Shame is the inability to live up to the narrative that you think society requires of you in order to be able to fit in. Shame perpetuates individualism and individualism perpetuates consumerism. Shame: If only you knew, you wouldn't like me — thus individualism. Consumerism: what do I need in order to be able to fit in. The emotional undercurrent that carries these three along on its tide is fear.
This leads me on to thinking about the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. In it, Belfast, out of 64 cities across the UK was ranked the least entrepreneurial — number 64. According to the report (based on number of business startups), 4.8% of people in Northern Ireland engage in enterprise activity compared to 10% in the South of Ireland, with the 18 - 24 age group ranked as having the lowest entrepreneurial activity.
Now, it probably isn't surprising that the 18 - 24 age group ranked where it did. If you are lucky enough, and can afford it, you are in further education. If not, then you are either working or unemployed — all of which mean you are channeling any entrepreneurial spirit elsewhere or nowhere.
What is interesting is that 43.5% of people surveyed in NI said that “fear of failure” would prevent them from starting a business — the highest percentage across the whole of the UK. According to a report in the Telegraph, this fear may be unjustified, because despite these statistics; more young businesses reach £1m in sales in Northern Ireland than anywhere else in the UK.
That being said, there appears to be a culture of fear in Belfast. Which, given what I proposed in my opening paragraph should not surprise us. Religious systems of belief are predicated on perpetuating an unhealthy level of shame (they don't tell you this but they are). It works like this: here’s the rules. Fear the rules. Do not break the rules. Break the rules feel shame. Believe in x, y or z and be ‘free’ from your shame — repeat to fade.
Given Belfast’s deeply, conservative, fundamentalist, religious past; its rigid familial structures; highly academic education system; and calvinistic, protestant working class ethic (all rooted in religion) it should not surprise us that we are haunted by fear of failure; the prying eyes; pointing fingers; hushed tones; shame-tweets …..