Jason Walsh has penned a curious article for The Guardian’s Comment is Free site.
I don’t know what it’s doing – I can’t work out why it has been published. Why was it commissioned?
It reads to me like Jason is offering his comment in the top three pars, then uses this book to back up his argument. So it’s not a book review – primarily it’s an opinion piece, right?
Why; how does this add to the sum of our knowledge; what insight is offered?
His argument is this: Unionism is now a ‘mere cultural project’, is moribund and disliked, and will sulk in the corner and die off.
Making your readers gag is sometimes evidence of administering the unpalatable truth. But sometimes that’s just the response to having something unpleasant inflicted on the tastebuds.
Apparently, Unionists are a group of people who once “revelled in the ‘glories’ of empire”. (Note the self-conscious single quote marks around ‘glories’. ‘Empire’ couldn’t possibly hang around in Guardian copy completely unchaperoned.) This easy cliché is grist for a detached observer. (We’re never done talking about East Indian Company and Isambard Kingdom Brunel round my way!) What on earth is he talking about?
In the course of riffing away on culture wars, he says that Unionism is now waiting for Godot (?), or an EU superstate, or joint authority, or none of the above because they guaranteed the Union in the first paragraph.
According to Jason, Irish unity through the EU is wishful thinking but perhaps the EU could act ‘deus ex machina’ (?) – although sovereignty questions lie with each individual state so, erm… that can’t happen either.
So where does this leave us? The sign-off. And that last line is most silly of all.
Jason asks (somewhat rhetorically) whether distaste for Ireland isn’t all there is to unionism. The context would lead to one to surmise that Unionism is chiefly anti-Irish.
This doesn’t do anyone any good. It adds nothing, it explains nothing. The piece is about the cultural identity of Unionism, but it’s seems devoid of any understanding, empathy or appreciation of the complexity of identity etc. The chunks of logic reproduced here are like the disconsolate bits of fragmented chatter you might pick up listening in on someone else’s conversation down the pub.
How could Jason refer to the distance between Unionist politics and GB politics without mentioning the closing ties between Conservatives and UUs? Not neutral on the Union etc…
It looks to me like the starting point for this article is that Unionism is one of those woollier schisms too impractical to hang around for any great deal of time. Though I think there is an argument that the reporter’s grasp of the topic is somewhat woolly and lacking practicality. Jason may be rehearsing some of the arguments from Robert Ramsay’s book, but it shouldn’t be presented in such a way as to make oneself appear ill-informed and detached.
I really feel like my newspaper of choice has just served me up first-class baloney. Anyone else? Am I being unjustifiably rude? (If so, sorry Jason!)