Declan Lynch: 'It's love/hate, and hate is winning'
Remember Rory Stewart? He was that odd-looking chap who stood for the leadership of the Tory Party a few months ago, and you'd hear him saying things like this:
"If there is a challenge for our society, one big challenge above all, it is to heal divisions. We are now split, North against South, Scotland against England, old against young. We've got to find our way to the common ground, and getting to that common ground is about understanding particular details, and understanding particular details is about listening… and the key word that we need to get back to, which is a word that is so powerful, and nobody ever uses in politics, is the word 'love'."
We have come to a strange place indeed, when a leading Tory finds himself so at odds with the way things are going, he starts sounding like John Lennon and Yoko Ono during their Bed-In for Peace at the Amsterdam Hilton.
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Yet Stewart was not mocked, as you might expect - or at least he was not widely mocked. Though his message seemed, shall we say, utopian, it was delivered in a way that left you in no doubt that here was a deeply serious man, who was in some perverse way the only realist in the room.
Maybe that's not too hard, when all the others are advocating various forms of Brexit which can truly be dismissed as airy-fairy. Yet it was still quite a thing, to hear Stewart getting spontaneous applause from audiences, regardless of the jeers which might be coming from the political hacks.
He had spoken some kind of fundamental truth, and we are so surprised when we hear anyone in public life doing that, or even attempting it, we can't help being drawn to it.
But Stewart left out something too - he didn't mention the hate. Because this is a love/hate proposition. His Brexiter opponents have been drawing all their best energies from the reservoirs of irrational hate, be it the hating of "Europe" or of the modern world in general. And indeed the only reason that Stewart was talking about the love is that in the UK and America and beyond, the hate is winning. And it is winning big.
It was the US Democratic candidate Marianne Williamson who recently filled in the other side of the equation, when she told her rivals that "if you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivised hatred that this President is bringing up in this country, then I'm afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days".
Williamson, like Stewart, won't be winning this leadership contest, yet she got the biggest audience response on the night, and was the most-searched Democrat on Google after the debate. She had correctly identified something about Trump which the "wonks" have never really accepted, that you can't bring him down with "fact-checking" or with reasoned analysis, that you need to be always seeing him in terms of this "dark psychic force of collectivised hatred".
Fifty years after Woodstock, we recall that in the counter-culture of the 1960s, they correctly identified these things, too.
They knew that there was no sense, wit, or reason to the various doomed projects of the right, that they were coming from the darkest places in the human psyche - so it is with Trump and the Brexiters, who are entirely reliant on raw, untreated emotions, and who are therefore indifferent to those who seek to introduce concepts such as common sense or even the basic facts of life into the game.
And thus the multitudes are spending these weeks in a state of fear and helplessness, wondering what monstrosities these forces will be bringing forth in the autumn - thinking that if we can maybe get away with just a global recession, we will consider ourselves lucky.
We dread their next moves as the victim dreads the approach of the bully. Indeed, in their respective delinquencies, we can see that the far-right in England and America have brought the mentality of the abuser to an international level - the abuser will seek to isolate his victim from friends and support systems, just as the far-right instinctively pursues these isolationist policies.
But in even calling them "policies", we are making the mistake of seeing some sort of reasoned strategy, we are getting into that "wonkiness" that Marianne Williamson warned about.
And let us have no more of this drawing-room delicacy which advises us against comparing these creatures to the fascist movements of the 1930s.
One more time, Williamson called it "this dark psychic force of the collectivised hatred that the president is bringing up in this country", and that line rings true today, as it would have done in the 1930s - itself a time when extremist ideologues of the kind who would rightly be kept behind the walls of secure institutions, found themselves in positions of power undreamt of even by themselves, when they were forming their grandiose visions.
Call it what you like - but know that what we're looking at here, in the end, is not that complicated. It's Love/Hate.
Missed chance ensures immortality
A few years ago in a pub in Galway, I got talking to the writer Mike McCormack, a man rightly revered for the brilliance of his experimental fiction.
He would probably have been working on his great Solar Bones at that time, but we didn't talk about that. Indeed, I can't recall everything that drew down that night, except that Mike used the term "drew down" a few times, reminding me of ancient relatives of mine from the midlands.
What stays with me, is that Mike wanted to talk more than anything about Athlone Town v AC Milan, the famous Uefa Cup match at St Mel's Park in 1975, about which I had written stuff which Mike must have seen.
I can still recall his delight as I described some of the tragicomic events of that day, what drew down when the aristocrats of Milan came to The Town.
But, of course, you don't have to be an experimental novelist to be enchanted by the story - due to the happy accident that I was actually there as a schoolboy supporter of The Town, I have found myself recounting it to many people over the years, and tonight as part of this National Heritage Week thing, they've asked me to talk about it in Athlone Castle itself.
Naturally, I have mused much over the years on why exactly this particular match has retained its strange power, its special place in the public imagination akin to Munster v the All Blacks - there have been many other games between humble League of Ireland sides and international superstars which might be regarded as no less heroic or inspirational or simply hilarious than The Town holding Milan to a scoreless draw on that October day.
Yet it is special, in some way that is as mysterious as the power of storytelling itself - it has the classic construction whereby the beautiful men of Milan were forced to travel to darkest Ireland to be confronted with scenes of what, for them, must have been unimaginable destitution.
It has the immortal image of one of these beautiful men getting off the bus outside the ground, concerned that the midlands muck might destroy his beautiful Italian clothes.
But I suspect that the magic derives in the main from the penalty that was missed by Athlone's best player, John Minnock - and I suspect that rather than being the catastrophe that it seemed at the time, it is a wonderful thing, that he missed it.
They may not all agree with this theory at the Castle tonight, but I figure that if Minnock had scored it, there was a chance that Milan might have taken umbrage, and stirred themselves, and scored a few goals, and we'd never have spoken of this again.
Sometimes, the chance you miss can become the gateway to immortality.
'Coppers' is off the charts
Paul Howard is a friend of mine - you may recall that we won the Champions League for Liverpool last season, just by watching it the right way - but I can't let that stop me telling the truth. At the Olympia Theatre at the closing night of the second sell-out run of Copper Face Jacks: The Musical, I could no longer see Paul as a person who is roughly in the same line of work as I am, but as a kind of a semi-state body, a national energy provider somewhat like the ESB - he is keeping the lights on for a large part of our industry of human happiness.
The Ross O'Carroll-Kelly books have sold a million, and more - if you work in any capacity in the books business, Paul Howard is doing that for you, baby! The plays based on the books have filled the theatres of Ireland. 'Coppers' has been seen by almost 50,000 people, about 49,920 more people than would see most theatrical productions in this country - or in any other country. So the chances are, if you see some theatrical artist in a restaurant, and they're eating lunch rather than serving it to somebody else -Paul Howard did that.
It is off-the-charts in several ways. Howard received no awards for 'Coppers', mainly because they don't have awards for that kind of thing. So neglected is the tradition of musical theatre in Ireland, so wrong-headed has been the prevailing attitude, it seems they will always favour even the bad tragedy over the musical comedy.
For any musical to work at all is virtually impossible. Yet I had one of the most enjoyable nights I've had in a public place - others were a bit more enthusiastic.
Now I'm not saying any eejit can write a tragedy; well, maybe I am. And I'm not saying there's a correlation between popularity and artistic merit; except in this case there is.
What I'm saying - hey, maybe what I'm saying can only be expressed in song…