I’ve been thinking a lot about the Centrists, the lads who say they are without ideology and the journalists who say they are “fair and balanced”. I heard Stephen Donnelly, he of the reverse Damascene Conversion, repeat the oft trotted out bastardised W.B Yeats, line that “the centre must hold” and I nearly spat my coffee on the screen.
The line is actually “Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” The anarchy the poet was writing of was “The Second Coming“. Sadly, I don’t think any saviour is coming to save us.
These self-proclaimed Centrists are in denial about the world we currently occupy. Their motivations for self-delusion vary. Some, aware that Right Wing evil is on the march, claim to be newly Centrist in order to distance themselves from their more radical brethren.
I’m thinking of the “Tory Boy” formerly known as Leo Varadkar (or have I got that the wrong way around?). He of the Far Right Centre “proposal of offering only three months dole to migrant workers as an incentive to leave” and of “privatising up to 20 Dublin Bus routes”. Leo the Centrist is Leo the Liar. He’s the leader of a core of Right Wing Fine Gael, that is soon to inherit the party.
Enda Kenny, while a lot of things (and many of those Right Wing led) is not like Leo. His ideology can be summed up as Power for Powers sake.
Which also got me thinking. So many of the new Centrists are declaring their (recently discovered) Social Democratic roots that RTE might consider doing a political version of: Who Do You Think You Are? They could call it: Who Do You Think The Public Should Think You Are?
Imagine it, we could have Alan Kelly retelling his “spay them with sewage” story and say the sewage was a metaphor for the dirty world of Centrist Politics. I’d post a link to his despicable actions, but Alan (classless man that he is) has had them removed from Google Searches.
We could have Fianna Fail do a retrofitted retrospective half hour about their “populist” roots, saying that populist is actually the Irish word for Centrist. Us plebeians would be none the wiser. Sure if it was on RTE, we’d say, it must be true.
Finally, we could have the alphabet soup AAA/PBP tell us they’re opposed. “To what exactly are you opposed?” the narrator could ask. “We don’t have to engage with you, you’re part of the machine” they could yell back. At least you know where they stand. Full Marx, indeed.
Despite what you hear so often, the so called Hard Left are not the biggest threat to Irish Politics. At least not in the sense of a threat to a progressive Irish Politics. No, that distinction lies firmly with the Centrists. They are the advocates for nothing. They are the Minister for Health Simon Harris, getting genuinely upset that nobody is doing anything about 50,000 people hidden from Hospital Waiting Lists.
The Centrists are Simon Coveney asking what more can NGOs like Focus Ireland and the Simon Community do, to enable him to do less. Centrists do not exist. Those who have no political ideology have no business being in politics. Those who bleat that the “centre must hold”, are saying their hold on the levers of power must remain.
Nothing will improve under this Centrism. In fact, I can think of only one man who was a true Centrist. In 1967 Muhammad Ali was stripped of his world title over refusing to fight in the Vietnam War.
His lawyer, Hayden C. Covington when asked why he was risking his career “by getting in the middle” of this case said “I want to be at the centre of this, because only by getting to the centre of it can I bring about change.” Our current Centrist Cohort only want to sit in one place, of no use to those who elected them.
I remember Tolstoy telling Chekhov that his centrist writing needed a world view; a perspective in order to inspire people.
I remember Lord Acton’s warning about Centrist’s. “Political atheism: End justifies the means. This is the most widespread of all the opinions hostile to liberty.”
And I’ll let Muhammad Ali himself have the last word. When under pressure to join the herd and stay in the Centrist Flock he replied “I don’t have to be what you want me to be”.
Tony Groves February 2017