Orange Culture is Culture


By Jason Michael

Some of our neighbours have taken to the streets to “remember” a battle they never fought; in a country they’ve never visited. This is Orangeism, a hilariously anachronistic but highly dangerous slice of Ulster-Scottish antiquarianism.


Since before the weekend, what with an Orange Order parade scheduled for Glasgow on Saturday, Scottish social media has been a riot over Ulster and Scottish loyalists claiming cultural status for their hideous bonfire and Battle of the Boyne commemorative antics. Apparently we and the other communities of Northern Ireland are to accept the burning of flags and Catholics in effigy, racist, bigoted, and sectarian slogans and songs, and ancient hatreds as “culture.” Members of the Orange institutions and the unionist establishment in Scotland and Northern Ireland are demanding that we accept Orange parades as cultural celebrations on a par with St. Patrick’s Day, Burns’ Night, or any other national cultural celebration. But evidently we do not.

Orangeism is a culture no matter how much we protest, but that is because we have gotten stuck on the idea of culture as a good thing; the social expression of the better angels of our nature. Yersinia pestis, the organism responsible for the Bubonic plague, is a culture. All sorts of really bad things are cultures, and not just bacteria. There are cultures of prejudice, misogyny, and bigotry. In the BBC and the British Conservative establishment there is a culture of organised child abuse. Cultures in society are simply the result of social relations and their effects, and they are not always good things. The Orange Order is only another example of a bad social culture.

Trapped in the bleak theological landscape of the late Reformation, and in complete denial that its iconic hero was widely rumoured in the seventeenth century to be gay and that his war against James II was blessed and funded by the Pope, the Orange Order is a culture of hate. Shaped by centuries of colonial supremacy and its perpetual war to displace and annihilate Irish Catholics, the Orange institution is unable – it seems – to break free from its sectarian bigotry, its racism, and its backward and quagmired religious intolerances. As a culture it is a culture of anachronisms, petty and ancient hatreds, and death. By its very nature it is at odds with the modern world, but it is a culture.


When we see the flags of the Irish Republic and the flags of all its trivial proxy wars against Catholicism and republicanism – the Vatican, Poland, the Starry Plough, Palestine – atop bonfires, along with effigies representing Catholic people we are looking at a culture. This is what happens when a closed society sinks into the isolationist and ever-inward looking feedback loop of self-affirmation. When challenged by the outside world, when mocked and jeered, it reacts and acts out. It becomes what its mythology has always told it that it is – a community; a culture under siege. Rather than coming out into the twenty-first century it finds social and cultural nutrition in its despised otherness. It embraces and finds identity in pretty much all that is hateful.

Britain’s recent willingness to sacrifice the peace of the Good Friday Agreement and the threat posed to its “Holy Land” of Britain by Scottish nationalism have emboldened this culture, giving it once again a sense of cultural relevance. Somehow in the limited imagination of Orangeism open anti-Black and anti-Irish racism makes sense. It serves an imagined purpose; it is being put to the task of saving the Union they truly believe a nasty and hateful god gave them. This too is culture. It is shared by people, passed from one generation to the next, preached in what passes in their community as “Christian” places of worship, and supported by the pressure of its own wider society. It most definitely is culture. It’s just not good, informed, or healthy culture.

Violence too is inseparable from this diseased culture. Orangeism was born in the colonial-imperial violence of a Planter community over an indigenous population. It was violence, often sheer brutality, which kept this ascendant class in power in Ireland against resistence and rebellion. Supported by the British forces of occupation in Ireland and later in Northern Ireland this culture learned that violence endeared it to the Crown, the Empire, and the whole British establishment. By violence it won the love and embarrassed admiration of its gods in London.

So when Jack Ramsay, the Grand Secretary of the Grand [Orange] Lodge of Scotland, talks of the Orange Order becoming a terrorist organisation to fight against the Scottish government after Scottish independence we have to take this threat seriously. Since the Battle of the Diamond in 1795 the “Defenders” – the precursor movement of the Orange Order – have defended Britain in Ireland qua the notional “Union” and, by extension, the Union in Scotland by force of arms. Violence is as Orange as the sash and the Lambeg drum. Violence is cultural to Orangeism. Orangeism is a culture of violence. The Orange Order is a fanatical, religious fundamentalist and extremist violent organisation – no different, in most ways, from al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

A fellow independentista blogger was chatting with me this morning. She was expressing how afraid she was of these Orange clowns. I sympathise with her completely. What the hell would our country be like if this savage ideology was victorious? Canada and Australia would have more Scots. We can defeat them and we must defeat them. We won’t do this with violence. They love violence and you can rest assured they want violence. In the Republic of Ireland there are Orange lodges. In Dublin there is the LOL 1313. Its members keep themselves to themselves and no one in the rest of the country bothers about them. There are no marches and no violence and the reason for this is quite simple; its Britain is dead. We pull the teeth from Orangeism in Scotland not by taking up the sword, but by sticking to the plan and killing our Britain.

Ultimately it is the violence and hatred of Britain and Britishness that is the rotten corpse on which this culture of Orangeism grows. So long as the host is in place the disease will do what it does, it will spread and grown. We can tackle it as a symptom but the cause will still be there. What we do is what we have always been doing; we rid ourselves of the carrion of Britain and Britishness and the sicknesses it gives rise to will up and follow the stench. Only in a Scottish Republic will the Orange Order wither away into the past in which it belongs. Only then can we all get on with the business of the future where Scotland has so much to do.

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All the Trolls are Under the Bridge


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3 thoughts on “Orange Culture is Culture

  1. My childhood was to say the least…schizophrenic..Scottish catholic mother, English Protestant father..catholic educated…relatives who were orangemen/ woman..orange pipe bands every 12th of July which I followed ,loving the music, not understanding or knowing the hatred & bigotry embedded in their culture.
    I grew up in the most bigoted,Anti catholic town in Scotland Verbally abused by orange practising relatives ..e.g ” where’s ma wee Fenian bastard “..As only a child can view it ,I loved these relatives. I was immersed in it. As a child, it was the norm…I’m an educated woman, who supports diversity, equal rights. I have no hatred of this culture just sadness that it exists .
    Thank you for such a comprehensive well informed, beautifully written article. You have allowed me to privately share my feelings
    There are close relatives visiting me soon, I live abroad , have not seen them for a long time …we were children together, they are strong orange supporters .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just a microbiologists pedantic intervention. “Yersinia pestis” should be italicised. All bacterial phylogenetic nomenclature is presented this way.

    Also, Yersinia is not actually a “culture”. A culture is when microbes are selected to grow on culture medium under laboratory conditions

    Liked by 1 person

  3. While I would agree with most of what you are saying I think that there are a number of points which you omitted.
    The first one is that the Orange Order was initially antagonistic to the Presbyterians (who were dissenters). It was only at the time of the agitation for Catholic emancipation that the Presbyterians were brought into line (as a whole thought there were still more liberal thoughts in Presbyterianism), a process which was signified by the two flavours of orthodox Presbyterianism coming together in 1840. There has however been a liberal Protestantism which has been against the Orange Order. It has to be remembered that Paisley was opposed to the Orange Order initially as part of his fight was with Big House Unionism.
    The second point which you miss completely is that it was effectively the Unionists who reintroduced violence into Irish politics. While the 1916 Proclamation speaks about “six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted(The right of nationhood) in arms”. Much of this was pretty minor and was only built up by Pierce’s romanticism. Actually list the six events and you will see what I mean.
    The Men of 1916 were generally (Connolly was different) the result of the actions of some of the Irish Volunteers. They were a minority part of the National Volunteers who were raised in direct response to the threat of the Unionists, (mainly in the North) to oppose Home Rule by force. Thus it was that the Unionists had reintroduced the Gun into Irish Politics and have no problem in carrying that on to this day. The first event of the troubles was Unionist (Loyalist murders of Catholics.
    It is important that we call out the institution which is the Orange order for the bunch of bigots which they are and realise that they have little to do with Christianity as generally understood in Scottish Churches.
    What you have to remember is that a lot of Ulster Protestant workers moved to Scotland for one reason on another. Many of them were Anglican in Ireland. However they didn’t prosper in the Scottish Episcopal Church which is very high. St Silas Church which as a peculiar relationship with the Scottish Episcopal Church (it is not technically a full member of the SEP) would be the nearest thing. The result is that many of the Orangemen joined various sects and the signs is that many of hem have simply dropped out.
    I have some respect for some members of the Order who are decent people, if culturally determined. Those of us who while respecting the individuals reject the whole system have to work our some way to reach out to the decent ones which the thugs and the drunks demonstrate just were it is.

    Liked by 2 people

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