Certain schools of Iranian Islamic political discourse have labelled the United States of America as the ‘Great Satan;’ speaking more of the taut political relationship between the Islamic World and the United States than any spiritual reality. Europeans have their own mistrust of matters transatlantic; betraying Europe’s deep-seated jealously of the prosperity of the America’s republican project, which is often manifested in either yankenfreude, a form of cultural schadenfreude directed towards America and its citizens, or outright anti-Americanism. Our American or colonial cousins have their faults and failings, much in the same way that we have our own. Americans, like Europeans, have these perceived failings because of our shared humanity. Human beings are endowed with a certain psychology which allows for vast differences in social and cultural opinions and characteristics; this is merely a part of the human package. For all that people conditioned by European and Middle Eastern modes of thinking and operating may mistrust and even disdain that which is considered ‘American,’ it must be conceded that at the core of what it means for America to be American is an eloquent expression of human freedom which when explored appears to be the sum of all European desire. When the layers of demonstrable examples of American misbehaviour, which are used popularly in European conversations as evidence of the delinquency the United States of America, it becomes apparent all too quickly that what lies beneath this legalism is a thinly disguised cultural envy. For the greater part Europe is mired in traditions of government which are incongruous with modern modi vivendi. Our neighbours on the other side of the Atlantic have, for better or worse, successfully shaken off this social conditioning; and no matter what one might imagine has come of modern America, this liberation is enshrined upon the New World’s birth certificate,
“Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness (Declaration of Independence, 1776).”
It is the right of all men (women and men) to be free, and it is the duty of each person to ensure that this right is made real. We in Ireland may speak of our national attitudes of subservience as a consequence of centuries of often cruel colonisation; yet many of these same attitudes are evinced in European nation states which have never been subject to the colonial ventures of others. Great Britain for example, which was itself a colonial power, suffers from its lack of will to be free. The United Kingdom rather is beset by a national schizophrenia regarding the question of individual rights and autonomy; our British neighbours both adore and detest their structures of governance. Ever quick they are to deride the monarchy and the aristocracy, and yet ever making excuses to justify the existence of these same things. The same quirk is present in Germany, Italy and Spain. This only points to a commonality in European psychologies to understandings of governments which have developed over centuries rather than being formed by radical transformation. For the American a new geography has offered an opportunity for a new start, an auto-genesis which has become entrenched in that continent’s psychology.
Europeans then, for the better part, have thus become the poor dogs of Pavlov‘s canine experiment. We are burdened with history and a distrust of change; a fear of radical change. We are therefore held captive only by the chains of our conditioned imaginations, and our misplaced pride in oppressive systems and modes of governance. Ireland and the Irish are as much a victim of this legacy as our British and continental sisters and brothers. It is to this conditioning that Ireland’s failure to fully realise its own independence, brought about by the 1921 signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, must be attributed. Ireland escaped the monarchism of Great Britain and fell immediately into the rule of a national aristocracy formed by the families of the revolutionaries. Due to its singular failure to own the problem of its own poverty the state pawned the birthright of the state to a foreign theocracy and absolutist monarchy. From this moment until the present economic crisis the people of Ireland have been, at best, tentatively asking permission to be free. It is a fallacy to assert that Ireland ever truly became free. Rather it has treasured the ashes of struggle, and has begrudged its daughters and sons who have liberated themselves from oppression. It is in this manner that one can affirm that Ireland is but another expression of a European mindset that is held captive by its own fear of radical liberation and freedom. This is what is now creating the current crisis at the heart of the Irish identity.
With all the pain that national collapse has brought to Ireland, the daughters and sons of this island are faced with the angst of crossing the threshold of possibility. There is nothing barring the people of Ireland taking collective ownership of their nation and its fortune and grasping the totality of national self determination. Yet it wavers and hesitates at the doorway, and undoubtedly will again miss the the chance to accept its natural freedom. This is the problem with Ireland; it is European and conditioned by slavery. Every dog on the street in Dublin bemoans the plight of the country and can list off the causes of our present misery, but still – in fully realisation of the solution – delegates the right to rule to others; to the powerful and the rich. People are so easily stupified by reality television and socially arresting misinformation, they seek guidance on matters which are by right and duty their own responsibility from authorities who offer them tabloidised treats. It is most certainly not true that every person in Ireland shares responsibility for the financial sins of the few, but it is true that every man and woman in Ireland is guilty of shirking the ownership of their country. We are our own worst enemy.