By Bosco – Irish Sentinel Contributor –
The problem with nationalism today in Ireland, is that most of its proponents don’t seem to know what it means. An interesting article on nationalism, penned by Stephen J Delaney, captures this phenomenon well. While Delaney hits upon some interesting points concerning the contradictory presentation of anti nationalists, Martin and Varadkar, waxing lyrically about a martyred nationalist, Micheal Collins, was a national tragedy. Then again, national tragedies have a special longing to be permanently resident in Ireland.
Delaney’s analysis of Sinn Fein is on solid ground. It would take the perception of a Helen Keller to fail to recognise how the “Shinners” long abandoned the interests of the island of Ireland and its native population. Truth be told, the majority of the Irish population seem to have morphed however into Ms Keller, when it comes to the annoyance of truth and its awkward penchant to be quite obvious for those with right perception.
Where Delaney gets it terribly wrong is his appeal to a nature of civic nationalism, civic in so far as it seeks to evade the necessity of aboriginalism in the context of the survival of the Irish nation. While it is true that the Irish people tend to be a mix of many European stock; Gael, Norman ( Anglo-French), Viking, Huguenot, palatine and those pre historic tribes that first inhabited the island, Delaney’s narrative seems to invoke a concept of Irishness that is malleable. For some theorists of nationality this is true, as all nations are a product of human migration. The “out of Africa” theory, is being dismantled, at least when it comes to European ancestry. Novel information seems to suggest our origins may be closer to home. The out-of-Africa model had theorized that humans migrated out of Africa in one big push around 60,000 years ago. However, the discovery of bone fragments dating back to a period between 177,000 – 194,000 years-old, the Misilya Cave jaw, suggest evidence to disprove this theory.
Delaney does, unwittingly, highlight an issue that I have laboured on for quite some time: a thorough examination of what it means to be Irish, or to be more precise, its neglect.. We can from the offset, dispense with the “social construct” theory because this is self refuting.
A social construct is concept that exists not in objective reality, but as a result of human interaction but the concept, using language to express the idea, is also a social construct. Rather than not existing in reality, language expresses an idea or concept that can be viewed in realistic terms. If language is a social construct, and we express an idea through language, this doesn’t mean the idea lacks reality. All it means is that a means of communication that was conceived and developed in a group, a vernacular, that allows that group to understand the content being spoken by another in the group, doesn’t vitiate the reality of what is being described in the socially constructed language. Mathematics are real, yet we use a form of language, symbols to express them.
This leads me to another issue. If the Irish people are the result of different invasions, then this means we are a mixture of different races? No, it does not. What civic nationalists fail to understand is the difference between race and ethnicity. Ethno nationalism, by its very definition doesn’t purport to promote race, it supports ethnicity. Ethnicity is similar but not the same concept as race. While races have often been distinguished on the basis of physical characteristics, especially skin colour, ethnic distinctions generally focus on such cultural characteristics as language, history, religion, and customs.
The ethnicity of the Irish is based on its unique language, history, religion and customs. There is an implied connection between blood and culture, sanguinis et cultura. I have argued for months that Irish identity must be viewed in terms of two necessary and conditional limbs; 1) Blood and 2) Culture, and both most be satisfied. A person for example who can trace their ancestral line, who satisifies the blood connection to the nation, but who fails the second limb, disavows the culture, either rejects wholly or attempts to distort it in the way the left attempt to do, loses their identity in the process. Equally, someone who might be faithful to the culture, eulogises it and seeks it protection but has no blood connection to the country, can be acknowledged as a friend of the Irish, but cannot be identified as Irish.
Delaney seems to posit a weak form of nationalism that once examined closely is a symptom of the problem which exists today. For many commentators today the conservatisim Delaney and ilk seek to promote, is understood under the aphorism, conservativism is liberalism in slow motion, as it consistently seeks to compromise, at times insidiously and latent. Delaney while rightfully denouncing racial supremacy, where does his interpretation of Irishness segue? I would argue it’s final destination is civic nationalism. If a nation is understood in terms of culture only, a position that civic nationalism would propose, it eventually renders the nation obsolete. The nation becomes obsolete when it loses its moorings to tradition and when nationalism adopts a civic form, it assimilates other ethnicities with their concomitant cultures. While the newer ethnicities propose to integrate into the existing culture, over time, the cultural landscape becomes fragmented where the native culture is attenuated by a challenge to the hegemony. The newer ethnic interlopers, who originally chose to integrate and embrace the native culture, generations later demand their own foreign cultures to share the public space. We see this emerging in the West where migrants originally adopted the native culture, but generations later, their offspring soon demand their own ethnic representation destabilising the dominant native culture. Thus the compromise becomes realised and the native culture fractures, culminating in a fusion of old and foreign cultures. This is the antithesis of preserving tradition and culture as espoused by Delaney.
Moreover, Delaney extols the likes of Thomas Paine but it seems his knowledge of this radical is very limited.
An excerpt from a far left publication “The Jacobin” represents Paine accurately when it published the following,
“When Thomas Paine passed away at his small farm in New Rochelle, New York in 1809, he was impoverished and largely reviled. In the United States, then undergoing a dramatic religious revival Across the Atlantic, Paine was condemned as a traitor to the Crown and a dangerous rabble-rouser for his passionate defense of the French Revolution in Rights of Man (http://thomaspaine.org/major-works/rights-of-man-part-the-first.html), convicted in absentia for seditious libel, and burned in effigy throughout Britain. No single person was seen as a greater threat to the political establishments of his day than Paine, both in the monarchies of Europe and in his own American Republic.As a cult of personality around the “Founding Fathers” grew over the course of US history, the author of Common Sense (http://thomaspaine.org/major-works/common-sense.html) was notably excluded. For about two hundred years, Paine’s image in mainstream American circles was utterly tarnished: Teddy Roosevelt’s view of him as a “filthy little atheist” sums up the prevailing sentiment”.
Is this the type of man that nationalists seek to emulate? Paine was the proto woke activist. As regards to Wolfe Tone, Sinn Fein’s republicanism is a faithful representation of both Tone and Paine. Both Tone and Paine were jacobins
François Furet rescued the academic study of the French Revolution from an entanglement with Marxism that had grown debilitating in the decades after World War II. French historiographers had hitherto tended to project backwards onto Robespierre all the romance of 1917 (if indeed there was any romance at all associated with a Bolshevik revolution) and likewise to view the Soviet Union as the successor state chosen by History to advance the cause. Soon however, the mystique of 1917 was disturbed in 1973, with the publication by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. The very parallels insisted upon by Marxist historians were now damning to their enthusiasms. Just as Solzhenitsyn showed that the gulag was no mere accessory to the revolutionary state, but rather its central manifestation and meaning, so it now became necessary to ask whether the French revolution’s Reign of Terror which put 40,000 to the guillotine was arevealing expression of revolution as a political culture.
Furet, a member of the French Communist party in his youth, opened his eyes, not to the myth but reality of leftist revolution. The opening essay in Furet’s Interpreting the French Revolution provides many insights For example, he explains the paranoid style of revolutionary politics, and its tendency to exercise power through contrived moral emergencies. Sounds familiar?
Historian Simon Schama captures the reality too, evoking a strange similarity to the present wokeness where subjective feelings became dominant in spite of the revolutions usurpation of Catholicism with a cult of reason when he declared “What distinguished the moral elect was possession of un coeur sensible, a feeling heart. Visible expression of inner sentiments became acceptable”
In Robespierre’s Festival of the Supreme Being, explicitly religious props, recitations, and images were used to imbue revolutionary ideology with sacred feeling in a deliberate caricature of Catholic ceremonies. Historian Mona Ozouf wrote “Here there were not spectators but celebrants, not an audience but a people,”.
The “Festival” was preceded by the destruction of France’s statues by “iconoclastic commandos from the revolutionary army”. The heart of Marat (one of the bloodier Jacobins, himself stabbed to death in his bathtub by a provincial woman) was placed in a vessel and hung from the roof of the Cordeliers as the crowd was encouraged to recite new psalms (“O cor Marat, O cor Jesus”). The Festival coincided with a busy period for the guillotine, as intended by Robespierre. The lunacy did end there.
French revolutionaries believed they did not simply topple a government, but established a new social order founded on freedom and equality, comparable to the contemporary woke agenda demanding “ inclusion” and “diversity”. Far from limiting reforms to the state, revolutionaries sought to align French institutions and mores based on new republican ideals through a multitude of changes- from reorganizing France’s regional divisions to abandoning the terms Monsieur and Madame in favour of the more egalitarian Citoyen and Citoyenne. Given enough time, perhaps the revolutionaries of 17th century France might have altered pronouns too.
To mark the advent of the new age of liberty, they also replaced, in October 1793, the old Gregorian calendar with a new republican calendar. Henceforth, the year of the official proclamation of the Republic (1792) would become Year One. In this secular calendar, the twelve months of the year were named after natural elements, while each day was named for a seed, tree, flower, fruit, animal, or tool, replacing the saints’-day names and Christian festivals. The republican calendar was abandoned by Napoleon on January 1, 1806.
In a moment of contradiction, Delaney recites a passage of Padraig Pearse whose revolutionary spirit comprised an altogether different ethos to the Jacobins. Far from eviscerating Catholic belief, Pearse personified it in his ode to messianic sacrifice and the liberation of the country. While Pearse may have looked to Tone and the revolutionary spirit, there endeth the comparison. Pearse envisioned an altogether different Irish nation to the Jacobin styled Irish simulacrum pursued by Tone, and which is now being sought by his proteges. Sinn fein, a movement that would have been in lock step, every inch in accord with the contradictions, paranoia, anti Catholicism, proto Marxism of revolutionary France.
Thomas Paine, as many since have written, almost became a devoured child of the very mother revolution he nurtured, escaping his fate with the guillotine in December 1793 on trumped up charges of treason. If Delaney contemplates Paine as a figure to be emulated, as well as civic nationalism a cause worth pursuing, then he is already taken several steps in furtherance of compromise, the pièce de resistance of conservative betrayal and several leaps in the direction of the destruction of our nation and identity.