Archive for January 24th, 2006

You Are What You Watch

TV these days is shit. This is literally true in the case of Gillian McKeith’s You Are What You Eat. A few minutes ago I was on the phone, chatting away, when I looked up and saw a glistening brown 21-inch stool on my TV screen.

The Way I Chews


Chewing gum, if it is any good, should lose all flavour and then harden, until it seems pointless to continue chewing.

This morning I bought a packet of Wrigleys Extra, and chewed on a piece for a couple of hours in work and then as I made my way home.

On the way, I masticated without a care in the world, but there was a sudden change in the consistency of the gum, and within a couple of minutes, the gum had turned to a gooey, watery mush. This vile mixture was sloshed around in my mouth until I could contain it no longer, and I spat it out (down a drain, as it happens, ‘cos I’m environmentally conscious that way). It came out fluorescent white, with the consistency of slightly diluted Tipp-Ex.

It’s certainly a novel form of avoiding pavements blighted with chewing gum, but Lonnie Donegan would be appalled. Fergie would be enraged.

Caving In To Popular Opinion

A rather strongly-worded editorial in today’s New York Times on the role of the Partido Popular in the current difficulties surrounding declarations made by members of the armed forces in Spain.

Entitled Army Troglodytes (that’ll go down well at Libertad Digital), it invites the PP to STFU:

It is a basic principle of democracy that army officers do not publicly
challenge the legitimacy of elected governments or talk about marching their
troops into the capital to overturn decisions of Parliament. Yet that is just
what has happened twice this month in Spain, a country whose 20th-century
history compels it to take such threats seriously, even when the chances of
insubordinate words’ leading to insubordinate actions seems quite unlikely.

The response of the center-left government of Prime Minister José Luis
Rodríguez Zapatero has been appropriately firm, including the dismissal and
arrest of one of the culprits, a senior army general. Regrettably, the
center-right Popular Party, the main opposition group, seems more interested in
making excuses for the officers than in defending the democratic order in which
it has a vital stake.

We, The People

One of the collective admonishments regularly delivered to Irish people about their attitude towards immigrants is the fact that Irish people have a long history of emigration, and ought to show more empathy with those who come here from other countries.

This is true, but it is also true that most Irish people living here have never lived nor worked abroad. Of those who have, the most common destinations are the UK (which is hardly ‘abroad’ anyway), the US and Australia: all Anglophone countries where assimilation is relatively easy.

Even taking this into account, the results of the recent Irish Times poll are still quite shocking. It appears that three-quarters of Irish people favour work permits for EU citizens from the newest 10 member states. 70% think that there are enough or too many here already.

In the absence of more detailed data, I can only speculate about the thought processes that lead so many people to hold this opinion. To this end, I tried listing what I imagine to be the most common complaints, most of which I have heard at some point or another:

Ireland is getting overcrowded;
They are forcing wages down;
They are threatening property prices;
They are here to leech off our welfare, and not interested in working;
They are taking Irish jobs;
We don’t like to hear people saying things we don’t understand. They could be plotting anything: you just can’t tell;
This is an Irish pub/estate/town for Irish people: we don’t want their type around here;
The more immigrants, the more burglaries;
They want to impose their culture on us;
We like our barmen to talk like the voice-overs for Johnston Mooney and O’Brien.

and so on and so forth.

I see no point in addressing any of the above points, other than to say that most are founded on parochial ignorance of social and economic realities. But they may be inevitable, given the extent of immigration to Ireland over the last decade.

One problem I have noticed is that to address the type of thing outlined above, the potential benefits (or perhaps, in the case of Labour and SIPTU, threats) of immigrants and further immigration seem to be expressed within a framework of ‘what immigrants can do for/to us’. That is, there is one group – the immigrants – and there is another – ‘us’.

The ‘us’ involved here in this discussion is familiar. It’s the same ‘us’ that Eddie Hobbs addressed to great effect in Rip-Off Ireland. The irony here is that while this programme aroused collective indignation about the extent of uncompetitive practices and high prices, the majority of people in the country still believe that restricting access to the labour market is a good idea.

People like talking about we Irish here: it appears all the time in print, on the radio and TV. It can be in a positive or negative context, but it’s always there. Now maybe it’s because I’m a N*****, but I have always felt excluded from this stuff (but am I bovvered? Am I? Am I bovvered??).

It feels like the ‘we’ includes those who have been collectively described as The Pope’s Children, the mammy, the daddy and maybe the granny. So you get well-meaning articles such as those the Irish Times talking about ‘Our New Neighbours’, which seem to exclude the possibility that ‘we’ who read it could be anyone other than people born and raised in the Republic of Ireland.

It’s hard to know at what point the barrier between ‘us’ and ‘them’ will begin to fall.
The Republic has a long tradition of identity politics. Its national flag – the green, white and orange – is supposed to symbolise peace between people of different identities, but the problem for immigrants is that it means peace between two specific identities, neither of which applies to them. That only applies to ‘us’.


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