Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Culture Matters (10)

Kulturkampf - demoralising unionists

Mainstream Irish republicans have ended their terrorist war but they are still fighting a cultural war or kulturkampf and it is directed at the cultural traditions of the unionist community.  One of the main tactics in that cultural war has been to deride or dismiss our culture and claim a cultural superiority.

Many Irish nationalists and republicans extol the value of Irish or Gaelic culture while at the same time they treat other indigenous cultures with derision and contempt. This approach is widespread but it has found its sharpest and most sectarian expression in republican newspapers such as the Andersonstown News and the now defunct Daily Ireland, a daily newspaper from the same stable

Sometimes such views reach a wider audience.  In an outrageous article in The Guardian on 16 July 1994 Ronan Bennett, an Irish republican playwright, waxed lyrical about Irish culture and dismissed Ulster as ‘a world where culture is restricted to little more than flute bands, Orange marches and the chanting of sectarian songs at football marches.’

As Professor Arthur Aughey pointed out some years ago: 'The constant proclamation of the cultural superiority of the Irish ‘nationalist’ people is designed to demoralise Ulster Protestants.'  [Ulster Review October 1994]

In any war the demoralisation of the other group is a very effective tactic and it is one with which republicans are very familiar.  Another obvious example is the republican claim that a United Ireland is 'inevitable', something that Gerry Adams and others repeat regularly.  Such claims are intended to wear down unionists and demoralise them.

Lord Kelvin
The fact that much of the culture of the unionist community has been marginalised by the media and the education system has made it easier for nationalists to perpetuate their false propaganda.  Unionists are less aware than they should be of their rich cultural heritage and so they are less able to respond to the propaganda of cultural nationalism.

With men of the stature of Lord Kelvin, the greatest scientist of the Victorian era, and Francis Hutcheson, the 'Father of the Scottish Enlightenment', we have a heritage of which we can be proud.  Equally the works of C S Lewis and the hymns of Mrs C F Alexander cannot be dismissed as of little value.

The science of Kelvin, the philosophy of Hutcheson, the literature of Lewis and the hymns of Mrs Alexander are just as much 'culture' as the spectacle of Riverdance.


  1. Nelso,

    First of all Happy New Year!

    I don't think your use of the german terminology 'Kulturkampf' is an accurate description to your proposed warring of two cultures, it was meant to define the secularisation of germany from the catholic church in the 19th century.

    Also, your assertion of nationalist attempts to "deride or dismiss our culture" is rich considering the DUP is against the Irish language Act and bilingual street signs to name but a few. As a Christain maybe you should take the plank out of your own eye etc.

    Also I find your Ulster-Scots vision to be exculsive to a large minority of Ulster unionists, where do Gaelic unionists from thge highlands or those decended from english ancestors fit into your cultural expression. Some of us are as left out and as ignored as can possibly be.

  2. The word has been used in the past in relation to culture in Northern Ireland. 'Irish Kulturkampf' was the title of a booklet written by Professor Arthur Aughey and first published in 1995.

    My assertion was that many Irish cultural nationalists deride, dismiss or deny the existence of the cultural traditions of the unionist community. I note that you did not attempt to refute that charge.

    Opposition to an Irish Language Act does not in any way conflict with my recognition that there is a rich Gaelic culture, which is part of our cultural wealth. The problem is the lack of reciprocal recognition.

    As regards the unionist community, it is a diverse community. A person can be an Ulster-Scots and a unionist or Anglo-Irish and a unionist or even Irish and a unionist, or whatever. You seem to have missed my earlier posts about the multifaceted or multilayered nature of identity. My approach is totally exclusive and no one is excluded except those who exclude themselves.

  3. Nelso,

    Well then it would seem that Professor Arthur Aughey's comparison is inaccurate, in my opinion. Professor Aughey's use of this terminology doesn't automatically give it credibility.

    Also I think it is unfair to tarr all irish cultural enthusiasts as anti-unionist-culture. For example I know of several people from the nationalist community who are directly involved in the Ulster Scots Agency.

    However, it is true to say that to many irish, unionist culture, especially Orange culture is viewed with distaste, as it was set up as exculsively anti-catholic organisation, so its no wonder it is percieved as devisive.

    Also I know from recent conversations that the confusion over the so called Ulster-Scots language does not help Irish nationalists to clearly conceptualise a seemingly important, yet hitherto unheard of aspect of unionist cultural identity.

    However I must ask, in bullet proof form (if possible, for clarity), what would you like to see from Irish cultural nationalists in terms of recognition of the cultural traditions of the unionist community?

  4. With all due respect Nelson, you seem to be promoting Unionist propaganda here yourself...

    As an Irish Republican, I've absolutly no problem whatsoever with the Unionist community having its culture and identity. However, the bigotry and exclusiveness of the Loyal Orders cannot be described in anyway as progressive nor positive towards the Nationalist and Republican community in the Six Counties.

    Sadly, these organisations have and are guilty of discrimination and promoting Unionism as the correct political path. The reality is that the 50 years of Unionist Rule at Stormont was a shambles and did nothing to help th minority community apart from speed-up wholescale emigration.

  5. mpppm - The first time you spelt my name incorrectly I thought it was just a typo. When you do it the second time it is clearly not a typo. I am not precious about such things and have a sense of humour but that is just an example of bad manners.

    As regards the use of the term Irish Kulturkampf I would suggest you actually read the booklet before rejecting the use of the term. To do otherwise is really an example of prejudice.

    Could I also suggest you come out of hiding and say who you are? If you have nothing to hide, then why not use your own name?

    Finally to both mpppm and Republican Network, it is too easy to just make a general attack on unionism. Why not address the point I have made?

  6. Nelson,

    Quite frankly they were typos as I tend to type rather fast, for example I also believe I spelt the word 'the' as 'thge' in my first post. I will spell-check my posts from now on as not to cause any offense.

    Ironically in your reply you refer to me as 'mpppm' when in fact my ID is 'mppppm', but I'm not as precious about spelling as some.

    Also, demands for my name!? I am a regular reader to your blog and I have never seen such a demand (and in such a aggressive tone).

    Finally I see you have completely ignored my request:

    "what would you like to see from Irish cultural nationalists in terms of recognition of the cultural traditions of the unionist community?"

    You enjoy having your say and not addressing the points of others, as I recall when I asked you several months ago about the creationism in museums debacle.

    If you would like me not to comment on your blog anymore then just say.

  7. p.s. when and where did I attack Unionism????


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.