A guest blog by Carrickally
(For newer readers, Carrickally is our resident Unionist writer) The picture in this piece was chosen by me and not Carrickally by the way, I have no wish to detract from or imply anything from his piece below.
A strange point of view to take, you might think. But i now reside in a part of the world where democracy is not an experience for those around me. There are many, not just those born here, who have never known a democratic process; expat Arabs, some Africans, some Asians.
The publicity points out a low crime rate, that things get done, that there is no taxation and tolerance is all around. Wouldn’t it be great if NI, or the rest of the island of Ireland or the rest of the British Isles was like that? None of thise pesky carjackers, the rapid transit buses would already be whizzing around, we wouldn’t have to worry about a third of our pay packets going on tax and national insurance and we would all have a great life without walls separating leisure and school facilities!
Of course, even a cursory glance at the news here provides rapes, murders, trafficking, drug abuse and bribery. A look at building site accidents and the worker camps shows that unskilled servitude leads to literal cracks in the shiny facades. Sniff around to see utility bills five times higher for Johnny Foreigner, visa renewals that cost hundreds of pounds, bureaucratic procedures that must be paid for and medical insurance that must be bought; add on schooling and the net results squeaks up towards the third (on average) taken off our gross pay. As for tolerance; the number of times I have heard praise for the man with the funny moustache and Endlösung…
I am not denying i have a good quality of life: better than at home. I won’t deny i am a privileged expat and it is grossly insulting to the true hardship of those who work 70 hours per week for a fraction of my salary and with none of the benefits my company provide. And it would certainly stick in my craw to suggest that there is some universal and stereotypical malaise in this neck of the woods.
What does shame me is that we dont realise just how lucky we are to have a level of individual freedom in the group of islands off Northwest Europe that allows us to voice our thoughts, organise gatherings to work towards improved conditions and have the ability to veer from the societal norms without being stoned into line.
And then i realise that we were all on that journey. You could argue 400 years ago, 100 years ago or even we are still not truly free due to equality issues.
And that brings me back to democracy.
The power of change is there, for good or ill.
Use it and hope that it is for the former. Be willing to protect it from the latter.