Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Who Cares if the French Are Rioting?

Prime Time had a piece last night on the current French riots. The underlying assumption of the piece was that the French are correct to riot, and it reflects badly on the Irish that we do not riot likewise.

An Spailpín Fánach would like to question both of those assumptions.

For starters, if the retirement age were set to sixty-two here, as Sarkozy is attempting to do in France, this would reduce our retirement age by four years from the current retirement age and six from the recently projected retirement age of sixty-eight. That’s not a cause for a riot; that’s a cause for celebration, with as much Complan and soft cakes as the serried ranks of the celebrants can swallow.

The French do protest too much. A tremendous romanticism attaches to the Paris riots of the ‘sixties for the ‘sixties generation, but for persons of a more recent vintage it’s very hard to see what all the fuss was about, other than shaping and acting the maggot. What did the Parisian rioters of 1968 achieve?

The sans-culottes of the 1790s Revolution brought about a new world order, for a time, of which Wordsworth memorably wrote “bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very Heaven.” The French of the 1960s made a hero out of Jerry Lewis, and that was pretty much it.

If the great Irish nation did take to the streets, loaded up with petrol bombs and placards, what would their demands be, exactly? The money is now gone. It’s not coming back. The only thing to riot about is where the axe falls.

Shuffling through the McCarthy report and comparing cuts in Health with cuts in Education is what’s Irish politics is about for the next number of years, and none of that sounds very inspiring when shouted down a megaphone.

A quango cull would be a good thing, anyway. An Spailpín will happily knit at the foot of the guillotine when certain public bodies are loaded up into the tumbrils. The persons with real grievances are those who were broken on the rack of the property market just as their forefathers were broken by the rackrenters of the 19th century.

People like an electrician married to a nurse who bought a semi-detatched house in the Dublin commuter belt on a half-finished estate on a 100+% mortgage. My heart bleeds for them. Who represents them in the Dáil? If they were third generation drug fiends the state agencies queue up to say musha, musha, peteen, peteen, without actually ever getting them off junk or making a contribution to society.

Theirs isn’t a chic despair, a ragged dishevelment, a la Claire X’s Dole Diary in the Irish Times. They’re just people. People who lie awake at night wondering if his job will be there in the morning. If there’ll be anything left in her pay packet after the next careful slicing to not upset any entrenched union deals. If they’ll ever be able to get out of their ghastly estate, which everybody – everybody – said was only the first step on the ladder. It’s a short bloody ladder now.

That electrician and that nurse would like to riot. But they know that it’s do no good. The milk has already been spilt and neither petrol-bomb nor placard is putting it back in the bottle. Besides; how would they get the time off work?

An Spailpín dreams of an Irish politics that would look out for people like that electrician and that nurse – ordinary people who get up and go to work and do the best they can to improve their lot and the lot of their kids. What I get is sleevenism and a lot of old merde on the telly about rioting in France. God help us all.