No one begrudges a little nostalgia on New Year’s. The world over we sing in the hour with an ode to sentimental thoughts of the times past, “for auld lang syne” seems at least to have been a simpler, better and happier time. Should we forget it altogether the song asks and answers with some emphasis, no, but each time to its own time and forward is the only path. Yet as we end the year of 2021 there will surely be less of us thinking what a wonderful time to be alive and 2020 was not so wondrous either, the memory not yet blurred enough for sentiment of nostalgia to overcome a bitter sense of reality, time wasted, gone, not to be pined for but to be sorely regretted. I don’t mean this in the sense of everything, but they weren’t great were they? When we think wistfully “for auld lang syne” now the closest most of us will conjure up is 2019.
The world has been made miserable and not by accident, but by force. And not either by the force of nature that was a pandemic for where are the bodies, who of us knows anyone who actually died of this most terrible of things Covid-19, directly at least? The fear of it has made for misery that the facts don’t match. The impending disaster that never happened. And the “restrictions” that accompanied the non-thing, the typical Irish understatement, restrictions, like the “troubles” or the “emergency”, made for much misery that the cheeriest outlook couldn’t mask. And it’s not getting any better any time soon.
The temptation then is to convert nostalgia for 2019 and before into an ideology almost, a program for the future. The “new normal” of the news is so unbearable that the longing for the “old normal” becomes not just wistful but an apparent practical plan. An object to be consciously desired and more importantly striven for with all our energy. It’s an idiot trap set for idiots, and for the National Party at least, we’ll have none of it. We don’t want to go back even if such were possible and we know that the impossibility is the only clear and concise argument the regime can present for their new normal. In politics, as well as life, those who consciously seek to create to the past an idyll of the future always lose and surely they mean us to lose. This fact is independent of good guy/bad guy narratives. For all the comforts we take in a simpler time past, no new generation has ever embraced it and we should know that this is a good thing. We do not wish to live our parents’ or grandparents’ lives over, but finding ourselves new we want new: tradition yes, history replayed no.
But what the regime wants us to believe and it has a believability in a way that is not wearing as thin as the pandemic narrative, is that we should live in their new. That makes no more sense than wishing to live someone else’s life. We should want our own lives and our own new. This came to me very forcefully in a recent conversation that I had with some of the inevitably younger members of the Party. I am aware that I have passed the exact point of middle age and I’m not sorry for that. I’ve had 50 years of a life and most of them better than the last two all things taken together. But I am not for that unhappy. Unhappy today means being young when it should mean the opposite. Unhappy to an extent I can’t immediately solve, I can see in my own young children’s lives. My wife and I as parents seek to ameliorate that insofar as we can and we are not, I think, overall doing a bad job of it. But it’s not the childhood we would wish for them and we worry not only about their future as such, but what this half-life our governmental regime allows, what this half-childhood leaves them prepared for. And as Ceannaire of the National Party, I have the same sense looking to its generally young membership, paternal, that this cannot be their future. And that it is my responsibility to see to it that it’s not their future. That they live their own full lives, that their new is not mine, or the government’s, but theirs to shape for themselves in freedom.
It is not my responsibility alone, and for that I am thankful. Together with a united Party and incredibly a stronger one despite the restrictions placed on us by the “restrictions”, 2021 has not proved to be all so very bad. We have achieved much, we will achieve more. To the younger members of the Party I say this much for 2022, and forward. You will not be disappointed for long. The time is soon to do great things for Ireland. The regime has shown its hand, the lapse between its success or ours is short. You can’t trade it for any other time or any other place. But what is truly inspiring is you shouldn’t want to even if you could.
Ar Dheis Ar Aghaidh!
Ceannaire an Pháirtí Náisiúnta