Perhaps it’s a symptom of depression thrust upon the Irish following the demise of the Celtic Tiger, but it seems to me the nation has become very impatient and intolerant in so many respects.
One could simply be driving along observing the speed limit, whether it be on the city streets or on a country road, only to be horn-blasted by an overtaking ogre, face contorted in rage as he glares across at you, presumably because he’s being slowed up by some namby-pamby twit driving an inferior car.
Recently having survived this potentially dangerous onslaught, head spinning with the suddenness of it and grateful for the central locking which gives some protection, I park up (another area of motoring conflict) and struggle to a café for a strong cup of Barry’s tea in order to gather myself before facing back out into the cauldron which has become the whole of Ireland.
It is an angry place now, sadly, with natives craving instant responses to unreasonable demands.
On finding the oasis of hoped-for peace - the café - I stand in the queue awaiting the assistant to take the money for the tea and scone. Amazed as two Irish customers walk straight up from the back of the line and get served without question. Try to complain to the pleasant Polish girl behind the counter only to be told in a whisper: ”I’ve given up attempting to keep order here – I’ve been verbally abused and even had things thrown at me when asking for manners.”
Sitting at my table I was told through peals of laughter by the jumpees at the next table – two attractive young women – “you should have objected sooner, man, queuing is old fashioned." I smiled benignly at them. Safer.
At an adjacent table in a high chair sits a delightful little baby of about a year old who catches my glance and beams a lovely smile accompanied by squeals of laughter. I smile back and pull a few funny faces much to the amusement of the little one, only to be flattened by the withering scowls of the parents who wheel about in their seats and stare with daggers in the eyes because their baby appears to be having fun.
What is going on with Irish? Surliness has become the norm.
We can’t anymore pick up the phone to inquire why the gas or the multi-channel TV is not working, but to be told of the probable charge for the call by a machine-voice before a series of buttons have to be pushed before one can submit a name and account number.
Then there is the “please be advised that this call is monitored for training purposes” – which actually means ‘watch your tone of voice here or I’ll cut you off pronto’ at even a hint of exasperation’! Get off the phone dissatisfied no nearer to a solution. Try again tomorrow with a new strategy figured out. It used not be like this before the notion of confrontation became a way of life.
We are living in a time when to attempt calm and good behaviour, and to expect even a modicum of reciprocation, is a rapidly fading concept. Ireland has become frantic, in my opinion, rushing headlong in search of…well…the bigger and better everything, convinced this is what brings happiness.
Many have not realised that the dream of grandeur has turned into an economic nightmare. This society has become self-centred to the extent it is a national malaise, with a whole generation trapped in a culture of entitlement.
The result is a people feeling very little responsibility towards others, save the individual self. I try not to be too critical when I see the appalling behaviour and absence of proper guidance from our compliant politicians in their craven compliance to the sinister corporate world at the expense of the people who elected them to govern on our behalf, primarily.
We are touched now with the distasteful arrogance and belligerence associated with bad leadership and the stripping away of the country’s wealth to appease the greed of the world bankers. The concept of rampant materialism is always a destructive path, yet is always persists.
An alarming number of youngsters appear confused and uncertain as to their place and status in society, especially young men, and are increasingly becoming lost in the twilight world of alcohol and drugs, too often leading to suicide when a state of mental distress becomes normal to them.
The poor are blamed for being so, and largely ignored. ’The poor will always be with us’ should not mean it is acceptable for people to have to beg on the streets and show symptoms of being socially inadequate, for them to be the victims of the oft heard fearsome catch-cry, ”something should be done about them. ”What exactly, one wonders. But we are frowned at officially if we criticise the parasitic ‘Troika’ who bleed our country dry of every cent on behalf of our international oppressors.
All is overshadowed by debt and taxes, with an unwillingless to recognise that nothing will improve economically in the coming decade.
I love Ireland, and don’t wish to live elsewhere. There is so much to keep me here in the later years of my life, and my story in this article is just one, albeit important, aspect of today’s Ireland. I grew up here in the grey and hungry fifties when Irish parents often agonised over the problem of putting food on the table.
Those days are gone in our consciousness, and sadly replaced with fear of the future and of those who govern. This is not the way it ought to be. There are no expressions of optimism, only ‘promises’ of more austerity.
Little wonder people are angry. My problem is that such pessimism can quickly can turn to volatility or hate. It is spiralling out of control.
I’d only ask that as a society we’d recognise we’ve lost our way. We can recover on a personal level, while accepting we’re deep in this quagmire of a failed economy entity. While waiting for the miracle to come, I’m not deterred as I sally forth to snatch any bit of fun which might have my name on it.
*Robert J. Sullivan is a writer living in Bandon, County Cork