As a rule it’s best to avoid heeding whatever Brendan O’Neill writes on his mercenary trollsite ‘Spiked’, particularly as he only says such monstrously silly things in order to get attention, rather like a toddler triumphantly upending its own potty. His cabal of junior psychopaths are so very keen to promote themselves as contrarian iconoclasts that (as I found when I happened to be in the building which hosts their office a few months ago) one of them apparently subscribes to a magazine dedicated to private car registration plates. Chortle, chortle, what japesters they must be.
The reason it’s worth briefly lingering in the fetid afterstench of O’Neill’s latest brainfart is suggested by Fintan O’Toole’s book ‘Unheroic Failures: Brexit and the politics of pain’, in which he convincingly argues that two perverse fantasies swirl inside the Brexit nightmare: one, that the UK actually lost the Second World War, and two, that Britain was actually the victim, not the protagonist, of its Empire. Anyone who’s remotely concerned about Brexit needs to get hold of a copy and and read up on the psychopathologies that led us to this sad, sorry, borderline suicidal point.
Another very great book on the subject of Ireland, England and identity, one which I read several decades ago, was Declan Kiberd’s ‘Inventing Ireland’, in which he makes the case that the UK’s perceptions of its neighbour and oldest colony consist of projections of those aspects it most dislikes and/or fears in its own character: venal, lazy, superstitious, whimsical, drunken, alternately violent and docile, etc. This odd dynamic meant that Oscar Wilde was able to satirise the affectations and mores of the English upper classes in a way that no English writer could have done.
The notion, then, that Ireland wants to go back to being a colony, to be dominated by a more powerful political entity, is a projection. There is, it seems, a wish buried in our national psyche, a desire far too traumatic to ever be openly confessed to, of which Brexit is a perverted expression: Britons do actually want to be slaves. It’s not a case of the UK elite wanting to regain the Empire, but rather to relive it as reviled, humiliated and abject – as the Irishman O’Toole says, and the Englishman O’Neill would (pathologically) deny, the British (or at least the English) are not nostalgic for glory and heroically chasing their destiny, but rather drowning in resentment and craving self-pity.
Now given that this is exactly the sort of no-holds-barred contrarian hot-take that Spiked are celebrated for, it can only be a matter of hours til it appears on their front page. After all, they love free speech and challenging their readers almost as much as they do private car number plates. Amiright, “Breandán”?!