Have I any enemies?
Where is the simpleton that would thus lose his time?
A few years ago I went to see Mama Mia with my enigmatic ex-boyfriend. Exactly 23 minutes into the film he leaned over and whispered to me….
“Babe – why are they singing?”
“Cos it’s a musical”
“Ah shit man”
Whether it was the fact that it took him 23 minutes to realise we were watching a musical or his sheer outrage when James Bond started to sing I don’t quite know, but at that moment his excellent cricketing skills and dazzling blue eyes seemed to fade away… and right then all I knew was that I hated him. However that was then, and this is now – and all feelings of hatred have since passed and I can simply reflect on our romantic monosyllabic-sweet-nothings (usually about the greatest ever batsmen) with warm fondness.
I write this on the eve of the 12th – tomorrow men in bowler hats and white gloves will march across the province in celebration of a battle fought in 1600andsomething when a Protestant King beat a Catholic King in battle… I’ve seen Sweet Home Alabama, I know that this is not unusual – there are many other places where grown men celebrate battles of ye olde-times. While some may choose to dress up as confederate soldiers and re-enact battles, others prefer a marching band and a shiny orange sash. And though I may mock, the past few days have seen much coverage on the topic of hatred in Northern Ireland.
I am particularly proud of my part-Irish heritage – over time mind-sets have altered and the persistent hatred that has plagued this small part of the world has finally begun to ease. Of course there are some who, largely out of sight, have views so deeply rooted you wonder if any amount of time will dilute them, but for the most part there is optimism about the future and the city I know is very different to the one I hear about in stories.
This morning on radio Ulster – a 55 year old woman (also called Kate) had phoned in to profess how much she detested Catholics, although she did say that she didn’t actually know any personally. When asked to explain why she hated them she had no explanation, just that it was her opinion. And though I thought she hadn’t much skill in debate, I did find myself feeling sorry for her; I pitied her for being ideologically left behind. The declaration prompted many other callers (some were Catholics: “Hi Kate, I’m a Catholic and I don’t hate you” and some were Protestants too, but none could budge Kate – not even the story of a catholic fireman who would put out fires in any house, regardless of religion) and for my part I couldn’t really understand either. To hate on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation is something so completely irrational to me I find it almost impossible to comprehend.
The woman on the radio made me think of the musical-hating-ex-boyfriend, who famously once refused to take a photo of me and the Fame Academy choreographer on account of him being black. As a white Zimbabwean you could perhaps explain his racism – it was ingrained, but as a fellow human being I could find no excuse. Is the oracle right? Perhaps only simpletons have enemies, because surely those with an ounce of sense must see how futile hatred is.
They say that 1% of hate is love. I’d argue that hatred is less to do with disappointment or revenge or even love, but more associated with self-preservation and fear. The most racist white Zimbabweans were a minority who desperately clung to their positions of power, suspicious and afraid it would all come to an end. IronicallyI can’t help but feel that the narrow-mindedness of some facilitated their demise. Perhaps the same holds true for Northern Ireland; a fear of history repeating itself, a fear of what the ‘other’ side is capable of – essentially a fear of on-going change. And that I can understand. We live in such chaos that we so often cling to what we know when really letting go could be all we need to set us free from such detrimental feelings. The more I think and write about it the more I become convinced that the answer lies in thinking beyond yourself. If a change in perspective is what gives us wings then perhaps our focus should be more in achieving that, and less focused on what history has told us.
p.s my ex-boyfriend wasn’t Desmond Tutu