No Mourning Please, We’re Irish

I still buy it. It’s my dirty little secret. I could (although the need has never arisen) stride right up to the counter of a packed newsagent’s full of people returning from mass or worship, and kick off a raucous argument with the newsagent about the extortionate price of his top shelf and what the hell the world is coming to when you can’t get any reasonably priced porno these days, but I feel sheepish buying a copy of the Sunday Times.

Let’s say you can discern two subtexts to Sunday Times Irish edition commentary and stories. The first one would be like a first draft of a Progressive Democrat conference keynote speech, and the second is like a homily from a stern and admonishing bishop. The first stresses how modern, innovative and forward-thinking ‘we’ are, and the second laments ‘our’ loss of innocence, ‘our’ venality, self-interestedness and rampant consumerism. I reckon most Sunday Times buyers are suckers (and I include myself) for how the tension between the two is resolved. Call it a little light S&M reading for a Sunday afternoon.

The death of The Pope (GOD BLESS HIM) gave columnist Brenda Power the perfect opportunity to break out the dog collar and whiplash. Starting off with the dilapidated (old, rugged?) cross at Phoenix Park as metaphor for ‘our’ attitude to the events of the last week, she uses the rest of her column to administer us all a good thrashing:

‘Polishing up the cross, however, [much in the same way as one would polish up an old metaphor?]
won’t revive the innocence we shared then, and for which, if there is any undercurrent to this astonishing outpouring of national grief, we are now mourning’

but of course, in mourning ‘our’ innocence, ‘we’ poor banished children of Eve chose to apply the salve of a nice day off at our employers’ expense, naturally enough:

‘(The government’s response to the Pope’s death…) was not cynical enough. It failed to take account of the national readiness to be on the make at all times and in all circumstances, and to seize with alacrity the prospect of a day off, indeed a long weekend.’

and she concludes:

‘Heaven knows why, but the government underestimated our eagerness for a day off at our employers’ expense.

And those of us who had taken to looking back, a little sheepishly, at the ease with which a vigororous 59-year-old with star quality charmed us in 1979, well we were caught unawares by a yearning for the lost innocence of those times, and all the things we didn’t know back then’

As I read it, the underlying message of the article is this: you lazy, venal swine, wallowing in your crass consumerism with nary a care for matters spiritual. Yes, we are all in thrall to Mammon, and we’d all love to be the way we were back in 1979, all D-I-S-C-O dancing and boy’s sodalities, but it’s high time you dealt with it, got your self pitying asses back to work and stopped engaging in the ultimate modern sin of daring to consider ripping off your employers. In the end, it’s better that way.

I was 3 in 1979. My only memory of PJP2 coming to Ireland was of me falling down the stairs. I have no idea what proportion of Ireland’s working population is younger than me, or how many people here were growing up in other countries around the world at that time. Most people I spoke to last week expressed no interest in a national day of mourning whatsoever. But we all cop the admonishment equally. It reminds me of the priest in a neighbouring parish to my own, who a few years ago found a used condom in the grounds of his church. He was so enraged that the following morning, a Monday, he declared to the 10 or so elderly women in attendance at morning mass that all the women in the parish were little more than sinful hoors.

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April 2005
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