10 March 2008

I'm weary and tired, I've done my days ridin'

On the grander stage of life, Barak Obama won the primary in Wyoming this weekend, securing a hefty seven delegates to Hillary's five. This almost offsets the gains she made on not-so-super Tuesday in Texas and Ohio. Having some distance to the three ring circus that is the Democratic primary season gives a healthy and sceptical perspective, and the single most powerful lesson that I have drawn is that the US media locked in a perpetual battle to get things first rather than right really cannot stand the fact that it is unlikely that there will be a clear outcome in this contest until the convention itself. It is eating them up that they can't crown a winner, and that there isn't even a definitive pledged delegate count at the moment. The major networks, so long accustomed to dictating the news to us and deciding what the important topics of the day are, are visibly frustrated that the power in this case still lies with the people, and the people refuse to work to a script.

I met with "Rock the Vote - Ireland" today, as E-Democracy has become something of a passion of mine over the last few months, and the sad thought occurred to me that in Ireland we are so wrapped up playing the politics of our fathers, that even if we launch a full spectrum online campaign with social networks, YouTube, Twitter and the like, we still will never overcome the apathy of young voters with a cadre of candidates that would not look out of place in "The Field", or worse still "Darby O'Gill". Our best politicians are inarticulate extras from "Animal Farm", our worst are blatant criminals that never learned to only blow the bloody doors off.

What's worse is that the more they get caught, the more we vote for them. In the US ordinary people vote for Republicans because they all believe that one day they will be really rich, and don't want to be taxed when that happens; here our votes seem to be influenced by the fact that we all break the law and hope that when we're caught we'll get away with it. Here's a message to US and Irish voters, you will never be as rich as they are, and when you are caught, you will go to jail. That's what happens to ordinary people. Gone are the days when people voted for the common good (if they ever did), the only thing the Celtic Tiger has done for Ireland is to turn everybody into as self-interested and selfish a voter as in the UK in the 80's and the US since 2000.

What Ireland needs is a new generation of politicians divorced from the political dynasties that control most of the country. Eamon Ryan looked like this type of new politician prior to going into government. His background was in cyclists' rights campaigns, and this lead him to the Green party. I've met him a few times, and he is a fantastic speaker (by Irish standards), and knows what he is talking about. But since entering government he has abandoned many of his long-held beliefs (or beliefs that he vocally supported), such as opposition to the Shell pipeline in Rossport, the Tara bypass, and Shannon being used as a refuelling site for the US airforce and CIA. His willingness to compromise on so many core issues to work with a government whose sole green concession seems to be the phasing out of old lightbulbs makes me believe that he, and the rest of the Greens, are in for a shock at the next election.

These are the things I thought about as I went out on a bicycle ride with the Very Understanding Girlfriend on Sunday. It was my first time on a bike in about 10 years, and apart from the sheer terror of cycling through Dublin traffic abated only by the presence of the occasional cycle lane, the experience was on the whole quite enjoyable.

But I am very, very sore today.

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