Alternative title: ‘Apres Moi, le gobshite.’
Alternative alternative title: ‘Let them eat novelty socks.’
It’s seems to be a general truth that messianic and charismatic religious movements occur most often in the context of extreme upheaval, displacement and uncertainty. The Native Americans of the post-bellum United States had Wovoka and the Ghost Dance; the nineteenth century Hakkas had Hong Xiuquan and the Taiping Rebellion, and the early twenty-first century neoliberals have Macron and En Marche! (which loosely translates into English as ‘Compliant France’).
As the collapsing centre comes under attack from both left (in the form of Sanders, Corbyn, Melanchon etc.) and right, the collapse in authority and credibility of the centrist orthodoxy has been spectacular, sudden and disorientating. Indeed, the speed of the collapse also seems to have had a traumatising effect on the supporters of the liberal project in general, leading to the strange sort of mass hysteria that finds its logical conclusion in Louise Mensch confidently claiming she is about to have Steve Bannon executed for treason.
After all this, Macron’s victory in the French election must have seemed like a godsend. Here was their hoped-for messiah, someone young, fresh, not associated with the political establishment, but crucially, pro-EU and rabidly committed to market fundamentalism. Indeed, Macron is so committed to the European project that he regularly mugs Greek pensioners in one of the many symbolic acts that he is so fond of. Not only that, but his party managed to score an outright majority in the parliamentary elections, seemingly providing a pretty strong mandate for the messiah.
Colum Kenny was one of those journalists who thought that Macron could offer a model of how to save the sinking neoliberal ship. Indeed, he informs us that Macron’s ‘idealism’ is a worthy model for Irish politics. Tell me more.
At Versailles, Macron appealed to French pride (“fierté”), saying: “The French people demand from us not only efficiency. Efficiency is an instrument! One may be completely efficient in the service of a bad cause. No, it demands that which the philosopher Simone Weil called ‘effectivity’. That is to say the concrete, tangible, visible application of our guiding principles.”
Um, okay. What are these principles exactly?
In a speech that flailed clientelism, corruption, conflicts of interest and cynicism, Macron added that for his government “effectivity” means fidelity to principles, above all to liberty, equality and fraternity.
As a committed supporter of clientelism, corruption, conflicts of interest and cynicism, I am horrified. Also, given that Macron’s program of savaging public sector employment and cutting taxes is set to be most beneficial for the wealthiest ten per cent of households and a disaster for everyone else, his commitment to ‘equality’ at least seems pretty questionable. His weird, authoritarian leadership style does not bode well for liberty and, as far as fraternity goes, having a pint with him would probably be a weird and uncomfortable experience. Actually, Macron’s commitment to the principles of the French revolution doesn’t even seem to extend as far as not having a king.
Irish politicians will treat his words as standard political rhetoric at their peril.
No, they will do so correctly.
What principles guide Ireland today? The import of principles is vague but real.
I’m going to admit I have no idea what this sentence means.
Unsurprisingly, beaten opponents ridiculed Macron, a former highly-paid investment banker at Rothschilds, suggesting that his choice of venue reflected a king-sized ego. They suspect he appeals to principle in order to soften the blow of planned economic changes.
Yes, the only time Colum manages to say something even remotely sensible is when he is mocking the (entirely accurate) opinions of others.
Speaking of king-sized egos, it’s noticeable that liberals who are ready to diagnose Trump (correctly) with pathological narcissism seem far more reluctant to do so in relation to a man who claims his thoughts are too complex for journalists to understand and compared himself to Jupiter. My earlier comparison to Hong Xiuquan is therefore a little unfair, as he only thought he was the brother of Jesus Christ, a comparatively modest claim.
But Macron has succeeded precisely because he brings more than a centrist technocratic presence to the public stage. He actually inspires, in a peculiar low-key way that captures the unassuming spirit of this age.
Does this age have a particularly unassuming spirit? Can I check somehow? Also, Macron has succeeded primarily by not being Marie Le Pen, something which most people do all the time without even making a big deal out of it.
Reading Kenny, of course, one begins to understand the man’s love of Macron. They are both adept at saying absolutely nothing while talking (or writing) at length, as well as bringing in philosophical and historical references that seem to serve no other purpose than to add an unconvincing intellectual gloss to the warblings of an empty vessel. Indeed, Kenny’s article is replete with quotations and references to Simone Weil which seem to serve no other purpose than to show that Colum Kenny has read Simone Weil. The pretension on display here is nothing short of remarkable.
Macron, a student of philosophy, is keenly aware of history and can appreciate past connections between Ireland and France, from flocks of “wild geese” who landed at the court of the deposed King James II at St Germain to the industries and vineyards that Irish emigrants established across France.
Yes, Macron almost certainly spends a lot, probably most, of his time thinking about exiled Gaelic aristocrats, which will definitely have important policy impacts.
But Macron also understands the selective nature of history, what is and perhaps should be forgotten. His focus is on the future. He grasps the limits of ideology. Public relations and spin do not measure up to historical challenges such as globalisation and climate change.
Colum Kenny is a truly postmodern figure. Within his empty head, sign and signifier zip around randomly until contact is made and they become a column.
If the pride which Macron evoked in his speech at Versailles is more than personal vanity or national chauvinism, then chiming with his clock requires Ireland to prove its own efficacity, to show and not just say that we stand for something more than the reception of agricultural grants or competition with France for London’s nervous financial services.
Okay cool, we’re getting to the part where Colum Kenny tells us what these principles are.
Leo chumming with Emmanuel at a rugby match in the Stade de France (did Hugh Grant star in a rom-com there?) will not cut garlic. To bolster our relationships with the rest of Europe as Brexit bites, we need serious engagement. At least French is the one language both widely and sometimes efficiently taught in our schools.
So we need to speak French? Seriously though, what are these principles?
Unfortunately, at this time of need, Irish citizens looking at our Dáil and Seanad may be inclined to agree with the judgment of Simone Weil on political parties.
Yes, they never come. Though we do conclude with an extra reminder that Colum Kenny has read Simone Weil, probably in the original French. Cause he’s cultured and stuff.
More prominent figures too have become enamoured of Macron. Just a few days ago Bill Emmott, a former editor-in-chief of The Economist, demonstrated that these eejits really haven’t learned anything when he suggested that the solution to Brexit and the annihilation of British neo-liberalism was an insular En Marche! that would (presumably) undo the referendum, stop the Corbyn juggernaut and restore Blairism to its ideological throne.
I swallow my bile, roll my eyes and quote at length:
Even as the UK faces the upheaval of Brexit, nobody is talking about remaking – much less replacing – the established political parties. Many deny that they would even consider such a thing. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair – a pro-European centrist innovator who won three general elections for his Labour Party in the 1990s – took great care in a recent article to stress that he is “not advocating a new Party.”
But Blair, or someone like him, should be doing just that. After all, while the British political system does put formidable barriers in the path of any new party, the chances of success are greater now than at any time in the last 40 years. In a political system still feeling the aftershocks of two major earthquakes – the June 2016 Brexit referendum and, a year later, the humiliating electoral setback of the Conservative Party that spearheaded it – there is a clear opportunity for newcomers.
Already, the Conservatives are locked in an internal battle that they can only try to obscure. In the Labour Party, too, rebellions are erupting. Now is the moment for a new party, styled after French President Emmanuel Macron’s “La République En Marche,” to capitalize on the division, disarray, and distrust in the established parties. Now is the moment for a photogenic young British man or woman to follow in the 39-year-old Macron’s footsteps, making history by casting aside the old guard.
Where to fucking start?
Well let’s go with Bill’s claim that ‘Blair, or someone like him’ should be starting a new party. It is a sign of the centrist media bubble’s impenetrability that they still seem to believe that Tony Blair is popular, despite all evidence to the contrary. Indeed, according to YouGov, Blair is the 2006th least popular of the 2264 public figures whose ratings they track. To illustrate the public contempt for Blair even more clearly, let’s have a gander at this hilarious graphic:
In other words, Bill Emmott wants either loathed pariah Tony Blair or a similarly self-serving, money-grabbing, dishonest war criminal to found a new party.
There is, however, as Emmott claims, a ‘clear opportunity for newcomers’. You’re right Emmott. He’s called Jeremy Corbyn and people are very fond of his policies. As for the ‘rebellions erupting in the Labour Party’, they are being crushed underfoot due to the fact that neither the LP membership nor the general public have any desire to see Owen Smith or any of the other cappuccino-perplexed quislings in the parliamentary party drag the party back to the right and unelectability.
The nadir of Emmott’s myopia has to be the call for ‘a photogenic young British man or woman to follow in the 39-year-old Macron’s footsteps, making history by casting aside the old guard.’ Here we see the bitter truth. These people have no ideas. None. The best they can do is package the same discredited politics in a young, photogenic guise. Hence the bizarre enthusiasm over the relative youth of figures like Trudeau, Varadkar and Macron, latter-day Dorian Grays, each of whom has a portrait of a maggot-infested Milton Friedman hidden in their attic.
It should come as no surprise then that a man who believes himself to be comparable to the king of the Roman Pantheon is failing to live up to expectations.
In truth, Macron’s victory and En Marche’s election gains did not really represent much in the way of real depth of support. Tellingly, only 16 per cent of the people who voted for Macron picked his political program as their reason for voting him in. Moreover, the elections which swept En Marche! to power saw the lowest turnouts in the history of the republic, suggesting a stunning lack of enthusiasm for the saviour of centrism. Now, with his poll ratings already starting to fall before the ‘reforms’ have even begun, the brittleness of his support is becoming increasingly apparent.
In the end, Hong Xiuquan committed suicide before being exhumed, beheaded and burnt by Qing forces. Wovoka lived until 1932, but the Ghost Dance movement collapsed under brutal military repression. At this stage it’s beginning, hopefully, to look like Macron may end up joining them on the ash-heap of history, albeit with his photogenic head (and the impossibly complex thoughts therein) intact.