A year like 2022 only existed in dystopian disaster films when I was growing up, but now it’s here for real and one way or another, someone’s gonna have to deal with it.
We’re in planning mode at PPR. Like many organisations committed to human rights and social justice, we’ve been shaking off the flab from Christmas, overcoming the January blues and gearing up to make a useful contribution to the world without simultaneously producing an impossible list of ridiculous resolutions.
Reflecting on last year’s campaigns has been nourishing and reaffirming, particularly given the circus that masquerades as politics on our wee island – underpopulated, abundant with ideas, resources and great people, yet governed by dysfunctional institutions in the service of failed economics.
According to Twitter this year is shaping up for a large dose of exactly the same crap we’ve endured for as long as anyone can remember - elections and distractions! North and south of the border the constitutional question - overshadowed by the climate emergency - is the only show in town. And so, we’re asking ourselves, how much do we actually fuel this circus? Is our activism making a meaningful contribution or are we breathing life into a dying status quo?
In the North, Stormont is on the brink of collapse for the umpteenth time and many will say ‘So what?’ Unionists are promising everything will be better if we embrace a United Kingdom. Republicans are promising to solve everything when we get a United Ireland. And a new species of political animal has emerged which is united in disagreement with both Unionists and Republicans on absolutely everything, but incapable of articulating what they want and how they will get there. To the east, a crazy man with a daft looking hairdo has built a Tory Island for himself - just himself. In the South, the coalition formed by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Greens to keep Sinn Féin out of power is on course to fail at everything, including its primary mission. Sinn Féin look set to be the dominant political force for decades to come - in power in the North and dominating the polls in the South. They are streets ahead of the rest at transforming the discontent in Ireland into votes.
But what space does this politics provide for the changes we need to make? How much faith should we place in election manifestos? What lessons can be learned - from the North, from the past, from beyond our borders? The African National Congress have ruled for 20 years in South Africa - with leaders like Jacob Zuma - ‘freedom fighter‘ turned gangster in power. Millions of South Africans live in tin huts while the new elite line their pockets. How did that happen to Nelson Mandela’s dream? How much time can we waste tinkering around the edges of other people’s power games while the world burns?
We are wrestling with these mind-blowing questions as every lamppost, roundabout and wheelie bin is preparing itself to be transformed into election material and the Twitterrati are beating the drum, goading us to follow the circus everywhere it goes.
Do we really have to? Isn’t there better craic to be had?
Read Part 2 - ‘Looking Back on Last Year’ here.