“WOULD it not be be simpler, if the government simply dissolved the people. And elected another?”
My old English teacher would be chuffed to bits that I had started one of my columns with a quote by the German playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht.
The above sentiment appeared in a poem in 1953, while Brecht’s country was being torn apart by Communism, and I recently saw it regurgitated by a British politician during the Brexit debate.
It’s a pithy line. Before an election, a nation’s parliament is usually dissolved in readiness for the incoming politicians. But what if a situation arose in which the politicians didn’t require replacing every electoral cycle, but the people did?!
I’m not sure if my interpretation would meet with Brecht’s approval, since he lived in very different and troubled times, but I’m starting to feel a little bit that way about the upcoming European and local elections here in Ireland.
Would it not be easier if we kept the politicians, and changed the electorate?
On more than one occasion in recent weeks, I’ve found myself pondering who on earth would be mad enough to put themself up for a seat in Cork city and county council, or indeed in Brussels.
It means knocking on doors and hanging around shopping centres, often being met with hostility, listening to myriad tales of woe, perhaps even being harangued for the ‘crime’ of belonging to a particular party.
And all for what?
I have no doubt that the vast majority, perhaps even all, of the hundreds of people standing for election in Cork in the coming weeks are doing so with the best intentions. They want to effect change. They want to make life better for us. They don’t want to be the hurler in the ditch, they want to get their hands on the ball and shape the game.
Many of these people have high ideals, positive and powerful visions for our region.
And what must they experience on a daily basis?
The people.The bloody people.
Tetchy, moany, whingy folk, who seem to be under the impression that we’ve never had it so bad, and who believe politics and politicians are to blame for everything.
Not all are like that, of course. But it seems a sizeable minority — perhaps even a majority.
The electorate are, on the whole, a negative, cynical, moaning, griping, entitled rabble of whingers. They want, they want, they want. They demand, they demand, they demand. It’s all rights and no responsibilities.
I’m amazed would-be politicians don’t drown in a sea of negativity.
Let me provide some examples.
The announcement of the €3bn rural broadband plan. The cynical reaction around that was extraordinary.
It’s an election stunt. It’s a waste of money. It’ll never work.
Ye gods. Was there nobody in our rural hinterlands that greeted the news with a yelp of joy? Really? Perhaps they couldn’t access the internet to let us know...
Or how about the plans for a directly-elected Lord Mayor in Cork.
Another election stunt. It’s a waste of money. The political parties will carve it up. What’s wrong with the present system?
I wrote a column on that a fortnight ago, tentatively giving the plan my backing, but the comments alongside the article on our Facebook site depicted a community who, almost to a man and woman, are dead against it. Few, if any of them, offered a credible alternative.
Even when I spelled out that any shortfall in finance associated with the new role would be paid from central government, people still insisted on peddling the fiction that we in Cork would have to pay more taxes for it.
After all, why let the facts get in the way of a good whinge?
Ditto with this week’s bold proposals to upgrade Cork’s transport system. Cue more hysterical reactions about how the timing of this was suspicious, and how it would never work.
Perhaps it’s a symptom of the knee-jerk social media world we live in, but this negativity is rife with nearly every Echo story that appears on Facebook.
Last week, I wrote about the RTÉ search for the nation’s favourite folk song and lamented how, despite such a music-rich tradition, we can’t produce a half-decent song for Eurovision.
The responses on Facebook were virtually all related to the fact Eurovision was in Israel, and that the event should be boycotted. I should be ashamed, apparently, for merely bringing it up.
I recently wrote what I felt was an interesting, thought-provoking article about the fact the soccer club I support, Manchester City, had been the team of the decade but not won a single PFA Player of the Year gong.
The vitriol online from fans of other clubs — who had clearly only read the headline — was depressing to behold.
Look, when it comes to politics, we can all play the blame game — I’ve done it often enough on this page. But there comes a time when we have to stop the cribbing and negativity, and perhaps give the election candidates the benefit of our doubt. And if we oppose something, like the Luas in Cork, at least try to be constructive and present an alternative.
Sadly, it appears that many people have reached a dead end when it comes to politics — political parties in particular. But perhaps it’s time to forgive and forget, or at least try to engage with the candidates for election in an honest way.
We can refuse to vote for Fianna Fáil because they caused the last recession. We can refuse to vote for Fine Gael because they continue to cock up health and housing. We can refuse to vote for Sinn Féin because of the historical whiff of cordite. We can refuse to vote for Labour because they betrayed their principles when in power...
How about an Independent, then? Nah, they’re all in it for themselves, aren’t they?
Cynicism is rife. Voters question everything and doubt everyone, but this is surely not a template for a better society.
Look, too, at the recent climate change protests. The elections provide an ideal chance for these protesters to pursue their goals — and it’s true that some are doing so, usually as Independents or with the Green Party.
But it seems the large majority of protesters much prefer spending time waving placards, backing school strikes and anointing environmental campaigners, rather than actually trying to bring about change.
A few years ago, I pointed out that the winners of the local elections were the Apathy Party, owing to the low turn-out. This time, it’s the Cynicism Party that appear to be ruling the roost.
Brecht also said: “The human race tends to remember the abuses to which it has been subjected rather than the endearments.”
But it’s time we called a truce on all this moaning. If you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.