I was struck, yesterday, by a clip of Italy’s new Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, speaking before her election, which my colleague Matt dug up and included in his piece about the election results. Here it is:
The new Prime Minister of Italy.
— Aaron Ginn (@aginnt) September 26, 2022
The nature of politics and current affairs is that by definition, it tends to focus on individual issues, rather than the larger picture: You are concerned about crime. Or immigration. Or taxes. Or marriage or abortion or healthcare. There is always and ever an “issue of the day”, with little time to stand back and think about the wider picture of what our society is, and what its values are. To the extent that we talk about values at all, we talk about them in the most superficial terms: Everyone who matters agrees, for example, that Ireland is a “compassionate and tolerant” country, whatever that means.
The bigger picture is vitally important, though: Our policies, whatever they might be, are always aligned with the dominant values of the ruling class. We speak often of a “culture war”, without ever really defining that war in terms of what it really is – a clash of value systems.
The clip of Meloni, above, has over 3million views, precisely because, I think, she articulates that clash of value systems so well.
At the heart of modern progressivism – the dominant ideology in Ireland, and across the EU – is a loathing of traditional western values and a sense that western history is shameful. That might sound like a dramatic, and even unfair, statement, but it’s not hard to stand it up. Read almost anything Fintan O’Toole writes if you doubt me – because he writes it very cogently. On his favourite subject, the UK, the great crime committed by the Tories and their supporters is not really Brexit, but Empire.
Brexit is a disaster in this telling not because of the economic impacts of the policy, but because, in Fintan’s view, it harks back to an idea of Britain as a great power and unleashes the notion that British history is something to be proud of, rather than disdained and apologised for. This in turn is thought to unleash narrow minded nationalism and bigotry, which are presented as synonymous. The same approach is taken – almost universally – with Ireland.
How many times, in an average year, for example, does an Irish newspaper publish a column which refers either directly or indirectly to Ireland’s “dark and cruel” past? How many times do you read that the Ireland of your parents and grandparents was a “cold house” for various groups, ranging from women to gays to immigrants to travelers? Almost every dominant idea in Ireland today can be traced directly to the progressive desire to renounce and repudiate our allegedly evil, dark, and cruel past.
There’s a much longer piece to be written here about why Ireland is so hostile to “western values” in the first place – it’s all wrapped up in our history of colonialism. Suffice to say, when this state became independent, we followed western cultural values almost to the letter, but wrapped them up in a new cloak of “catholic” values. And so, while the decline of the Church has not been fatal to the right in the rest of Europe, it has been almost entirely fatal here.
What’s clear though is that progressivism in Ireland and progressivism in Europe are one and the same: The war Meloni speaks of above is being waged with a fury here. One of the reasons “multiculturalism” is so beloved of progressives is that by its very nature, multiculturalism involves the dilution and the weakening of the monoculture that we had. If you dislike western values, importing tens of thousands of people who do not share those values is a good way to weaken their grasp.
Similarly, the existence of happy traditional families is considered an offense against newer, more progressive families. The entire concept of “privilege” is based on the idea that it must be eradicated, and it is not a coincidence that most of the things that are considered “privileged” are also traditional: Being straight, being white, being middle class, having the ability to speak freely.
We are, essentially, all caught in the crossfire: Progressivism is waging a war on the past, and since the past cannot shoot back, those of us who live in the present are the proxy targets. Though we did not colonise anybody, we are alleged to have benefitted from it. Though we did not repress any women, we are alleged to be guilty of it. Though we did not condemn any gay people to institutions, we must answer for it.
In Ireland, there’s a particular unwillingness to fight back against this. We have all been completely conditioned to see the past as a shameful thing, and the idea that we might have been a happier, less stressed, more coherent society in 1950 than we are in 2022 is about the closest thing we have to formal thoughtcrime. That’s why, I think, we’re more comfortable with the revolutionaries of the left, as an alternative Government, than any traditionalist of the right.
But it is important, nevertheless, to recognise the current dominant ideology for what it is, and what it wants: These people see European identity, and European culture, as a shameful, regrettable, criminal thing. And the policy is to eradicate it in favour of a new European identity, best summed up by the popularity of the rainbow flag over the national flag in many European capitals. Many of us sense it, but Meloni has been able to articulate it in a way that ordinary Italians felt able to respond to. There are lessons in her success.