Friday 22 September 2017

Interesting times as politics polarises

Boredom seems to be fuelling the quest for new and more exciting - even eccentric -people, parties and policies, writes Eoin O'Malley

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Photo: Carlo Allegri/Reuters
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Photo: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Eoin O'Malley

May you live in interesting times." The apparently ancient Chinese curse implies that it might be better to live with boredom than the upheaval that goes with interesting times. Politics has rarely seemed more interesting. The British vote to leave the EU has caused upheaval in the markets, the fall of their currency and their prime minister to announce his resignation. And that's just in the short term. In the longer term, it might see the break-up of the union as Scotland votes for independence within the EU and a destabilised Northern Ireland as it struggles with its identity. People will soon be wishing for less interesting lives.

The new prime minister is likely to shift the UK's political centre of gravity to the right. The Labour party's had already moved to the left. What we are seeing is the polarisation of politics. The attraction of Trump and Sanders in the US, the far-right in northern Europe and far-left parties in southern Europe suggests this is happening everywhere. In Ireland we see growing support for the Alphabet Soup Alliance, Sinn Fein and ever more eccentric independents. Our politics appears to be polarising.

Newly-published research by Eric Igou at the University of Limerick suggests that boredom might be causing this political polarisation. It might happen because if we're bored we pursue other outlets to make life more interesting. If we have a boring job, radical politics might relieve the drudgery.

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