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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Money Changes Everything

After thoroughly checking out Brussels, I got a wild hare. One hundred dollars poorer, I was on my way to Dublin to see my pal Molly for about 24 hours of Guinness drinking, leprechaun chasing and french fry comparison. Ryan Air is built for people like me... cheapskates who only take carry-on luggage, don't wanna eat a prepackaged turkey sandwich, and would rather rake vomit bags back and forth across their eyeballs than watch a Hugh Grant romantic comedy.

I stepped off the plane into the Irish afternoon. Walking across the tarmac toward the gate, I thought how much more natural it is to exit an airplane this way... instead of into a hermetically sealed docking chamber. Sun filtered through the blustering gray skies, and I was greeted by an honest-to-goodness rainbow. Ireland was offering up its natural beauty in a welcoming embrace.

Molly and I drove the long way around the city (so that I might better appreciate my surroundings) and then back to her Wicklow abode. There we met up with George and Lola and promptly headed off to The Horse and Hound for pints.

I was informed that I had arrived on an auspicious day for Ireland. Apparently it was a day of national peacemaking as figureheads from Northern Ireland and the Rest of Ireland were shaking hands, smiling and posing for photographs. I wondered aloud, what could have happened to engender this kind of conciliatory attitude between such bitter enemies?

The answer, I was informed, has everything to do with money. Ireland, unlike big sister England, jumped aboard the EEU when given the chance. Somehow this resulted in crazy low interest rates, tons of foreign investment, and a booming economy for the Catholic half of Ireland. The Celtic Tiger was born, and people historically forced to eat raw potatoes (and occasionally their own children,) were suddenly finding their property values quintupling. This created two important dynamics. Poor people, always the backbone of angry societies, suddenly weren't so poor... and thus, suddenly weren't so angry. Instead, they were figuring out how to buy one of those cool no-mess espresso machines that work on cartridges. Secondly, middle-class Northerners stopped being disdainful, and started scheming on how they could possibly get a better coffee maker as well.

I'll be fascinated to see how this plays out. If a long, bloody cultural clash winds up reduced to inconsequence simply by someone dumping a ton of cash on the poor people... well, that says a thing or two about resource inequities in the world, and how we might undo some of the violence that threatens us all. Either way, coffee pot makers look to make a killing on this.

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At 5/17/2007 11:39:00 PM, Anonymous mel said...

Hey John,

First of all, I am so happy you went to Ireland. Second of all, that is great that you were there on what is no doubt an important day in history for the island of Ireland.

While I am usually not the most cynical person around, and I do indeed believe that the situation in the north of Ireland is getting better......You would be surprised to see how many "historic days", moments, events, blah, blah, blah there have been on this road to peace.

Of course this is a big one, yet if the past patterns keep repeating, once the hullabaloo of how much progress has been made dies down, suddenly there will be yet another road block and the arguing and stagnation starts again.....until the next historic breakthrough. Though perhaps all this too-ing and fro-ing really does have more posh coffee makers at the heart of it all, I think you are definitely on to something there.

In any case, it is cool you were there, that you drank Guinness where it is the best, and that you were there on what has to be one of the most historic occassions of this whole bloody mess.

My last point is that some twisted part of me misses the days when I would arrive there and be offered a cup of instant coffee.......

At 5/19/2007 04:12:00 PM, Blogger molly said...

Yay! I've been blogged!

It's funny, what you say about pouring money on the problem and making it go away. You've actually hit it right on the head there. Ireland's problems aren't and have never been that complicated or difficult, or there would have been a BIG intervention in the international community long ago. No, Ireland's problems are all about chips... ancient chips... on shoulders and pouring money on it has indeed helped make it go away. And that, dear friend, only points to the fact that it's a peasnt problem that Ireland has. I've said it and I stand by it.

Thank you so much for coming. Please come again and bring Oliaya next time!


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