A good moan…

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…  



  1. David Levine said,

    July 21, 2007 at 4:29 am

    Dude. Fuckin’ A! What about James Joyce, for crying out loud?!?!

    And that movie, Sweet Sixteen?

  2. David Levine said,

    July 21, 2007 at 4:34 am

    Oh, and if I could apologize on behalf of the USA I would certainly do that. Unfortunately, much of what the USA does is unforgivable. But then, a lot of what we do is pretty good too. We’re the biggest fucking mess on the planet. China following closely on our heels.

  3. David said,

    July 21, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    Oops. Sorry, Sweet Sixteen is set in Scotland. Been a while since I’d seen it. You people all look alike to me.

  4. Tony D said,

    July 21, 2007 at 8:13 pm

    alot of sense and a lot of simplistic rubbish too. agree with a lot of it and disagree with about the same

  5. Keath said,

    July 22, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    For a series of off-loaded gripes, that’s actually a very well written set of observations. I hope getting it out there helped brighten your mood.

    First, I’d like to second David’s apology on behalf of America. Yeah, fast food, big cars, formulaic TV and film, and other junk culture may have seemed like a great idea at the time, but now that the corporate channels are out there (and the politics cloud them), we keep pushing more junk to the world and the average person – on either side – has no control over the flood.

    To a degree, every country encounters many of these issues, but there’s something unique about Ireland that I think goes beyond “simplistic rubbish.” There’s a very valid point about being in Britain’s shadow. And about still being a series of clans well after the rest of Europe was defining “society” their way.

    On the up side, Ireland also has the distinction, partially because of being a clannish society for so long, of being a Fairy Tale for much of the world. It’s perceived as a magical place by many who have never been there. One customer of mine, who represents one of those “shiny new factory” companies, couldn’t understand why, when we were looking for a location to have our next user meeting, everyone turned to her and said “I’m up for Ireland!” “It’s a nasty, wet, dreary country. Why would any of you want to go there by choice?” she replied. There’s just a draw of some sort – some vague, indefinably unique “culture” of Ireland that draws people there.

    Maybe we’re always more critical of where we are (an extension of criticism of who we are?) because we’re closer to it. Is somewhere else necessarily better? Probably not, but it’s got different problems. And maybe it has something that we don’t have. That’s why we wander. 😉

  6. shazgood said,

    July 23, 2007 at 11:21 am

    Keath, thanks for your comments, I enjoyed reading them!

    Mainly, I was joking. Mainly. Partly, I was serious too, but you know, mainly just trying to have a gripe and feel better afterwards. It worked.

    I have a love-hate relationship with Ireland, naturally, as its where I was born and where I have all the people I love and care about, and have my home. Myself and Susan visited Wicklow this weekend and it can be truely beautiful and inspiring. It is good and bad, like anywhere, as Keath points out.

    As for Joyce, Beckett, Shaw, Wilde etc, yes David, they are inspiring writers and great men. But they all left Ireland to pursue their art, they found it too crucifyingly tight-arsed and repressed! I rest my case.

  7. Keath said,

    July 23, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    You’re welcome. And I’m glad the gripe worked. I’ve been reading your blog on and off for a while now, but just felt compelled to comment yesterday.
    Wicklow looks lovely. And it’s got a historic Gaol to tour, which draws my attention for reasons unknown. And it’s on a rail line, which means when my wife and I finally finish the south half of Wales, we’ve already got a stop planned for our circumnavigation of Ireland.
    I know I’m grasping at straws, but I’m fairly certain that Jack Butler Yeats never left Ireland to pursue his art. (Except, as I’ve learned today, for the 1924 Olympics, where he took the silver for paining. Did you know they had Olympic Painting?)

  8. shazgood said,

    July 23, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    Yes Keath, I had heard all about Jack B Yeats and his Olympic medal. Extraordinary! You can see some of his finest paintings in the National Gallery, central Dublin.
    We were in Enniskerry town, very quaint and picturesque. Other recommended spots in Wicklow are Glendalough, Avoca (where they filmed Ballykissangel), Lough Tay, the Sugarloaf mountain (very climable and with spectacular scenery). You cannot go wrong in Wicklow, assuming it doesn’t rain too hard!
    I hope you enjoy your holidays!

  9. David said,

    July 25, 2007 at 11:50 am

    It’s not a bad thing to look one’s birth-land with a measure of disgust, it’s essential. It’s a sign of maturing when one sees the evils that were (and are) all around us. It’s also not a bad thing to have a good moan, as long as it comes to some sort of end point. And doesn’t continue on in an endless, bitter rant, stimulated by any irritating minutae. That’s just counterproductive polluting prattle! We don’t need that sort of crap in our lives.

    Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

    Your moan about Ireland was a good post, and in the I-guess-it’s-bad-elsewhere-too department, it was perversely comforting to read.

  10. Carol said,

    September 27, 2007 at 10:17 am

    WOW – you took the words right out of my mouth.

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