Are the English Fit to Govern Themselves?

Mar 2010
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3,876
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#1
https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/06/16/opinion/britain-ireland-brexit-leo-varadkar.html

The New York Times

By FINTAN O’TOOLE
JUNE 16, 2017

In the long and tangled history of relations between Britain and Ireland, it has generally been the Irish who seemed troubled. British identity was fixed, solid and self-confident. Britain had, after all, imposed itself on much of the world. Ireland, on the other hand, was anguished, uncertain and divided. Brits could look across the Irish Sea with a mixture of perplexity and patronizing disdain: Why can’t the Irish settle down and stop being so obsessed with those maddening questions of nationality and identity?

So perhaps some of us in Ireland can be allowed a moment of schadenfreude as we look across the same sea and ask a similar question. Or even if we turn around the question the English so often asked about us: Are the English fit for self-government?

Consider political events in the nations’ respective capitals this week. In London, after the extraordinary British general election, Theresa May is clinging to the wreckage of her authority. If she remains as prime minister, she will do so without her Conservative Party’s holding a parliamentary majority and by permission of a small party from Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party, that trades on a backward expression of British and Protestant identity. In Dublin, on the other hand, another minority government has just acquired a new prime minister, Leo Varadkar, who is 38, half-Indian and gay.

The big deal about Mr. Varadkar’s election as “taoiseach,” the Irish name for the position of prime minister, is that it’s no big deal. He is the new leader of what is traditionally the most conservative of the Irish political parties, Fine Gael, long a bastion of Catholic moral values. But neither his sexuality nor his ethnicity is an issue for most people. People like him or dislike him to the extent that they like or dislike his party and the minority government it leads. The rest is just personal detail, interesting but of minor significance.

This is as it should be — though it has taken Irish society a long time and much suffering to get to this point. It learned the hard way, by making all the mistakes. When it was founded in 1922, the Irish state adopted a monolithic notion of identity, built on the twin pillars of nationalism and Catholicism. Irish society locked itself into a theocratic state, in which the Catholic Church had far too much power. The country struggled to find a place in the global economy. And it had to deal with the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland and all its deadly consequences of unresolved anxieties about history and identity.

Ireland took a long time to come to terms with these problems, but they have been more or less settled through an open economy, membership in the European Union and the Belfast Agreement of 1998 that ended the Troubles and, in the process, redefined Irish identity as flexible and plural. As a consequence, Ireland’s relationship with Britain has been more amicable and apparently serene than at any time in modern history.

Then along came Brexit, an upheaval powered above all by English nationalism. The problem with English nationalism is not that it exists but that it is incoherent, inarticulate and immature. This underground torrent has always been there, but it was buried for centuries beneath two powerful constructs: the British Empire and the United Kingdom. With the empire gone and the union under strain from rival nationalist movements in Scotland and Northern Ireland, English nationalism has flooded to the surface with great destructive force.

Raw nationalism has a characteristic turn of mind: It defines itself by what it is not. The Irish nationalism of my youth did this by defining Ireland as the anti-England. Likewise, the English nationalism that emerged with the demand for Brexit defines Englishness by what it is against: immigrants and the European Union. We Irish had to learn by our mistakes that this way of thinking is worse than useless. But English nationalism is hardly inclined to heed the Irish experience. It wants to make all the old mistakes before learning anything.

This is why Mrs. May’s election campaign was so disastrous. The only story it had to tell was negative: She would protect the borders from immigrants and take Britain out of the European Union. Within these big nullities, she offered no concrete detail and no credible sense of what a post-Brexit Britain would actually look like. What Mrs. May found out is that if you put a big “no” at the heart of your politics, you end up with a big nothing, a vacuum of authority.

Britain is discovering what Ireland had to face up to a long time ago: You can’t govern a modern democracy by defining only what it isn’t.

It seems oddly fitting therefore that Brexit, which was supposed to be about “taking back control” from Brussels, has actually given a great deal of control to a Northern Irish party that no one in Britain votes for. Fitting because the Democratic Unionist Party on which Mrs. May now depends for her slim majority is like a ghost from Britain’s own past: tribally sectarian, animated by flag-waving chauvinism and militantly Protestant (which, according to its theology, means opposing same-sex marriage and abortion and favoring the teaching of creationism in schools).

Most British voters look at this party and recoil in horror at the thought that it now has power over them. But when you unleash the forces of nationalism, you should not be too surprised to find yourself at the mercy of expressions of identity you thought were safely confined to the history books.

Mr. Varadkar, a prime minister who embodies the very different sense of identity that has evolved in Ireland, might like to savor the ironies, but he can’t. Before he rose to be leader of the only country that has a land border with Britain, Mr. Varadkar was a doctor. Faced with a neighbor going through a nervous breakdown, he will need his best bedside manner.
Food? Thoughts?
 
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May 2016
3,670
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california
#2
If you have to ask the question then you might as well accept Brussels rule and be done with it, you're not English, Irish or anything but euro. I do like the overdramatization of the sentence, that most British view this party and recoil in horror. NAZI's are behind all self-rule no doubt.
 
Jun 2010
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#3
A load of cobblers really. The reasons behind Brexit is a lot more complex. Nationalism is a relatively minor factor. And it hasn't given power to the DUP. The election was fought on issues such as anti-austerity. The DUP is in a powerful position because the Tories are weakened by idiotic policies which united the opposition vote.
 
Mar 2010
5,852
3,876
out
#4
Denial runs deep with most of them.

Brexit is English nationalism made flesh, but the English underrate its destructive potential as a form of communal identity. Concepts like “nationalism” and “self-determination” have traditionally been seen as something that happens to foreigners. An English failing today is an inability to recognise the egocentricity implicit in such nationalism and the extent to which it alienates and invites confrontation with other nations in the British Isles and beyond.
Keep reading
 
Jan 2011
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Rhondda, Cymru
#5
England has very seldom run itself - Germans, Norsemen, Normans and very many foreign dynasties set up its foreign ruling class, with which incredible numbers of its people identify. But if its not fit to rule itself, at least let it be separate. Think of the rest of us otherwise! :)
 
Sep 2016
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Germany
#6
I don't have any idea what the conflicts "Great Britain (old people) vs Great Britain (young people)" and/or "Great Britain vs European Union" has to do with the Catholic Church of Ireland. What has this standardized British attack against the Catholic Church to do with the absurde politics of England? The situation is for no one easy now. We Bavarians (spoken B-irish (=bayrisch) in our own language, "typical Germans" in the whole world - while we ourselves often don't see us as Germans) are not very happy about the Brexit, because our economy has a lot to do with England. I guess the situation is similar in Ireland. And whatever kind of separation will come in the future - I think it is very important not to separate the people, only because of the change of the political system of England including Northern Ireland. A border between Ireland and Northern Ireland should only be a paper tiger and not be a Celtic tiger. We all need each other.

[video=youtube;ovK1Ar7J768]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovK1Ar7J768[/video]
 
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Dec 2013
3,412
2,369
Switzerland
#7
Finally identity questions, like nationalism all lead to how in the mind of people concerned myths do interact... A country is also kind of a "brand" to which people can rely on. For English people the UK is important, but nowadays what "brand" does it cover ? At least not the one present until the 1950ties. And a "brand" interacts, because it is not only how people from one nation see themselves, but also how others do. And actually the British "brand" is somehow confused and unlike in a Spanish inn, where you find what you brought, what exists and is already there,is often contradictory. So how to solve the problem ? In the meantime England will remain weak, with no vision of a possible future. It looks a bit like when you have a depression, at first you try to resist at it, testing good résolutions to feel better, but if it does not work, you have to dig deeper in yourself, to retreat in your world, until you find a stable ground on which to rebuild yourself differently without being anymore a prisoner of your past and your unachievements. I hope that England is not heading to that, because it will damage not only all people living in the British Isles but also the others and time will remain suspended....
 
Sep 2016
1,587
212
Germany
#8
If you have to ask the question then you might as well accept Brussels rule and be done with it, you're not English, Irish or anything but euro.
Ireland is part of the European Union. So Irish is "euro" too.

I do like the overdramatization of the sentence, that most British view this party and recoil in horror. NAZI's are behind all self-rule no doubt.
Can you explain what you understand under the expression "NAZI's" in this context? The independence of Ireland was also result of world war 1+2 - but not a result of anything what had to do with Nazis. The independence of Ireland was in general a result of the wrong politics of Great Britain during long centuries.

[video=youtube;xNHShuGGtVU]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNHShuGGtVU[/video]
 
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Dec 2013
3,412
2,369
Switzerland
#9
I don't have any idea what the conflicts "Great Britain (old people) vs Great Britain (young people)" and/or "Great Britain vs European Union" has to do with the Catholic Church of Ireland. What has this standardized British attack against the Catholic Church to do with the absurde politics of England? The situation is for no one easy now. We Bavarians (spoken B-irish (=bayrisch) in our own language, "typical Germans" in the whole world - while we ourselves often don't see us as Germans) are not very happy about the Brexit, because our economy has a lot to do with England. I guess the situation is similar in Ireland. And whatever kind of separation will come in the future - I think it is very important not to separate the people, only because of the change of the political system of England including Northern Ireland. A border between Ireland and Northern Ireland should only be a paper tiger and not be a Celtic tiger. We all need each other.

[video=youtube;ovK1Ar7J768]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovK1Ar7J768[/video]
You know with identity, you find what you brought with you..... Evereyone focuses on what seems important for him, and you mentioned Bayrisch,fine ! Most Swiss Germans would share your opinion with their 19 different dialects. But for us French speaking Swiss we do not need to rely on dialects to find our national identity. History made us Swiss and we decided to be that way and Switzerland as a whole is a Willensnation (anation made by the will of its people),not based on one ethnicity, language, culture etc..... For the United Kingdom things are not very different. As long as people living there could project themselves in a common vision or project, there was no problem. The Irish in fact have been excluded from the that vision and had to fight hard to have their différences recognized which led to the Irish Quesiton.
 
Jun 2010
6,944
1,471
#10
Denial runs deep with most of them.



Keep reading
I voted Brexit and would be called a Bennite. My family voted Brexit because of the innate conservatism of the EU. My best mate vote Brexit because of the fisheries policy. My other mates voted Brexit because the status quo has failed them.

The decimation of the UKIP vote shows that this goes well beyond nationalism. You've chosen a pathetic source to pander to some idiotic anti-English tosspottedness. In contrast, this is a brilliant piece of journalism:

[video=youtube;WcXf1Fz5Fw4]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcXf1Fz5Fw4&t=17s[/video]