Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain

By on January 18, 2019

Join 5×15 with Fintan O’Toole, Jon Snow and Misha Glenny as we discuss Brexit and Fintan O’Toole’s new book Heroic Failure. It’s a fierce, funny and smart book about the delusions of Brexit, the threat it poses to economic prosperity, peace in Ireland and the tradition of British democracy.

Join us as three of our most acute political observers talk about the national psychology of Brexit.

More about the book: England’s favourite poem, Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’, says that triumph and disaster are the same thing. It enjoins the English to “lose, and start again at your beginnings/ And never breathe a word about your loss.” Most modern English heroics are screw-ups, retreats or disasters: the charge of the Light Brigade, the doomed Franklin expedition to find the Northwest Passage, “Scott of the Antarctic”, Gordon of Khartoum, the flight from Dunkirk.

The parallels with Brexit are obvious, but the problem is that the cult of heroic failure was developed precisely in an empire that could afford to play up its failures because it was so successful. Its pathos becomes bathos in a post-imperial world. Failure is no longer heroic – it is just failure. Fintan O’Toole’s ruthless dissection of the psychology and politics of Brexit is a stirring call to preserve democratic values and rational thought.

‘There will not be much political writing in this or any other year that is carried off with such style’
– The Times

Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain will be discussed at Emmanuel Centre Wednesday 23rd January 2019.

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