Though from a traditional Hymn originating from the Mid-West that would scare the devil out of you, the lyrics of this famous song, covered by greats such as Johnny Cash, are indicative of a long standing theme in Northern Ireland: that people think this is a good as it gets.
My Granny, right up until her passing, lived a simple life. A life where submission to the voices of political leaders and a world where you knew your place trumped one of freedom and a world where you knew your rights. The preservation of group values was held above all else.
All her life she struggled to make ends meet; rendered ‘slow’ by educationalists and denied opportunities to thrive. She suffered quietly as her husband drained the family with psychotic episodes now fixable with prescription drugs. Ian Paisley was the closest thing to God on earth, the church was infallible and ‘keeping your head down’ was second nature.
She then passed away during the age of post-modernity, with the coming of social media, the part-liberalisation of women, and (to a certain extent) an age of rights-based individualism.
More than ever, we now live in a society where we are supposedly freer to do what we wish, with more rights to protect us no matter the consequences. A world of global citizens expressing and impressing views through a lens of ‘me’, a measure of a freer world that ego-centrically fails to understand anything that doesn’t relate to self. Case in point: ‘Remainers’ looking upon ‘Brexiteers’ with a hint of intellectual snobbery that suggests the latter were driven by xenophobia, and with absolute rage that they may have caused them to lose out on an Erasmus trip.
Yet, there still remains in Northern Ireland a large cohort of individuals and families in 2018 who look on at, and engage with, the world in a manner that my granny (born in 1928) would have. No more so is this exemplified than in our static political sphere, where nothing seems to change. A budget set by ruthless, austerity driven Tory Ministers in the absence of any Northern Ireland Executive, with the cruelest welfare reforms of a generation, gifted by the DUP and Sinn Féin whose inability to agree with one another led to our devolved welfare powers being shipped back to halls of Westminster. Fourteen months without a government and not a single placard or protest has been sighted.
Have we in Northern Ireland become so conditioned to the fictitious belief that ‘this is our lot'?
Do people really make the link between poor governance and poor standards of living?
Have those of us who have reverberated the saying ‘you get what you vote for’ taken any action to convince others with less self-belief that they can and do deserve more?
The ‘inevitability’ of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer is a false narrative blown out of the water by Nordic countries like Sweden. But until the mindset shifts that our current voting trends in Northern Ireland are causing instability outlasting generations, we are in for a very long and uncomfortable haul.
Personally, I hold tight to the belief that ‘the best is yet to come’. I even have one of those wee melty LED cinema boards you buy in New Look for a tenner that sits on my desk to remind me of this. However, I am past the pleasantries of not taking a snipe at the two major parties, who instill a fear in the electorate that the circle should not be unbroken lest we risk the sky falling in.
This isn’t as good as it gets, the circle can be unbroken, and the best is truly yet to come for this province.
Heather is on Editorial Team at Northern Slant, is a politics graduate and a political staffer.