Actually, you probably haven’t. If there is one thing the left-wing consensus may have a point about, it’s the fundamental nature of inter-group debate in the modern world; a realisation of the Hobbesian nightmare, played out on battlefields from Facebook to your close relatives drunken rambling at a party.
It seems that to believe in anything means to necessarily hate all the other positions, or at least view them with the utmost suspicion. As a result of this, it can seem that the Irish political landscape for young people is a warring, internecine conflict with little to no convincing being done by any side.
What a dismal failure of our system it is when such a grim summation is true.
A black and white Manichean curtain has fallen over Ireland and, by extension, the world entire. No longer is one merely a liberal who is devoted to a particular cause, you must be dedicated to all causes. This is combined with the encroaching monoculture of left-wing thought to make the modern political arena an intimidating game of tight-rope, in which believing (or not believing) in a certain sub-facet of your chosen cause will make you an unperson.
So to go back to the original sentence: you probably haven’t decided to become conservative; you’ve probably wound up there by default and resigned yourself to it, like a tourist who upon following the map back to the same café, rather dejectedly gives up on finding the original lunch date and makes do with what he has. Perhaps it’s your class; after all nearly everything can be boiled down to your accident of birth according to our esteemed opposition.
If you are working class, provided you’re not one of the bad working class like Tommy Robinson or the anti immigration protesters in Poland and Hungary, you’ll probably end up somewhat left wing by default and I don’t blame you. If you’re upper class, you’ve probably swallowed up so much repressed guilt that you become an Engels-esque leftist as an act of penance.
Which of course leaves a big gap – the middle class. If, like me, you’re part of the vaguely rural lower-middle class, clinging like a barnacle to the hull of economic prosperity and hoping the next crash won’t scrape you off, you may be wondering where you have to go in modern Irish politics.
The short answer is nowhere.
The media is full of things the busy bees in the radical left have been up to – painting over and then destroying statues of long dead people, protesting over the wrong-think of a vaguely popular person in the media, and having hysterical meltdowns over elected individuals from Trump to Katie Ascough. You may wonder “How do I fit into all this?”. Well, sadly, you don’t. Lord knows I didn’t.
And what about the alt-right? The far-right boogie men? Well, despite the left swearing that you are the direct genetic descendent and/or reincarnation of a certain Viennese artist, you won’t be interested in them either. Too many big men with knuckle tattoos and an over-fondness for tiki torches spring to mind, not to mention the unsavoury feeling that perhaps they are more earnest than edgy.
Therefore, your economic class and quite reasonable fear of lunacy well established, it’s time to give you a crash course in conservatism; “What to expect when you’re expecting” style.
Firstly, assuming you don’t out yourself in a ridiculous and spectacular manner as I did a couple years ago, no one will notice. Maybe a few Facebook friends will drop off- attrition you might say. If you have sense, you’ll pass along innocuously, never quite getting the courage to say “I actually quite like Renua” to anyone other than your cat at 5 AM.
Sooner or later though, the pangs will set in. The endless parade of Repeal posters will blanket the tops of Dublin lampposts like a cloud of smog. The blurry smear of late night television, once filled with beloved characters like Bill Maher and John Oliver, will start to feel fake and hollow, the tin-can laughter rattling off your screen at 2am no longer convincing. Your second cousin sharing an article about fat-shaming suddenly leaves a sour taste in your mouth.
You are conservative. I’m most sorry. It is almost certainly fatal to your social life.
But don’t worry, gentle reader; have hope. Things aren’t all bad!
For a start, you get to be angry about things that haven’t happened yet in this country but are trundling slowly towards us, like the inevitable bubble-burst or the coming shambolic self-dismemberment of the EU. You can enjoy a whole swathe of new idols, all of whom are dour and wear suits. Your youtube history is now crammed with Professor Jordan Peterson and Peter Hitchens, whose one-man standoffs with mobs of angry, dyed-hair students provides an eerie backdrop to your own engagements with an equally angry and under-dressed mass of millennial angst. A Lovecraftian horror grows within your soul as you realise Fine Gael are perhaps the best party we have, and how thinking that sentence makes you envy the dead.
Don’t panic. It’s going to be all right. After all, you didn’t do something stupid. You didn’t express your opinion publicly or, God forbid, participate in a debate.
Ah. Well old boy, I’m afraid you’ve done it now.
Also, kiss your twitter goodbye. Expect every dodgy photo, facebook comment or casual acquaintance from yonks ago to pour out of the woodwork among a curiously homogeneous group of devoted twitter warriors, who will hunt these titbits down with a fervour bordering on the obsessive. Expect somewhat haphazard memes and an almost fandom like gathering who will exchange these pictures and anecdotes with catty comments about your looks or antics. Expect someone you haven’t met nor spoken to for eight years to suddenly appear and reveal they thought you were a tosser from day one.
Expect a lot.
Here are some things to not expect; don’t expect sympathy, don’t expect nuance. The second you stepped outside the pre-approved boundaries of the consensus, you became a target. Your opinions count for nothing, certainly your right to speak will be seen as recruitment for any number of crypto-nazis lurking in the wings, who are presumably waiting for a pro-gold standard speech in a student hall as a signal to declare the Fourth Reich.
Although this piece is written with a tongue in cheek attitude, this is not as much an exaggeration as I would like. You will likewise drag your friends into the dirt as well, depending on how loud the shouting grows. Expect that attrition to become denouncement.
And expect a Scooby-Doo moment of revelation; the monsters are actually just people. Doctor Jordan B Peterson is a mild mannered, somewhat sensitive Canadian psychologist with some strong views and a love of Pinocchio; he doesn’t actually devour students on campus for using pronouns he dislikes. Milo Yiannopoulos is not an evil Nazi who is conspiring with Russia to end civilisation as we know it; he is a flamboyant and self-aware narcissist. Monsters exist in children’s stories and in the imagination, very rarely in real life. People are a conglomerated bundle of grey. Likewise, our left-wing counterparts are hardly monsters either.
Expect nuance to vanish faster than the Venezuelan dollar. Expect to have friends called white supremacists for merely associating with you. Expect the unexpected.
Take a look around the Irish political scene. Who can you vote for? Sinn Fein, despite the Irish Simpsons Fan memes, are still shaded by the shadow of the gunman, Fianna Fail has yet to be re-admitted to the human race and no one can quite remember if the Greens still exist. One is left with Fine Gael, People Before Profit and Labour. Either that or joining the earnest but profoundly senile Christian Solidarity man you bumped into at your nephew’s baptism. So which will it be?
PBP are a rather decent socialist alternative to Labour, preferable in that they actually have convictions to eventually betray for more power. This brand of Marxism seems to hold that the revolution will be carried out exclusively by things placed on lamp-posts. Labour can’t seem to remember which coat pocket they left their game plan for government in and frankly no one is bothering to remind them. Hardly the belle of the ball, Fine Gael is left, looking for a dance.
It seems amusing to me that a party beginning as a somewhat farcical Fascist movement could end up spearheading a landslide vote for gay marriage but stranger things have happened. You have wound up where you feared you would; Fine Gael. I myself still own the free pen that Young Fine Gael gave me as a young, much balder lad when I entered Maynooth. I haven’t found a use for it, which is somewhat appropriate.
Its bloody difficult being conservative in this country. GK Chesterton once said that “tradition is not the worship of ashes but the preservation of fire” and while he may be right, the fire has died in Ireland. The spectacular suicide of the Catholic Church has left the former moral high ground a blasted heath and the once contentious issue of the north has faded into something only the most radical and the most disagreeable contend with. The question is; “what do I believe in? What the hell is left to support?”.
I don’t know. But it’s not this.