herald

Monday 1 September 2014

Help me to help you help yourselves

My favourite American newspaperman, HL Mencken, wrote nearly 100 years ago that there comes a time in every normal man's life when he's tempted to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and start slitting throats.

The "normal" men and women of America reached that point last year. It's called the Tea Party. I'm in Ireland this week to find out if the Irish have reached that moment, too.

I'll be in Galway and Dublin talking to Irish voters about my experiences organising Tea Party events in the US and encouraging them to create the Irish equivalent here. I don't know if they should be called "Tea Parties," though -- irony of ironies -- that's what British MEP Daniel Hannan is calling his.

My personal preference while in Ireland is to model America's "Whiskey Rebellion" of 1791 -- but that's just me.

When Europeans ask me why Americans are so angry, I just shake my head in bemusement. Ten per cent unemployment, $3 trillion in new debt, a $1 trillion stimulus that only stimulated more wages for government workers -- what else do you need to know? Now comes word that, thanks to the Obama administration's devotion to ever-higher debt, Moody's may downgrade our AAA bond rating, and of course we're angry. We're mad as hell!

That answer only confuses you Irish even more, because that litany of bad news above would, if translated to Ireland's economy, be trumpeted as a tremendous success by the Government.

That's how tough things are for you here. So let me ask the question: If Americans are mad, why aren't the Irish screaming their bloody heads off?



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Is the answer, as Patrick Barkham wrote in the Guardian this week, that the Irish just don't expect any better? He quotes an unemployed dad from Limerick who says: "Irish people were used to shite homes, shite education... the self-flagellation gene in Ireland is very strong."

Are you really willing to accept that? If so, then there won't be a Tea Party-style movement in Ireland, because the entire premise is that the people deserve better and are going to march in the streets -- and to the polls -- to get it.

And if you are one of those resigned, world-weary Irishmen, I'd ask you this: Are you willing to accept this sad future for your children?

The Tea Party isn't a movement of voters as much as it is a movement of parents. Of moms and dads, grannies and grandpas, who see the prosperity of their kids at risk. They see their kids struggling to find jobs today, while they're being saddled with hope-crushing debts for tomorrow.

Unlike the spoiled, violent Euroweenie thugs setting fires in Greece, American Tea Partiers aren't trying to protect their own pensions today. They're fighting for their children's economic fortunes in the future.

So maybe you're willing to live with less. But what about your kids? What about the 30pc of young Irish men and women who can't find work? What about them?

I don't know the right way for Ireland to solve its problems. I think promoting individual liberty and reducing the burden of government is, generally speaking, the best way to create prosperity. But I'm open to debate on the subject.

What I do know, however, is that complacent Irish voters continuing to flip two sides of the same coin won't fix it.

You deserve better. Your Government should be working for you, not the other way round. You're a nation of smart, hard-working, life-loving, big-hearted people. And if you'll grab these Government oafs by the scruff of the neck and shake them until their eyes rattle -- you can take back your country.

Spit on your hands, my friends. It's time to hoist the black flag.

Michael Graham is a US broadcaster and author of That's No Angry Mob -- That's My MOM! Hear him on the Right Hook, Newstalk, Fridays at 5.30pm

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