Dalkey Literary Awards - 20th June 2020
Dalkey Literary Awards - 20th June 2020

DAY 2: Citizen of Somewhere? – Dalkey Book Fest

It’s No Country For Some Men as we begin day two of the book festival.

David Goodhart, author, reporter and critical observer joins David McWilliams on stage to discuss globalization, identity and a world increasingly divided into “somewheres” and “anywheres”.

He launches into discourse by explaining the difference between what he terms the somewheres and anywheres.

“On one hand, you have the anywheres” he begins. “They are people who dominate how society is run… they have great autonomy and they’re expanding rapidly, but they’re still a minority.” Think slick London bankers, comfortably identifying as a European while liberally airing their views with a highly educated vocabulary.

“On the other hand, you have the somewheres… they’re rooted, generally less educated. They value security, familiarity and have group attachments.”

Goodhart is quick to point out that while he invented the labels for these groups, he didn’t not invent the value groups; there is considerable statistics to back up his assertions.

The global events of the last 12 months – Brexit, Trump – happened because “anywheres have become over-dominant in our society”, according to Goodhart.

Their domination of social and economic policies has caused the working class somewheres to feel “alienated” and, as Goodhart says, “They took their revenge on Brexit day.”

The challenge of British politics and indeed, Western politics, is addressing those who feel like their stake has been removed.

“Look at the freedom of movement for example” Goodhart implores the full tent. “Think of the well educated, generally affluent, British/North London person working in the city law firm and freedom of movement has allowed them to work in Berlin or one of the other European offices for a number of years… your status and income is not threatened [by freedom of movement].”

“However, say you’re in food production, it’s another story. 120,000 people who work in food production in Britain come from Central/Eastern Europe since 2004… you don’t have to dislike people from Slovakia to find it disconcerting” he says.

For people in these scenarios, it’s a “much less comfortable world because of freedom of movement.”

It’s a vivid contrast that Goodhart paints; a nuance that goes beyond the idea that anyone who voted for Brexit/Trump/anti-establishment politics is a xenophobe.

https://twitter.com/fitzsimonsred/status/875703983322607616

It isn’t just freedom of movement that has caused the somewheres to feel threatened; the changes in what we value as a society has also unnerved them.

“There is a much greater focus on cognitive ability” as a measure of human achievement. As a result, certain types of jobs, that “gave people protection” have disappeared. “A lot of people feel they no longer have a place or respect [as a result].”

In the US, Goodhart says you could see the manifestation of this frustration in the reaction against political correctness. “People were saying ‘What about our traditional values? Do they have a place?'”

He believes that liberals “have been emotionally unintelligent” and this has contributed to anger and shock victories. “Rapid social change is discomforting for many people… most people don’t think change is marvellous. You have to take people with you.”

It’s an illuminating thesis when placed in the context of global politics and world events in the 90s. “You had the Clintons and Blairs, 90s globalization… saying roll with it, don’t worry. Blue collars, we’ll re-train you and find you a new place in the world – and they didn’t” Goodhart says. It was a recipe for to create disenfranchised citizens.

Playing devils advocate, David McWilliams asks if he thinks Britian would like to return to “1950s, idyllic, post-Churchill, whiter, richer” time. “Is this where England must go to be comfortable in its own skin?” he adds, a twinkle playing at his eyes.

Goodhart doesn’t believe so. But he does say that “forms of openness are not working in [somewheres] interests… we have to find something that works for them.”

He adds “We need to rethink how globalization is working and how countries work… building nation states into these changes.”

He sums up his philosophy when he says “We need to create a system to protect both sets of entrenched habits… so everyone is feeling [a sense of] belonging in the world.”

When the subject of the Macron victory in France is brought up, Goodhart is not as comforted by the result as many other liberals in Europe were. “Don’t read too much into it” he warns attendees.

“Many french people still have Front National Party views” Goodhart says. In fact, it was the “sinister political history” of the party which voters found off putting. He believes if they started anew or a new party with their views was created, they could “easily win a majority” in France.

‘Somewhere people [their] identity is more ascribed, more easily discomforted by rapid social change.”

McWilliams informs Goodhart that the DUP – Theresa May’s crucial supporters in government – are “deep somewheres… they have deeply ascribed identities”, much to the laughter of the gathered audience.

As the hour comes to a close, McWilliams brings the focus closer to home. “Ireland was a real ‘someplace’. Then in the last census, 17% of people were born outside the country… that’s higher than the UK. Do you see Ireland on the cusp of… some emerging electoral issues?

In a nutshell? Yes, Goodhart believes it’s possible. “The danger lies in overconfidence” Goodhart warns. “The dividing lines here [in Ireland] are more sharp and bitter… the suffocating power of the Catholic Church is still fresh in people’s minds…The anywhere’s need to be mature and emotionally intelligent.”

Should our little land need inspiration, Goodhart encourages us to look to Bavaria.

“Ireland needs to become the new Bavaria!” he says; a place balanced with anywhere liberalism and somewhere rootedness. It’s food for thought.