I’ve just put this up over on Cedar Lounge Revolution, but I’m that annoyed that I’m putting it up here too.
Today’s Observer has a story reporting Seamus Heaney’s conviction that a no vote in the Lisbon Treaty would mean that the people of the Republic will have “lost ourselves in the modern world”. Now I’m not really sure what that is actually supposed to mean, so back to Heaney.
Heaney said the loss for Ireland from a “no” vote was “inestimable”. He said: “I was in Italy when the first referendum came in, and I was distressed for Ireland in Europe because of the kind of refusal of commitment after decades of benefit. It is inestimable, the loss of influence, status and trust that occurred with a ‘no’ vote: it is palpable and real.
Ah. So the fact that the Republic has benefited from membership of the EU in terms of structural funds and the like means that it should forever do whatever the people in Brussels want. Now, we may think that there is a democratic deficit in the EU, that important decisions about our futures are being made by unelected and appointed officials (many of whom are running from their incompetence or corruption at home), that the choices open to us have been circumscribed by undemocratic EU rules designed to benefit capitalism, and that the citizens of the states of the EU were with one exception denied an opportunity to vote on the Treaty by the political and bureaucratic elite of the EU. But that would be because we lack the necessary poetic vision to understand what is really at stake.
Europe was “more than a bureaucracy, it’s an ideal,” he said. “The word ‘Europe’ is one of the first cultural underpinnings to our lives in this part of the globe. It’s for Greece, Italy, Rome, England, France that I feel it.” He also dismissed claims that the Lisbon Treaty would end Irish sovereignty and see the republic absorbed into a European super-state.
Asked if Europe was as important for him culturally as it was economically, Heaney said: “I think it’s slightly more important, not only in terms of culture but in terms of credit, in terms of meaning.
So apparently European civilisation – thousands of years of philosophy, political thought, law, science, art, literature, technology, religion, and the rest – has been reduced to a proposed new set of rules on how to govern an amalgam of states in a mere part of Europe. If we reject it, then we reject our cultural inheritance. Nonsense. As I’m sure the greatest of the Russian poets Pushkin and others from that part of Europe would agree. Clearly our Nobel-winning poet needs refresher courses in basic geography and history.
A lesson in the basic principles of democracy – perhaps Europe’s greatest gift to the world – might also prove useful.
“The reasons for voting ‘no’ are manufactured, on the whole. And if it’s ‘no’ again, I think we have lost ourselves in the modern world.”
Did the No campaign manufacture the fact that those proposing this Treaty have openly admitted that their aim in doing so was to avoid having referenda that might cause them trouble in countries like France and Denmark? Did the No campaign make the decision to deny the citizens of Europe a free vote, a chance to decide for themselves? Whatever about the issues of this Treaty for the Republic of Ireland, is there a better reason for voting ‘NO’ than the fact that the people have been denied a say? If Heaney is so concerned about the peoples of Europe, perhaps he might have taken this into account when considering the whole topic. And spared us his sentimental, apolitical, not to say ignorant nonsense.