Why Sectarianism Remains An Enduring Problem Today

It is quite interesting to reflect on certain of our current sociocultural problems – I am thinking particularly about sectarianism in Scotland – by comparing the psychologies of those caught up in the midst of it today, with those who lived through its complex historical origins.

Whilst it is very difficult to work your way inside the emotions, attitudes and thought patterns of individuals living through the difficult circumstances surrounding this problem nowadays, it is even more of a challenge with respect to those living in an entirely different historical period.

But it is interesting because it helps to shed some light on why problems like sectarianism, which should have been confined to the lives and circumstances of a different generation, with different belief systems, still endure today.

We could think of sectarianism, perhaps rather simplistically, as being rooted in the complex mix of religious, sociocultural and political circumstances that have prevailed, to greater or lesser extents, at various points in our history over the past few centuries.

Perhaps at the time, sectarianism was something like a strange type of ‘medicine’ that people believed that they had to take, in order to ward off the perceived threats and spooky ills of the day. It helped secure, and ultimately reinforce, their sense of identity, belonging, purpose and spiritual well-being. But it was a ‘medicine’ that looks more like a poison to most of us today, with very obvious, and totally unacceptable, adverse effects.

There is a very clear sense in which sectarianism would have been actively prescribed by certain unscrupulous, corrupt and very powerful, organisations and authorities, as a potent remedy for tackling some of the perceived threats to the preferred establishment of the day. It was a means of protecting and insulating Scottish Presbyterian Protestantism, for example, from the threat of the ‘superstitions’ of Catholicism and the absolute authority of Rome.

The recipe was celebrated and passed down through subsequent generations, without any thought being given to the fact that the psychology that made sense of it as an antidote to a particular religious and sociocultural malady, was firmly rooted in a historical setting that is wholly incommensurate with how the majority of us want our lives to look and feel today.

But here is the sting: whilst the majority of us want our lives to look and feel a certain way today, because the story we are given is that we inhabit a culturally advanced, socially civilised and morally structured space of reasons that makes this possible, the reality behind the story is somewhat different.

The reality is that the institutional corruption and sociocultural prejudices that tainted our past are still absolutely rife today, albeit appearing in a slightly more sophisticated guise, and with much wider ramifications for our everyday lives.

We may have become more sophisticated in our thinking, but our psychologies are integrated into today’s sociocultural conditions, in much the same way that the psychologies of generations before us were integrated into the conditions that prevailed during their time. And we also have the disadvantage of backward integration through being immersed in our respective generational traditions, with the symbols, stories and songs that keep them alive.

But whereas many of us have moved on in our attitudes and belief systems, and acknowledge that sectarianism is something that should belong firmly in the past, the brutal reality behind the story is that most of the same basic sociocultural ingredients still exist today that existed then.

Witness the wilful corruption, institutional prejudices and wholly immoral practices of certain journalists, politicians and bankers, for a start. And they are not alone in this respect. The elitist framework that furnishes and protects the lavish lifestyle of certain social groups is the very same framework that creates the context for many of our ugly sociocultural prejudices.

That is what we need to dismantle if we are serious about eradicating sectarianism for good. But that, unfortunately, is never going to happen, and that is why sectarianism remains an enduring problem today.

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3 thoughts on “Why Sectarianism Remains An Enduring Problem Today

  1. dombhoy67 says:

    ”…that, unfortunately, is never going to happen”
    I beg to differ with this summing up. It is a negative statement that leaves people without hope and when you rob people of hope then you rob them of a reason for living. We may not see it in our life-time but at some point in the future sectarianism and all the other injustices will be destroyed – of that I have absolutely no doubt. Education is the key. People don’t yet realise the power they have as individuals but more especially as a collective power – they can achieve anything…ANYTHING! That is why we have the establishment doing summer-salts towards getting any kind of rag-tag rangers football team into the upper levels of the game so that the forces of reaction lined up against any REAL progress in society. It is the power of the hegemonic process and it begins at the point of trivia before it works its way up to the upper echelons of society. . .the banks and the Houses of Parliament. We can all do our bit to educate you don’t have to be a teacher you just have to speak to the next man you see about right and wrong – that is the front line in the class war. Yes, we can make a difference and we can change things for the better but it will take time.

  2. Liam Conway says:

    Thanks for your comments. I would love to share your optimism and confidence in this respect. Like you, I do genuinely believe that education can make an important difference to our lives and the views we hold. However, my concern is that the sociocultural frameworks forced on us by the power of the institutions that govern and manage our country means that ugly sociocultural prejudices like sectarianism will always exist. I agree that we can influence small pockets of society, mainly like-minded individuals, but I am not entirely sure we can eradicate sectarianism for good. There are too many for whom it is important to reinforce their bigotry at every opportunity. It is deeply engrained in their psychology and they will just keep passing it on, generation after generation.

    • dombhoy67 says:

      Tanks for that Liam. I understand your concerns and I too get frustrated at times when I see things like Orange Lodge marches being promoted in Glasgow and the like. However, I would never have dremed in my wildest dreams that I would have lived to see the mighty Apartheid regime in South Africa brought to its knees and the very man that was castigated and jailed for daring to speak against such injustices went on to become leader and President of South Africa. It can happen and it will happen…time will see to it.

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