October 04, 2014

Vivisected Northern Ireland - Hugh Muir, be Intolerant of intolerance

I've written before about the vanity of small differences and the vivisection of Northern Ireland and the baleful effects of these egregious habits. In the face of such deleterious habits, I have called upon the need for civil intolerance. We can also learn from a parralel experience. In response to the flying of a jihadist-style flag in a London housing estate Hugh Muir wrote in the Guardian that we must resist those who would Balkanise public space. He wrote:

"Quite apart from the yobbishness of this, there is an overweening arrogance on display that should not be tolerated. The public realm is just that: it belongs to everyone."
And this is of huge relevance to Northern Ireland:
"The mob may or may not reside on the Will Crooks estate, but they certainly don’t own it. It is a public facility built on communally owned land. They have a right to be there, but so do I, and so does anyone else who chooses to assert that right, so long as they obey the laws we have framed to regulate good behaviour in our society."
And Hugh Muir explains how we should react to this solipsism:
"We must be intolerant to the erosion of our rights in shared space. It is bad enough that so much space is now privatised – gated and reserved for those who can buy a measure of seclusion from the rest of us. If we stand by and allow those whose idea of ownership so conflicts with the tenets of free society to ringfence our shared space, we make a bad situation worse. 
We argue about British values, but without doubt one of the qualities we aim for is tolerance. In modern Britain, this is a prerequisite. Our cities are home to a vast array of people, with backgrounds from every continent. In the capital, according to the last census, at least 100 languages are spoken in almost every borough. Cities exhibit diversity in terms of background, religion and sexuality. The potential for conflict is endless; that so little conflict actually occurs is one of the joys of living in 21st-century Britain. 
But one of the reasons for that is shared space. In London, where that diversity is most concentrated, most communities are shared and mixed. Some districts have groups that seem dominant by dint of numbers. Sometimes we celebrate that: think Banglatown, Chinatown and the part of South Kensington that presents as a suburb of Paris. But generally we are wary of racial, religious or cultural Balkanisation. 
The rationale behind those who would claim the Will Crooks estate for their worldview is Balkanisation. They are not alone. Others in recent memory have proclaimed where they live to be “gay-free zones”. There are zealots who have taken it upon themselves to harass people drinking alcohol, or women they see as immodestly dressed. This displays a baleful mindset, a complete misunderstanding of how we lived in shared space. We should leave no room for doubt: we are intolerant of such intolerance."
Hugh Muir in full here.
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