This opinion piece in the Irish Times gives a perspective on the recent history of Britain (and the USA) is notable because of its viewpoint. Titled "We need to pay very close attention to what is happening in Britain now", writer Una Mulally is writing from an Irish context as a near-neighbour that has enjoyed (or endured?) a long relationship with Britain which gives a unique position from which to observe and comment. It's not a positive picture.
Very critical of the current political regimes in both Britain and the US and the process that has led to the ascent of Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, as both countries "fall apart", a question is asked for others watching on: "we must interrogate how we can prevent falling as far as these two nations. How do we hold on to civility and decency, when it has evaporated elsewhere? What kind of environment gave rise to such toxicity?"
She continues: "The more we know ourselves, the less likely we are to betray ourselves, and each other. A lot of this is about empathy, but it is also about self-knowledge." For both Britain and the US a lack of self-knowledge is a barrier to progress. "If one does not confront the basic truths of one’s national identity, one will not be able to trace a path forward. Everything becomes a fiction, a narrative designed to block any kind of self-examination." For both nations a major basic truth is the "central malady" of racism.
"The toxicity at the heart of America is racism. It’s a country full of white people who have never confronted the fact that their so-called 'freedoms'. and their country’s economic power, were built on slavery. ... Similarly, Britain has never meaningfully confronted its racism, which is colonialism, building an 'empire' on the back of invading and pillaging and inflicting misery on whatever shores its brutal mercenaries... landed on." Including of course, Ireland.
Here I need to declare an interest. I grew up in Protestant Northern Ireland and was taught in school a selective history of the island. It was only in later life that I learned of the centuries of exploitation by the British and found out about Drogheda, The Famine, the Easter Rising and much more, arguably continuing to the present day in the dismissive attitude behind the "Irish Backstop" fiasco. I have lived in England for many years and continue to note the level of ignorance (which to an extent I used to share) about the island to the west... and how often Northern Ireland, a part of the UK, is casually referred to as "Ireland". A small symptom of a bigger problem?
It should give pause for thought that this observation made by a close neighbour is that our main root-problem is self-deception about our racism, an ongoing legacy of a history of colonialism, marked by exploitation and oppression. "The violence of British colonialism is embedded in the fabric of the world, in the horrors of illegal wars, in the consequences of bleeding nations of their resources, in the couldn’t-give-a-toss attitude towards Ireland."
Read the full article here.