Part II: The Speech Haters
Ireland ought not have a 'race problem'. That we have one is a contrivance of politicians who now push for 'hate speech laws' to hide their stealthy, undemocratic promotion of mass inward migration.
These are some brief extracts from Part II of a two-part essay in response to the recent publication of the Criminal Justice (Hate Crime) Bill 2021, colloquially the ‘hate speech laws’. The full essay can be accessed on my Substack platform, johnwaters.substack.com, by clicking here
‘This country of ours is no sand bank, thrown up by some recent caprice of earth. It is an ancient land, honoured in its archives of civilisation, traceable into antiquity by its piety, its valour, and its sufferings. Every great European race has sent its stream to the river of Irish mind. Long wars, vast organisations, subtle codes, beacon crimes, leading virtues, and self-mighty men were here. If we live influenced by wind and sun and tree, and not by the passions and deeds of the past, we are a thriftless and a hopeless people.’
— Thomas Davis
One of the sad realities of the present moment is the extent to which many young people, including most millennials, appear no longer to be convinced, or to care one way or the other, that foundational civilisational values are ipso facto indispensible if freedom is to be preserved. In the constitutional context, for example, no longer is it adequate that one simply say, in seeking to persuade some such person, ‘This is an incursion on basic rights of free speech’ (and/or the right to free assembly). If you try this you will be met with blocking, obfuscating pedantries: ‘Free speech isn’t absolute’, via ‘I’m not really interested in the Constitution — it’s a hundred years old’ (84 and counting, actually) ratcheting down to ’Well, I don’t really care anyway.’
At best, in the face of this barrage of ‘Who cares? and ‘So what?’s, you will be forced to go back to first principles, as though the arguments had never before been made, never mind won, in order to have even a chance of persuading your audience that free speech is not like turning on a tap, but actually a cornerstone of democracy, that what exists by way of freedom is not a naturalistic phenomenon but something preserved by the free flow of information and opinion in much the way that, I dunno (thinking from the waist down), a box of fish fingers is preserved by the ice in the freezer in which they are stored.
There is nothing free about saying what everyone thinks they know. This indeed may be the very antithesis of freedom, since the more people are recruited to believe something, the less opportunity this belief has to be tested in public, rendering it far more suspect than a belief held by only a minority of citizens. Consenters tend to ape, dissenters to authenticate.
Despite (because of?) our latter-day media saturation, we are a long, long way from the understandings spelled out by John Stuart Mill in his treatise On Liberty, published more than 160 years ago, a foundational document of our civilisation and perhaps the signature document on the connection between free speech, diversity of opinion, and freedom.
Mill’s main point was that all freedom depends on freedom of expression, and, to make freedom as secure and as broad as possible means allowing for the greatest tolerable amount of free speech.
‘If all mankind minus one were of one opinion,’ he wrote, ‘mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.’
Nobody, or almost nobody, suggests that Ireland is an unmixed ethnicity. All strawmen are as jockeys to the camel’s back: beside the point. And that point is that Ireland is not nothing, as many of the latter-day Strawman Builders would have us believe. These strawmen are intended to deceive and are either wrong or, where not altogether wrong, irrelevant. It is not necessary to be racially pure to be a distinct, discrete People.
Not nothing; something. Something great.
Irishness is not a matter of blood. Almost nobody ever suggested it might be. It is a matter of soul and soil and song and laughter. More than blood, we are united by our funny bones. If you don’t get it, I don’t care where you were born, you’re not Irish and never will be. There’s nothing hurtful in this, no offence intended. If I went to Nigeria and stated pretending to be Nigerian, I’d soon be told what to take a running jump at. And rightly so.
A race is not necessarily identifiable on the basis of colour or racial features. The point is that people whose people have lived in the same place for a long time have claims as of birthright. Their children inherit these claims. A People — i.e. those who have lived in a country and built it up with their loves and labour — have the right to the home their country represents, the right to maintain and defend it, the right to decide its fate, and the right to define the terms upon which outsiders should come and join them there.
It is, of course, possible for an outsider in due course (a piece of string) to become a member of a particular People (more or less coinciding with a Nation) on the basis of a demonstrated love for, allegiance and contribution made to that country, that nation, that People — but this is not something that can be plucked like a buttercup from a hedgerow.
Just as someone can become an American (as many of our forebears did) any person who loves Ireland and lives for an indefinite (variable) time within her boundaries as a loyal and faithful citizen can become a member of the Irish nation. Padraig Pearse said the same. For him and the rest of the 1916 leaders, freedom was, in the words of Wolfe Tone, ‘the rights of man in Ireland’. In his essay The Spiritual Nation, Pearse defined Irish nationality as ‘an ancient spiritual tradition'. His view of nationhood was based on that of Davis, who held that nationality was a spirituality, a power alive in the land, into which all those who lived in that land could become connected. By Pearse's definition, this did not exclude anyone who wished to bear it allegiance, although this did not mean that the Irish nation was simply the postmodern sum of influences brought together by happenstance or geography. It was not merely cultural, but spiritual. It was not confined to Gaelic Ireland, but Gaelic Ireland was its cornerstone. While the last Gael survived, Pearse said, Ireland would continue to exist, but when the last Gael died, Ireland too would die. Meanwhile, those who imagined some objection to this idea to arise from the presence of other nationalities did not understand the concept of nationhood at all. Nations are always being cross-fertilised from the riches of other cultures. This can make them greater and was part of what once made Ireland great.
Pearse's philosophy of nationhood was infinitely more subtle that his caricaturists were — or are — capable of understanding. It was, in truth, largely built around a concrete understanding of what happens to the minds of colonised peoples, and it would be another 50 years before anyone (Frantz Fanon in Algeria) would set down a more detailed and coherent description of this condition. Many of our errors in subsequent years arose from the fact that we had no guide to take us through the labyrinth of complexes which arise in the process of colonisation and afterwards. Pearse had a profound sense of the human necessity for particularity — of allegiance, of identity, of aspiration — a vision that has been unravelled by the misplaced modern belief that peoples can somehow survive without a core idea while ‘tolerating’ and honouring every other people's core idea.
In a sense, Pearse sought to parse the already mixed up nature of Irishness — Gaelic, Celtic, Viking, Norman, English, Scots etc. — into a single spiritual definition. Definitions of nationhood are always problematic, there being two conventional tests — jus soli (rights of soil) and jus sanguinis (rights of blood) — but also a third: rights of allegiance. It’s possible to hold to two or even more senses of nationality, like Sir Roger Casement, knighted by the English Crown, dying for Ireland, or JFK , the quintessential ‘Irish-American’, who was born American but died Irish.
Ireland is open to people who understand and respect all this. But, to avoid disaster, we need to make a distinction between people who wish to contribute to the collective wellbeing and those who come here to plunder what we have, either individually or in large numbers. Unless we see Ireland as a sand bank, this remains incontrovertible. If people come as part of large groups of their own people, it becomes less likely that they will assimilate and thereby tend to become loyal citizens of Ireland.
For an outsider to become Irish requires time, curiosity, time, respect, time, passion, time, work and, of course, affection, but most of all time. An outsider, or her descendants, achieves it in time by coming here, working, living, fitting in, building a life, sharing talents and personality, singing songs, reading Irish history, wearing the green with pride and knowing, showing love for and loyalty to where she’s fetched up. The process is subject to acceleration in various ways: getting married to an Irish man or woman; having Irish children; fighting, dying for Ireland.
To establish a sense of how this process might work, we might look at the thinking of the great scholar St. Thomas Aquinas, the most influential Christian theologian in history. In his Summa Theologiae, Aquinas divided relationships between natives and outsiders into two categories: hostile and peaceful. On the first he was utterly unambiguous: hostile outsiders — those opposed to the culture and creed of the host nation — should never be welcomed. Regarding peaceful relationships, he identified three categories, two of which were entitled to in effect unconditional welcome: travellers (in today’s parlance, tourists) and those who ‘came to dwell in their land as newcomers’ but without full citizenship. The third category, those who came seeking full admission to the nation, who, having pledged their allegiance to the nation, were required to wait for two to three generations before being regarded as fully integrated. The reason for this extended wait was that, if foreigners were allowed to ‘meddle’ in the affairs of a nation soon after arrival, ‘many dangers might occur, since the foreigners not yet having the common good firmly at heart might attempt something hurtful to the people.’ For Aquinas, total integration into the creed, life, culture, traditions and language was essential for full acceptance of the ‘stranger’. In other words, the ‘stranger’ bore the greater part of the burden for ensuring that he ceased to be a stranger.
This is no more than a common sense schema for the management of the throughflow of outsiders, emphasising the fundamental precaution of ensuring the needs of the host population are respected and protected, and that the preponderance of responsibility for the effects of inward migration is placed on the shoulders of those seeking to enter a country not their own.
For sure, Irishness is not to be gained by stepping off a plane and immediately describing your new hosts as ‘racists’. It is not attained by attacking anyone who asks you where you come from (because you look different to other people), screeching at them that, ‘I’m from HERE!’ when it is obvious that you are not. It is not achieved by issuing demands, on the second wet weekend of your presence, for ‘reparations’ in the form of land that was supposedly stolen from your ancestors, who lived in what is now Zimbabwe. Land?, Where? Lissananny bog, perhaps? Strong Zimbabwean connections down that way alright.
The real problem that has emerged in recent years is the scale of what is being foisted upon us — as well as the fact of its foisting. We don’t need to resort to proofs concerning blood or soil — we just need to ask: What gives anyone the right to usurp the normative operation of our culture and people? And that ‘anyone’ includes also any Irish person who might think of selling his own people down the river. It is therefore arguable that some who might superficially be regarded as ‘indigenous’ Irish, especially those who seek now to destroy this country by treating it as such, or who use its destruction to enrich themselves or parade their virtue by giving away what does not belong to them, will have excluded themselves because their allegiance lies elsewhere.
Indeed, it is such people, rather than any outsiders coming here on the false promise that this is a modern, democratic country of limitless means, that we should blame for what has been happening. If they weren’t doing what they’re doing, none of us would be concerned about a handful of outsiders coming to live here and, in due course, regarding themselves as belonging.
Stop, Stranger, I care not what colour you are. But keep your voice down, your lips for prayer only, for you have stepped on sacred ground.
Enough already. This is not complicated. Don’t pretend you don’t understand. Stop it now.