1) The fawning and fluttering of the rulers and chatterers of These Island’s over the Queen’s ‘apology’ AS IF SHE WERE SINCERE and AS IF SHE WROTE IT HERSELF shows their amazing capacity to suspend their disbelief as long as they are allowed to be part of the pageant themselves. The Irish ruling class are like a theatre audience who at the end of a performance of Hamlet divide into two groups- those who want to be seen at the funeral of Hamlet, and those who want an immediate audience with Fortinbras to propose him a pyramid scheme.
The Queen did not deliver her apology to the class of people that suffered most under British Rule, or to their descendants, but to the native oppressing class. People like the descendants of the victims of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings were absolutely excluded from proceedings. She was the aristocracy speaking to its Irish replicant, the perpetual motion machine left behind in 1922 to do the same job in absentia, and to keep Dublin Castle and the others dry and warm for royalty’s return.
2) One cannot look at the image of Seamus Heaney seated companionably opposite David Cameron at the President’s Apology Pageant without being reminded of Walter Benjamin’s famous and admittedly over-employed dictum that Every document of Civilisation is at the same time a document of Barbarism.
But I think Benjamin is better understood for us in this context when translated through his (almost) contemporaries Flann O Brien and Mohatma Gandhi. Gandhi, when asked what he thought about Western Civilisation said that ‘it would be a good idea’. This reminds us that, from a certain intelligent perspective of the wretched, Imperialism does not have an internally contradictory element. It has no angelic immanence, not even that radically conditional one posited by Benjamin. There is no bright side. Every part of Imperialist culture and heritage, including its art and its artists, is barbaric or barbaric residue. There is no document of civilisation.
Flann O’Brien’s freak physics provides another illuminating gloss. According to Flann, when people or things rub up against other people or things an exchange of being takes place, at a more that merely sub-atomic or material level, so that eventually, if proximity continues, one thing turns into the other. A man becomes whatever he rides. A bike takes on a human personality. Seamus Heaney is the leader of the English Tories. David Cameron is high chief of all the pastoral mystics. With equally barbaric and perhaps indistinquishable consequences. Civilisation cannot compromise with Barbarism without becoming it.
3) The Queen’s visit has mapped out the grand constellation of the Irish ruling class and of those minor, lifeless stars that adhere to and highlight them.
Read the itinerary and the invitation list and you will know the Irish ruling class, their lackeys, and their temples by name.
Labour Bureaucats, GAA stars, the Saoi of Aosdana, the Counts of the national stud, the glamorous historians of UCD, the provost and the departmental heads in their Trinity gowns, the rock idiots of the late 20th century- all of these are groups among whom the flatulence factor will have burst upwards in the last week as a result of fine dining at the taxpayer’s expense.
The police are there to protect the rulers of the Irish as much as they are there to protect the Queen. The ruling class fear for their existences, for their continuing reality, for which the police provide the hard substance. Without the police a ruling class dissolves into the thin air of posterity. Ask the Mubaraks.
The police operation is a machinic memory routine for the police themselves, helping them to remember their instructions. It gives the police-as-a-body a much needed total-body workout and health check. In addition, mass mobilisation of such a pointedly ideological kind reminds the individual police agent what they are there for- important in these times of debt-ridden low-morale in the rank-and-file and far from enough protesters for them to vent their frustrations on.
The Queen’s visit gives the Irish apparatus of repression an existential uplift.
4) About stars and queens, remember that their glitter crowns a void. About constellations, especially grand ones, remember they are mostly made of nothingness and dark.