Aughey prophet of unionism

You remember the phrase “campaign in poetry, govern in prose?” Arthur Aughey professor politics at the University of Ulster is neither quite a campaigner nor a professing poet but he comes close to both as a writer. Aughey is an apologist – that is, an explainer – of the elements not only of Ulster unionism but of what Gordon Brown call “Britishness,”. a far more complex and imaginative entity than is usually discussed along the twisty tramlines of structural analysis and identity politics. For the Constitution Unit and many others, Arthur is one of the principal guides through the journey that the UK – and Ireland – are going through to arrive at a still uncertain destination. In the modern debate England is the new kid on the block and Aughey is well placed to lead it. His ideas may have traction in the gloom of recession because they draw out the best of British rather than bemoan its worst – in the jargon, they have a confidence building effect. Despite the rise of English and Scottish nationalism and the confused (but clarifying?) picture in our own corner, the future according to Arthur is one in which the parameters of the United Kingdom will survive.

Here is Arthur Aughey reviewing A Floating Commonwealth: Politics, Culture, and Technology on Britain’s Atlantic Coast, 1860-1930

“Harvie’s brilliant work shows that life was indeed elsewhere outside the Home Counties and it is a life where Belfast was not the dismal background for cultured melancholy but really was (to use that old Ulster Unionist, self-enhancing, phrase) the ‘heart of the British Empire’. “Harvie’s brilliant work shows that life was indeed elsewhere outside the Home Counties and it is a life where Belfast was not the dismal background for cultured melancholy but really was (to use that old Ulster Unionist, self-enhancing, phrase) the ‘heart of the British Empire’. Not only did the ships, ropes and engines of the city help pump the commercial lifeblood of that Empire but also the intellectual influences of the city contributed as much to the character of the country as did the playing fields of Eton. And for Belfast also read the other ‘provincial’ cities of the United Kingdom from Glasgow to Swansea, from Hull to Hartlepool.”

Harvie and Aughey chime together in a threnody for a richer, higher working class culture than today’s – and where more than with…

.”those shipyard workers of Harland and Wolff and Workman and Clark about whose achievements Harvie is so eloquent. That street has a bookshop that formerly sold religious commentary, the immense dusty variety of which was shifted to the attic as the shop became a circulating library for the aristocracy of labour, dealing in popular novels but also books on history, arts and sciences, a localised version of Belfast’s famous and radical Linenhall Library. Slowly but surely the books began to disappear, like the shipyard itself, to be replaced mainly by videos, cds and dvds and with them, it seems, a whole mentalite (as Harvie would describe it). That this decay – of a spiritual life of religious, political and cultural ferment – represents a real loss is something which Harvie’s book recalls to mind. It is not, of course, confined to Belfast”

While Arthur has his sharply analytical side his vision of Britishness sometimes reads as a throwback but with a contemporary twist.

“Though Ulster Unionists get the accustomed bad press, the ‘geotechnic’ of the Atlantic coast he describes shows more clearly than before how right they were to opt out of the Irish nationalist dream (see especially the lame argument of G B Shaw on page 173 that Ulster was needed to save the Irish nation from its own worst self). Times do change, though, and the reverse is now true (Harvie, like all Scottish nationalists, makes much of the experience of the Celtic Tiger). The Belfast Agreement of 1998, however, allows the citizens of the Irish republic to veto unification and if Ulster Unionists were not altruistic enough to sacrifice their interests for Irish unity at the beginning of the last century then the same is probably true of the Southern Irish at the beginning of this century.

Whether or not you accept Arthur Aughey’s standpoint, he has done much to give articulate voice with imaginative power to the general unionist case, just at the time when it has never been more under threat. The greatest weakness of unionists in all GB parties is that until Gordon Brown, they never had to explain themselves so never acquired the knack. Coming from the edge of the union has given Arthur Aughey the edge in explaining unionism to unionists afresh, not just as a system but as a rejuvenated idea.

  • Dewi

    “Constitution Unit ” – Does this Unit have any Nationalist members – and am I paying for it?

  • “Aughey is an apologist – that is, an explainer”

    Surely, an apologist is essentially a defender of an idea or a cause. It’s possible to explain without feeling the need to defend.

  • Dave

    Perhaps folks should face reality instead of retreating from it in worlds that have long vanished? Part of that reality is that Northern Ireland isn’t the golden boy of bygone empire but is now the parasite whose existence is entirely dependent on those who cut it out of their intestines in an instant were they ever permitted to exercise that democratic right (and eventually they will be) rather than allow it to drain the nutrients from its host while contributing nothing of any value whatsoever to that system. His best bet of currying the favour of those unionism existence is dependent upon is to plant rumours about the world’s largest goldmine existing under the Antrim hills or to talk-up the threat of a Chinese invasion of Europe using the Atlantic route. It would be slightly more dignifying than his current approach.

    As for “British culture” being transcendent, well has he missed the Americanisation of the UK? Last time I looked it was filled with burger food outlets and baseball caps, with folks hurrying home in foreign-engineered cars while listening to American music (or UK rip-offs of it) to watch UK versions of US soap operas and quiz shows while waiting for a late night US movie to appear.

    There isn’t any British culture bar a cheap copy of the imported American culture that has successfully colonised the place. Wearing tacky union jack hats while the Queen rides up and down Pall Mall once a year doesn’t count as culture.

  • Dave-please.
    There are people who visit this site who believe in Britishness.
    Please consider their feelings in the future,before you go telling the truth about Norn Iron;0)

  • Dave-from considering a dead empire to one that is starting to stumble.
    I wonder how the Americans will deal with their slide from the top spot this century?

    Presumably the folk hit hardest in terms of self-esteem will be the rednecks.
    They have the best record in volunteering for the military.
    See any parallels closer to home anyone?

  • DC

    Dave, are you a fan of anything?

  • steve

    Dave

    you have never seen anything as pathetic as when the americans try to rip off and replicate british tv.

    the american Men Behaving Badly is so bad it shares only a name in common with the much superior british original

    Same with The Office, She Devil and so many others

  • Harry Flashman

    ” has he missed the Americanisation of the UK? Last time I looked it was filled with burger food outlets and baseball caps, with folks hurrying home in foreign-engineered cars while listening to American music (or UK rip-offs of it) to watch UK versions of US soap operas and quiz shows while waiting for a late night US movie to appear.”

    And Ireland is different?

  • HeadTheBall

    “…Americanisation of the UK…”

    As Jan Morris sometimes points out, when people talk about “Americanisation” they usually mean “modernisation”. When I last visited England the most disappointing feature of the visit was that the High Streets nowadays all look the same, because of the all-pervasive (and rarely American) retail chains. That’s a home-grown threat to British culture, if you like.

    Dave’s picture of Americanised British cultural life is so close to the Americanised RoI that I wonder all Irish people don’t just rejoin the UK and be done with it. What would they miss?

  • Big Maggie

    Arthur Aughey. This is a parody, right? Tell me his first name is really Harthur. He certainly comes across as a parody.

  • Dave

    Steve, all TV shows are examples of imported culture: it is all the product of Americana. There wasn’t a culture of staring at a screen in the corner of a room before the Americans created it.

    Phil, I’m actually very fond of the English as a people, seeing them as essentially decent. I’m just making the point that they have sacrificed their culture to the progress of Americana (as did the rest of us). Is that a disadvantage? Probably not, since TV, movies, fashion, iPods, Cellular phones, computers, the Internet, etc, and the culture they have spawned are all products of American society (yes, the Brits will cite the odd English bit-part player such Babbage, Turing, Berners-Lee, etc, and hype-up their importance for the purposes of narrow nationalism). We wear jeans because Americans invented them and James Dean made them cool and we are obsessed with celebrity because Americana made us obsessed with celebrity, etc. Modern culture is the product of consumer-based capitalism, and America has always been the driving force behind that – those folks know how to turn people into consumers, whereas the Chinese only know how to knock-off the manufacturing part of that process. In all of this, whatever England might have been has been replaced by the imported culture. Britishness is just an invention to encourage those who are not English to submit to the sovereignty of the English. It was never a culture and the void was filled by Americanisation. There simply isn’t any basis going forward post-empire for how Britishness can be anything other than a disadvantage to the English – and sooner or later they’re going to realise that and follow the inescapable logic of it. Naturally, those who are dependent upon the union (i.e. the Ulster Unionists) don’t want to acknowledge how precarious their future is. That is their fault: you can’t have sovereignty without self-sufficiency.

    DC, in so far as the question relates to politics in this zone, I’m a fan of a few simple principles that are continually obfuscated by those who try to subvert them in other to further their own selfish interests and agenda. Case in point:

    “The Belfast Agreement of 1998, however, allows the citizens of the Irish republic to veto unification and if Ulster Unionists were not altruistic enough to sacrifice their interests for Irish unity at the beginning of the last century then the same is probably true of the Southern Irish at the beginning of this century.” – Arthur Aughey

    There is nothing “altruistic” about a people being encouraged to forsake the right to self-determination in order to appease those who do not accept that the Irish people ever had such a right. Ireland is a nation-state, and it will remain a nation-state. Since the current process is predicated on the assumption that those who are British would be less hostile to the concept of a united Ireland if Ireland obliterated all traces of Irishness, you can take it as read that I am not a fan of it. This isn’t even a semi-serious agenda toward unity since those who are British will always correctly deduce that their sense of Britishness is best served by remaining within the UK. It does, however, serve to promote the suppression of Irish nationalism under the bogus pretext of serving it (i.e. promoting unity). That self-suppression, of course, delights those whose ‘loyalty’ to the UK was historically defined by assuming the role that the Irish are now being encouraged to assume for themselves, thereby allowing them to engineer by politics that which they were unable to secure by force.

    Harry, Ireland isn’t any different to the UK in that both entities are victims of Americana. It’s one of the better form on victimhoods, however. When my Daughter saw Ireland for the first time, her reaction was, “Gee, look at all the little houses.” That’s the only cultural difference that was obvious – to a six-year-old, anyway. 😉

  • Tazia Doll

    “the Americanisation of the UK? Last time I looked it was filled with burger food outlets and baseball caps, with folks hurrying home in foreign-engineered cars ”

    I was wondering where the ‘made in Detroit’ cars had went.

  • Dave

    Well, I coyly left that one as “foreign” rather than American (to cover a multitude of foreign cars). The Americans, of course, developed the first mass-produced car, bringing the culture of car ownership to the masses. Given the esteem in which British industry held the working class, it’s arguable that without America changing the game, you’d still have a car industry that made cars for the aristocracy such as Rolls Royce (and that charming part of British culture that saw the British placed on their driveways polishing their cars on Saturdays would never have existed).

    By the way, the American inventor of the TV, Philo Farnsworth, (waits for Prince to attribute it to Logie) refused to allow a TV set in his own home, arguing that it was just a way for people to waste their lives. True, but it was also the greatest form of cultural colonisation that America ever produced. 😉

    http://www.time.com/time/time100/scientist/profile/farnsworth03.html

  • Republic of Connaught

    Why do Unionists get away with using “Ulster” so often? GB Shaw said the Irish nation was saved by “Ulster”?

    Have a vote in Ulster’s 9 counties in 2008 and it will be majority nationalist and majority catholic.

    Ulster is clearly a majority Irish nationalist province, like the other 3 provinces.

  • dosser

    Little Arthur’s finest moment still has to be his comparison between David Trimble and Prince Don Fabrizio Salina from Gattopardo, Il.

    Aughey’s daughter is called Sky, by the way. Nice.

  • RoCo, we’ve been down this road many times before. ‘Ulster’ has the same flexibility of use as ‘Ireland’ and ‘Britain’ – and it does lead to loads of confusion. It’s led to the introduction of phrases such as ‘the island of Ireland’ to accommodate the use of ‘Ireland’ for the 26-county state.

  • Paul

    RoCo, we’ve been down this road many times before. ‘Ulster’ has the same flexibility of use as ‘Ireland’ and ‘Britain’

    What tripe. Ulster is 9 counties end of. Britain is the island containing England, Scotland and Wales end of. Ireland is the The island of Ireland end of. Any deviation is plain wrong.

  • Nevin,

    … ‘Ulster’ has the same flexibility of use as ‘Ireland’ and ‘Britain’

    [Through the Looking-Glass]: ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean–neither more nor less.’

    An old British tradition, it seems? Words like ‘democracy’, ‘fair-play’, ‘power-sharing’, and so on ….

  • Waylon
  • Dec

    Steve

    The US Office is glorious. The only really dud episode was the pilot which was virtually a remake of an original episode. 4 series later it’s the best US comedy since Larry Sanders.

  • Is King Arthur the new King Billy?

  • pat

    “The US Office is glorious”

    Agreed.

    Steve Carell is much better than Gervais in the role.

    The American Office is far superior.

  • Paul and Horseman, this flexibility; it’s a shared tradition.

    Bertie Ahern was able to skip from one Ireland to the other in the course of a speech, seemingly oblivious to the difference. 🙂

    I was going to link you to the ‘Britain in the USA‘ website but it seems my suggestion for a change of name has finally got through …

  • Paul

    Nevin it’s nothing to do with shared traditions I was stating FACT, any deviation is WRONG.

  • Nevin

    Forget about ‘Britain in the USA’, what about ‘Britain in Europe’?

    http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/fco-in-action/institutions/britain-in-the-european-union/

    You’re a real rearguard warrior, Nevin, god help you!

  • Nevin,

    Here’s another one to get your hackles up:

    “England and India launch sustainable biofuels joint venture”

    http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/fco-in-action/casestudies/india-uk-sust-biofuels

    More of that famous flexibility? Or just the mask slipping?

  • Horseman, I prefer clarity and accuracy, where possible, but I can live with a bit of flexibility. Paul appears to be more of the hackled warrior 🙂

  • Slartibuckfast

    England – John
    Scotland – Paul
    Wales – George
    Norn Iron – Ringo

  • Slartibuckfast

    “Horseman, I prefer clarity”

    Nev, old chap, I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds that coming from you very amusing. 🙂

    All AAsholes, duck waddling Sinners and readers of the Daily W**ker and the Maranatha Memorandum might know what I mean.

  • Greenflag

    Phil Mac Giolla Bhain,

    ‘ I wonder how the Americans will deal with their slide from the top spot this century? ‘

    Not good to judge from the past 8 years of neo con nuttiness and extreme right wing corruption at all levels of this administration .

    ‘Presumably the folk hit hardest in terms of self-esteem will be the rednecks. They have the best record in volunteering for the military.’

    Indeed – Lump them in with the large African American and Hispanic contingents and that should go a long way to reducing the numbers of the ‘poor and undereducated ‘ clamouring for social justice and ‘equality ‘ in the USA .

  • Greenflag

    Dave ,

    ‘That is their (Unionists ) fault: you can’t have sovereignty without self-sufficiency. ‘

    Complete and utter bollocks . Name a single country world wide that has a developed economy and that is ‘self sufficient’? Even the USA is dependent on foreign oil /energy supplies . There are approx 200 countries world wide -are we to believe that none have sovereignty because none are self sufficient ?

    You may want to revise your definition of and use of word ‘sovereignty ‘ You seem to be confusing others as well as yourself .

  • Are you still producing the Daily W**ker, Br Slarti? Murphy and Robinson would provide you with some excellent wipes 😉

  • Slartibuckfast

    The odd time, Nev. [url=http://www.5wwwww5.com/theshankillmoan/viewtopic.php?t=117&mforum=theshankillmoan]This is the latest[/url]

    Good to see your old wibble again. You’ve been missed on that other place, which has gone to hell. How have you been getting on?

  • Dave

    Greenie, where you buy your supplies shouldn’t be confused with the power to buy them. To argue that no country is self-sufficient because every country imports goods from other countries is to confuse the separate issues of interdependency of international trade and sovereignty. Sovereignty is the authority to buy and self-sufficiency is the means to buy. Unless you have the means to buy, you’ll find that you don’t have the power to buy. Therefore you can’t have sovereignty without self-sufficiency: they are interdependent. In so far as that relates to NI, unless a country can be self-sufficient (i.e. generate the revenue to meet its liabilities), then it can’t be sovereign. It’s the same reason your parents keep you in the basement, GF: if you can’t pay your own pay, you are dependent on the charity of others (and their surplus resources) and cannot determine your own affairs, i.e. exercise sovereignty. Did that clear it up for you or will I get out the coloured blocks?

  • Big Maggie

    Dave

    It’s the same reason your parents keep you in the basement, GF

    LOL! Terribly unkind but terribly funny.

  • Rory

    Little Arthur’s finest moment still has to be his comparison between David Trimble and Prince Don Fabrizio Salina from Gattopardo, Il.

    Dosser,

    Burt Lancaster played the role of Don Fabrizio in Visconti’s 1963 movie adaption of Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s novel. I wonder, who would be best to play Trimble? Any suggestions folks?*

    *Any suggestions that include the names of actors “no longer with us”, such as the late Lon Chaney Jr., however appropriate had they still been “with us”, will not be entertained (although possibly entertaining).

  • Big Maggie

    Rory

    Tom Cruise. Don’t laugh. With the right pair of specs he’d be a dead ringer, and I suppose mentally he’s ‘no longer with us’.

  • Rory

    Tom Cruise! Christ, Trimble will be well chuffed if he reads this thread, Maggie. You’ll have him dreaming of his chances with Nicole (who, because of her ethereal sense of a deep spirituality is, of course, already contracted to play Irene R in a remake of Inherit the Wind set in Ballymena).

  • Greenflag

    Dave ,

    ‘unless a country can be self-sufficient (i.e. generate the revenue to meet its liabilities), then it can’t be sovereign.’

    So at 9 trillion dollars in debt and rising, the USA economy is thus ‘sovereign’ and ‘self sufficient ‘ and not dependent on Chinese , Japanese and other buyers of US Treasury Bills etc etc as much say NI is dependent on the UK Exchequer ? I’d hazard a guess that NI might just be more solvent if the plug were pulled .

    Determining whether a political entity is sovereign and or self sufficient is often predicated on to what extent a country has been able to ‘disguise’ it’s dependence on foreign borrowings . If the Chinese , Koreans , Saudis and a dozen other nations cashed in their excess dollars for ‘real ‘ money next week would the USA be sovereign , self sufficient or just broke ?

    Of course being a neo con you would make the point that as long as the USA can keep forking out 500 billion dollars a year in interest payments to the ‘holders’ of it’s debt it’s still sovereign and self sufficient and the fact that it squeezes the ‘interest ‘ payments from it’s already emisserated middle and working class is fine .

    BTW – when you lose the next EU referendum you can always go into comedy :). Could I suggest a certain basement in the Leeson St area .

  • Greenflag

    slartibuckfast,

    ‘Things are’nt black and white here that’s just back in Kansas ‘ said a spokesman 🙂

    LOL-

    glad to see you’re still at it 🙂

  • Dewi

    Boring – let’s get back on the US election….

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

  • There’s never a dull moment in Moyle, Slarti, what with the resurrection of the garbage truck and the yellow poncho.

    The DRD wibble factor is on the increase/decreases(?) as the contents of the DRD website’s intestines are exposed to closer examination.