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“Every passing hour brings the Solar System forty-three thousand miles closer to Globular Cluster M13 in Hercules — and still there are some misfits who insist that there is no such thing as progress.”…..Kurt Vonnegut, “The Sirens Of Titan”
Meanwhile back on Planet Alfred E. Neuman or “Earth 2 as it is sometimes known :
…. So it Goes…..
It’s time for the annual madness that is cheerily referred to as “the Marching Season”, to be addressed. [There’s dark Monty Pythonesque comedy in that sobriquet!]…. The comedy in Norneverland has always been of the whistling- past- the- graveyard type. Most of the time we choose to ignore hard facts in the hope that the bad news will somehow dissipate.There is always an agenda of fear close to the surface of ordinary life .We use satiric humour to combat our worst fears here. There is much dark comedy to fuel this. It is sustained by the annual cycle of marching, marching, marching, marching. It is the thing, we can all agree, around which the cycle of violence, bad behaviour from whatever side, revolves. Without the marching and its associated mayhem, we would all be living quieter more reasoned lives. Someone who has not lived here for a long period of time may be unaware of the subtle nuances. The thrust and counter-thrust of identity that is involved obscures the potent stink of outright bigotry and bad criminal behaviour on display that is mostly condoned by imbecilic politicians and preachers . Debased, miscreant, racist practices are permitted to walk our streets. They may be buffed and polished and starched as white as sepulchres but the unholy viciousness always manages to poke through. There is an unhinged adherence to a mythical past of collective hatreds. A lot of it, maintained and handed down as familial hysterical, historic fact ,when it is in reality, mostly Walter Mitty nonsense.
So to our local traditions in Norneverland.:
In the grand scheme of things they are not particularly old. A mere few hundred years give or take. Nothing really . That said, there have been some spectacular social changes in those few hundred years, especially accelerated in this past century by technology which tends to make us think about time in new ways.
Marching and bonfires have become important tribal expressions of identity for some of the Protestant Unionist population in Norneverland. They fail to consider the different physical world of the 21st century they wish to graft these practices onto at present. In a world of carbon footprints, debate about the use of fossil fuels, global warming, melting icecaps, destruction of the ozone, razing of the world’s forests and the restrictions imposed on everyone else other than themselves, to maintain smoke-free zones in both domestic and industrial circumstances; it is hard to make a case for setting a match to a huge pile of wooden pallets ,and in some cases , carcinogenic rubber tyres, creating an inferno of heat and flame which can melt a nearby plastic oil storage-tank or the plastic doors and windows of nearby houses; not to mention burning any nearby trees, vegetation and connected wildlife and their habitats.. There really are very few places in the modern urban environment to safely support these “ancient” traditional practices. Even most civic laws are strained to accommodate them. Impotent hands are wrung annually, but little is done.
Then there is the question of the behaviour of some of these bonfire artistes. A lot of illegal alfresco drinking apparently takes place without redress, while throughout the year otherwise law-abiding teenagers can be chivvied and arrested and fined for indulging in an odd Friday night outdoor cider-fest with their mates and the rest of us pick up parking fines and speeding tickets for minor slips of concentration. There is also the illegal burning of political, and religious imagery and flags from various nations.[Any tri-colour ,from anywhere, will do!] Arrant racism , really. This is seen as “traditional”, without irony and is never properly policed although most of it constitutes hate crimes..
Marching is another bone of contention. It is seen as traditional too but is increasingly more anachronistic as the years peel by. For a large section of the population it has always been an annual nuisance at best. It has nothing to do with them and they are obliged to tolerate it even though the streets are blocked and traffic is held up and diverted. In some cases it is viewed as an unwanted imposition on daily life, in some communities. Business grinds to a standstill .Although I have no interest in any of this I have personal memories of a two hour wait to get out of a car park while marching bands marched by endlessly. There are many of these parades annually and some are seen as offensive to small cloistered communities who view them as a threat at best.
These things may have had their day in this modern age. As children we played football in the streets because passing cars were a rarity. We would stop the game to allow the traffic by. Car ownership stopped this practice ;the roads got busier and playgrounds were introduced. Times change.
Rather than ban something that is close to the hearts of many but also offends many others, radical thinking is required.
To put a stop to the cycle of annual nonsense which costs so much to police and insure and sets off violence and ill- will , it may be an idea to build a “Marching Stadium” to better accommodate this need to parade, march or walk. Virtually everywhere in Northern Ireland is within not more than an hour’s drive, so distance should not be a problem. The initial cost would be nothing compared to the money wasted on the annual policing and destruction of the present set-up.
Those of us who have lived through what history-writers are now calling ” the Troubles”, (a period of sustained civil destruction, variously described as a political  urban war or a thirty -year police and army action involving many armed groups which stretched from the late 1960’s to the 1990’s) have also experienced the dawning of the age of the Rock Festival and the Stadium Concert which developed almost simultaneously with our own homegrown riotous  and deathly “entertainments”. The festivals began as fairly ramshackle affairs as a continuation of the jazz and rock festivals of the 1960s, with a whiff of marijuana and the circus about them. Amenities were primitive but in the wake of the Rolling Stones Altamont debacle, where the band placed themselves too close to their audience for comfort and where murder took place, the band was in the forefront in the development of new and more novel ways of music presentation. Within forty years outdoor music presentation has become a well-oiled, skilled affair.
There is no room for error. Security is tight , alcohol and drugs are policed , and food , toilets and medical help are well advanced. I have never witnessed any violence. At huge festivals such as Glastonbury, or smaller events like Slane, there is usually a” parking zone” well away from the concert arena. Then there is a ticket- only entrance where alcohol ,cans and glass bottles are checked and disposed of in various skips. Alcohol can be bought within the grounds but is served in containers which can cause no damage.
If this system was applied to marching , the problem would be removed from the streets entirely and would only be available to those interested enough to buy their nominal ticket. Security would be supplied by the organisers and be totally within their remit. As there are very many enthusiasts for these affairs and many annual marches , they should accrue as much attendance as any football or music event “.Culture” would be preserved, if that was the requirement, and anyone wishing to opt out would not buy a ticket. No one would feel forced to partake .
Not too many Daniel O’Donnell fans would buy a ticket to see Neil Young or Leonard Cohen after all. A good day could be had by all who wanted to participate and marching and speeches could be carried on to their heart’s content. No one could be annoyed by any of this and no permission would be required by a Parades commission or other body other than to book the venue in advance to make sure of a placement and put up a security to offset any breakages or damages. Bands could be vetted and bussed in avoiding any political in -correctness and could then play “party” tunes or otherwise without offence.
My one question is : Why has no –one suggested something along those lines .Do they want this crooked lunacy to continue forever or do they want to live a peaceful life?
“The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.
When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in the particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is “So it goes.”…Kurt Vonnegut, “Slaughterhouse Five”

……So it goes…..

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