Monday, March 17, 2014

The Island of Sheep and Suckers

What’s more depressing about the #IrelandInspires video that’s so popular currently on You Tube? The very fact of its being there, or the fact that people seem to be taken in by the thing?

Hasn’t anybody read the titles on the film? Does anybody think about what those titles are saying, or what a strange way this is for Bord Fáilte – of all state bodies – to communicate? Or, in an age of six-second attention spans, is this the 21st Century’s iteration of Juvenal’s bread and circuses – the distractions that keep the masses entertained while the Government does what it damn well pleases?

The viewer who has learned the price of naivety the hard way starts getting suspicious when he or she notices that #IrelandInspires has miscounted the Irish Oscar winners who were born here (as opposed to being Irish), and the number of Irish Nobel laureates (ten, not nine, by my count).

OK – we Irish aren’t known for being smart, are we? How would we be able to count anything other than potatoes? But all bets are off when #IrelandInspires gets to its piece about Italia ’90.

The summer of the 1990 World Cup was definitely a turning point in the nation’s history. But that watery line about Bonner suggests that the people who made the #IrelandInspires video don’t truly understand the importance of that World Cup, and that’s unforgivable in a film that is meant to celebrate Irishness.

Con Houlihan, God have mercy on him, said that he was disappointed to have missed Italia ’90, having been in Italy at the time. That’s the kernel of what happened during the 1990 World Cup.

The 1990 World Cup is significant because, for the first time, it gave Irish people a sense that we had just as much right to the world stage, to the best things in life, as anyone else. That there was to be no more doffing of caps or tugging of forelocks before our betters. Without Italia ’90, could there have been Roy Keane? Without Roy Keane, could there have been Brian O’Driscoll? That’s the significance of Italia ’90. Italia ’90 made the Irish believe in themselves.

What film clip should #IrelandInspires have used instead of Bonner? John Healy, a big, fat, bald man, the greatest journalist of his generation, weeping with pride after Ireland won that game against Romania. You’ve seen it on Reeling in the Years, and you can now see it every week on TV – it’s part of the Second Captains opening sequence.

The Second Captains know Healy weeping sums up Italia ‘90. Why don't these lemons?

And why is #IrelandInspires so taken with the dismal science of economics? When Leonidas and his three hundred guarded the Pass of Thermopylae against Xerses and the Persians, did he inspire his men by quoting Sparta’s year-on-year GDP? When Wolfe took Quebec, did he inspire his men by telling them that house prices in Montreal had show year-on-year increases for six consecutive quarters, when adjusted for inflation? No, he did not. Wolfe recited Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard instead, and said he’d sooner have written that poem than win the coming battle. Wolfe was a man.

There is no poetry present in #IrelandInspires, but economic detail is packed into every minute. “Ireland’s the first Eurozone country to successfully exit an economic assistance program,” trumpets #IrelandInspires. Which means – what, exactly?

That Ireland is the first of the Fort Knox bullion robbers to get time off for good behaviour? That Ireland is the first husband on the street to stop beating his wife? That Ireland is the first cook to see the advantage in removing the egg from the boiling water with a spoon, rather than his fingers?

Besides. What is all this economic material doing in a Bord Fáilte video? 1,033 companies choose Ireland as their European base? Ireland has the most adaptable – whatever that means – workforce in the world? What’s any of that got to do with going on your holidays? Shouldn’t that be in an IDA video? When you buy your Rough Guides or Lonely Planets, do you see much mention of the adaptability of the workforce in Corfu, or the quality of scientific research in Marbella?

And why does Haiti get a mention, of all places? It’s four thousand miles away. Are there long and historic ties between Ireland and Haiti? Of all the disadvantaged countries in all the world, why choose Haiti?

#IrelandInspires tells us “our culture and music have reached the world,” while showing performers performing the ancient and traditional Irish art of fire-eating. #IrelandInspires was published during Seachtain na Gaeilge. Any mention of the first language over the three minutes? God between us and small farms.

Seventy-one years ago today, in his St Patrick’s Day address to the nation, Taoiseach Eamon De Valera said “the Ireland that we dreamed of  … [was of] a people who … devoted their leisure to the things of the spirit.”

#IrelandInspires isn’t buying any of De Valera’s old blather, whoever De Valera was. Getting time off for good behaviour when we’re caught with our hands in the cookie jar is inspirational now. Not having any understanding of the tide of history, not just long-term history, but the history of the current generation, is inspirational now. And most of all, the Ireland that we dream of has an eager willingness to lie down with every single multinational that pulls into the quay, without ever stopping to wonder what will happen when the multinationals move on to the next service provider.

At the last election we were told that the crisis would damn a generation. Now, three years on, we’re all on the pig's back? Who’s fooling whom this St Patrick’s Day, Ireland? Who are the eejits here?