It is traditional to do an end of year review in the dead zone between Christmas and New Year, when we lose all track of time, everything is closed and we spend our time mooching around the house with our families.
However, for obvious reasons, in 2020 we don’t need to wait before we get into this state, so let’s just do it now.
FF, remembrance of a party past
Look, it can hardly be said too often but it’s frequently been passed over as a story- Fianna Fáil is lost and dying. It may recover, because you don’t dominate a country’s social, cultural and political system for most of its existence without having deep roots. But exactly that history of dominance has been working against Fianna Fáil. Its remaining representatives’ impulses are to appeal to the FF voter. This idea makes sense when that consists of up to 60% of the electorate. It makes less sense when your addressable audience is so numerically reduced that a significant portion are at risk from actuarial life-expectancy tables.
Fianna Fáil’s leader is a walking hourglass, the sand draining from the future to the past through a constantly tetchy present. There doesn’t seem to be any effort being made to regain relevance beyond the idea of one more heave.
We’ve discussed Fianna Fáil’s main high-level problem many times- once they were who you voted for when you didn’t want to look at Fine Gael any more. This was a winning electoral offering, due to Fine Gael.
Now that role has been gifted to Sinn Féin, by mutual agreement between Sinn Féin and Fine Gael.
But if you do want Fine Gael in government, well, you know, there’s Fine Gael.
The Taoiseach has attempted to claim that this makes Fianna Fáil The Centre Party!
Ireland actually had a Centre Party once. It only lasted a year, before being absorbed into Fine Gael.
COVID and its aftermath
Vaccinations notwithstanding, Covid will remain the primary shaper of Irish society and life deep, deep into 2021. And, as the 20th Century Chinese diplomat once reportedly said of the French Revolution, it is too soon to say what its impact will be. Businesses, economic orthodoxy, transport choices, childcare, the role of the state- every one of these have been turned inside out. All the things you were told were impossible are now commonplace.
The question is whether we will flee from these changes, as reminders of the grimness of the pandemic as we leave it behind. Or will we find that what’s seen cannot be unseen and face up to grappling with the meaning of ghost office blocks and a State able to invest effectively limitless cheaper-than-free money?
The ripples of consequences to us as individuals are hardly knowable yet- from the demand for larger houses if they’re also to contain a workspace to the lasting emotional wounds of grief and loneliness. But there will also be weird positives to come out of this. You can’t wrench people’s lives into different shapes without it coming as an unexpected escape for some of them.
We can expect a generation of art and culture to begin to come to terms with what’s happened. It will be strange, and some of it will be beautiful.
What’s Past is Prologue
Imagine if the bottom of a Tetris game was a city. You could look up and see the enormous shapes looming over you, not here yet. Who knows where they’ll land, what they’ll crush, what they’ll alter.
That’s what this year has felt like. Glance up and there’s a huge cube of Brexit plummeting down towards us- nearly here now. Beyond that, we can see regime change in the US, a jagged S-bend in the sky. We can see the long red rectangle of China beyond that and then, above everything but almost blocking the light, the vast shadow of Climate change.
All we can do is try to understand what’s happening to us and do a bit of thinking about it in order to understand what we’ll do next.
Thank you so much for subscribing and reading the Gist this year. I’ve really enjoyed writing all 84 Gists since 2020 started, some 35 years ago. On a whim I’ve turned on paid subscriptions, but please be assured you’ll still get the usual emails whether you take up the offer or not.
Have a safe and happy Christmas and I’m sure we’ll have a chance to meet up here again next year.