05 June 2012

Quiet revolutions

Something funny happened to me during the last few weeks of the Fiscal Treaty Referendum campaign, somewhere along the line I just stopped caring. That I was going to vote No was never in doubt, even before the Treaty had been drafted I was advocating a No vote (almost as strongly as I was arguing for the need to have a vote in the first place), and when asked I was usually happy to explain why I thought the Treaty was bad for Ireland and bad for Europe, but those of you who regularly peruse these pages may have noticed a shocking absence of rants and polemics on the subject, or on anything really these last few weeks. The sad fact of the matter is that I just stopped giving a damn about the Treaty, the Referendum, the Government or any of the other players in this sordid little drama.

Now I still sat through a good few of the debates, and made a couple of half-hearted jibes on Twitter, and when asked by Politico and Rabble to write up an article or two I was happy to send something in, but I just couldn't muster up the energy to get all shouty and ranty about it here on my own blog. I would get up in the morning, read all the lies and scare tactics being utilized by the Government, see the media present Adamas, Ganley and a raft of right-wing foreign europhobes being presented as The Voice (tm) of the No campaign, and then shake my head in despair at the clumsy attempts of the Left to galvanize the genuine public hostility towards the Household Tax and water charges into opposition for something slightly more difficult to grasp than a hundred euros being snatched from your wallet, and yet so much more important. As the early polls began to show that the vast majority of the electorate couldn't care less, and weren't intending to vote, abdicating responsibility for their future and placing it in the hands of the small minority who did care, or were sufficiently scared by the Government's threats to turn up and do their political master's bidding, I realised that in the end fear would win out by default, being given a bye to the finals by apathy, and once again Ireland would succumb to the tyranny of the minority.

History is won, they say, by those who turn up, and in Ireland we don't even care enough to get angry.

So I did what I have never done before in almost any election or referendum, I just shut up. I didn't have the passion in me to go on the offensive and argue my case. If someone asked, I answered, but very, very few people did because nobody really cared about it enough to ask what others thought.

Instead, I went cycling. Twenty miles a day. All that energy and anger that would normally go into a post was instead diffused harmlessly on the road, mile after mile of wrath just dissipating away in the mist or the haze. I did what 50% of my fellow citizens did and just turned inwards and tuned it all out. I still voted, and voted No, but I never really thought it would make a difference.

We live in a country where the Minister for Finance can make racist jibes about the trauma being endured in Greece where soup kitchens are the norm and people have so little hope left that they kill themselves in public parks because the see no future for themselves or their country. We live in a country where government ministers dismiss out-of-hand academic warnings of the rise of the far-right as the nonsense talk of Stalinists. We live in a country where the taunts of "get a life" are hurled at even the mildest dissent by TV personalities on salaries so high that their organisation's London news bureau has to be closed to support them. We live in a country where the Taoiseach hides from debate and emerges only to dismiss those who oppose his policies by shouting "get a job" in their faces, as his government has overseen the rise of unemployment to nearly 15%.

And worst of all, we live in a country where 30% of the populace find this completely acceptable, and 50% don't care about it at all.

This campaign has left me weary, and alienated, frustrated and tired, but for a hundred and ten minutes each morning I can put all of that out of my mind as I concentrate on the road in front of me and the rhythmic sound of the wheel turning steadily, propelling me forward with a greater sense of direction and purpose than I possess myself.

I'll get my ranty-hat on again soon enough, but for now I'm enjoying the quiet.

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