Is Bliss

There’s a short interview on the Lisbon Treaty with John Banville in El País. Remarkably for John Banville, you can read it without wondering a) if you’ve lost your place and are going back over the same thing; b) if you’ve already read something very similar on another occasion.

Banville’s view of things is very much de haut en bas, as might befit a former Aer Lingus employee turned literato. I have translated a question.

Q. Do you think that the no has to do with the dream of a better Europe, or with the fear of losing wellbeing and power.

A. It has to do with fear. The economic moment is not good, and some are taking advantage of this to shake phantasms without honesty. And it has to do, of course, with ignorance. There are many intelligent people who will vote no, but if that option wins it will be thanks to ignorance. More than eurosceptic, we’re euroignorant. The majority of people have no idea about Lisbon or many other things. In a way I think it’s absurd to ask citizens about such questions. Let the governments decide, that’s what they’re there for. After that the people will decide whether they stay in power or go home.

This exemplifies a trend I’ve seen over the last few days in commentary coming from certain quarters. It is assumed that only No voters can be motivated by ignorance. If Yes prevails, it’s because the enlightened people have been awakened from their slumbers. There is no allowance for the possibility that a fair amount of Yes voters could also be voting based on ignorance. And I think that it’s undoubtedly true that this is the case. How many people are voting Yes, for instance, solely because they think that Europe has been good to Ireland and now it’s time to do the right thing? If this is not ignorance of the particulars of the treaty, what is?

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3 Responses to “Is Bliss”


  1. 1 copernicus June 12, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    Voted “no”. A lot of people who would have liked to vote “no” chickened out in the end. Nearly did myself. I think a “yes” vote might well have a bit to do with fear itself.

  2. 2 Hugh Green June 13, 2008 at 5:42 am

    I did too, but it was nowhere near as easy as the impression I may have given here. In the end the one reason that nailed it for me was the fact that citizens in other countries have not been permitted a referendum on this because of the fact that it wouldn’t have passed. That to me says something profound about the institutional character of the European Union, and when you start to think in terms of how that would play itself out in, say, the execution of a common foreign policy, it’s very worrying. There was no compelling counter-argument for me on this, as in ‘yes, but if x and y and z happened, then this could be improved upon’. No: I think that things are structured at the moment so as to make that a very big if.

    I think you’re right about plenty of people voting Yes out of fear.

  3. 3 Tomaltach June 13, 2008 at 7:41 am

    I think you are absolutely right: Many voted Yes soley because of how we have benefited from Europe in the past, or because they simply heeded the party line.


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