You’ve guessed it. I watched Spotlight this week. I don’t know the ratings, but I suspect it received a lot of attention. I suspect it was also avoided by many. My Dad said something to the effect of, ‘I lived it, I’m not sure I want to see it all again.’ He did, he’s earned the right not to watch one more programme on it.
Do we need a programme going back over fairly atrocious events from forty and fifty years ago? This was the question Eamon Mallie was asked on Radio Ulster earlier in the week. His reply surprised me, he said something to do with people having a ‘curiosity’ about what happened. I can’t remember his full answer, so maybe I’m being unfair to him, but I remember thinking, if ‘curiosity’ is the best answer we’ve got, then that’s not a good enough reason to make these programmes.
I think there are many reasons to remember, and one blog post is not going to explore all of them. I want to suggest one reason: If we let them, programmes like these can help us explore perspectives other than our own. We may not agree with someone’s actions, we may not like how someone thought, or still thinks, but there is always the chance we can deepen our understanding of what took place. If we can learn how to do that, there is a greater chance we will not repeat the mistakes of the past.
If you’re watching old footage on TV to rehearse why you were right and they were wrong, you’re probably better off not watching it at all. I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m saying you know all those arguments already, so why put yourself through it all again? Only tune in, if there’s the possibility of something new.
I thought there were enough previously unknown perspectives from the archives, creatively sewn together; they gave me much to think about. It’s not just about what happened, important as that is, it’s important to see how one thing led to another and events spiralled out of control.
We are not in the same place we were in the late sixties and seventies, but we are still a divided society. We approach three years without a government, hard to believe isn’t it? And yet, when you see what we have been through, it’s not. There is so much trauma to move away from.
Brexit has provided another split. The news is full of division, take American politics, for example. We need to learn how to see another perspective, or, if possible, a few alternative perspectives. Our ability to get along with each other -and I mean our friends, family and colleagues, not just in community terms- depends on this ability.
We need to get real about teaching this in school, and that starts with our teachers modelling it. If a teacher can’t see the perspective of a pupil in their room, or their head of department down the corridor, or the parent waiting for them at the school gate, then they can’t teach those skills in the classroom.
A few years ago, I wrote a resource for end of primary/start of secondary age pupils. I wanted them to understand that inter-community violence is complex, and to change a divided society, they need to be able to empathise as well as understand what peace-building might look like. I avoided real life events; I created a ten part story of a city where groups form, identities and desires clash, and everything falls apart.
I’ve spent part of this week distributing its latest version. I don’t anticipate it will revolutionise this, or any other part of the world, but it’s one small effort to offer children an opportunity to learn to see the world through someone else’s eyes and make choices about how people might feel more secure and at home. I can’t add a pdf to this blog site, but if you’d like a copy, it’s free to use, drop me a line.