Maybe we like the misery

Writing, as I see it, is a conversation. There’s no point in me writing anything at all if nobody reads it, other than as an exercise in self-indulgence. Over the past three years, I have been very fortunate to build up a cadre of regular – very many daily – readers. Many of you read even when you disagree, and think this column is either too wishy-washy, or a bit too out there. You do this despite the predictable denunciations of this platform from some quarters as dangerous, and far right, and all the rest of it. Every day, many of you take the time to comment and send emails and offer thoughts in reply to whatever I have written on a given day. It is appreciated, and it makes the job worthwhile.

Nobody, I think, in the media – either “mainstream” or “new” – has written more about the intellectual bankruptcy of calling any dissent “far right” than I have. The vast majority of those labelled far right in this country are nothing of the sort: They tend to be decent people, doing their best, frustrated by what they see around them.

Where I increasingly differ from a growing section of readers, though, are on the root causes of this frustration, and with some of the reasons advanced for the various problems in the country. Because I simply refuse to blame “globalism” or some kind of international scheme for things that are the fault of the Irish nation itself. Our fault. Collectively. Not yours, individually.

The world is, I think, in the grip of an increasingly strident global progressive ideology. Dreams of one world Government and superstates and the whole planet moving at common purpose in one unified direction are not new: They have been around since the dawn of science fiction, where such administrations are presented both as benign and inevitable: Think of the “Star Trek” vision for future galactic civilisation, where earth is clean and green and ruled by a smiley cast of multiracial English-speaking leaders, none of whose precise mechanism for election or appointment is ever fully explained. Maybe they take turns picking UN ambassadors for the job.

There are those who dream of that fiction and would like very much to make it a reality, whatever the cost.

All of that, though, I think, completely ignores the role of the Irish voter in the country’s current problems. No Irish leader has been imposed upon us. They were all elected. As I write, the primary candidate to replace the Irish Government is a party of the hard left, much more committed to “communism” than poor old Leo Varadkar is, for all that I often see that moniker tossed at him. That party has the support of four in ten of us.

Then I hear that it’s the media: And to be sure, RTE is a disgrace to the notion that news should be impartial. But neither is that partiality hidden: Watch their coverage, over the next two weeks, and ask yourself whether anyone but an utter fool could think they were being given even-handed coverage of, say, the US midterm elections. Elections in which every RTE newscaster will be rooting for the Democrats and Joe Biden with only marginally less enthusiasm than if they were rooting for Ireland in a world cup quarter final against England.

Yet, for all that, RTE is consistently and by a huge distance the most popular media outlet in the country. People lap this stuff up. Nobody makes them do it.

We don’t like hearing that, though. Too often, we’re unwilling to face up to the fact that the population loves this stuff and give ourselves the excuse that the hapless Irish voter has in some way been deceived. Hoodwinked. Fooled by some sort of global cabal into voting against their own interests.

All of this I think misunderstands something fundamental: In Ireland, the political establishment has one trick, that it plays over and over and over and over again, because it never fails: It tells us that we are better than other people and other countries.

We are better because we would never vote for an ignoramus like Trump. We are better because we take more refugees than the French. We are better because we are more politically stable than Britain. We are better because we are neutral, and above little grubby immoral things like wars. We are better because we talked it out in the Good Friday Agreement, and, sure, couldn’t the Israelis and Palestinians learn from us. We are better, for being Irish.

That is the relentless message. The whole, and entire, purpose of RTE’s international news division is to make the country feel better about being Irish, compared to the rest of the world. Once you gain that insight, you’ll never watch it through the same eyes again.

Remember that the world we see through RTE is an immoral one that is supposed to shock us and remind us how lucky we are – that’s why every foreign story they report has to stand in contrast to what’s happening in Ireland. It’s why during the pandemic, countries with more deaths than ours got wall to wall coverage, and countries with fewer deaths did not exist. It’s why they’re obsessed with Trump, and Brexit. It’s why the election of the “far right” in Italy gets more attention than the election of the far-left in Spain. We’re better. We’re purer. We’re normal, and the rest of the world is weird. People lap it up.

In other countries, progressives have made a mistake: Often, American Democrats and British Labour Leaders seem as if they don’t like their country. They say it is racist. Or that it has committed legions of historic crimes. This gives nationalists an opening.

It’s not the case in Ireland, though: Nobody loves Ireland as much as the Irish establishment loves Ireland. They can’t stop licking themselves about how great Ireland is by comparison to everywhere else.

How does the anti-establishment Irish patriot respond to that? You can’t, you see. That’s the trap. Because being an Irish patriot means buying into the nonsense: Yes, we’re better because we’re neutral, in fact, we’re not neutral enough. Yes, we’re better because we’ve taken so many refugees, how dare the Ukrainian Ambassador criticise us. Those are just two examples from this week. You can’t question things with logic when your underlying instinct is tribal defensiveness.

One problem for the anti-establishment activist is simply that they love Ireland. They think it is great. They are loathe to criticise the country, so instead, the criticism must fall on outsiders: The World Economic Forum. Bill Gates. NATO. Globalists. George Soros. Bad eggs, from out there, doing us in, and leading our hapless politicians a merry dance. The Irish people cannot be to blame, and therefore, it must be some conspiracy. That’s how too many of us think about this stuff, as far as I can see.

Perhaps I’m immune to this because, well, I’ve never seen much of anything to love about this state. The people? Sure. The land and the scenery? Of course. The State and its institutions? C’mon now.

Anyway, you’ll never beat the Irish establishment if your starting point is that you’re better and more morally pure than they are, or that you love Ireland more than they do: That’s their whole schtick. And the public loves it. Can’t get enough of it. They watch RTE news precisely because it tells them, on the regular, that Ireland is a better place than all those other places and all their terrible problems and ideas that we Irish would never be mad enough to copy.

It’s a two way relationship – RTE is terrible, yes. But most people would have it no other way. That’s why we were so gung ho for masks and vaccine mandates and all the rest of it – to show how good we are, by comparison to other places, with their anti-vaxxers and their mad “herd immunity” schemes. In that sense, for a while, being anti-vaxx or anti-mask became functionally anti-Irish. This wasn’t just an establishment thing – millions of Irish people genuinely felt that way.

And because this is widely believed, and accepted, no Irish crisis is really a crisis at all. A housing crisis? Sure it’s worse in London. A health crisis? Look at the US system, where you have to buy insurance. A migration crisis? Sure you want to be like that Viktor Orban or that Trump fella, I suppose, and build a wall or some mad thing like that.

The median Irish middle class normal voter likes the misery just fine. Just so long as we can believe we’re still better than somewhere else. The only time they will ever get truly angry is when, for some reason, they stop believing that: Fianna Fáil was not obliterated in 2011 because it broke the country. It was obliterated because it humiliated the country. We had to take an enormous loan from the Brits, for cripes sake. There was no coming back from that.

Stop blaming conspiracies, I urge you, dear reader who does. There’s no conspiracy. There is only the character of the Irish people, and the trap that the Irish anti-establishment activist keeps falling into. Because Ireland is not special. And it is that notion, above all, which must be defeated.

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