When I was in school and doing the Junior Certificate and later on the Leaving Certificate, the English exam always had one reliable you could fall back on, you would be asked to write an essay with the title; What It Means To Be Irish. Now as one Irish comedian once said; what does it mean to be Irish? It means you’re not fucking English, that would have been a great ending to the essay or maybe an even better beginning, middle and end. One line. Bang. Full stop. You’d fail of course but fuck it, it would be worth it. The essay was meant to be a bland, patriotic, mundane, piece of writing on how great it is to be Irish, stick to the formula and you will pick up the points, don’t try and deviate from what you had practiced in class, no humour, no thinking outside the box, no logic or reason, and for God sake don’t mention the IRA, the troubles or the North. If the person correcting was of a certain political or how should we say terrorist persuasion they might deduct points out of sheer malice. And that is what we did, we scribbled down some well rehearsed lines and most of us got the majority of the marks needed to pass the overall test. Result, right?
This week and last week I read two stories, one online and one in an actual newspaper, you know like paper with ink on it, forming letters which could be translated in to sentences and paragraphs to tell a story? Remember those? Good. Anyway, the two stories were at completely opposite ends of the spectrum, one was about a rich guy getting rich and the other one was about a few poor kids edging that bit more closer to poverty.
Bono, lead singer of rock band U2, political activist, and sometimes a pain in the arse when he stops singing and starts talking, gets a lot of stick from the majority of Irish people. I never quite got it, though. Last week when Facebook did that thing with their shares that made Mark Zuckerberg richer than God, Bono, who The Elevation investment group, led by Bono, invested $90 million in Facebook in 2009. That 2.3 percent of the company is now worth an estimated $1.5 billion, when toss that money in with his royalties from the last 20 odd years, you can see the guy has a lot of cash to spare. But you know what? Shut the fuck up Irish people. He paid his money down, he took a gamble and he won. He fucking won. Sweet, right?
Not for most Irish people, though. Most Irish people just moan and bitch, he thinks he’s so great, blah, blah, blah. Now down through the years, Bono has invested money, often at a loss, in fact his reputation as an investor is a bit of a joke and by a bit of a joke I mean a complete fucking disaster. He has been widely laughed at in certain circles for blowing his money. But you know what? He took it like a man. It was his money. He gambled it. He lost it. He built a bridge and he got over it. He didn’t demand a refund or demand that it be taken from your wages via tax. He didn’t demand that children with special needs and disabilities have their budgets cut to such a degree that nappies for children with Down Syndrome have to be rationed, which means leaving some helpless kid in a filthy nappy because he has used up his ration for the day, so that he could recoup his money.
That sounds disgusting, right? It is disgusting. The Down Syndrome, the nappies, the budget cuts, and nobody screams or shouts about it, nobody phones in to the talk radio programmes to do it. No, why bother? I mean Bono is a rich cunt, right? Let’s have a go at him. Forget about the bankers, the property developers, the crooked politicians, the crumbling health care system, forget about the Down syndrome kid who had diarrhoea but had used his ration of nappies for that day. Unemployment will soon be at fifteen percent, emigration is rampant, so is suicide, especially amongst young males, but this was the case in the Boom Days as well, guys just killing themselves because the mental health services n this country are so poor, not the people running the mental health services, they work their arses off to help people but when your budget gets smaller and smaller and the waiting list gets longer and longer, what can you do?
One of the people who needs your tax money and the budget cuts that are destroying people, not the country, but real, actual, living breathing people, is a man named Roman Abramovich. He is a multi-billionaire oil tycoon from Russia with a suspect past, he bought shares in an Irish bank, the bank went bust and threatened the government that the country was on the verge of collapse, the government then issued some kind of deluded, almost childish guarantee for the bank making sure people like Abramovich get back the money they invested. He is also owner of Chelsea Football Club. Chelsea recently won the Champions League Final to become Champions of Europe. They did this by throwing millions at footballers to come and play for them.
Millions of people watched the final between Chelsea and German team Bayern Munich, lots of them were Irish, watching it in the pub, at home, celebrating in the streets afterwards, wearing the Chelsea shirts, hats and scarves that they paid for with their own money, the same money that is subject to every tax known to man and some that aren’t, so Roman Abramovich can buy a few more players this summer, the team is getting old you know, and the manager got sacked, so he needs to be paid compensation, life’s a bitch, huh?
So it is a win-win for the shareholders, they invested the money, they lost the money, and the Irish government gave it back to them.
And there you have it, the two stories I read this week that tell you everything you need to know about the Irish, Bono getting criticism, that is the mentality here, a child with Down Syndrome, sitting in his special needs classroom in a filthy nappy because there isn’t a new one available. That is the reality here. That is what it means to be Irish in the year of 2012.