As the centenary looms and we prepare for our year of misplaced patriotism, there’s a different kind of rising on the horizon. Because as the bankers stand in court and the ghost estates stand empty, the people the Tiger didn’t bite are about to have their day in the sun.
We are a country internationally renowned for punching above our weight in the arts. Yet for most of us in the creative game, that Tiger passed us by. We watched from the dole queues as the fat men in Mercs drove past with wallets full of fifties.
In the world of writing, filmmaking, and particularly painting, the rule is show, don’t tell. The Samuel Beckett Bridge in Dublin shows everything we got grossly wrong in that mad period of false opulence.
Beckett would be spinning in his grave at the sight of Calatrava’s neo-futuristic bridge spanning the Liffey, named in his honour. If Beckett were to build a bridge, it’d be a single plank of wood – that stopped half-way out across the river. But we were too drunk on debit to listen to that artist, or any artist that wasn’t making us money.
We’d finally shaken off the shackles of oppression. Goaded by our chronic victim complex, we were busy building our own version of Dubai. We desecrating Dublin with glass and steel that’ll haunt the horizon for a century.
The Tiger’s scars are visible all over Galway too, where every available building was clad with that greenish copper look, that even now – less than a decade later – looks horrifically dated.
But then the fat lady sang, and it all came crashing down around us. The fat men in Mercs booked flights and filed for bankruptcy. Behind them lay ghost estates and ruined lives. As the skinny man said, there’s no strategy to combat negative equity.
I don’t understand the finer points of economics – booms, busts and subsequent recoveries. You need David McWilliams for that sort of thing. What I do understand though, is that I’m in a very privileged position to have nothing. Because it’s a far better place to be than owing vast quantities of cash that never even existed in the first place.
But show; don’t tell. At the height of the Celtic chaos I worked in a newsagents. The main problem we faced towards the end of each day was the cash register wouldn’t close because of the massive stack of fifties stored under the coin part. Everybody payed for everything with fifties. Scratch-cards, fags and mags, it was brown notes all the way.
That newsagents is now an empty shell of a building, another victim in the cycle of boom and bust. Suckers for a good dose of oppression, but this time around we didn’t even need the Brits – we did it to ourselves.
Speaking of Brits, during the Second World War, Winston Churchill was approached by one of his cabinet ministers with an idea. The minister suggested to Churchill that they slash the arts budget, and put all the money into the ongoing war effort. Churchill refused outright, and told his minister that if there was no art, what were they fighting for in the first place?
So now we find ourselves in this strange post-apocalyptic place where those of us with nothing are in pole position. We’re not being followed around by houses we bought for double their value, and we’re not being sought for extradition to answer for our crooked accounting and blatant lies. I think Beckett would appreciate that irony…
So let The Rising commence; the dark days are over. But we don’t need to thump our chests and sing rebel songs for this rising.
What’s the moral of the story? How does the film end?
When the going gets tough the fat men in Mercs will fuck off and leave you high and dry, laughing at you from their gated mansions in the States. The glass and steel will eventually erode, along with that neo-futuristic bridge.
But Sam Beckett will be with you forever.