Bigotry 101: "A Night in November"

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This show records at 2:00 pm on Tuesday, November 21st to give us a day off before Thanksgiving; you can hear it via podcast immediately, or on the radio on Wednesday, November 22nd.

Before sectarian hatred came to seem universal, Belfast and Northern Ireland showed off the pure model: white Christian Europeans looking and sounding (to us) exactly alike, despising each other as “Pape” and “Prod,” bombing, torturing and killing eachother with gusto and a most amazingly insatiable passion. The Irish version of Sunni and Shia, Hutu and Tutsi, Arab and Jew signed its name in poetry we remember, in Seamus Heaney’s code growing up (Pape) in Derry: “‘You know them by their eyes,’ and hold your tongue,” Heaney wrote of the recurrent troubles in the mid-Seventies, “And whatever you say, you say nothing.”

O land of password, handgrip, wink and nod,

Of open minds as open as a trap,

Where tongues lie coiled, as under flames lie wicks,

Where half of us, as in a wooden horse

Were cabin’d and confined like wily Greeks,

Besieged within the siege, whispering morse.

Seamus Heaney, “Whatever You Say, Say Nothing”, 1975
Marty_Maguire

Marty Maguire in “A Night in November”[Courtesy Jimmy Tingle’s Off Broadway Theater]

The Belfast playwright Marie Jones’ stage drama, “A Night in November,” is another classic bit of Irish alchemy. The play is a highly individualized case history of bigotry at its most banal, transformed overnight in a World Cup soccer epiphany. Kenneth McAllister is a 39-year-old welfare clerk, a social-climbing Protestant who listens to the noxious death-dealing taunts in his own family against the Republic of Ireland team on the field with Northern Ireland in Belfast in 1993. In the course of his two-hour journey on stage, the Ulsterman Kenny, a Brit once removed, has a consciousness transplant; by the end of his travails, and ours, he becomes a very nearly cleansed human being.

The Belfast actor Marty Maguire makes the show, by quick turns: shocking, profound, hilarious, virtuosic. The only actor on a nearly bare stage, Maguire plays Ken McAllister, his wife and at least 25 others: “dole” cases, his own cigarette-sucking father-in-law gagging on emphysema and venom, New York bar flies, a whole stadium section of soccer fans. Maguire grew up in Northern Ireland — in the life, so to speak; and he has come to embody the subtleties of Marie Jones’ writing in performances in Edinburgh, London, Dublin, New York and Los Angeles. We caught the sold-out show near Boston (extended through December 10) at Jimmy Tingle’s Off Broadway Theater in Davis Square, Somerville.

In the Jones-Maguire telling of a story that reflects also Baghdad and Gaza, the minds are trapped, the tongues are coiled in early youth — then cultivated for a lifetime and very rarely restored. We are going to ask Marty Maguire to “give us a taste” and expand on the instructive as well as redemptive news of “A Night in November.” How do we come to “hear” the foul codes of hierarchy and hatred in our own everyday speech? And then how do we give them up?

Update, 11/20/06

As we put the show together, we’re wondering what markers, physical signifiers — cigarette brand, word choice — you use to distinguish the unionists and nationalists in your lives. Several of us saw the play on Saturday and it took a second for it to be as obvious to us as it was to the world of the play that a man at a dole office with six dependents is clearly Catholic. What’s your “six dependents”? What shorthand do you use to determine class?

Update, 11/21/06

Missed this the first time around: turns out patsby had the same idea as Chris. She pitched the idea to us the same day Chris came in and said “I saw this great play this weekend!”

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  • Daniel Beaty would be an interesting guest to have on the show. He performs 40 different characters in a one-man show, Emergence-SEE, which also deals with racial bigotry, among other themes.

    Daniel Beaty profile at myspace

    http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=60675349

    Homepage

    http://www.danielbeaty.com/aboutus.htm

    Play review

    http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117929490.html?categoryid=33&cs=1

    Video clip from the play

    http://www.danielbeaty.com/video.html

  • alib

    A little Ethnopolitics might be illuminating, this

    http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/ethnopolitics/shirlow03.pdf

    is a paper on the Ardoyne in Belfast. The upper Ardoyne is Prod the lower Catholic and a majority of both populations are sectarian bigots.

    This is how things are in the 6C: we are lovely friendly people but we do hate each other in bitter irrational ways. The hatred of the other becomes the identity. The two communities are best defined negatively: one anti-Irish the other anti-British. Both are oddly distinct Irish identities born of intolerance, neither sit easily with the now plumply civilised little country down South.

    The paramillitaries who divided Belfast now rule its ghettos. It’s a sad reality that it’s the elderly who grew up in mixed neighborhoods who often have most tolerance for the other tribe.

    “The findings above would seem to suggest that fear of being attacked by the ‘other’

    community is central in determining low levels of cross-community contact. However, a

    subjective reading of such information masks a series of relationships complicated by

    age, gender and intra-community threat. The interviews conducted after surveying

    produced a series of complex cultural and demographic positions. Pensioners are those

    least likely to perceive the ‘other’ community as a menacing spatial formation. Secondly,

    a small group of non-pensioners, who constituted 18% of interviewees, are nonsectarian,

    and like many pensioners do not believe that the ‘other’ community should be

    represented as a homogenous cabal intent upon harming them and their community.

    Thirdly, 62% of interviewees were found to be tenaciously influenced by a highly

    subjective ethno-sectarian discourse.

    Virtually all of the respondents of pensionable age within the Upper Ardoyne community,

    who are able bodied, use facilities within Ardoyne. Interviews among this group disclose

    that the majority are not afraid to enter ‘alien’ territory for four main reasons. Firstly,

    social relationships, that existed prior to the contemporary conflict, have tended to

    endure and older people visit Ardoyne in order to maintain such friendships.

    Although, pensioners conceded that their communities had been victimised by sectarian

    violence it was also contended that their community had also been involved in

    transgressive sectarian behaviour. A fourth issue which emerged was that of religious

    conviction and a belief that it is immoral to judge whole communities as abnormal and

    inauspicious. It is apparent that lived social histories, within which there has been an

    extensive form of cross-community linkage, are capable of diluting the rationale of

    sectarian sentiment, and as a result fear of the ‘other’ community is tempered by more

    experienced forms of cultural understanding.

    Stronger and more sectarian attitudes were located among those, who comprised 86% of

    all respondents, aged between 18 and 55. No one within this group undertook, by choice,

    any form of inter-community linkage or visit to areas dominated by the ‘other’ religious

    group. Eighty two percent of respondents, within this group, stated that their failure to

    engage in cross-community activities was due to fear of attack by the ‘other’ community.

    There were no observable differences in attitude that could be related to gender. For this

    group the experience of residential segregation was channelled through a framework of

    exclusive and sectarian representations and ideological ‘tradition’. Sectarianism is viewed

    not as a repressive relationship but as an articulatory process, which enshrines spatial

    segregation.”

  • “the minds are trapped, the tongues are coiled in early youth”

    In the late 1980s I heard a linguist on NPR who did a study of gender and the English language. This was an eye opener for me. When she first proposed the study her male professor ridiculed her. She persevered. She started by going through the dictionary and listing all of the words that pertain to gender. What she found was that very few words related to female gender and those that did had negative sexual connotations whereas there were many words for male gender and words that dealt with male sexuality had positive connotations. She also filmed men and women talking extensively and ran tests. Men interrupting women is usually just seen as normal. If a woman interrupts a man, which happens far less often, she is observed as being very aggressive. In her films of male and female conversations and she found that taller females tended to slump and males will find a way to make themselves taller.

    I went on to test these things out myself. Try it. Her theories proved true in relation to my observations. Dang, I’m so sorry but I cannot remember her name. (Anybody know who I’m talking about?)

    This was all stuff I’d never noticed before but once I started noticing it there was no going back. It is what feminists mean by “consciousness raising”.

    In my own lifetime feminism has made such strides that I can see a 1960s movie that I saw as a kid and thought was great and now recognize it as completely sexist. Feminism still has a long way to go. Maybe the first step in overcoming prejudice is recognizing that it exists, that it isn’t nature, that it is a power structure, and however deeply engrained, it can change.

  • rc21

    To Peggy Sue;I think their is some merit in what you say, One major problem is this, Women (and I know this will set you off) bring much of their problems on themselves. In training women for athletics I am constantly battling women who say “I dont want to lift to much weight I will get muscles like a man” Nothing infuriates me more. How am I supposed to take someone serious when they make insane comments like that.

    It is like a student telling a teacher,”I dont want to read to much I might become smarter like the men”

    Also many women stay in abusive relationships,many even seek out men who tend to be abusive. Look at the love letters Richard Ramirez (Serial Killer) gets. Who are these sick women who admire this man and others like him.

    As to your dictionary words please spare me. If that bothers women then they have serious victimization issues, I loathe people who search high and low ,and under evey rock, to find any possible example of how they are made to feel like a victim.

    I’m all for women, but I wish they would start changing some of their attitudes, If you want to be strong and self confident then start acting that way.

    I say this as someone who would like to see women advance, I’m all for women making gains and having more power.

    .

  • rc21: You do have a point. What I was saying is that sexism is so deeply ingrained (my example: I didn’t even know that movies I watched in the 1960s were sexist until I had my consciousness raised – now I can’t not see it). Luckily these days more and more of us have a clue. But it is true, even clitorectomys, in cultures where that ghastley practice continues, are often preformed on young girls by female elders. Maybe one thing you could do to be helpful is provide the young women you train with positive female role models. Lucy Lu for example – strong and glamorous

    I do agree with you that it needs to start with women but do not disregard the role of language so hastily. The language a person uses contributes to how they form thoughts. Language is very powerful. What is the male equivalent to bitch? Boy-Dog?

    On the other hand you say, “It is like a student telling a teacher,”I dont want to read to much I might become smarter like the men” I can’t imagine even the most frilly froo froo sorority girl saying this. C’mon, we all know who is smarter : )

  • As I drive around in my Hummer, I’m sure people think I’m an ass. My cigar smoking in public places probably sends a signal. I wear loafers with no socks or silk socks, slacks and a golf shirt at all times. Whistling at a broad with a nice ass I realize is gauche but I can’t help myself. I like a broad with a nice ass. For me, I see a middle aged guy in a beard wearing Birks carrying a knapsack and ordering green tea and I’m ready to shove his head up the tailpipe of his Volvo.

    Is it just me or is this theme just way too scattered? Just axing.

  • Further, the assumption here is that upon meeting someone and picking up on their signals or signifiers we somehow automatically sort them by class or some other arbitrary division. Personally, I don’t and perhaps it’s this sort of profiling or typecasting that one needs to eliminate (at least from your own mind) – self-preservation aside – before you can really grow up.

    a lib —> “Eighty two percent of respondents, within this group, stated that their failure to

    engage in cross-community activities was due to fear of attack by the ‘other’ community.” I’d dare say this is nonsense. That 82% is no doubt more fearful of attack from their own ones.

    Further, and it would be wonderful if someone who has seen the play that has launched this discussion might enlighten us on the protags epiphany.

  • plnelson

    Continuing with my theme on ROS of how one goes about making policy rationally and logically, the question I would ask is this:

    How much do we need to understand about these ethnic and religious conflicts – how much knowledge is enough, how much is too much and how do we know? When we discuss verbal cues, colors, symbols and other codes that use used to distinguish this religion or othnic group or street gang from that one, are we actually learning anything that would explain the conflict or give us policy tools to resolve it, or are we just wallowing in their irrationality?

    I would argue that an exercise like this is little more than literary or journalistic phrenology. Any real understanding requires a scientific, neurophysiological, or psychiatric approach and no intellectually rigorous understanding that can yield useful, practical policy WRT Northern-Ireland Christians, or Iraqi Muslims, etc, can come about by studying things in a literary manner like this. It jusdt feels like understanding. Try turning it into workable policy.

  • THEM vrs US

    They wear tasteful gold jewelry – We wear beads

    They wear shiny pointy shoes – We wear Birkenstocks or boots

    They wear nylon stockings – We wear yoga pants

    They wear designer cologne – We wear essential oils

    They wear designer outfits – We wear ethnic and thrift-store clothes

    They iron their clothes – We don’t

    They get plastic surgery – We get tattoos

    They have money in their portfolios – We have art in our portfolios

    Can’t help but think of the Crosby Stills Nash & Young song…

    ALMOST CUT MY HAIR – CSNY

    I almost cut my hair

    It happened just the other day

    It was getting’ kinda long

    I coulda said it got in my way

    But I didn’t

    And I’ll tell you why

    I feel like letting my freak flag fly

    Cause I feel like I owe it

    to someone

  • So Brian Moffatt,

    I have always assumed (as I think most women do) that a man who drives a Hummer does so to compensate for having a very small penis. This would explain the cigar as well. Please tell us… Is it true?

  • Peggysue,

    What do they say about guys who drive a Mini or ride a moped? And what about women who drive with Hummer men?

  • EnglishIan in France

    Most people self-associate because they are frightened by being confronted by the realities of other ‘types’ of people’s lives. These ‘other lives’ might just be better, more stimulating, more content, and, so, the subconcious reasoning goes, it’s much safer to assoicate with people like oneself.

    Cities are possibly the worst (or best) places for this type of self-association to take place. With their large populations one can be sure to find a plentiful collection of people ‘like you’.

    In the countryside however, one is presented with a relatively limited cast of chararacters (in terms of numbers) and one is obliged to socially interact with all sorts of people with all sorts of different educations, opinions and professions.

    All of which, having lived in 5 European and Asian cities and two rural European communities, has led me to believe that if one wants to be liberated from even the notion of ‘the other’, let alone guide one’s life by it (which surely no one does) then one might consider going and living in the countryside.

    The countryside may not be very racially diverse. However, I’ve noted that save for a minority in the USA, a slightly larger minority in Europe and basically no one in Asia, few people living in cities, be they working class or an educated elite have an equal (or even close to equal) number of truly close friendships with people of another race.

    However, bar the lack of racial diversity (and that’s not to say there isn’t some – I count the son of a Turkish immigrant and the son of an Algerian who married a local girl as friends), in terms of how free one is to move through a community at a social level, with nearly no sense of ‘the other’, the countryside is remarkably liberating. You may be different, you may not like some people, but you and they are all part of a community far more diverse than any I have encountered in any city.

    Of course we do all have one shared sense of ‘the other’: people who live in cities, for whom, if we are honest, we have a visceral sense of pity at their disconnect from nature and transfusion-like relationship with materialism, be it consumer or cultural.

  • Sidewalker,

    I never heard of women driving with Hummer men but guys on mopeds are HOT.

  • Actually, if you were driving through the Sunni Triangle it might be appropriate to ride in a Hummer. Otherwise, if I did see a woman riding with a guy in a Hummer I’d have to guess it was his Mom.

  • rc21

    Peggy sue: I have a big problem with people using the word bitch and hoe to describe women. I was refering to women who get caught up in words like “Mankind” ” Foreman” etc.. Expressions such as “The common man” Things of this nature. And yes I know women are smarter then men. I’m told that every day.

    Also Lucy Lue would not be my first choice of a strong womens role model. Use a real Athlete one who actually has muscles and is strong. Men dont choose Christopher Reeves because he plays super man in the movies. They choose Tom Brady, Michael Jordan, Michael Johnson etc because they really are strong fast and confident.

    P.S. CSNY one of my favorite bands.

  • plnelson

    Could we please stop taking about penises and Hummers (or hummers) and cigars and get back on topic?

    I asked a question about the actual, concrete, on-the-ground, practical value of the sort of “understanding” that literary and dramatic treatments of these topics yield. I alleged that these approaches are basically “feel good” exercises that may make the audience FEEL like they have an understanding or insight, but the nature of that understanding does not yield practical policy decisions that resolve the conflict.

    It was recently reported that in the Bahgdad morgues you can tell which are Shiites and which are Sunnis by whether they’ve been beheaded or drilled to death with power tools. Fascinating little cultural tidbit, I’m sure, but how does knowing stuff like that help?

  • – excuse me if this posts several times, co-comment seems to be narfing my attempts to post

    pinelson what is the topic? Policy? I thought we were talking signifiers and tribes. Besides policy is usually an imposition from above or outside. And so any policy (regarding conflict resolution in this context) must at least make an attempt to understand the players – the lingo, the badges – which are in fact derived from historical circumstance distorted (usually) or otherwise. Which in the end is hyper-rational. Preceding any policy-making there must come, from some sort of recognition, a desire for change. Before there can be an awareness of others there must be self-awareness. In this case of Northern Ireland – which has always been a turf war between criminal organizations and street gangs, fought by the underclasses, and supported in spirit by highly segregated and very poor communities – I can cite a pair of examples where that self awareness preceded – and needs to precede, I’d argue – any policywonking. The awareness by a whole whack of republican hard men that there violence (at its height in the seventies) was a complete waste of time, self-defeating, useless, and got them nowhere. The awareness on the part of some loyalists who asked themselves eventually (when they were about to be sold out by Tony Blair) the question: what am I being loyal to? (in terms of their loyalty to Britain, the UK – which is not as was so patronizingly put somewhere in this thread ‘a desire to pretend to live in England’ – there is a very long strain of North Irish Free Thought , much of it leading in spirit and philosophy to the forming of the USA by the way – what am I being loyal to? which is very much the first step in changing, which is very much a literary device. If you cannot grasp the notion of change – which is a problem for illiterates and literalists alike – then you will never, despite all the well intentioned policy, get anywhere. If people perceive of themselves as fully formed and are unaware that transformation is possible – very much the kernel of dramatic and literary pursuits – then they are trapped. Literary and dramatic treatments are a hell of a lot more valuable than dead nut policy pursuits.

  • PeggySue,

    I’ve never bought into the argument that a vehicle is compensation for the size of the penis. And I wouldn’t really know about Hummer men and the related stats. And in speaking with women over the years I think was is pretty clear is that they have found that most men are very average in size. (Perhaps this accounts for the popularity of mid size cars). And I do not own a Hummer. I ride a bike (an 1987 Bianchi ten speed) and walk, though I do drive – when I do drive – a VW Jetta Diesel – a solid car, dependable, surprisingly peppy when merging with traffic, and gets great mileage, which may or may not say anything about my penis.

  • rebarebar

    I hate to say it, but I am agreeing with Brian Moffatt. Literary and dramatic treatments ARE mind opening as well as comforting. I was at the same show Christopher Lydon attended, was pleased to see him there, was very moved by both the subject matter and its rendition. For me it was more of a comfort: a am three generations removed from the Protestant/Catholic couple from Northern Ireland who came here to be free of that divide.

    And, as an atheist, reading Daniel Dennett, I have engaged in a few conversations with my husband about whether using the term Brights for those of us who are hard core anti religion is a good idea. While he and I agree that organize religion is responsible for most of the violence and divisiveness in this world, he is happy to remain relatively silent about his beliefs. I want to use the term Bright (or SOME term) to enjoy the sense of belonging to a group. Therein I see that my belief can be just as divisive as any other.

    As a driver of a Prius, wearer of Birkenstocks, and bearer of so many other indicators of post hippy leftdom, I am aware of how little we are represented in the mainstream. We just saw ‘Borat” last night. In his ramblings across America, he sought to engage all of the variety of our culture. Not one of the New Yorkers (I am one) on the subway or the street, no one at the rodeo, or in the evangelical tent, or at the fine southern dinner table or even the militant feminist circle represented anything like the culture I am happily a part of. I am not seeking badges of participation, far from it, since I don’t want to be stereotyped, but I do like to know I am part of a circle sharing positive ideas, doing good things in the world.

  • As a driver of a Prius, wearer of Birkenstocks, and bearer of so many other indicators of post hippy leftdom, I am aware of how little we are represented in the mainstream.

    rebarebar – I am now operating with the firmly held belief that the mainstream does not actually exist, that it is just an idea- like God HimHerSelf – buttressed by advertising/government/coporations/media – pretty much The One these days – for their own preservation, a magnet for the insecure and totem for those that want/need to fit in somewhere, a tool of control that is increasingly outdmoded and ineffectual because the goods on offer no longer meet the minimum standards demanded by anyone who draws breath and considers him or herself to be human. The mainstream is a fringe cult of nullity. The sooner we accept this the better off we will all be.

  • Ben

    Out here in the nw, smokers of the brand Basic and other “generics’ are typically libertarian-leaning conservative types. Smokers of American Spirits or other premium priced brands seem to lean left of center (which is admittedly pretty far out here). While smokers of Kreteks tend to wear a lot of black and listen to Marylin Manson, a construction framer enjoys a Marlboro with a double tall vanilla latte in the morning on the way to the job in a Ford F-150. It disperses readily into fun minutia and marketing studies are legion.

    In the American experience though, since we are so geographically huge, do the regional cultures still dictate enough differences (say between New Orleans or Seattle or Provo) to make it a little more difficult to tie identity and consumption to class on a national scale when compared to smaller, less diverse, and much older locales like Ireland? Doesn’t the scale of what we have in common eventually reward unique traits rather than homogenize them?

  • plnelson

    I hate to say it, but I am agreeing with Brian Moffatt. Literary and dramatic treatments ARE mind opening as well as comforting./i>

    But what is the evidence of this other than the fact that it feels liberating?

    And so any policy (regarding conflict resolution in this context) must at least make an attempt to understand the players – the lingo, the badges

    Even though this intuitively sounds like it might be true, how do we know that it really is true?

  • nother

    I believe much of the tribal strife we live with is born from machismo. If I’m bonding with a few of my buddies we are much more likely to discuss the people we hate than the people we love. You start talking about groups of people you love and they’d be accusing you of being gay. It helps if my group of friends has a well-established object of disaffection to focus on. So, a teenage boy coming of age in Belfast might realize that the men around him will accept him if he takes on this hate towards the Protestants. He automatically has something in common with these men – something to bond with, a fellowship of hate. The boy knows to hate before he knows why he hates.

    On a more benign level, a young teenage boy growing up in Boston knows that he should hate the New York Yankees before he knows why. He realizes early on that he will be accepted by the other boys and men by hating this NY team. I’m a big baseball fan and I often meet other guys who will be the first to chant “Yankees Suck” but that same guy couldn’t tell you who won the World Series last year. I work with a guy who moved here from Guatemala a few years ago and now he has a “Yankees Suck” bumper sticker on his car; he realizes that sticker is a ticket to acceptance by our tribe of men.

    Women have team sports but you don’t see their fans engaging in the despicable displays of behavior you see by men. The areas of tribal strife are areas where Patriarch societies have gone amuck, usually in response to a lack of jobs for the men.

    To your question: How do we come to “hear” the foul codes of hierarchy and hatred in our own everyday speech? And then how do we give them up? My answer is to incorporate a feminine balance.

  • 1st/14th

    Doing away with tribalism and hierarchy? Good idea, perhaps in our spare time we could also find Atlantis and develop cold fusion. This story is as old as mankind, and is probably hardwired into our brains. Better to deal with it and confine it to more benign manifestation (like baseball, Football and soccer) rather that futilely struggle against it.

    I have always found that those who mock others for driving nice cars are just are too damn poor to afford them and envy those who can.

  • 1st/14th

    Women have team sports but you don’t see their fans engaging in the despicable displays of behavior you see by men.

    Seriously, that’s because women’s sports usually suck and its hard to get worked up over the WNBA when none of them can dunk.

  • plnelson

    This story is as old as mankind, and is probably hardwired into our brains. Better to deal with it and confine it to more benign manifestation (like baseball, Football and soccer) rather that futilely struggle against it.

    In a sense this is what I’ve been arguing for in several threads here on ROS in recent weeks.

    Most of the world’s problems today are caused by bad behavior. The last few centuries have seen HUGE advances in the physical and biological sciences but very little progress in the social and behavioral sciences. And yet problems like tribalism, war, terrorism, crime, tyranny and despotism, drug abuse, sexually-transmitted-diseases, unwed pregnancies, spouse-abuse, racism, religious bigotry, corruption, etc, remain the scourge of humanity.

    Unfortunately our understanding of the causes of these things is still at the level of philosophy. We cannot say with any confidence that we know any more about tribalism and intertribe violence today than we did 100 years ago! Without a science of human behavior – without rigorous conceptual models and a clear understanding of the biological basis of behavior and choice, we’re never going to get anywhere on this.

    Modern science amplifies the harm that bad behavior can do (e.g., giving us technology like Boeing 767’s, plastique, cellphones, etc) but modern science has not given us tools to understand the roots of bad behavior.

    We can yack all we want, either on ROS or in Congress, but it will avail us nothing until we start to develop a rigorous scientific biological understanding of why we are the way we are.

  • rebarebar

    Scientists ARE studying this and some have written about it. Studies on prejudice, group loyalty, perceptions of beauty and many more can be read about, appear in the newspapers all the time. The biological impulse to accept the familiar and reject the alien is fundamental to our primitive well being. It takes several steps of intellectual processing before we can engage in egalitarian exchange with others different from ourselves.

    The Arab saying, Me against my brother, my brother and me against the family, my family and me against the community, etc is how it truly works in our minds without some override guided by a sense of greater connection. Very few people have this override.

    The desires to be part of a group, to create and use identifying symbols to quickly recognize members of our tribe, to feel superior to others not like us, were useful in the dim and distant past. These desires no longer serve us well. We should learn to shed them as we shed walking barefoot and living in caves.

    Any ‘rigorous scientific biological’ study is bound to be challenged ( a la attacks on global warming, evolution, etc) if it challenges this tribalism. The Catholic church is based on it, as is the identity of the Jews (The Chosen People) and certainly Muslims.

    As a New Yorker moved to Boston, I used to keep my Yankee leanings to myself. But as I have watched quite a bit of baseball in the past thirty years, I have found I enjoy a good play far more than a Yankee or a Red Sox win, and I follow players more than teams.

  • plnelson

    Scientists ARE studying this and some have written about it. Studies on prejudice, group loyalty, perceptions of beauty and many more can be read about, appear in the newspapers all the time.

    But most of those are same subjectiver, self-reporting “soft science” studies that social psychology and sociology have relied unsuccessfully on for a century!

    I’m talking about the kind of rigorous, hard-science approach that, if we start funding and resourcing it now we might have a little something to show for it in a few decades. It’s a tough nut to crack, but human behavior and personality are the most complex naturally-occuring phenomenon in our experience. But even a LITTLE progress will be more than we’ve made throughout most of modern history. Because right now, from a scientific standpoint, we don’t know squat about group affiliation and intergroup violence and conflict. And we had better start to get a handle on it pretty soon!

    Any ‘rigorous scientific biological’ study is bound to be challenged ( a la attacks on global warming, evolution, etc)

    All the more reason why it has to be good, strong, rigorous science.

  • Samnang

    I live in a place that’s as divided along religious faultlines as Northern Ireland or Iraq. We haven’t gotten out the guns (for at least a century), but the mistrust is still there. Being a Mormon or a Nonmormon in Utah defines you. There are a thousand subtle ways to tell the groups apart. Here in Salt Lake City, we’re nearly evenly split.

    My coworkers and I, have occasionally wondered if we are mistreated by our boss because of the camp we’re in.

  • patsyb

    But does anyone have anything to say about this play, an extraordinarily cleverly-written (not always subtle, but always apt), brilliantly acted, layering of personal, regional, national, international issues and universal emotions? Did anyone see this actor cringe at himself with every little, growing, devastating tweak of recognition of his own bigotry, never mind that of those around him? And what about those in the audience who were either offended as Catholics or as Protestants — and perhaps (who knows?) as bigots? They might complain of their treatment at the hands of playwright Jones, but isn’t that the point? That bigotry works hand-in-hand with entrenched beliefs, unquestioned tenets, frameworks of the religious ilk, precisely? And that emerging from that is incredibly *intoxicating*?

  • rebarebar

    Did anyone see this actor cringe at himself with every little, growing, devastating tweak of recognition of his own bigotry, never mind that of those around him?

    Yes, I did see this, and imagined people in the audience who might be offended or enlightened. But, you DO have to see it. Watching Marty Maguire play these characters with such accuracy, so deftly, is a hilarious, moving, awesome experience. And we can all be questioning our deepest biases as we pay attention to the play itself. For this we must simply recommend that everyone listening SEE THE PLAY. I think talking about the play or his performance of it is kind of like Dancing About Architecture (Thelonius Monk on talking about music).

    Some of the places he touched are–for me– beyond words.

  • 1st/14th

    We can yack all we want, either on ROS or in Congress, but it will avail us nothing until we start to develop a rigorous scientific biological understanding of why we are the way we are.

    Understanding “why we are the way we are” to what end? It doesn’t matter how long, or how hard or how rigorously we study a why a fish is the way it is, its never going to be able to live on land and serve us our coffee at Starbucks. Prior attempts to re-organize society along “enlightened scientific theory” led to scientific socialism and its cousin fascist eugenics, and both of these attempts to apply a scientific understanding of man filled a lot of graves.

  • loki

    Great show, I have been in Belfast and have walked Falls Road and Shankel Road. I meet Gerry Adams at the Redemptrist Monastery. It would have been great to have Kevin Cullen on the show. No one knows the “troubles” better than Kevin.

  • rowanm

    what i heard of the show sounded like typical nationalist propaganda. it portrayed protestants as bigots and catholics as victims. i think the woman who wrote it is at least in some respect an appologist for terrorism. chris asked a good question about whether the show was imbalanced, and the actor evaded it more or less, but outside of that chris seemed to just swallow whatever was presented, such as when the play demonized unionist politicians as being the cause of loyalist terrorism. but americans have always tended to like the nationalist side better, and without american money and support the troubles may never have lasted so long. there is blood on american hands, and as kenneth mcallister says, “i am ashamed.”

  • Randolph Carter

    Marty Maguire made several inaccurate statements: he described the republic of ireland soccer team as a ‘catholic’ team – it is no more a ‘catholic’ team than the german or english international teams are ‘protestant’ teams; nobody’s knows what religion any of the players are and nobody cares..he also described northern ireland and republic of ireland teams as mortal enemies..the hatred exists on one side only… people in the republic would tend either to passively support the north or be indifferent towards them… christopher lydon continually referred to ‘irish’ sectarian prejudice… one could argue that that the catholic v protestant thing seeped across from scotland – which has a long history of anti-catholic establishment bias – into the north..certainly it’s never stretched any further than the six counties…

  • plnelson

    “Understanding “why we are the way we are” to what end? It doesn’t matter how long, or how hard or how rigorously we study a why a fish is the way it is, its never going to be able to live on land and serve us our coffee at Starbucks. Prior attempts to re-organize society along “enlightened scientific theory” led to scientific socialism and its cousin fascist eugenics, and both of these attempts to apply a scientific understanding of man filled a lot of graves. “

    First of all, calling something “scientific” doesn’t make it scientific. The fact is that we have nothing resembling hard science to describe human behavior or societies.

    As far as “reorganizing society” – ALL policies and theories, whether they have to do with crime, economics, politics, or foreign policy, are based on some ideas or other but none of those ideas have any scientific rigor. In other words people are goin to try to structure society anyway, so it would be nice if they had a clue.

    Young men get together in groups, arm themselves and do harm to other people that they pereceive are not in their group. Are these young men street criminals, NAZI stormtroopers, Hezbollah guerrillas, Tamil Tigers, Crusaders for Pope Urban II, Union and Confederate soldiers at the battle of Antietam, Catholics and Protestants in Ulster, Shiites and Sunnies in Iraq, or headhunters on some remore Pacific island? Does it matter?

    I don’t think it matters as much as everyone else here does. What I’M suggesting is that it’s like talking about whether the schizophrenic thinks that he’s Napoleon, or believes that space aliens are beaming messages into his head, or imagines that he has an invisible green girlfriend. It’s still the same disease.

    The propensity of male humans to get together in groups and do violent harm to people outside their group is a big problem in our world and lies at the root of many other problems. It cuts across culture and history and there’s pretty good evidence that some other primates (e.g., chimps) also share this trait. Given that much of human history is written in the blood spilled by these young men it’s amazing that we have no scientific understanding of it.

  • rc21

    To plnelson; Why do men band together and commit violent acts?I think it’s called testosterone.

  • plnelson

    To plnelson; Why do men band together and commit violent acts?I think it’s called testosterone.

    Lots of people think lots of things. But even if your idea were true it wouldn’t explain why some males with high testosterone level engage in ths behavior and others don’t. Nor would it explain cultural differences. The bottom line is that your idea is nothing more than a personal opinion – we have no good science on this stuff.

    Nonetheless, I think that space aliens coming here for the first time would quickly see highly destructive violence by groups of men as one of the most salient features of our species, and the things that set off that violence – religious differences, political or economic disputes, etc, as secondary.

    In the case of mental illness, I’m perfectly willing to concede that real-world stresses – relationship problems, job stress or loss, economic difficulties, can “set off” someone prone to depression or anxiety disorders, just as the social conditions in the prior paragraph can set off male violence. But there’s only so far you can go in trying to treat mental illness by eliminating stress. Ultimately you have to treat the disease itself.

    It’s all fine and good to try to “treat” male violence by reducing social inequities, providing more economic opportunity or improving social justice. But the data on whether that actually works is very inconclusive. It’s a bit like dealing with a homicidal maniac by not saying the phrase “Niagra Falls” around him. That works fine until someone slips up. It’s better to get him some treatment.

  • rc21

    To plnelson; I was kidding. Sorry lame attempts at humor don’t come across well on the net. By the way crime stats show violence among young women in the USA is rising dramatically.

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