For a while there we were told to be proud. We were told that as Irish people we could hold our heads up high, that we were the success story of the western world. An example to be held up and admired. No longer were we the weary, accursed, oppressed race which our forbears had been. We were young, dynamic, cosmopolitan and trendy, oh so trendy and everyone loved us!
We had politicians and pop economists jetting around the world and coming back to these shores and telling us how universally admired we were. Everything was great and there was no going back. Anyone who criticised the system was just a moaner and didn’t know what they were talking about. Sure didn’t our glorious leader Bertie Ahearn say in 2007 that some people just liked sitting on the sidelines complaining and that he didn’t know why they didn’t just kill themselves. That’s right in 2007 as a nation we were riding high and anybody who saw anything wrong with the way things were done would be better off dead, obviously.
Of course it’s not like the writing wasn’t on the wall then, even in the 2006 census it was revealed that there were the guts of a quarter of a million houses sitting empty and yet we were still motoring on building more and the banks were still dishing out loans but this is an old story now. We all know now where things went wrong and the newspapers and airwaves are saturated with accounts of mistakes being made and critical errors and so on and so forth.
There was a very embarrassing story in the Guardian the other week that more less said that while the people of countries like Spain, Greece and France took to the streets to vent their anger the Irish people had taken to phoning radio shows to vent theirs. It was embarrassing because it was true. It cut very deep, it recounted how the actions of the driver of the cement truck which had crashed into the Gates of Dail Eireann had made headline news around the world but there were only 150 other people protesting there. It was nearly as embarrassing as when Greek workers marched through the streets letting their leaders know that they were not like the Irish. They were not going to take the attacks on their jobs and services lying down.
Then of course there was the story of Brian Cowen’s notorious hangover, here it was a nice little distraction form our economic woes but it was a story which travelled widely around the world. It turns out that the rest of the world had never really seen us as a dynamic young nation but as a nation of inept drunks who chose their leader on the basis of him being the most inept and most drunk. Was it any wonder that we had screwed our economy up so badly when all we were good for was drinking and telling jokes? Cowen’s hangover is of course a depressing parable for the entire nation and entire economy. We were riding high and not thinking about the consequences.
While the global recession has been caused by the inherent contradictions in capitalism the Irish depression has been further caused by the ineptitude, corruption, cronyism and gombeenism of our ruling elites. The sad truth however is that as a people we may have the leaders we deserve. Other countries of Europe may hope for a better future because they are willing to fight for it. The people of mainland Europe realise that the future is in their hands and that unless they take decisive action they will be thrown on the scrapheap by their leaders and business men. Here in Ireland we seem to think that our future is in the hands of Joe Duffy.
The mantra for Irish people over the past couple of years has been ‘All anybody is doing is complaining and nobody is doing anything about it. We should be more like the Greeks and take to the streets.’ The saddest thing is that they say it without even a shred of irony of self awareness. We love as a nation to hark back to our rebellious past and we still for some reason view ourselves as the fighting Irish. However in reality if we were dominated by a foreign power for 800 years it was probably because of the indifference and laziness of the mass of Irish people. Nationalist myth making doesn’t make us a rebellious people. Let’s not forget the real revolutionaries, those who fought for real social justice the likes of James Connolly, Michael Davitt and Noel Brown, have slowly had their roles erased from mainstream history because of their ‘unsavoury’ left wing politics. In reality things are only going to get worse in Ireland and at some point we will have the IMF and EU taking control of our economy. It’s time to decide now if we are going to take action to prevent this of if we’re going to ‘Talk to Joe.’