I never envisaged myself agreeing with anything to come out of Russell Brand’s mouth. Misogynistic was my general impression of the comic. However, he recently guest edited the New Statesman, changing my opinion of him entirely. Russell may indeed embody all that is ridiculous in celebsville, but the double depth of his brand (so to speak) is like that of most comics; he uses humour to tell us all what a shambles we really are. His 4,500 word article talks about the disenfranchised youth of Britain. I didn’t agree with everything he said, as you would expect from a piece that extensive. But his basic premise rang true – we need a revolution.
Brand was talking about Britain, but it bodes comparatively well against neighbouring Ireland. In many ways, Britain is a far more favourable place to live. Former British politician Michael Portillo recently described democracy as being “in a crisis”. He implied that Britain had taken democracy too far through a generous welfare state and politicians’ desire to play crowd-pleaser. This was the guy who wrote speeches for Thatcher so I guess he’s of the opinion that you have to tow the line somewhere when it comes to people pleasing. Through system overhauls like Universal Credit, Britain is gradually weaning its population off state support. That’s going to be a tough lesson and one swamped with moral and ethical questions. However, the British government is giving people time to get used to the idea.
Across the Irish Sea, however, Enda Kenny couldn’t be further from a crowd-pleaser. His coalition government doesn’t seem at all bothered about popularity contests. It’s pretty happy to shave as much off the public purse as possible to re-invest in the silver lining of politicians’ pockets. In the latest budget, minister for finance Michael Noonan essentially hurled the axe at the most vulnerable in society at the extreme ends of adulthood. Benefits were reduced for under-26s so they have to turn to mum and dad for more handouts where possible. Older people were throttled with the abolition of the telephone allowance, the withdrawal of 35,000 medical cards for over-70s and the reduction in the tax allowance on health insurance, to name but a few. To be fair to the older generation, they haven’t taken it on the chin. As many as 2,000 protested in Dublin City centre bearing signs including, ‘OAPs: Gas us. It’s quicker and cheaper’. If politicians are not ashamed of this, I would question the mental health of the entire government.
Apathy is the barrier preventing action against the ignominious Irish government. Brand touched on the problem of apathy in his New Statesman article, although he was hopeful of the British public’s potential to rebel. In Ireland, however, there are few signs of a revolution. There are many angry letters to the editor in the Irish Times and plenty of comments across Independent.ie about the disgrace of the country. But the news headlines focus as much on the UK, the EU and Hollywood celebrities as they do on Irish issues. Paranoia would tell you the media is sedating people with a large dose of inconsequential ‘news’ articles to deflect their attention from the pressing matters on home soil. The close tie between politics and media would suggest there is more to this idea than paranoia too, but that’s beside the point.
The government’s failures are shameful. Yet given Ireland’s history, a disappointing government is hardly surprising. What is surprising is the public’s lack of active infuriation. That’s not writing a passive letter to a national newspaper, that’s hitting the streets with signs in tow to shout the government down. We can’t leave it all up to the older generation. One might argue that we Irish have run out of steam defending ourselves. It’s been one regime after another stripping us of our national identity and self-sufficiency. However, there are countries across the globe with far harsher systems that have been overthrown. The Arab spring has seen a series of countries in the Middle East attempt to weed out dictatorships. The success of this rebellion may be debatable but the action speaks volumes.
Ireland may be far removed from the Middle East and run under a democracy but the political system appears to be increasingly dictatorial. We used to pride ourselves on being a ‘true democracy’ because of proportional representation but what use is the vote when every party that gets into office acts the same way? Ireland is steadily declining in merit. Kenny and his crew are driving the youth out of the country at such a rate one wonders if they have any value for long-termism. Every policy seems bent on eroding the island of its people until there is no one left. But this is a beautiful island with a humble people. It would be more than a shame to see it sink into oblivion after millennia of suffering and revolution. The Celtic tiger was a farce, but the Irish people are not. Brand wrote: “Time may only be a human concept and therefore ultimately unreal, but what is irrefutably real is that this is the time for us to wake up.”
For far too long it’s been “top of the mornin’ to you” and “go on, go on, go on and have another cupán tae”. Craic agus Ceol is all well and good but we’re losing our traditions; losing them in a sea of apathy and emigration. I write this from London knowing full well the opportunities I have here would be unheard of in 21st century Ireland. An era when the Middle East is demanding equal opportunities and Russell Brand has called for revolution in Britain. An era when Ireland has the biggest decision to make in its history: to fade into obscurity or revolt against its home-grown oppressor.