Jumping endlessly through hoops;Opinion
Just for a very short time I got the same kind of feeling of trouble brewing when I thought I detected some signs within the Catholic community that the longest running love affair in the history of sport and its effect on that community, its children and its schools, may be curling at the edges. These may be interesting times, but to those like myself who have searched for years for a crack, any crack, in the veil of silence over the cultural domination of the Catholic community by Celtic they have become absorbing.
So what's new? It came as a surprise to find the local Catholic press commenting publicly and unfavourably on last season's events at Parkhead. I can hardly recall such detail - descriptions of religious gestures blasphemed, rebel songs bawled, sectarian taunts.
The Catholic press normally confines itself to describing and celebrating Celtic's charitable enterprises, involvement of players and so forth, helping to reinforce for children the status of the club as a mega-icon within the community and its players as role models. It even asked for comments from readers.
Those days in May were not the image that the Wise Men from the West bearing Gold and Platinum Cards to transform the grand old team into something for the 00s, really want. They did such wonders for supporter morale that Stephen Spielberg might be able to make something of the scenario someday.
It's almost scriptural to think that in our day so many old men are dreaming dreams and so many young men are seeing visions. Their dreams and visions are far from scriptural, however. Many of them are too far from what we might wish personal and social development and promoting positive behaviour to inculcate.
Part of the Celtic realignment package has been a curricular component available to Glasgow schools originally called Bhoys Against Bigotry but soon retitled "Youth Against Bigotry". Designed to promote positive behaviour, especially "with particular reference to aspects of bigotry and sectarianism", its aims are worthy and commendable. Glasgow City Council agrees and lines up with its main tenets, particularly with reference to seeking to overcome social injustice. The pupil material is of the highest quality, excellently prepared and set out. To what avail?
The pessimist in me says little or none. I would like to agree that a conflict of idiom between a worthy presentation of anti-bigotry and anti-sectarianism, and the most deeply held convictions of a substantial minority of our citizens (the very bigotry and sectarianism that fills a lot of holes in their lives), should not exist far into the 21st century.
The events of last May (death, assault, resignation, social disorder) give few grounds for optimism. A recent advertising invitation to Celtic supporters young and old to "Identify Yourself" - ie purchase a new Celtic top, ie define yourself in terms of profit-making enterprise - did little to raise my hopes.
There is a sense, too, in which Youth Against Bigotry is a test bed for getting indicators of how and if schools can be effective instruments to turn around dysfunctional social and cultural attitudes and ethos, as distinct from curricular failure. It is a distinct possibility that this may not happen because I suspect that children in the west of Scotland will continue to assimilate these attitudes either with their mothers' milk or by cultural osmosis. Regardless of how many person-hours the media's resident talking head population spend trying to convince each other that bigotry is dead, the last laugh is on them.
Which reminds me of Terminator. Remember Arnie's famous line: "I'll be back"? I'm afraid sectarianism, bigotry and Chromatic Christianity will be too, into a new millennium.
And the Catholic press? It printed one letter - a pawky - jokey humour one.