Ross O’Carroll-Kelly describes it as the economic blah blah blah, which sounds about right. How many of us really understand the ins and outs of the financial crisis? Sure, we know the banks are to blame, and there’s no doubting the government’s accountability, but what really happened? Michael Lewis takes a stab at explaining the Irish demise in a wider look at the downfall of the eurozone in his book ‘Boomerang’. While it borders on insulting for those of us who “caused” the crash, it does offer some accessible insight into the finer details.
To start with, Icelanders, Greeks and the Irish are presumably singled out due to the fact the book was published before the Portuguese, Spanish or Italian economies were implicated. Lewis points a finger at the culture of tax evasion in Greece, where tax collectors were demoted to back offices for suggesting a business wasn’t paying its dues. There’s really no arguing with the fact the country didn’t pay taxes, as illustrated by its spiralling debt. But dubbing an entire nation “lazy” serves to undermine Lewis’ argument.
The journalist then lands on the shores of the Emerald Isle – where leprechauns abound but national pride is in short supply. Lewis said himself that during the Celtic Tiger the Irish were busy “trying not to be Irish”. Perhaps a shrewd observation from an American on the outside looking in. So he explains developers were building property where there was no demand. The country was run amuck by greedy businessmen with little understanding that no one actually wanted to live in a rain-soaked land of misery and good humour. Not even generation y – who led the most recent exodus.
It’s fine to say that Ireland got too big for its boots – if you’re Irish. It’s harder to accept someone else’s criticism of your country. Especially when they are suggesting we stubbornly cling to our national identify by speaking Gaeilge in the Dail. While Lewis managed to grip the cause of Ireland’s fiscal troubles, he failed to grasp our true spirit. He stuck to stereotypes about the Irish without questioning their validity. It seemed he confused our piss-taking nature with stupidity.
Lewis details a student protest in Dublin where opponents of college fees hit the city’s streets to say no. One clever chappy clearly thought it would be funny to inject some Irish humour into the mix by carrying a banner that read: “Down with this sort of thing.” The sentiment was lost on Lewis. Had he ever heard of Father Ted, he would have understood the statement. Our resolve is that there’s little we can do about the economic blah blah blah.
He astutely notes that we Irish hide our anguish in jokes. Alas, he failed to see that in his own experiences.
Still, his take on the economic crash is worth a read.