Last week I took a stroll through Dame Street and had an engaging afternoon with some of the young radical idealists who are fighting global capitalism by sleeping in the street in front of the Central Bank. Far left radicals sure have changed. Do you think Lenin and his Bolshevik chums would have managed to seize power in 1917 if they had rocked up outside the parliament in St. Petersburg equipped with flasks of soup, hot water bottles and sleeping blankets? I must say though, that I found the assorted radicals, as well as some of the more moderate socialists (of which I am one), to be a polite and intelligent bunch of young people who were articulate and open to constructive and polite debate. In fact, as a centre left social democrat, I even agreed with much of their analysis of the underlying reasons behind the current ongoing financial crisis in which we find ourselves. Indeed, there are even many fiscal conservatives who would agree with them that the banking and financial sector have acted in a reckless and even immoral manner.
However, whilst I agreed with their analysis of what caused the crisis to say the solutions of some of the more radical element were insane would be an insult to the inhabitants of padded cells. One young man tried to convince me that we should cease to co-operate with the IMF, EU and ECB and give them their marching orders. I pointed out to him that this would lead to the overnight eradication of our welfare state in that it is the troika who are currently funding our welfare programmes. Its not every day one encounters someone on the left who would wish to see the eradication of the welfare state. I informed him that if we were to enact his preferred economic policies we would have widespread chaos within days and that within a few weeks we would be chasing each other with pointy sticks and fighting to the death over who got to eat the last remaining rat in the neighbourhood.
One of the young comrades helpfully revealed to me that I was deluded in that we could all move in to the country and grow our own vegetables, not to mention all the free fish in our rivers, lakes and off our coasts. As most people in the country don't own fishing vessels, let alone fishing rods, lets just hope these fish have legs and are able to jump straight out of our waterways on to people's plates. As for vegetarians like myself what am I supposed to eat whilst Im waiting for my turnips to grow? One of the leading protestors did acknowledge, quite vociferously, that as with all revolutions there would be a painful readjustment. These lads should form a political party and see how they get on with a manifesto entitled : "A Painful Readjustment: A Guide to Hunting and Cooking Vermin and Growing Root Vegetables for a Family of Four on your Windowsill."
There was one major flaw in this young man's economic plan that stuck out like a catholic priest outside a creche and it was that nobody apart from him and his well-intentioned friends on the extreme left of the protest want to live in a pre-industrial agrarian-anarcho-peasant collective (the scene of the anarchist peasant rummaging around in the mud whilst arguing with King Arthur on the legitimacy of monarchy in Monty Python's 'The Holy Grail' came to mind). The majority of people I told him want to live in cities and urban areas. They want choice. They want to be able to choose from many different exotic brands of coffee. Their palates have become accustomed to a global diet. They want to wear imported Converse trainers and be able to buy cheap Chinese clothes. They want to indulge in aspects of other cultures. Globalisation provides them with all of this. What they dont want is to be sewing their own shoes made from their donkey's carcass whilst reading 'a hundred and one recipes on a potatoe subsistence diet.' I agreed with him that we live on a grossly unequal planet and this needs to change, but I believe that we can harness the power of market forces in a more socially responsible and equitable manner.
Inevitably, the debate degenerated in to blaming everything on the English anyway. As it was explained to me, by another of the protestors on the far left, we weren't really a free people anyway in that our legal system, as well as our parliamentary democracy, were adopted from the English and until every trace of English influence in Ireland was eradicated we would still be under British rule. He wished to add that he wasn't a Republican in the mould of Sinn Fein or any of the dissident parties. I agree, he was even further out of his gourd than either of those groups . I put it to him that were we too remove every trace of English influence from Ireland then we would need to burn Dublin to the ground as well as Galway, Waterford, Limerick, Cork, Derry and Belfast in that these cities were either initially settled by the Anglo-Normans or their growth and stature were as a result of this influence. Simple, he responded, "Burn them, why not?" By now, it started to dawn on me that this pleasant, polite but ideologically deluded young man was rigidly attached to his utopian vision of an Ireland without urban areas and devoid of any trace of English influence where we could all sit in fields in Leitrim growing turnips and flinging mud at each other in some kind of pre-modern Celtic paradise. It all sounded so appealing I nearly renounced all my material possessions and bought a tent to join them.
I endeavoured to explain to him that the reason that early Irish nationalists such as O'Connell and later independent Ireland espoused and adopted the Anglo-Norman legal system, as well as a centralised form of government, is that it was superior to the tribal clan based Gaelic system where political power was diffused amongst various competing families and clans who would gather drunkely in fields of a weekend chasing each other about with pitch-forks and hacking each others limbs off with scythes and various medieval agricultural implements. And what of the multitudes of southern Irish people who are descendants of the Anglo-Normans? From whose lineage came the likes of Wolfe Tone, Yeats, Wilde, Beckett and our first President, Douglas Hyde. What would he do with them? He could even be one himself I posited. He assured me he wasn't as he recited his Celtic lineage to me. By now, he wasn't really listening to me, he was like Gerry Adams on amphetamine listing off every English crime and barbarous act against Ireland. He skipped over the famine though, but was duly reminded by a lad of about 23 who had a gripe against deceased English politicians that dated back to 1847.
The English are not the only enemy that we need to be wary of I was informed by another youthful activist. Apparently, Facebook have sold all of my personal information to MI5, the CIA and any other intelligence organisations that wish to view it. I now fearfully await my rendition to Guantanamo Bay to be quizzed on my knowledge of obscure 1970's Soul music and my love of vegetarian Indian food. Anyway, it was there that I left the conversation with these spirited young men, as I decided to go home and delete my Facebook account...just in case.