our elected representatives to spend millions remembering the past and a pittance on preparing for the future.
Our sound and airwaves are eaten up by pensioners with arthritis and diabetes arguing about the past instead of offering sensible suggestions on how to move on. And when they’re done arguing, they’ll attend the same hospital clinics and whinge about there not being enough staff on duty. Without a hint of irony, they’ll blame the underfunded NHS.
In West Belfast we are all about remembering the past. Many of our houses still have bullet holes in the brickwork. Plaques and murals tell tales of murdered children and local heroes that defended the areas against attack. Without them, many more would be dead.
We have two immaculately kept Gardens of Remembrance. One is on the Falls Road, behind it is the well known Divis housing estate. Left to wrack and ruin because of years of political failure and held to ransom by thugs.
The other is at the top of Ballymurphy, where heroin addiction is rife in the estate.
We need to start thinking about the future and stop spending money on these gardens because they’re just adding to the problem. As the well known saying goes “the reality is; you cannot polish a turd.”