One of my favorite old Irish ballads is ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley,” written by the nineteenth-century poet Robert Dwyer Joyce. The song (sung magnificently here by Dolores Keane) revolves around a young Wexford rebel who sacrifices his relationship with his beloved, and then engages in violence associated with the 1798 rebellion against British rule. The barley of the title, and chorus, is a reference to the fact the rebels often carried barley or oats in their pockets as provisions while on the move. When these guerrilla fighters were captured by the yeomanry, they were often summarily shot and quickly buried in mass graves. In these graves, the oats and barley germinated, resulting, post-rebellion, in pockets of “croppy-holes,” or random barley growing. The pockets of barley, emerging anew every Spring, nourished later generations of roving guerrilla fighters, and came to symbolize the regenerative and unconquerable nature of Irish resistance to British rule. While the politics behind the imagery may be divisive, I find the deeper Romanticism of the symbolism to be utterly compelling. Every movement of resistance, of any political hue, must cultivate a sense of self-renewal and regeneration.
Our own movement is no different. In 2015 I had the great fortunate to attend and address a sizable meeting of Nationalists, both in Baltimore and Washington D.C. On both occasions I was struck by the number of young people “of quality” in attendance. And on both of those nights, in the quiet moments, the song of Robert Dwyer Joyce came forcefully to mind. Here was the “barley” of our own movement, coming into its own in order to take up the mantle and take us forward. Here was the living proof of the unconquerable nature of our ideas, and a new generation to carry them forth. And, recently, the lyrics of Joyce came to mind once again, this time on reading the work of a young intellectual, and precocious writing talent, in the form of Richard Houck and his Liberalism Unmasked.
Several months ago, Richard contacted me via social media. He struck me immediately as an enthusiastic and earnest young activist, still in college and eager to get into the fight. When he told me he was writing a book, I have to confess to taking this with a pinch of salt, or as a variation on the theme that “everyone has a book in them.” As time went on, however, his sporadic communications impressed upon me that Richard was an incredibly serious individual — serious beyond his years and serious in his ambitions. When Liberalism Unmasked finally arrived from Arktos, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect other than that I was prepared for a tour de force. And I was not disappointed. Read more