Ireland on the edge

After a week of political upheavals the baby boomer generation that comprises most of our current government seem to think the worst is - or soon will be - over.

They predict that Civil War voting reflexes will kick in, as they always seem to before general elections, and calmer heads are probably anticipating a return to some kind of normalcy soon.

I'm not so sure. I think the experience of seeing the pillars of Irish society collapsing, one after another, may have a radicalizing effect on younger Irish voters.

First they witnessed the seemingly endless abuse crisis in the Catholic church, which exposed decades of unspeakable cruelty and abuse lurking just beneath the tourist board facade. Those revelations indicted Irish society from Independence to recent times.  We were not who we said we were. We were not even close.

Then comes the country's profoundly shocking near total financial collapse. How could it have happened? The whole world lined up to tell us what we'd done wrong. Bill O'Reilly and his fellow travelers blamed socialism.

But O'Reilly has it backwards. It wasn't socialism, it wasn't high taxation or liberal government programs that harpooned Ireland's economy: it was unfettered capitalism that sunk the Celtic Tiger, ironically enough.

A new generation of the Irish have discovered that the free markets don't lift every boat or solve every social and political ill. They have learned that banking regulations are a good idea. They have learned that giving the nations car keys to fat cat bankers and property developers is an astonishingly stupid thing to do.

And now that those fat cats - and their cronies in government  - have driven the nation into a deep ditch it's droll to note how those the former poster boys of capitalism and excess now suddenly see the point in spreading the wealth.

And when I say spreading the wealth, I mean the bill of course. Socialism becomes mightily attractive to our former wealth generators when it gives them a handy option to stick the Irish people with the bill. If you want to talk about socialism in Ireland these days then you should make it clear you're really talking about debt consolidation.

The most recent pillar to fall has been young Irish people's faith in their own political parties - and worse. That's why I suspect we're in for a roller coaster this February and through 2011.

A generation of committed and internet savvy young Irish people have reached maturity in a prosperous nation they had no reason to assume would collapse so decisively. Now they're furious about what's happened to their nation and I suspect they won't be fobbed off with emigrant wakes and tearful fare thee well's.

Losing your future to emigration is a terrific reality. So are the pay cuts that have begun to bight the nations pay checks. But losing the life you thought was yours is about as painful an experience as can be endured.

The Irish people are now in the position of paying for a decades long rip off they actually had very little part in. You don't have to be Nostradamus to recognize that somethings got to give.

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