AND OUT IN BELFAST AND LONDON
The lifting of the broadcasting ban on Sinn Fein has been a welcome development particularly where those more serious elements of the media are concerned with conveying what republicans have to say. But like most things, there are those who feel that all spreads are fruit for the monkey and proceed to shove their clumsy hand in for their unmerited share.
The recent BBC production Brave New World presented by Robert Wilson, who gave the appearance throughout of suffering from a permanent hangover, was an appallingly transparent piece of self-indulgence. Ostensibly commissioned for the purpose of discovering the peace dividend, the programme ended up crystallising the views of Wilson, the Belfast born author of the novel Ripley Bogle - in part based on his own life experiences - now domiciled in England. In his endeavour to enlighten us not so clever people about the true meaning of peace, Wilson wheeled out a variety of people from professions as diverse as a clairvoyant, a tattooist, Al of Planet Rosetta, a beautician, an estate agent, a prominent member of the agency Relate and a Belfast prostitute. Those on the factory floor or the dole queue were presumably not considered to possess the intellect to comment on matters political and accordingly were not invited to give their opinions.
Brought up in Turf Lodge and educated in St Malachy's College Belfast, where he acquired a knowledge of the Irish language, Wilson's attempts to belittle the language by applying English phonetics to an Irish name painted a picture only of a man eager to please his new benefactors in life. The next hoop he obligingly stumbled through for his British audience was his attempt to portray the mis-spelt and admittedly earthy juvenile scrawlings on an electricity box in a Belfast street as 'the text of the people', Only a few yards away, the real text, a mural of Bobby Sands passed without comment.
The former Jamaican prime minister, Michael Manley, a great authority on the culture of the oppressed, was scathing of Jamaican poets writing about the snow in their own country. Yet Jamaica had never witnessed snow. Manley's point was simply that the values of those who had colonised his country had made themselves felt on the transmitters of culture. For him, that was Jamaican culture at its nadir. Join the club Robert.
In the era of a declining empire, cyphers like Wilson lose their significance. And we can heartily join with the person on the door of the Falls Road Sinn Fein office who laughed at him when he asked for the phone number of the IRA.
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The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
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