That left wing ‘bully pulpit’… April 8, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Think of David Quinn, think of him positioned in a society where the centre-right has a hegemonic control and yet there is he, fretting away on a continual basis about those who dissent, even mildly from that hegemony.
This last week it is President Higgins who raises his ire for the temerity to raise issues like equality in the context of his speech at the weekend. That’s right. Equality. This he regards as partisan. How so, you ask?
President Higgins then outlined the ways in which this vision had been frustrated by conservative elements in Irish society, causing it to collapse into a “property-driven conservatism… the fetishisation of land and private property, a restrictive religiosity and a repressive pursuit of respectability”.
He invited his audience, and us, to reclaim “the joy of making equality the central theme of our Republic”.
This is partisan. This is favouring one particular political tradition over others. How could he warn us against making the commemoration of 1916 partisan in one part of his speech, and then do this? Could he not see the contradiction?
It has to be a ‘left-wing bully pulpit’! And for Quinn this is of a piece with a sort of unspoken conspiracy:
The only way Michael D gets away with this is because he has the backing of most of the media, and because the political parties have been content to let him at it. In addition, academia in Ireland, as elsewhere, is almost entirely left-wing, and therefore it is happy for him to use the Presidency to trumpet its point of view.
Now, mileage may vary but my familiarity with Irish academia on a working level across many years is that it is in actual fact nowhere near ‘entirely leftwing’ and I’d have to wonder at what his understanding of the terms ‘entirely’ and ‘leftwing’ actually are.
He offers us a counterfactual.
Imagine, however, if instead of having President Michael D Higgins in office we had President Michael McDowell instead, or, Heaven forbid, President Dana Rosemary Scallon. Imagine if McDowell used the office to laud the benefits of free markets, and imagine if Dana used it to laud the virtues of Catholicism.
Actually it’s not at all difficult to envisage what those worthies might offer. McDowell would stress ‘equality of opportunity’ – a phrase in the Proclamation. Dana, never likely to be elected, would of course have emphasised Christianity – or some such. There.
And of course it would all have to be cleared with the government of the day.
Of course what he is trying to do is to suggest that simply expressing left of centre sentiments is partisan yet appears unaware of how that right of centre (economic) hegemony operates, how that is normalised on a continual basis.
And there’s a curious contemporary note too when this very week in regard to housing there’s an acceptance across most of the political spectrum that some diminution of property rights may be necessary in order to assist in ameliorating the crisis. And Quinn seems not to understand that while the President is precluded from intervening or commenting on contemporary political matters he is allowed to speak on broader – shall we say – more philosophical topics, particularly in the context of Irish history.
He continues. Consider the chronology underlying this analysis here:
But seeing as he has not done that, let’s argue against them. Let’s attend to his ahistorical view of 1916 and subsequent developments first. In his Mansion House speech, he almost totally glosses over the fact that many of our leaders from 1917 on were rightly and profoundly worried by the socialist vision that was then newly on offer in the Soviet Union.
Given that 1916 predates 1917 one might wonder what was this ‘profound worry’? Who is he talking about? And the clumsy effort to link the left to the Soviet Union is more than a little awry. In fact he can’t quite make the case, as is seen in the following:
That vision was not restricted to the Soviet Union. It was enthusiastically shared by socialists everywhere. It was absolutely prudent for our political leadership a hundred years ago to worry that our home-grown socialists had a similar vision in mind for Ireland.
But then, whatever his thoughts on socialism, he doesn’t engage with how capitalism has changed or with the reality that there are varying attitudes within it. For example one would never think that protectionism was a trope of the significant portions of the right (even today) when reading the following:
As for his critique of capitalism, in the imaginings of Michael D Higgins, it was through the work of socialists like him that the poor were lifted up from their squalor and given jobs and a standard of living that people could only have dreamt of in 1916.
But none of this would have been possible without economic growth – and that growth was delivered by free markets and free trade, both of which were, and are, vigorously opposed by socialism.
In fact, it was only when this country shook off its protectionist economic policies (supported both by de Valera and by the left) and embraced free trade that the country began to prosper at all.
Worth him taking the time to read the Proclamation one might think. it’s not the most radical document in the world, but it does appear to be quite some distance from simple free market nostrums. And Higgins is correct about the Programme of the First Dáil too.