Amnesty International has tried to save more people from ourselves (this time, Irish people), with its campaigning on Ireland’s abortion laws.
Of course, the situation for women in Ireland, north or south, is not perfect. But there is no excuse whatsoever for taking up the white man’s burden against Ireland; no matter how just or unjust the laws may be in Ireland, whether North or South.
No one need deny that the question of how to ensure more freedom and equality for women is an important issue in any country.
But that’s pretty much the point. ‘In any country.’ We are perfectly capable of enacting our own reforms without over-privileged pedants from ‘across the water’ or indeed from any country, taking the trouble to ‘educate’ us.
Hands off Ireland!
But here’s a thought! Could it be that Amnesty International have actually done postcolonial critique a ‘favour,’ however backhanded such a compliment should be? The fact that these stereotypically ‘straight-middle-class-white-guys’ from Amnesty are trying to save ‘the natives’ from ourselves raises an interesting point. Human rights imperialism is not just a matter of white people being racist and paternalistic towards people who aren’t white. It is certainly true that unaccountable human rights NGOs are poking their noses in and interfering with the business of people in Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Myanmar, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Israel, and pretty much any area of a ‘racial Other’ or perhaps more appropriately, a ‘racialized Other.’ However, there is such a thing as white-on-white racism.
So is it time to rename Amnesty International the Cromwell Kids?
As you would expect from the likes of Amnesty International, they don’t show much in the way of historical understanding. The world for them begins and ends with today’s mass rally and leaflet drop. Nothing matters but the present, they live for the euphoric moment (or else, when it’s not that, the humdrum bureaucratic moment of resource allocation).
After all, if Amnesty really knew anything about history, they would know that pissing off the Irish is not something you want to do lightly!
Of course, this is not to ‘glorify’ or ‘gild’ the history of Irish Nationalism. I myself do not identify with this tradition, although I respect the fact that there is a very serious rationale behind Irish Nationalism, and it would be deeply unjust to be dismissive of this cause. Not every Irish Nationalist in history has gone around shooting police officers and bombing civilians. I might expect to find the erasure of the history of peaceful Irish Nationalism either among extreme Irish nationalists, or among similarly diehard ‘True Believer’ Irish Unionists. Yet even so, isn’t Amnesty’s intrusive concern (excuse the tautology) enough to tempt even the most peace-committed Irish person roar and Swiftly-smirk, in some dark corner of their heart:
If the straight-vanilla humanitarian imperialists and middle classs neocolonialist white boys want to get it on, ask them to glue their teeth to their pinky-whites and come on round to the Island?
Still, no need to worry too much. After centuries of actions by ‘strongmen’ and ‘great men’ against Ireland (I use the latter term in Thomas Carlyle’s ambivalent sense, rather than in any sense remotely suggestive of uncritical admiration), the mediocre moaning of some ‘career decents’ and ‘career dynamics’ of what I imagine the typical Amnesty boo-hoo-cadre to look and sound like… well, this latest development isn’t the end of the world for us.
Nah! Amnesty International are like fluffy rabbits trying to pinch a tiger.
The Celtic tiger!
And a true tiger looks with contempt at the gnawing of gnats and the biting of fleas.
We should consider ourselves very much above this…
And above them.
Yes, there are many things in Ireland, as in any country, where we need to consider reforming things. But the Republic of Ireland has a national parliament, and Northern Ireland (or if you prefer, the North of Ireland) has a local devolved parliament, as well as numerous MPs in Westminster.
And believe it or not, we also have citizens who are not the ‘thick as pigshite’ people that Amnesty International are concerned to portray us as being.
We are every bit as intelligent, and every bit as unintelligent, as people elsewhere in the world.
Every bit as progressive, and every bit as reactionary.
Every bit as openminded and creative, and every bit as hidebound and inflexible.
It’s time Amnesty International ‘checked their privilege.’ The ‘Little Cromwells’ of Big Human Rights should not worry us overmuch.
After all,they really have very little going for them. Intrusive piety is not a virtue; there can be no moral capital windfall bonus in the promotion of sentimental empire-mongering! Let’s just try and not rise to the provocation.
And let’s not forget that there are people in other countries who arguably have it even worse than us in this regard. Spare a thought for the Chinese or Iranians, for example.
Finally, I am aware that any person of character and integrity will have intuited quite some time back in the article that I am not polemicizing about what Ireland’s abortion laws ought to be, or ought not to be. This, of course, is self-evidently and unequivocally not the case!
Of course, that said, there is always the chance that a cynical opportunist could try to derail the discussion, by insinuating that I am advocating a particular stance on abortion or on abortion regulation. Yet, like so many things that are too obvious to need saying, it is all too necessary for me to say it here. Not so much because I am somehow obliged to (after all, I am worried about unnecessarily pandering to opportunists), but because I want to!
And in addition, I want to make clear that serious discussion of gender norms and laws in Ireland, and elsewhere, must indeed remain an ongoing project, and is not optional. I just don’t happen to believe that the Whiteman’s Burden and the White Englishwoman’s burden need to play any part in this.
So, let’s all work together. And let’s not get distracted by imperialists. Perhaps laughing Amnesty International out of our violated territory will be more effective than denouncing them; would the latter just encourage them?
However this may be, let’s mobilize our best Swiftian intuitions and sentiments, and blast the White Knight Industrial Complex (and indeed, the White-on-White Knight Industrial Complex) with the gales of our barbaric bogmongering laughter!
For that, after all, is the Irish way.
And that is surely good enough for me!