The trouble about feeling bitter is that it’s a self-destructive emotion. It does more harm to the person who feels it than the person who caused it. It’s too easy to give-in to the temptation to feel bitter, particularly when there’s just cause, but it’s a temptation best avoided.
So it is with Derry’s response to winning the UK City of Culture title. Centuries of “British rule” have had many negative effects to put it mildly, but there’s no use in wallowing in self-pity about it. There’s no future in giving in to the temptation to feel bitter. We’re not the most oppressed people, ever. We need to move on and make the most of ourselves.
A clear majority in Derry don’t want the city, or any part of the North, to be part of the UK. We’re free to campaign and vote to change that and when we do achieve the change we’ll still have to live beside the UK or Britain. (The UK may not exist after the Scots vote for independence.)
We’ll also have many people here who would have preferred to maintain the link with Britain. They’ll feel hurt and insecure. What’ll be the use of replacing one bitter minority with another? Presumably we’ll still be interacting with Britain in all sorts of ways, unless we want someone to tow us further out into the Atlantic. Wouldn’t a little generosity of spirit go a long way towards smoothing the path and easing the change?
We can only damage ourselves by adopting negative attitudes. We know Derry is an Irish city. Isn’t that the most important thing for us? Who else cares? Why can’t we just get on with celebrating our Irishness and our diversity?
The sensible course is to ignore the “UK” part of the City of Culture title and make the most of any benefits that come our way. Virtually nobody outside Ireland gives a fiddlers what the title is or whether we’re officially part of the UK or not.
Derry is a city of outstanding natural beauty. It’s our greatest asset. We desperately need to make the most of it by attracting visitors from anywhere and everywhere. The alternative for us, full of angst and bitterness, is to withdraw into ourselves to fanatically pursue the false god of some out-of-date notion of pure Irishness. In no time at all we could be like that wonderfully happy country of North Korea.
Or maybe, if we don’t want the City of Culture thing we could give it to Kabul in Afghanistan. Ah no, sorry, I forgot, sure the Taliban there probably wouldn’t want it either.
The sheer bitterness of those arguing on Radio Foyle against Fleadh Cheoil na h’Éireann 2013 being part of the City of Culture must have made many hearts sink. Incidentally, isn’t it ironic that the zealots were speaking on the local branch of the British Broadcasting Corporation? Ah, sure life here is full of paradoxes.
Norman Hamill writes in the Journal every Tuesday