Monday, July 31, 2017

The Lazy Fair

I think it was the only night I had a full eight hours of sleep, but I carried a vague sense of exhaustion anyway from the B&B up in Beaumont down the bus route to the city center. I thought I'd explore the dockland area near the mouth of the Liffey, an area I remember being run down, full of warehouses and factories and filth. Now it's home to international banks, accounting firms, and tech companies like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, earning it the nick name Silicon Docks.

Taken from the internet
I don't know if I remember the area correctly. I only ventured down there a couple of times to make a pilgrimage to Windmill Lane Studios, which was sadly demolished in 2015. I am fortunate to have been inside it while it stood, standing in front of U2's many platinum records hanging on the wall in one unforgettable night of my young life.

picture of a picture of a 22 year old

I never thought about those warehouses and factories down there when I walked around the area back then. I felt somewhat uneasy at times; there weren't many people and those I did see were mean looking to a 20 year old girl traveling on her own for the first time. There was nothing special about the area to me aside from the studio; the only photos I have are of that building. I didn't know how to see things, then. (I had a 33mm camera with film that was rather expensive to develop, so I really didn't know how to take photos, either, and pictures were at a premium. When I returned home from this trip, I got out my photo albums to look at the old Dublin pics and wow, what bad photography. I have a nice camera now and a much better eye, but I am still learning how to use it. I finally got the settings off automatic after I took a photography class in January, but now I need practice.)

I practiced at the famine monument.

Now look, every American with a drop of Irish blood (which is a ton of us - nearly 35 million, actually, seven times the population of Ireland and 11% of Americans) knows about The Famine. It's part of the trifecta of Irish things Americans know: famine, leprechauns, and St. Patrick's Day. Ugh. Throw in Riverdance and corned beef and cabbage and it's freaking Irish Disneyland.

Except none of it is correct, really.

You see, there was plenty of food in Ireland during The Famine. Actually, there wasn't just one famine, there were several, though it was the 1845-1847 one known as The Great Hunger that we all think of. It was the oppression of Catholic Irish by the British capitalists that led to mass starvation. The Brits exported thousands of tons of food at the time. Charles Trevelyan, the British Secretary of the Treasury and the man in charge of famine relief, believed there should be no interference in free trade, that the starving Irish were lazy and didn't deserve help, and that the famine was a mechanism for removing the surplus population.

God, doesn't that sound so familiar. Free trade, lazy poor people, get rid of undesirables...all beliefs of the Republican Party and the Trump regime. This mentality has real and deadly consequences.

They don't teach you this when talking about The Famine in America. They say it was all because of the potato blight. But a million people died and a million people emigrated because all the government cared about were "free markets." They lost half the population in a few years.

I found the juxtaposition between the famine monument and the development of the docklands to be striking.

UBS Financial Services building, one of the major companies that helps the rich avoid paying taxes across the globe
looking at a very different Ireland
in the background is the dome of the Customs House, in charge of exports now and at the time of The Famine
I wanted to cry.

I wanted to cry not just for the people who died in The Famine, though it really hit home. I wanted to cry for those who suffer still, who starve, who fight wars for food and water. I wanted to cry most of all because this is all preventable, it is all willfully allowed, it is done intentionally, without care for humanity. Poverty is a human creation.

I wanted to cry because it is happening right now in the United States of America, where 35 million people live because of the Irish famines that were allowed to happen to a people deemed undesirable by the free market capitalists. Those same people whose ancestors suffered so greatly, people like Paul Ryan, are now positioning themselves to let poor people die for the same free markets that let their own ancestors die.

For what? So they can hoard even more of the world's wealth? That's all they are. They are hoarders, like that television show, carrying the same mental disease as those who have to make paths in their small homes just to get to the toilet.

Then there is the ironic phenomenon of using The Famine as a tourist attraction. In Dublin, this ship gives you the "famine experience." There was a place in Donegal, too, that I saw a sign for, and there are a few other places across the island that are clearly geared towards Americans looking to claim their Irish roots.

"The Famine Experience"
I was stunned by all the development though I had known all about it.

This development? It benefits a few people. It helps for a time - it helped transform Ireland from a third world country to a wealthy one. But it helps to a point and then greed kicks in. That's when a people lose their soul. That's what happened to America. Quite awhile ago, I think.

glass and steel and concrete and no character
Back in those juvenile traipsing-through-Dublin days, they called the Irish economy the Celtic Tiger, characterized by high growth and low unemployment. Global conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation hailed Ireland as the quintessential model of successful laissez faire capitalism.

But you know what happened? The Celtic Tiger was shot by a hunter called Reality. Private finance had been given the power to make all the decisions in the country. Capital gains tax was reduced, regulations were lax, and low rates of income and corporate tax - a laissez faire wet dream - led to economic collapse. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT HAPPENS EVERY SINGLE TIME THE FREE MARKET CULT GETS ITS WAY.

There weren't enough taxes to pay for things, leaving the state vulnerable to economic shocks, so when the real estate bubble burst, everything fell apart.

Of course, if you talk to a laissez faire cultist, they'll blame the EU, corrupt politicians, or even the Irish for "too much partying." Because it's never ever the fault of their ideology.

EU structural funds are the reason that the Celtic Tiger was born in the first place.

There has to be a balance. Without balance, people starve, or fight, or destroy. When taxes are as low as the cultists want them to be, bubbles are created, and they always burst. Always. It took the IMF and the EU to bail Ireland out. Again.

It's pretty damn lazy to be such an adherent to an ideology that you refuse to think about any other possibility at all. But that's what religion is, and laissez faire is a religion full of merchants in the temple.

Yes, I really do think these things as I'm wandering around in my travels.

I continued to amble through the silicon streets, once made of mud, still made of mud under all that glitter, and found myself experiencing that vague sense of familiarity about my surroundings, despite all the new glass and steel in the area. I say it was vague, because it wasn't as it once was and it was not possible to recognize it. I only felt it.

I found myself at Windmill Lane, not knowing that the studio had been demolished.

Therein lies the fundamental problem with "development," something I recognized long ago in America. When you tear down iconic places, you tear down our identities.

Look, maybe this particular place meant something to me personally, but pick any place in any town and you'll find the same thing. You tear down old buildings to build a Walmart or an Applebees and create Anywhere, USA instead of My Hometown and there's nothing unique to make unique people. You take away people's childhood memories and they become just this ambiguous dream that melds pieces of real life with the transgressions of a memory plagued by Time. Photographs are no replacement for memory, either, because they become the sole representation of a particular memory, and all the things that happened around it are erased.

Jesus, when is our identity bubble going to burst?

After all this walking and reflecting and raging, I was hungry and in a mood to write things down, so I moved to the city center.

Here is an example of my lack of experience with manual camera settings. I could never get the photo I wanted. Too dark, too light, too out of focus, not the right depth. I need to go on another trip soon to practice.
Here is one I think I got right.
Dublin Castle
I liked the gardens, of course.
Hmm...a serpent in the garden...
Anonymous graffiti
Stopped in for a Bailey's coffee and a pint of Guinness
Stopped in for a pint at O'Neill's, where one of those wealthy British society types was blabbering about her charity work through mouthfuls of chardonnay
Crying "cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh"
After I'd had a few pints and a rest and my brain started to calm down a bit and the politico-economic agitations had subsided, I headed off to meet an old friend from college with whom I had studied abroad in Luxembourg and whom I hadn't seen in twenty years despite us both living in Washington forever now. I met her and her friend for dinner before we headed over to a U2 pre-concert day event in Temple Bar. I probably shouldn't have had that last pint, though...

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