“Leave my polenta alone!”

Proclaiming old left-right divisions as out of date, progressive thinkers posit a raft of new fault lines – liberty versus authority, secularism versus religion, free speech versus censorship, universalism versus multiculturalism, feminism versus the family – all of which are cast in forms that put the progressive middle class on one side and significant sections of the poor on the other.

The quote above comes from a Guardian article by David Edgar and it came up during another strangely intense conversation on a train. Edgar has put forward that progressive lefties are really a bunch of ladder-pullers who would rather see their own interests (the right to consume and use facebook) protected than build a movement against the destructive parts of capital as it ebbs and flows across peoples and borders with impunity. It is a reasonable critique of a post-Blair Britain and we can see parts of this emerging in Ireland right as well, although perhaps being hastened by the crash in the real economy.

What struck me as significant however, and you will not be surprised (ah go on anyway), is that this concretises much of what I have been thinking about discussions on the place of religion in public life in Ireland for some time. When was the last time you heard a popular discussion about religious faith in Irish public life without mention of abuse, clericalism or the phrase ‘priest-ridden’? Without a doubt, Irish culture is burdened by an excessive authoritarianism but are we capable of seeing faith in a context without descending into polarised clichés? I suspect that simplistic dualisms are helpful for radio producers but that the subtleties of people’s lives are lost in translation: “but Joe, what about those priests?”

After yesterday’s post, I thought about this just a little too late to be included (and not be accused of trivialising things).