I want to have a good moan. Kind of therapy for this wet afternoon. Forgive me…I normally try to be positive, but this has been building up and I need to release it. I will feel better when I’ve off-loaded this series of gripes. You probably won’t, but that’s life!
Everything in Ireland is interlinked. Everything. All the things we moan about (and we would win the Olympic Gold Medal at moaning…) are all part of the same story. Politics, traffic chaos, house prices, Tara, Shannon, the health crisis, high-energy prices etc, even the state of Irish chess: it is all part of one big syndrome that I want to term “the Irish moan”. So here goes…
At heart, we’re a peasant society emerging from 800 years of colonisation. We always had an unhealthy obsession with land, which has now morphed into an unhealthy obsession with property. Property prices are unsustainably high. We now know that one third of first-time house buyers are getting 100% mortgages, typically over 35 years. This is insanity. Giving a 100% mortgage to someone who has not shown the capacity (or inclination) to save for 10% (or even 5%!) of the total price is like giving out free alcohol at a meeting of the AA. If they are, say, 30 years old, their entire working life from that point on is dedicated to paying an exorbitant mortgage that only enriches the bank.
Speaking of alcoholics, we lead the world in alcoholism and are drinking more and more all the time. Why do we drink so much? Is it boredom, ennui, insanity, cultural norms, lack of better alternatives, an Irish gene, psychological repression, sexual frustration, or just because we can?
We’ve almost no domestic culture to speak of – we were too small, too poor, too oppressed, and too ignorant to create one. Irish music is shite, let’s be honest. When Irish fiddlers were inventing dreary, banal, repetitive tunes, Mozart, Beethoven, and Elgar were producing world-changing music. Anything of architectural merit we have was donated by the British. And while I’m at it, our insular, racist attiude towards the British has condemned us to the most ludicrous set of inner contradictions (you see Liverpool supporters saying ‘brits out’ etc).
Irish food culture does not exist. Forget coddle, Irish stew, and that most recent of inventions, an “Irish twist” to foreign food. The fact is, Irish food sucks. We like cheddar cheese. Cheddar. Our meat is excellent, but we export it, live, for others to cook it properly. We have some of the world’s greatest fisheries off our coast, but we don’t have a clue how to cook it. We existed off potatoes, cabbage, and bacon for most of the last 500 years. Can you imagine a vegetable more execrable than cabbage? Or turnips, parsnips, and carrots?!? We didn’t even invent French fries for God’s sake, and we had potatoes lying all around us for years!
As for what passes for Irish social life, it basically consists of getting rat arsed in some dodgy boozer in town. And our drink is appalling muck. Just one word: Harp. I rest my case. Irish whisky is gut rot, Scotch whiskey is far, far superior. How did the Scots develop such subtlety and taste and variety in their whiskies while we were making ‘Paddy’? As for Guinness, it is the defining beer of Ireland. It is passable, but please don’t tell me that one pint of “plain” constitutes a beer culture. Look at Belguim, where I was last weekend, and you see that they have over 300 types of beer – in one single pub!! Germany and England are similar.
We have canals in Dublin and beyond (built by the British). They are surrounded on both sides by busy roads. They are full of litter, prams, cans of beer, entire bags of rubbish, and the occasional supermarket trolley. They stink. Above all, they deliver nothing to the city in terms of the environment. And the Liffey is worse – a putrid, dirty, brown streak of turgid water slowly easing its sickly way through the city.
Don’t get me started on the traffic. Our obsession with cars is driven by a variety of factors: very bad public transport, dangerous cycling conditions, sprawling suburbs, government policies, and laziness. We have created a situation where increasing amounts of young commuters live miles from where they work. They claw their way through the M50, through the clogged city quays and over the 18th century bridges. The Luas took years to build and only runs on two tracks. The M50 is clogged day and night. There are virtually no buses that go sideways through the city – instead, they all head towards town. I could go on, you get the message.
We sold our soul to the American corporation years ago. We signed up to an unwritten contract. You give us jobs, investment, shopping malls, and shiny new factories (Intel, Dell, Microsoft, Cisco, HP, and Google etc). We give you low corporation taxes, a well-educated, English speaking workforce, and access to the vast European markets. So far, so good. But we didn’t realise that we’d also have to let the US government run troop planes through Shannon (in a supposedly neutral country!), we’d have to build a motorway through the Tara valley to ferry the workforce to the factories, and we’d have to boost our carbon emissions well beyond our Kyoto agreed levels. But the thing is, because the Irish had almost no indigenous culture of their own, importing McDonalds, American movies, and SUVs en masse seemed like a good deal. We didn’t have much to lose, so figure we’re better off now than we ever were.
Added to all of this is our basic political character: we have a greedy, short-sighted, always on the make, devious, cunning, wink-wink, political culture. Fianna Fail are the leaders in all of this crapology, but the voters did, after all, vote for them and they have done it democratically at least. But they represent so many interest groups willing to buy into all of this status quo that they’ve stopped representing the people years ago. They represent big builders, contractors, estate agents, solicitors, consultant doctors, and state employees. They’ve got arrogant and complacent. They truely don’t give a toss about our heritage (e.g. Tara) or our environment, or our young-people up to their necks in debt. They just care about their Smithwick-drinking buddies.
I am not going to even mention our rip-off prices, drug epidemics, our annoying (and false) way of thinking we’re the wittiest talkers in the world, that bloody radio station that has the jingle “Dublin, the best city in the world”, U2, the Catholic church sex scandals, family law courts, the Irish Star, the stadium-less FAI, Monaghan, Dublin airport, the blarney stone, the weather, Eddie Jordan, etc. No, I will remain silent.
Okay, I feel slightly better now. Now that I have all that off my chest I can look forward to the rest of the day. Hopefully it will brighten up for the afternoon and stop raining…