Tonight I participated in a NISP CONNECT “Tiger Team” on the theme of Culture. The other attendees were all legends in their own right – both inspiring and intimidating in equal measure. Everyone there was there because they had contributed something to culture in Northern Ireland.
Among other things, we were asked to pick five things from a series of topics generated by the group. Things that we saw as priorities. Mine were:
- A 22nd Century Vision – we dwell on the last hundred years, from how we led the world in linen and rope manufacture, how we led the world in ship-building. We need to focus on the next hundred years. How do we want our society to be? Do we want Peace Walls? Do we wants proliferate a culture that attracts representatives from racist and sectarian political parties? Or do we want a civil society that others would envy?
- A Great Place To Live – it’s currently a nice place to live, but not a great place. We are bogged down by the past, we focus on our traditions (and the way it has always been) and depend upon legacy (in the negative sense) for our identity. We should focus on what strangers see. They see archaic opening hours, violence and a divided nation.
- Draw A Line Under The Past – if you want to see the efficacy of the Peace Process then look no further than our second city. The symbol of culture for the UK in 2013 has two irreconcilable cultures within it. Our coalition government must treat everything as access for all, even if it means turning up to celebrate a shared past.
- Create A Common Agenda (for opportunity) – everyone needs to be raising their voices together on the need for change. The need for a civic (and civil) conversation over and above the interests of creeds and cultures is paramount. Write a constitution that everyone can agree to.
- Let Students (All Of Us) Play – there is a constant need for learning in modern cultures and our society needs to facilitate that. The need for personal development and experimentation is satisfied in a developed country. The need for self-actualisation is only possible when other needs are met.
The Recession has brought austerity and, with that, a complacency and reduced desire for achievement. It has never been more important to realise a vision. In the lack of private sector stepping in to enact change, it falls to our powerful and well-manned public sector to make the sweeping infrastructural and environmental changes which will set the example for other societies. We can do this if our vision is aligned and our collective will is put to the task.