Some may feel yesterday’s piece on Amnesty International, abortion, and Ireland is flippant. I can certainly see why people might think that; but I am 100% unapologetic. However, I will now speak in a less polemical and satirical manner, and weaponize a more prosaic tone against Big Human Rights.
It might seem churlish to sneer at the ‘humanitarian interventionism’ Amnesty International is perpetrating against Irish people of all identities. ‘After all,’ some might say, ‘Isn’t your postcolonial angle a minor distraction from the most important thing, which is the rights of women, and the necessity to reform the laws in a direction that respects women’s bodily autonomy and right to reproductive agency?’
To this, I respond that while the equality of women is certainly a very important manner that deserves serious discussion and action in any place and time, it is disingenuous to say that the postcolonial angle is a trivial sideshow. Let me be clear: as someone of Protestant descent who was born and bred in Northern Ireland, I have no quarrel with English citizens. And I would not have joined the Liberal Democrats if I were somehow implacably hostile in every way to the entire UK political establishment. So I am not consumed with some kind of simmering bitterness and resentment against English people. However, I can certainly see that Irish nationalists, angered by centuries of at best misguided and at worst downright malicious policies to Irish people both north and south, do have a case.
Whether their case is decisive can be debated. I certainly lean towards preserving the union on pragmatic grounds, rather than because of the banner-waving jingoism of ‘for God and Ulster.’ But I cannot dismiss the concerns and the pains of Irish nationalists either. And I insist that you do not have to be consumed with fruitless envy and bitterness towards England, to recognize that historically speaking, Ireland has often been objectified as the plaything of The Great and the Good.
And it is precisely from this angle, that Amnesty International’s White Woman’s burden can be viewed as consummately objectionable. And this burden is not only the White Woman’s burden; it is the White Englishwoman’s burden!
This, of course, is not to say that English women are ‘bad,’ or that white English women are ‘bad.’ No more so than criticizing the ‘White Man’s burden’ would imply racial or gendered prejudice against white people or white men. The point is not to smear an entire demographic, but to highlight the self-serving prejudice of individuals who have a problem with Irish autonomy (North and South) or Irish independence (again, both North and South alike).
If all this is so, then it is surely not at all a matter of dismissing the importance of reflection reform regarding women’s rights in Ireland. I will state categorically, no matter how dogmatic this may appear to those who take postmodern scepticism too far, and end up perverting postmodernism into nihilism:
No matter what your opinion is on the ethics of abortion, and no matter whether you consider yourself pro-choice, pro-life, pro-availability, anti-availability, undecided, or whatever, you are morally obliged to be outraged at the shameless, anti-Irish, Saxon-supremacist, neocolonalist paternalism of Amnesty International.
There is a Dáil in the Republic of Ireland, and a devolved assembly in Northern Ireland. The ‘White Woman’s Burden Community,’ regardless of gender, ethnicity or nationality, must stop propagating and proliferating their intrusive concern.
The spiritual and political heirs of Cromwell must cease their solidarity-mongering immediately!
They are oppressors.
Finally, and by no means gesturally or tokenistically, let us not forget the principle ‘as in Ireland, so in Asia.’ For a long time, people in the Middle East and North Africa have been massacred on account of the White Man’s Burden and White Woman’s burden alike; insofar as there is a difference! Do you think this is right? Is it justified? Is it reasonable?
No. The White Woman’s Burden and White Englishwoman’s burden are fundamentally oppressive in character.
Let us be consistent. Oppose liberal interventionist and neoconservative imperialism outside of Europe; but let’s categorically condemn and repudiate what is happening at our own backdoor.
Ni Cromwell ni Clinton!
Originally published on ‘Wallace Runnymede’ blog.