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LOOKBACK: Pearse and the culture wars

A new phrase that came out of American left wing corporate establishment is now spreading virally across Europe. This term “Pandemic of the unvaccinated” has been tested by Leo Varadkar in recent weeks and is now embraced by both the hard left and the corporate-aligned politics of the centre left that most of European politics, including Ireland’s, resembles.

On the countering side of this trend against freedom and towards a creeping authoritarianism is the populist politics of Europe. In Germany, where East Germans are more likely to be unvaxxed, the populist resistance to vaccine mandates is coming from AfD. The paradox that these so called right-wing populists are the ones standing up to heavy-handed restrictions and human rights abuses is not going unnoticed. In Spain, the populist Vox party defeated the most punitive of the lockdown measures in a high court case, forcing the government to reimburse citizens who had been fined by the unconstitutional covid diktats.

This is interesting. It is interesting that the Covid mass delusion was embraced so hard by the left, as it feeds into “mass formation” pathologies. This is noticeable in the arts also where, for example the punk band, Rage Against the Machine, have sided so absolutely with the coercive political and corporate financial establishment that they have been given the sardonic, yet more accurate, moniker ‘Rage on Behalf of the Machine.’

The subject of “rebel leftists” embracing the corporate collective brings us to a pattern that is noticeable within Ireland’s left. The self aggrandizing useful idiots of Antifa and PBPLA (an acronym that one day might be longer than the alphabet we are currently using to describe people) have been quick out of the blocks to stand with multinational corporatists and oppressive anti democratic rule by fiat. But Sinn Féin, a slightly more refined beast, have been cunningly watching, and one suspects waiting for the damage to be done before deciding which terms of persuasion to use to wrestle the opportunity to rule to themselves.

Which brings us to a more important question, what do Sinn Féin represent anyway?

Sinn Féin’s embrace of international socialism is, in fact, a rejection of Irish nationalism and its republican traditions.

Patrick Pearse is often described as being ahead of his time on so many different issues. For instance, when it comes to education, that he had the insight to see what was wrong with the system of education in Ireland at the turn of the 20th Century, and the foresight to design a new pedagogical model which placed the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual development of the child as its central purpose. What he proposed and put into practice anticipated modern child-centric education systems. He is often praised for “being ahead of his time” in this regard, but that is an analysis that misses the point entirely. It’s validatory, but that just shows a prejudice for the snapshot fallacy.

His criticism of systemic authoritarianism, embodied in the English colonial institutions in Ireland, is often noted and sometimes even seen as equally critiquing the social problems of later times. However, the key to Pearse’s writings and his ideas was more complex than that of a mind who could predict the projection of societal development through an understanding of its pathologies. Pearse analyses the problems of human nature not as a set of behavioral pathologies, but on a much deeper and more fundamental level.

Pearse analysed, and he saw that the malaise of Irish society wasn’t necessarily an economic one. The systems of economies in which wealth and opportunities are distributed in society may be a problem, but it is a symptom of a deeper problem and not the fundamental problem.

He differed from Connolly in this regard. Pearce saw that the malaise of Irish society was something closer to the core of the person, arising from the question of ‘what it is to be an individual and a citizen’.  He saw that the attack on Irish nationality was an attack on the soul of the nation. He put this into his writings and he took this insight and made its rebuttal a font for his activity in politics and culture. In his school, he encouraged his pupils to see the nobility of the person, as a person connected to the soul of the nation. He thought that this spiritual connection to the nation was the thing that safeguarded the dignity and the inalienable rights of the citizen.

That concept of inalienable rights – transcendent; not given by man- is what he was channelling with the opening lines of the Proclamation:

“Irish men and Irish women In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood”

It’s this concept of morality, dignity, culture, citizen and nation, that he wanted to reveal in his philosophy and art. This is why he encouraged his pupils to emulate the ideals of the heroes of the ancient cycles. He saw that this gave them a connection to a nation and a sovereignty, and an ideal of a noble and moral life.

Pearse could see in this something very salient, something that the left completely misses: what is the proper relationship between the polity and the individual.

A presumed defining line between the political tribes of left and right in the modern age is that the left claims to be more concerned about securing the rights of the individual, whereas the right seems more concerned about securing the freedoms of the individual. But the dysfunctional aspect of the left is that they are far more inclined to see the world in terms of an end in which all means in creating that end are justified. They are more inclined to be collectivists and to surrender the autonomy of the individual, and to put their fate in an ideology and the synthesis of that ideology through the state. This is why the left is so prone to the construction of systems that result in the atomisation of the citizen and a cult of personality.

There always will be some person who sees the potential of this system, where people have been atomised and then congealed together into one force swayed by a resentful ideology. And so you will inevitably get the rise of someone with extraordinary ambition and ability to manipulate. The history of the left is an account of these leaders who become rampant totalitarians. When delivered absolute power, they inevitably become tyrants and frequently become rampant mass murderers.

On the left you have the cult of personality which comes from absolute trust in the vision and the synthesis of revolutionary transformation. As Stalin said “you can’t make omelettes without breaking eggs.”

On the right we sometimes get something quite similar but different in nature. We get a respect for authority, so that we can sometimes have the corruption of an established tradition. Conservatives respect tradition so they revere authority, and that can lead to its own form of dysfunction and corruption.

Pearse’s analysis of human nature gets right to the core of this problem. He sees that tradition can be stagnant if it doesn’t have nobility –not “the nobility” but nobility of purpose as exemplified by the motto of his school “glainne in ár ngcroí, neart in ár ngéag, agus beart do réir ár mbriathar”– at its core. This is why he puts the nation as being the logos of a people.

 

C: Coláiste Eanna – Office of Public Works

The nation, as Pearse sees it, connects the citizen to tradition, but it also reveres another notion; that the individual should work on behalf of the nation and that the nation is first and foremost made of individuals, and does not have the right to persecute its citizens.  This is a very clear distinction between the collectivist view and the nationalist view.

In his poem, Fornocht do Chonac Thú, Pearse joins these very complex ideas together. He recognises that humanity has its frailties. He is compelled towards a vision on behalf of the nation that he rejects because he fears its cost to him.

Its noticeable that, in reaching for this new future, Pearse sees that it is he who must bear the cost of bloodshed. This is very different to the socialist perspective where it is always other people’s blood that must be shed to achieve the utopian future. Contemporaries of Pearse, looking at Russia in the following decades, refused to criticise the death camps of the Soviets – in fact justified them by saying they were “engaging on a social experiment that wasn’t yet completed”.

These apologists, by the way, were the intellectual leaders of the Left: the Fabians like George Bernard Shaw, and the Labour Party in England.

The quandary that Pearse saw himself struggle with was quite similar to the struggles of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane. Pearse joins the idea of the sovereignty and the sacredness of the nation with the idea of self-sacrifice. The nation works on behalf of the individual but the spirit of the nation asks that the individual willingly sacrifices on behalf of the nation. This nobility of vision is a thing that he inculcated in all of his pedagogical theory. His artistic inspirations take this type of story and with it try to create a noble vision for the future of the nation.

This is a theory that is completely rejected by Sinn Féin. From the 1980s onwards when Sinn Féin started having access to the indoctrination of the nationalists – particularly in prison and H-block confinement where Marxist theory started infiltrating republican courses and subsuming nationalism –  the concepts of international Marxism came more and more into it. We have seen this distort the idea of nationalism so that Sinn Féin is now just another internationalist Marxist cult of personality type of movement. As internationalists they reject nationalism, and their advocacy of Irish issues, such as the Irish language, has shifted towards a cultural Marxist perspective.

Even before their recent rise, this transformation was evident. Old party members told me, with a large degree of disillusion, that Gerry Adams would get fawningly rapturous applause no matter what he said, no matter what the subject or the platform. The average SF member would clap like trained seals whenever he paused from whatever poorly formulated diatribe he was issuing. The cult behaviour was in full effect. It still is.

The Marxists within Sinn Féin know that there is a distinction between this and the ideology of Pearse, and so they try to root out the nationalism that Pearse valued and describes in his writing.

We can see this in the fault lines that appear over nationalist culture. We can see it in the conflicts on the street over mask mandates. It’s the likes of the left who like to flatter themselves that they are on the outside and raging against the machine, who are there in support of the institutions of the state, there in support of the oppressions of the present regime. This is because they are essentially collectivists, and as such they venerate authority. This is the very opposite of the ideas that Pearse put in his essays such as the Murder Machine and The Coming Revolution.

These were essays in which he venerated the sacredness of the duty to the nation and a nation’s duty to its people. Sinn Féin’s language, more concerned with internationalism, has shifted far away from this. They find this talk embarrassing now. They’d be embarrassed by Pearse, but they forget this: he’d be embarrassed by them too.

 

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