There is something profoundly disturbing about the ease with which Irish people in the South see ‘the State’ as the all-encompassing entity that is essentially good and what binds people together.
The State, in this view may do things wrong, or may fail to do things, but that is because certain people have refused to be sufficiently loyal, or obedient, or they have failed to grasp the need to comply for the sake of the common good.
We are told this is our State but we do not respect it or look after it. But who is this we? Not migrants, and not Irish citizens north of the border, for starters. But beyond that, why respect a State that denies you the same access to healthcare, or education, or food, or decent working conditions, as available to those who call on you to be loyal to the State and respect it?
Why respect a State that deems your sexuality abnormal and deprives you of basic rights as a consequence? Why respect a State that claims ownership and control over your body and compels you to give birth, and considers that what you want, what you think on the subject, is to be automatically disregarded?
It is “our State”, apparently. You even hear supposedly left-wing trade unionists speak of “our” State, in the same way as a worker in a multinational might speak of “us”, encompassing both the speaker and the CEO earning 350 times as much and who would eliminate that worker’s job and thousands more like it without a moment’s hesitation, if push comes to shove….
Lately I hear people talk about the State validating love, in relation to marriage equality. But the State can never administer, create, validate or promote love, of any kind.
There will always be those who claim that it does. Statum caritas est. Recall the provisions for charity supposedly informing social institutions in the Irish constitution, then bear in mind the degrading treatment systematically meted out by those same institutions to thousands every day.
Anti-choice campaigners even claim Ireland’s draconian abortion laws are an expression of love (“Love them both”).
‘The Family’ is part of the State.
It is ‘the necessary basis of social order’. It is ‘indispensable to the welfare of the Nation and the State’.
When campaigners against rights for LGBT people or against rights for women conjure up nightmare scenarios of a totalitarian State tearing mothers away from their children, they tend not to mention this point: it is the State that upholds their ideal of the Family. It is the State that keeps alive their sad dream of that isolated and self-contained unit, deprived of wider social supports, teaching obedience to the natural order of things, teaching deference to patriarchal authority, and extolling the happy enslavement of women. All such families are nightmares. If we still love our parents or brothers and sisters and other relatives, it is despite such a nightmarish design for life, not because of it.
In The Garden of Love, William Blake’s vision of the terrain where love flourishes is blighted by the brutal architecture of repression in the service of commerce, in the form of a chapel, a symbol of what elsewhere he called ‘State Religion’, which he described ‘the Abomination that maketh desolate’ and ‘the source of all Cruelty’.
Amid Blake’s ruined garden there are priests ‘doing their rounds’ (the way prison guards do), and ‘binding with briars’ (as with the crown of thorns placed on the crucified Jesus) his ‘joys and desires’. Organised religion and the State are not the embodiment of love: they are its corruption. For all its exaltation of The Family, some of the most heinous abuses in this society were perpetrated by people who, acting on behalf of the State, called themselves ‘Father’ or ‘Brother’ or ‘Sister’.
The power relations reproduced by the State -“our State” are inevitably opposed to any form of love that threatens property. Icy cold calculation, not love, will always prevail by the State’s logic. And that is why we should be suspicious of people who bluster about love and equality whilst proclaiming their steadfast support for the State. True love is always against the State.