NI’s Zombie culture war summers are becoming detached from where its youth’s heads are…

“Regression is a form of retreat, going back to a time when the person felt safer and where the stresses in question were not known, or where an all-powerful parent would take them away.”

-John Kellden

Each year we are treated to a series of controversies over loyalist bonfires. Now to be fair they seem to be a falling number, but the three or four transgressive ones do get a fair amount of column inches.

When it comes to the August bonfires, when the symbols are reversed, there’s virtual silence in the media. But if one is ‘wrong’ surely the other is too?

However I think there’s a certain unknowingness that attaches to these events. They are the local thing to do and if they wind up the liberal intelligentsia so much the better.

Some of the same folks who sang the vehemently anti IRA tune, Zombie at the Feile on August 9th will also have sung along with the Wolf Tones, ‘U ah, Up The Ra’.

Whether it is post modern irony or something altogether more sclerotic, there is a zombie aspect to these expressions which drawn from a past whose reality is increasingly inscrutable to the youth of the present.

Meanwhile under the skin, the world is changing more quickly and more unpredictably than ever before. Unknowingly or not, the passion with which those kids blasted out Dolores O’Riordan’s lyrics was telling.

It’s the same old theme
Since nineteen-sixteen
In your head, in your head, they’re still fighting
With their tanks, and their bombs
And their bombs, and their guns
In your head, in your head, they are dying

In your head, in your head
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie
What’s in your head, in your head
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh, ay, oh, ya ya.

I’m reminded of Bryan Delaney’s masterful quote from Hamlet that “there is nothing either good or bad, but that thinking makes it so”. It’s in our hands whether we continue down the Zombie route O’Riordan begged us not to go.

We have become experts on the past, which makes many of us feel comfortable with that past (and the certainty of the battles). The challenge of picking new battles for social wellbeing and prosperity is where uncertainty lies.

In that west Belfast crowd’s unknowing (yet being moved by the depth of O’Riordan’s lyrics), I (subjectively) choose to believe they’re sending us a small hint they’ve had enough of our Zombie politics. They’d rather move on.

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