Posts tagged ‘recession’

29/05/2012

What worries me about all this Euro-anger.

Shortly we here in Ireland are going to vote in a referendum. With that vote we are supposed to be voting against, or in favor of something called the Stability Treaty. Now, I’m not going to actually write about the treaty, because frankly that’s not what this is about, we should each make up our own minds on this. Instead I want to write about a related worry of mine.

We’ve been told that this referendum will decide if Ireland stays in the Euro zone. That’s fine, that makes sense, and it makes sense that if we leave it we can, like others who never adopted the Euro in the first place, remain in the European Union itself. But there have been rumbles about a “No” vote also meaning that we as a nation might leave the E.U. entirely. I’m not here saying that a “No” vote means we must leave, only that I’ve witnessed a lot of people voicing “we should if…”‘s.

There’s a lot of anger in Ireland right now. A some of it is justified. But like all anger of this type at least some of it is baseless, simply a nations frustrations spilling over. But regardless of whether that anger is based in fact or not it is a real emotion, and angry people tend not to think rationally. I fear that as a nation we’re not thinking beyond our anger. Not realising one of the costs of leaving the E.U.

A major part of being an E.U. citizen is the right to travel freely within the E.U., along with the right to be employed in any other E.U. country without a work visa.

So my worry is that in our anger we as a nation vote “No”. And this somehow leads to us not only leaving the Euro, but in a spasm of national anger also the E.U. But what happens to all the E.U. nationals living, and working in Ireland? What happens to the Irish citizens living, and working in other E.U. countries? What about the lives they’ve created for themselves? The homes they’ve found. The relationships they’ve forged? Does the politics of the situation just tear them apart?

I don’t know what way this referendum is going to go. I don’t think anyone does really. I don’t know if this fear of mine has any real basis in potential fact. But for the first time I really fear for our humanity to each other here in Europe, all based on how a club of scared, angry nation’s may cast their various votes in the coming months, and years.

I honestly don’t know whether a Yay or Nay will ultimately prove to be in our best interests. Everything in Europe seems to change day by day at the moment. I just hope that when it’s all over, and the dust has settled that we haven’t destroyed too many people’s lives. Though let’s face it, even one destroyed life will be too many.

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05/07/2011

Shagging away those recession blues.

Yes it’s official, apparently Ireland has the fastest population growth in Europe.  And apparently, this flies in the face of common practice in the times of recession.

Supposedly the things  people are actually meant to do during a recession are:

a) wander aimlessly shouting “Gi’s a job!”, while their sanity is slowly unspooling.  

b) stand for unending hours outside the dole office, looking sad and depressed.

c) sell off everything you own to pay off the loan-shark, who has an appointment with you tomorrow.  Said appointment to also be attended by Mister Brick and Mister Lumphammer.

However, apparently what people in a debt riddled, recession haunted country are not supposed to do is, shag each other senseless, thus creating a baby boom.  Woops, sorry statisticians of the world.  We didn’t mean to.

You see what happened was we were walking across the bedroom.  You know, going to bed, like you do, when we both (sometimes we three/four/five/half the county) slipped on banana peels and wouldn’t you know it, Tab A got accidentally inserted into Slot B.  Then after I screamed and slapped him hard somewhere painful, he extracted Tab A from Slot B, washed it and reinserted it into Slot A.

Nine months later our bouncing baby boys, Ian Montgomery Francis and Eugene Uistean, were born.

Okay, no, being serious for a moment, why the hell is this surprising?  I may be just a poor lil transgirl from Cork, but even I can see why this is happening.  Ireland is in the grip of its, Great Depression.  Our national finances are shot to hell and all we have to show for the good times are Bertie Ahern’s Erection

Is it not a glorious erection? (image via e-architect.co.uk)

and a tram that seems to be permanently filled to the rafters with skangers, drug users and drug pushers.  And often all three are in fact the same person.

So why the hell wouldn’t people be having lots of sex, after all endorphins and orgasms make for happier people, and then be more than happy to hold a little, breathing, pooping piece of a possibly better future?

Next time in the news, Scientists are stunned to discover that in Ireland it rains water from the sky and amazingly, the water is wet.

22/03/2011

What as non-Americans, we can and perhaps should learn from the American spirit.

Last week in my Saint Patrick’s Day posts I was pretty hard on Americans.  Let me say right now that those words were purely my dislike of the American habit of perpetuating mythical tweeness about Ireland, the Irish and our nations history.  To say that particular habit annoys me is a massive understatement of simply biblical proportions.  But all that said there are infinitely more things about America and Americans that I not only like, but admire.

The United States of America is a peculiar entity.  Each of its fifty states is more like a semi-independent nation, but each of those nations has banded voluntarily under a single flag for mutual support and strength.  I’m sure most people reading this will have met Americans from different states.  They are a people who will have vastly different views on everything from food to wars to today’s weather.  So some American citizens, at least to the outsider, can seem to be a little schizophrenic.  With two national identities each, one for their state and one for their nation, you then of course have to add an often fierce pride in their town, county and other less easily defined loyalties.

This compares well to Irish attitudes, where very often our people have personal loyalties to town, parish, county, province and nation.  But, unfortunately where in the U.S. those loyalties seem to mostly start with nation and then state, county, town, etc.  We here in Ireland, to our own detriment, seem to lay out our loyalties in reverse.  Parochialism and the parish pump coming first, even before national pride.  This is definitely one area where I think as a nation we have a lot to learn from the States.  Our pride in our townland while important, should always be a distant second to our pride in and our loyalty to, our nation as a whole.

Another huge difference which I’ve noticed,  is in what we seem to prefer to celebrate.  The Americans celebrate their nations victories while they seem to openly acknowledge their failures, but without undue lamentation.  We Irish seem to wallow in our defeats, while we pass off our victories as nothing more than mere flukes.  This is incomprehensible to me.  We so quickly remind ourselves of all our failed rebellions against colonial rule.  Yet how many Irish people know, that when Europe was in the grip of the darkest age of pre-industrial mankind, it was Irish Christian monks who went into Europe and brought back a more stable light of  civilisation to the mainland?  Or what about Irish pride in our history as a provider of peacekeeping forces in the modern world?  No instead we lionize, the undoubtedly brave and patriotic men and women, who rebelled and frankly got their asses handed to them again and again and again.  Or worse, we endorse with hero-worship, people who held the idea that might makes right and that anyone, who didn’t stand behind them were theirs and thus Ireland’s enemies.

Those two examples though are not precisely what I wish to speak to in this post.  They serve more to mark some of the differences that split our nations characters, as profoundly as the Atlantic splits us geographically.  What I want to talk about is what Ireland, and far too many of the smaller European countries seem to lack.  The spirit of adventure.  Adventure is seen, wrongly, as some kind of foolish luxury which should only be afforded to the young, be they young people or nations.  We often laugh at what more “mature” societies see as American silliness.  Perhaps though, what we mistake for silliness is actually better defined as a, free-spirited approach to life and the world.

After all, I’m certain that some Americans do see Ireland as a nation of flat cap farmers, merry girls dancing in the streets, leprechaun’s, myths and saints.  But those same people, from that peculiar nation sent men to the moon.  Were instrumental in breaking German military expansionism, not once but twice.  They split the atom, though admittedly with a lot of Europeans helping.  Best of all they even gave us rock and roll.

What to outsiders is seen as silliness and a overweaned sense of optimism, in the U.S. is seen as frontier spirit.  Which itself, appears to be viewed as the soil in which their American Dream was first grown.  We Europeans though, don’t seem to have much of either the spirit or dream these days.

Ireland right now, is in the grips of its own equivalent of the great depression.  Depression in every sense of the word.  Our economy is, if not in tatters, then at the very least rather threadbare and in need of some serious tender, love and care.  As a people, a society we have once more seen the spectre of emigration, rising rates of suicide amongst every age group and marked drops in living standards visit us again.  This when so recently, we had reason to hope that we had finally seen the end of our nations darker past.  So a sense of depression which is both emotional as well as tangible has swept over us.  For myself this manifests as  I worry about who of those I love will be next to leave.  Will they find security and happiness?  Will I ever see them again if they go?

We have depression and fear aplenty in this country right now.  What we don’t seem to have a lot of is adventure and fight.  We lack spirit.  We lack a dream to make reality.  Some of us foolishly wish for the return of the mythical Celtic Tiger.  Foolishly I say, because just as the first tiger was in reality a well disguised nightmare, another tiger would almost certainly become just as dangerous to us in the future.  Unsustainable growth is not actually a good thing.  But if we could borrow just a little of the American spirit of adventure and with it maybe just a touch of what is usually called the American dream, perhaps we can create that Holy Grail of any nation.  Long term sustainable growth combined with stability and security for all our citizens.

25/01/2011

Why immigrant bashing is no joke and not just when our own now face the same.

The Emigration Statute, Cobh, County Cork.

For the longest time it could honestly be said that Ireland’s greatest export was her own people. There is a huge amount of truth in this and in fact one need only look at the Irish global diaspora to see just how far and wide the Irish have cast their net. The diaspora is often spoken of with a perverted sort of pride by the Irish at home. But that pride, I believe, is nothing more than a disguise.

What is it disguising?

In a word, pain.

I am 32 years of age and I truly believed that I might live my lifetime without seeing the horrors of mass emigration being visited again upon my country, my family and my friends. Well, that belief is now torn to tattered shreds and what I am now experiencing has only hardened a strongly held view-point of mine: that immigrants should never be the objects of vilification or of ridicule by the indigenous people of any nation.

Leaving your home nation at heart is an excruciatingly painful action. A horror story played out not inside the pages of a novel but in the real world with real world consequences. We, the Irish, have for generations experienced those pains and yet at the height of the boom years I often heard foreign nationals ridiculed or vilified.

“Fuckin’ Pols taking our jobs.”

“Fuckin’ Nigerians scrounging off of our country.”

Despite our own experiences of the horrors of emigration having been as recent as the 1980s and even the early 1990s we had buried those memories beneath a blanket of newly minted superiority. We had forgotten that within our nation’s living memory are signs in London saying

“No dogs, no blacks, no Irish.”

We had forgotten the Paddy jokes that were a staple of music hall, comedy club and sometimes even television comedians. We chose to forget that emigration hurts amid our new-found sense of privilege.

But now we’ve found ourselves remembering those pains as a new generation who never had to cope with the pain of emigration before now find ourselves staring down into its abyss which until recently we had bridged over with our total belief in our ability gainfully to employ our own.

I never allowed jokes at the expense of immigrants to be uttered under my roof. I like people from other nations. They help us to grow as a people, not only culturally, but also they help us to grow more tolerant of the differences in others by bringing into stark contrast the differences that mark the separation even between one Irish person and another.

I truly believe that the arrival of so many eastern Europeans, Africans and other nationals of less tolerant regions of the world to our own shores had a sobering effect on our own civil rights activists when they saw how we were not that far ahead of some very unpleasant places. This in some small way helping to galvanise an even greater struggle for LGBT rights, the rights of women and children etc.

I believe that those same foreign people have also helped to create a broader Irish palate for foods, drinks, art forms and all the other elements that going into making the lifeblood of any nations culture.

Just as alloys of different metals often tend to become stronger and more useful, Ireland’s immigrant population has helped to make us a stronger and more rounded nation.

But they did this at a great personal cost. They left their homes, their families, their lives, their loves and their dreams for the hope of employment on our shores. Some of them found what they sought, others didn’t and moved on to other even more distant shores. They took the jobs that we Irish didn’t want anymore and they more often than not did them extremely well.

But it cost them and those who love them pain, horror and suffering. Try to imagine Christmas without your family while you live alone in an apartment in a strange country. Now imagine Christmas without your favourite person while you fear for their happiness and even safety in a country that isn’t their own. Some of the Irish made jokes during the boom times and forgot their own experience of this.

I never accepted jokes at their expense before. I’m now even more vehemently against their utterance.

Even though I was a child in the tail end of the last period of mass Irish emigration I never truly understood what it really meant until just lately. I knew in a sort of academic way what it entailed and the sheer loss to a small nation such as ours that any mass migration of young people represents. It was an academic understanding.

It isn’t anymore.

My knowledge is now personal, not the knowledge of raw data and distant, hazy memories.

Someone I love is leaving, the first of my circle to do so.

I wish I could magic things better in my country. Not for my country, but for my friends and my family. I wish they could stay. I wish I didn’t have to worry about my sister’s welcome in the country which she hopes to soon call home. I wish we could live on the same continent so I can see her, so I can help her and her I, so this looming gulf won’t be there.

You see what I’ve learnt is that not only the people leaving lose a great deal from their lives but also that the people staying behind are horribly reduced by their loved ones being absent.

P.S. All that said I hope and pray to any God who’ll listen that your life there will be everything you dream of. And you know that I’ll never stop being here for you and that I will visit as often as I can.

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