Did you hear the latest?
He said it was “my patriotic duty to support his budget”. ‘He’ and ‘his’ refer to the same man: Fianna Fáil Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan. It was as fine an example of l'etat c’est moi, an old favorite of French king, Louis XIV, I’ve heard in a long time. Mind you, Louis believed in the ‘divine right of kings’ and hadn’t heard of democracy.
Surely Brian Lenihan doesn’t believe it though. I mean if the common consensus is either he’s right or left and I’m opposed to him on ideological grounds . . . well, how the hell is it “my patriotic duty” to support him or his budget? Presumably you can be patriotic – wishing well for your country – and be misguided. Perhaps we all are.
But coming from a politician, this is more of “you’re either with us or with the terrorists” guff. It’s still going on: politicians tell us how to think. This is a cheek. We forgive them their arrogance, power and strut. We forgive them their prominence – usually they’re men in suits talking waffle. We even forgive them when they lie to us.
We won’t however allow politicians to tell us how to think. We appear to bristle at that and we’re right. Of course, the world has so many ideologies that perhaps one is right in a certain context and another in another. If a universality rule applied – making the effect of an ideology constant around the globe – that could not be the case however.
“There is no view from nowhere,” is often said. It’s true too. The white race may be about to cede hegemonic control to the yellow race. I just don’t know. When we think of the emergence of China as an economic superpower, we largely think of China coming into line with the West. Certainly, this is underway but why do we not think of the effects China might have on us?
It’s already the ‘world’s workshop’. It also has the most money but not guns and bombs. Quite soon though, it will be ready to defend itself against attack from all but the U.S. and Russia. They are on the up, controlled perhaps by a rigid government, but allowing enough of the ‘free’ market to operate that millionaires are being produced daily.
Mind you, an anecdote from a News Writing class: the instructor was making his way around the students. There were two Chinese girls in his class. Complimenting one of the students on her intro, he suggested that the reason for the decision might be broached.
“No, no,” said the girl: “The Beijing Education Committee has decided . . .“ That was that. “The Beijing Education Committee has decided . . .” and there was no asking ‘why’. It simply didn’t exist. There was no ‘why’.
Maybe having party members think for us is alright. I don’t think so, though. Among the West’s finest achievements – from the Renaissance through to today – has been its promotion of ‘individuality’. That few people grabbed it – it wasn’t made so easy – is testament to the forces against it. But, crucially, it was on offer.
I know the old joke about jeans being ‘rebellious’. That’s their image. So you buy a pair and find that 70 per cent of the people at the rock concert are equally ‘rebellious’. Clearly, that’s nonsense but how do we know anything? Epistemology is the study of ‘knowing’ and if you get your head round it, you’ll know only about the study of knowing.
Out of all the “messages” (ads) we listen to every day, how can we say we chose a selection of what’s on offer? Possibly the wrong “message” is getting through, convincing us that X is better than Y, when Y might be every bit as good, sometimes better. Forced to process information as quickly as possible, it really is the business world that has led to ‘sound-bites’ without any context at all.
That brings me back to Brian Lenihan. What on Earth was he thinking about when he uttered that ‘patriotic’ palaver? Mr. Lenihan is a lawyer and what he knows about business – running a country – is unknown to most people. Maybe Brian Lenihan identifies the Fianna Fáil party with the state. Perhaps he thought he was talking to Fianna Fáilers.
But he wasn’t. He was speaking to the whole of Irish society and to call it a “patriotic duty” to support his budget was unreal. He was after all talking to people who had lost loved ones and often, their twenties, in the ‘cause’ of Ireland. Mr. Lenihan is Trinity College-educated and speaking to these people like that, he must have a hard neck.
How are we to receive it when politicians urge us to speak? There is one problem about all of this. Politicians will almost exclusively be interested when there’s something in it for them. If there is nothing, they will feel they are not playing the game and move on. In the consumerist West, getting mentioned – early and often – is the way to success.
And that is at the root of collapsed capitalism. It favors extroversion that knows no bounds. We need a root and branch change in the relationship with work.