Archive for Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain

Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain

Posted in Literature, Maynooth, Politics with tags , , on February 21, 2019 by telescoper

Before Christmas I attended a very enjoyable event here in Maynooth featuring journalist, historian and literary critic Fintan O’Toole talking his book Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain. I bought the book and had it signed by the author. Sadly, as I do far too often these days, I put the book on my shelf and promptly forgot about it as I got distracted by a myriad of other things.

This week I finally got round to reading it and very enjoyable it is too, though I expect people who voted Leave won’t like it, as it is probably a bit close to the bone for them.

The book deals with the Brexit referendum, the chaos it unleashed in British politics and the challenges posed to the island of Ireland by a ‘No Deal Brexit’. In particular the book examines how a country that once had colonies is redefining itself as an oppressed nation requiring liberation; the dreams of revolutionary deregulation and privatization that drive Arron Banks, Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg; and the silent rise of English nationalism, the force that dare not speak its name. He also discusses the fatal attraction of heroic failure, once a self-deprecating cult in a hugely successful empire that could well afford the occasional disaster: the Charge of the Light Brigade, or Franklin lost in the Arctic. Now failure is no longer heroic – it is just failure, and its terrible costs will be paid by the most vulnerable of Brexit’s supporters, and by those who may suffer the consequences of a hard border in Ireland and the breakdown of a fragile peace.

It’s a very witty book which is at its best picking apart some of the some-contradictory rhetoric deployed by Leave campaigners, such as how the UK can be both grandiosely jingoistic and bullied by the EU at the same time, pulling in references from historical events and literature as well as contemporary culture (including Fifty Shades of Grey, the references to which were lost on me because I haven’t read it). It’s also very perceptive in its observation of how strongly the legacy of World War 2 pervades attitudes towards Brexit, especially the silly references to `Dunkirk Spirit’ and the rest that are the stock-in-trade of many Leavers.

Anyway, I heartily recommend this book to both Leavers and Remainers but it might induce a sense of humour failure in the former.

 

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Fintan O’Toole on “Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain”

Posted in Literature, Maynooth, Politics with tags , , , on December 6, 2018 by telescoper

Time for a tea break and a quick post about a very interesting event this afternoon at Maynooth featuring renowned Irish journalist and author Fintan O’Toole (whose regular columns in the Irish Times I read with great interest).

This event saw John O’Brennan, Director of the Centre for European and Eurasian Studies in Maynooth in conversation with Fintan on his new book, Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain. The book deals with the Brexit referendum, the chaos it unleashed in British politics and the challenges posed to the island of Ireland by a ‘No Deal Brexit’. In particular the book examines how a country that once had colonies is redefining itself as an oppressed nation requiring liberation; the dreams of revolutionary deregulation and privatization that drive Arron Banks, Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg; and the silent rise of English nationalism, the force that dare not speak its name. He also discusses the fatal attraction of heroic failure, once a self-deprecating cult in a hugely successful empire that could well afford the occasional disaster: the Charge of the Light Brigade, or Franklin lost in the Arctic. Now failure is no longer heroic – it is just failure, and its terrible costs will be paid by the most vulnerable of Brexit’s supporters, and by those who may suffer the consequences of a hard border in Ireland and the breakdown of a fragile peace.

The discussion was so interesting – and Fintan O’Toole was so eloquent and amusing –  that I bought the book. The author was kind enough to sign it for me too!

There’s an extract printed on the cover that will give you a taste, but if you want more you’ll have to buy the book:

Of all the pleasurable emotions, self-pity is the one that most makes us want to be on our own…Only alone can we surrender completely to it and immerse ourselves in the steaming bath of hurt, outrage and tender regard for our terribly wronged selves. Brexit therefore makes sense of a nation that feels sorry for itself. The mystery, though, is how Britain, or more precisely England, came not to just experience this delightful sentiment but to define itself through it.

I only bought the book today so haven’t read it yet, but I will endeavour to write a review when I have.

Now back to the writing of lecture notes…