If modernity (a time passed, believe it or not!) is characterised by a will to define, cut off, create walls and boundaries, or even as the fight against fuzziness in all its forms, then it seems to have been a flash in the pan, a thoroughly unique time, a freak of nature. Then again, it is perhaps characterised by the zeal and magnitude with which this fight was taken up. In other words, lots of people were thinking that way then, thinking of ordering up the universe into section upon section, and doing away with corrupted intersections.
It is not that people don’t do this today, haven’t done this since the beginning of time. It is more that it seemed to have reached critical mass during the enlightenment, at least according to the stories we tell about it. The tension, between ordering things up like someone with OCD and the fuzziness at the edge of things, where it all seems to merge together, seems to always have been with us. Post-modernity is nothing new. It fails to be unique by its own definition.
In the past we had states and kingdoms tied to the church. Then we see a pulling away, a search for a separate, real definition, a fundamental difference between church and state. That this came so late in the history of Ireland is a sad fact. But today we are fighting the same old battle again. The state is faced with a new adversary against which it must contend. It is business. Now, you might say that this is an old argument, and perhaps it is. But it is nonetheless real - realer now than perhaps it ever was. It begins, like so many of our woes, with Thatcher and Reagan; with the idea of the self-organising system, but one peculiarly mixed with rampant individualism. Critical thought and interventionist government were deemed perhaps as byproducts from an unenlightened age when people fretted over the meaning of things.
Now that we were all part of a vast system that would do what it will with us, why not just say fuck it and get drunk? We courted fuzziness.
Today in Ireland we hear about Shell to Sea. I did my thesis on coverage of it in The Irish Times. The angle that I found the paper to be taking, in broad terms, was simply, “the Irish government should hold the power over our natural resources, and that a company seems to be calling the shots in this particular case, and that this is appalling.”