This week in our ongoing conversations and experiences of peace we’ve had at least three (if not more) security alerts across Belfast. These tend to involve huge traffic disruptions, families being evacuated from their homes and now and again a controlled explosion. We’ve also had comment from various political and community leaders about legacy and blame. Criticism of and barriers to any new UK led approaches to crime management in this part of the world, as well as resistance to any future partnership until someone articulates responsibility. Both these obstructions to peace and the future are rooted in associations of fear and pain that are held tightly within our mutual legacy of violence, creating a distorted discourse and version of peace and mutual flourishment in my view.
Peace has become a weapon for so many orchestrators of rhetoric in this part of the world.
These ‘leaders’ who manipulate the stories that communities begin and continue to tell themselves. Power is the priority not peace. The possibility of a peaceful future is too unrecognisable a vision, the future has to be controllable, peace has to reflect the words and approach that has been used in conflict. Creating a new legacy – a legacy of hopelessness – of ‘muddling’ through. The distress of democracy being that we elect average leaders to make average decisions and no change will ever be dangerous or radical enough – unless we start asking for radicality – we could start voting for it too.
How do we take peace back? Reshape it into the beautiful, nurturing life experience that it is? How do we create relief in communities? Trust?
At the risk of making something terribly complex sound concise we have to begin healing ourselves, to discover the power within ourselves for peace and our potential for thriving. We’ve to start scrabbling and picking away at the masks and performances that pass for a peace process here, we’ve to tell our ‘leaders’ that we don’t want to do peace this way anymore. We’ve been told that these shells that we’ve placed over ourselves and our community and national identities are the only tools for survival and now we’re discovering via the ‘post-conflict’ experience that they are killing us and they are killing peace.
We need to talk about pain and the ways it hurts, not to hurt other and block other people but to tell our story and show other people how to tell theirs, but we’ve also got to talk about hope. Hope is not a list of terms or an agreement, hope is what we can’t see and what we’ve never experienced but it makes breathing and loving worthwhile. The high levels of mental illness, prescription medicines, suicide attempts and deaths by suicide in this part of the world are not often discussed politically as an issue for leaders, and yet we are not well. Peace and hope mean being well, doing better, feeling cared for. We’ve to discover vulnerability, because peace requires tenderness.
This piece was written for the Corry Comments blog here and published yesterday.