Friday 20 February 2009

The Troubles come to Montpelier #1

The whole Northern Ireland low-intensity civil war theme is such a source of content we have to keep milking it for all it is worth.

Today, The Troubles. If you talk to the unionists, they pine for the days before the Troubles began, when they could march their Orangemen marches and the Catholics would come out and join in and everyone was happy. If you talk to the nationalists, they tell you how they'd stay in their cottages on the Garvaghy Road, in fear of the marches. From their perspective it was their attempt to mimic the US Civil Rights movement -and the unwillingness of the opposing party to adapt- that led to them adopting that other popular US idea: firearms, and so The Troubles proper began. What is key is this: attempted assertion of legal rights led to 30 years of armed conflict.

Here in Montpelier, 20 Feb 2009, something happened that may well be as significant. The PCSOs are going round ticketing cars. Here is Brook Hill -three cars on the pavement have notes on their windscreens telling W763VBO and VA53LVC amongst others to stop parking there.

They are not alone. On the corner with York Road, more cars have leaflets

This is persecution. The cars WR56YZM and DY02UXL have historically acquired the right to park on the pavements and on corners. Yet, here, on Fairfield road, all around this quarter of the city, the leaflets are out. And more than just the leaflets, the tickets.

What has happened? According to conversation with the PCSOs someone -and we think we know who they are- has been complaining to the police about the issue, and the police -not Bristol Parking Services- has come out to act.

This is exactly the kind of assertion of rights that leads to trouble, or even worse, The Troubles.


Anonymous said...

I'm organising a whip round for these poor persecuted motorists wot never did no-one any 'arm ever.

So far I have three buttons, five drachma and 20 billion Zimbabwe dollars.

All donations gratefully received

Anonymous said...

You seriously have the gall to compare bad parking with an armed conflict in which 3000 people died??

SteveL said...

@Brokeface -as someone who had family killed by both the Provisionals and the RUC (the provos apologised; it was a mixup), whose dad grew up on the Garvarghy Road, the route of the Drumcree march, I believe I am fairly well acquainted with the history -but I still find walking round a graveyard of either side horrifying. Not the graves of the volunteers, but the other ones, "murdered for their religion", who were often shot just for being in the wrong part of town. Nothing that has happened in the UK the 20th century compares; it was the closest we have had to a full-blown civil war since the 1640s. It was awful, and at the same time my family berates me for refusing to bring my son up to the sound of the Wolfe Tones and the music of The Cause, because I really do think its time all that anger got left behind.

But at the same time, the metaphor works -one of civil conflict between different parts of a city. Especially in a week where a Bogside activists group have declared that traffic wardens are legitimate targets.

I'm sorry if you were offended, but as a child of the conflict, I believe I have the right to make fun of it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,
I'm genuinely lost for words and can't even begin to imagine how you have reached this comparison. Please explain.
I wasn't offended by the way, more curious at the thinking behind it.

SteveL said...

It's a theme that's developed over time, look at the collection.

A key idea is the split between unionist and nationalist areas With clifton-cotham-redland starting to sport more of these -I still don't know why- we started calling this the unionist quarter. The fact that they are also anti-residents parking makes for an ideological split.

It's a weak simile, because the parts of town aren't that divided, you don't normally get persecuted for having been from one part of town. Normally -though there was an article in the evening post
about exactly that

The other thing to consider is that about 3500 people die in road-related-deaths every year in the country. Which means there is effectively a low intensity civil war on. Not one where the killing is as wilful as NI, where Enniskillen and Omagh are both terrible examples of people making the decision to kill fellow NI citizens, and then executing on that plan. But still one where people make decisions - I will take my car up to speed along this road, I can overtake here, I will drive home after the evening in the pub -where people die.

From that perspective, "the troubles" is less a metaphor, more a description.