“The whole world is in a terrible state o’ chassis…”
‘Captain’ Jack Boyle
Juno and the Paycock
That line is well-known to most Irish folk, and I suspect to a wider audience of theatre-goers the world over. Though no doubt each country somewhat over-eggs the pudding when it comes to their perceived global contributions, not least in the sphere of the arts, literature and the sciences.
But if we set that inevitable tendency to self-aggrandisement to one side for a minute, it’s hard not to disagree with Casey’s evergreen malapropic sentiment. The world is indeed in a state of chaos at the moment.
It may be a stretch, but if you wanted to try and apply a ‘glass half full’ approach, you could quietly suggest that, look: the world is always in some state of upheaval at times. The natural order. The shifting of tectonic plates. There will be earthquakes, and after-shocks, and then there will be periods of stability.
It’s the way of things.
After all, Casey’s play was written in the 1920s.
We just happen to be in the midst of a particularly nasty storm of shit at the moment. For what it’s worth, my own belief is that societal moods swing a little like a pendulum. (Perhaps a mosh-pit at a metal concert might be a more apt description; less predictable linear patterns, and more Brownian Movement.)
But hey ho. Whatever you’re havin’ yerself, like.
Before we have shifts in these belief systems, there is a natural pressure building to create these changes. When the changes happen, there is a natural after-shock; or rebound. Not everyone is going to be happy with the change, whatever that change is. But there is a decent chance the change in direction is the result of a steady build-up of desire to alter some particular way of life. As an example, here in Ireland, we have moved a long way over the last few decades.
Divorce was signed into law in 1996, after many divisive campaigns. Few Irish folk will forget the ‘Hello Divorce… Bye bye Daddy!’ poster from the No campaign. Abortion was much later, in 2018. Deeply divisive. Three years previous to that, Same-sex marriage was approved by referendum and passed into law.
That’s quite the societal shift for a country that was dancing at the crossroads only a couple of generations before. Though it’s worth noting that De Valera – one of Ireland’s greatest statesmen after the Civil War – never actually said that phrase in his 1943 speech to the nation on St. Patrick’s Day. I think the phrase ‘happy maidens’ may have featured. Moot point.
In any case, all I’m getting at (and this of course just my own opinion) is that there is a general drift towards what you could loosely call ‘liberalism’ in our part of the world. A loosening of the grip of certain things; a letting-go. A moving on.
Not everyone is delighted with this trend, of course, and therein lies the rub, I suspect. Your values are not mine, and vice versa. Mileages will vary. Or kilometres, if you want to be a true European. Not that anyone can specifically put their finger on what that means either. But given that the French came up with the metric system (hard to believe it’s over 200 years old…), let’s go with the time-honoured ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’.
In crude terms (and my American friends will probably disown me for this next sweeping statement), we had Obama, which was seen as a historic step forward. And then we had Trump, which most folks like me see as a step backwards. Well, many steps backwards. But according to my armchair pop-psychology babble, that was to be expected. It was the reaction.
With any luck, the plates will stop grinding, the after-shocks will die down, and we can have some stability in the world. The current images from the USA are shocking. They don’t appear to represent what most Europeans would consider a democracy. Rather, they project the image of a police state. Add in pictures of rows of men with dark glasses and face coverings, openly carrying assault rifles, and we have the makings of private militia. In any other society, that would not be tolerated by the police. As it stands, it seems to be something that is encouraged by some sectors of the official force, and by many politicians and people of influence.
All I can say is that I don’t understand it. That would suggest that if I don’t, then I have no business commenting on it. But when I see an innocent unarmed man killed in full view of the public by the very people that are supposed to be protecting them, then any sane person would take issue.
That points clearly to a massive systemic issue with the police force, and how they recruit and train their members. And the fish rots from the head down, so it’s fair to say those ‘rotten apples’ are getting infected from the barrel they’re sitting in.
Not that the Irish Gardaí are pure as the driven-snow either. You don’t have to look too far to find corruption at many levels, and in particular, at the top. And we have racism here too. It’s alive and (unfortunately) all too well. No country is immune.
All you can do is not be a part of it, and call it out when you see it.
The sleep of reason produces monsters. And if you have a quick look at Goya’s aquatint, you will recognise those poor mammals that have taken the blame for all our current viral woes. No, not the human being slumbering at his work, but the ones flying overhead. Yes, bats. The ones allegedly responsible for the spread of COVID-19.
Though anyone with an ounce of sense knows that we are responsible for the spread of this disease. Bats don’t kill people. People kill people. And bats, too.
Apart from that cheerful tangent, a gift to myself arrived the other day. I have been following Semi-Rad for a number of years now. Brendan Leonard has Irish roots, but that’s not why I like his blog posts or Instagram feed. He just has a great way with words and a nice take on life. Running and climbing are his passions, and he writes with great wit and warmth on these topics. Give him a follow.
This was the T shirt I ordered:
I have not been running as much as I should have; I probably haven’t earned the right to wear this yet, but I am getting back into it. The lockdown has cramped everyone’s style, and on top of that, the weather has been so good that it’s been the divil’s own job to muster up the enthusiasm for running when you are already sweating at 10am, sitting out in the garden.
The fire service has been out-the-door busy too. We have had a spate of calls recently, with a couple of days fighting fires out on the bog. Long hours, trudging through the peat, dragging hoses, and dousing charred tree stumps. Augean Stables springs to mind. But the locals were fantastic. Great spirit. Out with their tractors and spreaders, soaking the land, and digging fire breaks. And regular visits to hand out food and drink to all. My most bizarre memory is manning the portable pump at a bog-hole in the middle of nowhere (to supply water to the tankers and our own crews), and chewing on a cheeseburger that some kind soul had left for me. That’s a home-made one. Not shop-bought. But while I’m at it, even the local shops were more than generous with their provisions. Heavily discounted, and sometimes free. Food keeps you going. Generosity nourishes the soul.
And that’s all from me, folks. Stay safe out there, from my relatively sheltered existence here on a rock off the coast of a larger rock off the coast of Europe.
All this too shall pass.