From top: Simon Coveney (left) and Leo Varadkar (right) during The Fine Gael leadership debate at the Red Cow Hotel in Dublin last week; Tony Groves
“There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”
When the Taoiseach-in-waiting Leo Varadkar quoted Robert Kennedy last week, rather than feel inspired, I felt the chill of fear run down my spine. I remembered another quote, that of T.E Lawrence:
“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”
Lawrence knew it was men who imagined themselves visionaries who were the biggest threat to their fellow man. Leo is desperate to put on the shoes of the dreamers of the day. And he will try act out his dreams, much to the peril of the poor and underprivileged.
Much of the offensive things he says have a kernel of truth and the ring of modern common sense. But, I’d argue, there is nothing more dangerous to progress than modern common sense. We are in an age where things that only 10 years ago would have been deemed racist are now common sense.
The “logic” of Trump, Brexit and both the Far Right and Regressive Left has crystallised around beliefs that are, at their core, divisive. All the soundbites, that previously would have been morally inappropriate, are now deemed fine as long as passed off under the “appealing to their base” category.
Leo, I’ll be the first to admit, is far from the worst purveyor of the Us vs Them narrative. I saw a PBP/AAA poster recently calling for ‘Repeal, Resist & Revolt’. As an alliteration it’s fine, as a campaign slogan it’s dipping its toes into incitement. Hardly a message that refutes the claims of those who call AAA/PBP/Solidarity the “hard left”.
Common sense says “Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All‘. Common sense says we should all support equality of opportunity. Common sense says we need to limit the number of immigrants into the country. Common sense says issues are complex.
The reality is that only 11 gardaí worked with the ODCE on the Seán Fitzpatrick trial, but an estimated 30 gardaí worked on Operation Mizen into Irish Water protesters.
The reality is that the only system offering equality of opportunity is that of the Lotto; yiz buy yer ticket, yiz takes yer chances.
The reality says immigration is a net benefit to the host country. Reality says complex issues often have simple solutions.
When Galileo was tried as a heretic for claiming the Earth rotated around the Sun, he was given a choice; abjure, curse and detest his opinions, or death. So he did what any sane person would do. He publicly recanted his beliefs. The story goes that upon finishing his proclamation he mumbled under his breath the rebellious phrase “And yet it moves”.
Modern common sense is rooted in bias, in fear and in greed. It is a poison that has taken root in political and economic discourse. It gives licence to extreme elements on both sides to abjure, curse and detest the other side.
It’s the reason false lines like ‘those who pay for nothing‘ have near permanent residency in mainstream op-eds. It’s the reason those on the opposite side of the argument see conspiracy in every element of government, instead of opportunity.
Galileo knew common sense was nonsense. Much of what passes off today as common sense, playing to the base and political discourse is rooted in old beliefs and disproven nonsense.
The extreme elements on both sides must be dragged out into the light. The dangerous rhetoric and grandstanding must be called out for what it is and not explained away.
The so called centrists who think common sense means “the centre must hold” must be reminded of Galileo’s codicil “and yet it moves”.
Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld