May 18 2008
In my hours and days of infiltration into the quagmire of Europe’s Lisbon Treaty, I, very early on, found myself asking, “Why should I bother?” Why should I bother spending hour upon hour of precious drinking time trying to educate myself in the ways of the force farce EU. The political landscape of Ireland and Europe was never a vista I cared to gaze upon. In fact, at 26 years of age, the general election of 2007 was the first time I exercised my franchise. I don’t think I was even registered to vote until last Summer.
I am the last generation who will live to remember the recession of the eighties – having to wear clothing that was stitched and sewn back together so much that there were more patches that original material; that one chocolate bar a week I would get after Mass every Sunday with my 20 pence pocket money; the depression on the face of my father when he lost his job in the factory. And if I’m completely honest, most of what I remember from that time is from the beginning of the recovery, the birth of the Celtic Tiger – my mother would scrimp and save hard so not be seen to have poorly dressed children; that one chocolate bar a was supplemented by the three hundred more my Granny would give me during the week; and one of my strongest memories from the late eighties was the relief and joy on the face of my father when he got his factory job back.
My generation and the generation running behind me in their Gucci runners and BT2 retro range of attire, really only know the good times. We didn’t need to know about the politics behind our money for mobile phones and holidays in Torremolinos. There was no reason for us to understand why our clothes cost more than our parents’ first house – there was always more money available. And why should we care what that funny little man, Bertie Ahern, did with a few grand back in the nineties?
The photo of Bill Clinton bringing the hands of Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat together is the first recollection I have of politics. We had to do a report on it for school (I was probably in sixth class, maybe 12 years old). The only reason I remember it is because I got a prize for it for my own illustration of the historic moment declaring peace in the middle east. I’m glad that all went so well.
After that, I have fleeting recollections of discussing abortion around the time of one of the referenda, I’m sure I made some flippant comment on the second Mary in the presidency, I may have paid brief attention to the Good Friday Agreement, but overall, looking back across my life, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a far greater feature.
And I’m not alone. There are very few people of my age group who are avidly involved or even vaguely interested in politics. Why should we? We’re too wrapped up in our four nights out a week, our new apartments, our three week tours of Italy (taking in Sicily if we have time).
Well, we may have only known the good times, but the times they are a-changing.
In this last year, conversations around the table in the pub have ceased mentioning the huge increases in our parents’ house prices. No more do we drivel on about SSIA’s and new cars. Instead, the whisper of recession is heard. Job losses are no longer fun breaks before trying new careers and increasingly we hear of relief when a friend has found a job after looking for weeks or months. These are still lighthearted conversations – no one is truly worried (I say this as I shift nervously in my seat).
Maybe it is time our generation peaked out from under our sun beds and took note of what our elected officials are doing with our lives.
So, what have I to gain from being well informed on all things dull and dutiful (apart from material for a few lengthly blog posts)? I will gain focus and understanding of what is being done with my taxes. I will begin to see the true state of our health service. I will gain some comprehension of the anger that older generations have towards politicians who talk and talk, but don’t provide concrete answers.
Perhaps, one of us or some of us will gain enough interest to stand up and say “enough is enough”. Perhaps someone will ask questions of the government that have never been addressed before. Perhaps, a young person with fresh ideas will rise from the aged political ranks and give new direction to a country that is in need of more than a figure head. Perhaps someone will emerge as a leading light. We need a leader.