Two events at either end of Northern Ireland epitomised the zero sum game by which local politics, at its worst, can be played out.
One was the naming of a play park after a dead hunger striker. The other was the sectarian wrangle, and serious rioting, which broke out over the frequency with which the Union flag should fly over Belfast City Hall.
In the past the flag has flown 365 days a year on the building, as well as on the Ulster Hall and the Duncrue Street Depot, simply because unionist parties were in a majority and didn't need nationalist agreement.
It was always denied that there was any element of pointsscoring involved, but Ruth Patterson of the DUP seemed to take a different view when she launched into Alliance for proposing a compromise which resulted in a watering down of nationalist demands for no flag at all.
People, she argued, "now see you for what you really are – divisive, destructive and disrespectful of anything that is Protestant, anything remotely British and anything remotely loyalist". Protestantism is identified with the flag, and, as if to underline the point, a self-proclaimed Protestant group led protests, which turned to violence against the police outside the City Hall.
This suggests not only that Catholics legitimately cannot feel British or vote unionist but also that Protestants cannot be nationalist or Irish.
Such tribal identification was common during the Troubles, when a siege mentality existed but we are supposed to be getting away from it nowadays. At least that is what both Peter Robinson and Mike Nesbitt both say as they attempt to promote a more inclusive unionism and appeal for Catholic support. They are mindful that Catholics are rising as a proportion of the population and need to be fully included if the union is to be truly secure. The current religious head count will be revealed in census figures next Tuesday.
Unfortunately nationalists don't always behave any better on issues of symbolism when they have the majority.
Raymond McCreesh is seen by republicans as a byword for fortitude and dedication because he died on hunger strike in 1981. He is also an IRA member captured in the course of ambushing a British Army observation post with a gun used in the sectarian murder of 10 Protestants at Kingsmills.
Putting his name on a public facility creates a chill factor for anyone who wishes to use it and is British or Protestant or both. It may be in a Catholic and nationalist area but the aspiration should surely be to share facilities rather than marking out territory.
Are we now going to have competitive naming of publicly funded facilities with Troubles era activists like John McMichael of the UDA or Lenny Murphy, the leader of the Shankill Butcher gang, honoured in loyalist areas? Will politicians argue that in "our" area we can ignore the feelings of the "other side"? Will we then have wasteful duplication, at public expense, because one community does not feel comfortable using another community's facilities? Conflict and bitterness will result if people dig their heels in and play the zero sum game of winners and losers on every symbolic issue. These conflicts are symptoms of a society which is shared out rather than truly sharing, a culture where groups grab victories where possible and turn nasty if they can't.
That is the mentality that dragged us into decades of violence before. We need to build a shared society to guard against a repetition.