Tuesday, 29 October 2013


Irish mastery of doublespeak has led us to a tragic endpoint

The Irish establishment speaks, in the words of Bing Crosby, “a language that the strangers do not know”. It is not Irish or English. It is doublespeak. The problem, indeed, is that they speak it all too well. Colm Tóibín once wrote that English people are mono but Irish people are stereo. More relevantly today, alas, the Irish are stereo while the Germans are mono.
Irish culture values the ability to broadcast on two different channels at the same time, to speak simultaneously out of both sides of the mouth. It probably comes from having, for some centuries, two vernacular languages, one for power and money (English) and the other for home, community and place (Irish).
It certainly relates to a history of oppression. Poor people who depend on the whims of their betters learn to be stereo, to tell the powerful what they want to hear (“I say a little prayer for you every day sir!”) and tell yourself what you need to say (“The bastard doesn’t know that the prayer is that he may rot in hell!”).

Verbal hypocrisyWhatever its roots, Irish doublespeak blossomed into a rich flowering of verbal hypocrisy. We developed a public language in which every sentence has a silent clause that annuls its meaning. Emigration is a tragedy – but the real tragedy would be if all these unwanted parasites hung around to cause trouble. Young people are our greatest asset – especially if they feck off out of here. A united
Ireland is our dream – if it didn’t have any Protestants in it.
We have a special love for children – we love them enough to build special institutions in which to incarcerate them. We revere our artists – but, Jesus, would it kill your man to give us a bit of a laugh now and then? We have a spiritual attachment to our countryside – how much would that field be worth if it was rezoned? And so on.
Weirdly, there was a moment when doublespeak came into its own, when it seemed supple and benign.
During the peace process, it became “creative ambiguity”. The process was based on the ability to take apparently fixed words – nation, State, sovereignty, identity, consent – and make them fluid, elastic and open to interpretation. Language was engineered precisely to be heard in stereo, with each side lending an ear to a different channel. Each could hear what it wanted to hear.
Out of all of this, presumably, came a strange confidence in the power of Irish doublespeak. The notion took hold that, even in a dire crisis, the state of Ireland could be articulated officially in two simultaneous but mutually contradictory ways. On one channel, there is
Message A, intended to be heard only by the Irish domestic public. It is that things are really, really terrible. They are so bad that we must take home help away from your sick 90-year-old mother and respite care away from the parents
of autistic children.

So bad that we can’t have counsellors in schools even when kids are killing themselves, so bad that A&Es have to go back to the status of field hospitals in the Crimean War. So bad that we have to go back to 1950s levels of emigration.
All of this has to be done because the State is in a terrible financial crisis, but it is a dirty business and the authorities are very sorry to have to do it.
But on the other channel there’s Message B: we’re grand. It is intended for the international markets. It is a message of confidence and reassurance. Our public finances are not in crisis; they are eminently manageable. The economy has turned the corner. We are not just a success story – we are the success story. We are not merely a credit to ourselves. We are a shining example to others. This is not dirty business: it is a cleansing and a sanctifying thing. This doublespeak might have worked, for we ourselves are so used to it that we take it for granted. But in this case there is the complicating factor of a third audience: our gallant allies in Europe and in particular Germany.

The wrong channel 
The problem is that the Germans have been hearing the wrong channel. They need to be hearing Message A: Ireland is in dire trouble. They’re actually getting Message B: Ireland is grand. Or, as finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble put it: “We think Ireland is doing very well. Ireland did what Ireland had to do . . . now everything is fine.”
Fine in this case includes not just the barbaric A&Es and the bereft carers and the suicides and the mass emigration but also the €64 billion of bank debt that we assumed to save the euro.
This is the tragic endpoint of Irish doublespeak. The boy who cried “wolf” came to a bad end because he said things were dire so many times that no one believed him when they really were dire. Ireland, uniquely, has pulled off the opposite trick. No one believes that the wolf is here because we’ve spent so much time assuring them that wolves
do not exist.
Not so much double speak as Paddy thinking he's a clever B...... Reason why he will have more value on a dishonest penny then on an honest sixpence, or he has pulled a fast one on another Paddy, and sold him something for twice it's value........this dishonesty is part and parcel of what we are. It might be that we can blame St Patrick or perhaps the British, or now that we are supposed to be independent the Germans. Give me a break!!
As Brendan Behan once observed: if they dropped the Bomb and there were only three Paddies left in the world you'd find two of them in a corner conspiring as to how best to shaft the third.
Wonder why Freud - at least allegedly - said the Irish were the only race immune to psychoanalysis?

Was it because he saw us - as Yeats did - as a nation of liars to whom psychoanalysis would be just another exercise in self- and other-delusion?
Yes - entirely accurate observation
As I said - its mostly the irish being what they think of as being polite - its a cultural thing - I found it hard when I first arrived in 1980 - I thought the irish were simply unable to speak the truth - and as such their 'opinions' were less than useless to me - still are - I came from a background were if it got out that you were gilding the lily in such a manner no one would be bothered with you- socially or professionally - but its when its elevated to the national level that its really a problem - it you cannot accurately and honestly analyze a problem then you'll never be able to at least try and fix it - and thats why Ireland will always be in trouble - other small nations have been able to run themselves well - Ireland never will simply because they cannot speak the truth - it seems like such a small thing - but it has huge impacts - saving yourself the trouble of having to actually tell the truth - and lying to yourself that you are saving the others feelings isn't polite - its as ignorant as you can get in my book - it is infact -yet another lie - lying to yourself that you are doing a good thing - maybe the other person really needed the truth - not self serving politeness
Quite a narrow point of view taken in ths article in my opinion, and missing the bigger picture. The "it's grand" line was not coming from Ireland for the little pat on the head from Europe (though I suppose that also happened to be a side effect) - there were real and tangible benefits for that image being broadcast outside of Ireland in terms of our bond yield spreads. If we were to go with the "we're completely in the shit here" as you seem to be suggesting, our bond yields would be so bad that there's no way the upcoming bailout exit would happen and guess what then Fintan? The horrific cuts that you've referenced would continue to go on for more years that has already been the case... and who would that help exactly? The fundamental point that's being missed here is that like it or not, investors with money are not going to buy the bonds of states that are deemed to be up the creek because they're less likely to get their money back - it's basic economics.
We are good at not calling a 'spade a spade' for sure; something that our straight-talking Teutonic friends wouldn't get. I never realised how similar we are in some aspects to Latinos...http://bit.ly/LbcE9V
Wonder has it to do with Catholic ''mental reservations'', the idea that it's Ok to lie so long as you silently tell yourself the truth or some version with it at the same time as you're lying to others; that it's ok to mislead with ambiguity and evasion; that taking oaths with every intention of breaking them is OK so long as you've your fingers crossed behind your back?
a flea on an elephants back does not have much clout ,we make up 1% of the great european superstate ,we sold our soul to the devil ,all we have to show for it is mass emigration ,a failed political state ,an economic melt down where living standards will continue to fall for those on the margins ,double speak or not thats the reality .democracy has never taken root in this country because the structures put in pace after independence made sure power remained within a small elite
as well articulated as anyone has managed.
Well yes, Fintan, things are grand if you have a decent job and have medical insurance, no disabled children and elderly parents with a civil service pension. Unfortunately these are the people that our government thinks Ireland is populated with instead of terrified unemployed couples with families and huge mortgages or parents of children that need 24 hour care. Until Noonan and Howlin find a pair and tackle massive state pensions this unequal system remains.
The premise of this column is idiotic. The Germans like anybody else will simply look at the facts and figures which speak for themselves. What is the Govt deficit as a percentage of GDP compared to when the bail-out started, is the trend in the right direction? What are the growth forecasts? will the int'l money markets have confidence in Ireland. The Irish Govt also know that it comes down to the figures. This is just Fintan O'Toole spinning a story to fit his whinge and whine agenda.
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Well the 'facts and figures' were fine until public debt got lumped in with private debt. Socialism for the wealthy.
Even without the bank debt Ireland would still have been in a bad spot. But for once it seems we agree about something - its the figures that determine what decisions will be taken. Nothing at all to do with FoT's inane notions of double-speak.
The reality is that the "we are grand" spin from Irish politicians also suits Germany as it means that they don't have to contemplate putting their hands into their pockets. They convenienty choose to ignore the fact that our Debt/GDP is 120+% and our Debt/GNP is about 160%. You don't have to be a finance minister to know that this is completely unsustainable and that things will continue to be "awful" for a long time.
It is really sad that some people cannot realize that there are far more factors that influence outcomes that black and white figures - for example - based on black and white figures Apple would have gone to the wall in the late 80'2 or early 90's - but there was more to it than that - and look at what they achieved - so called facts and figures are almost meaningless without being able to read the truth behind them
...So bad "...we must take home help away from your sick 90-year-old mother..." but not so bad we have to take extra tax from the wealthy and privileged; not so bad that we can't afford the best paid politicians on the planet.
For some people all is grand, the politicians who are pushing the message B to the world are all fine and dandy. In fact things could hardly be better. For the rest of us who have to live our daily lives with the reality of austerity things are bleak. Ya see austerity is not for all, the poeple who champion it are the ones who are least affected by it. The Irish people are ultimately to blame though as they continue to vote for the same oh, same oh. Until that changes nothing will change!
Remember Kenny's nauseating televised address to the nation? That waste of electricity was when he told the country that it wasn't their fault, emphasising it several times.

And the following week he was over in Brussels telling the Bilderbergers and the ECB and the IMF that ''we all partied'' and that in fact it was Ireland's fault that the country was ruined.

Good recent example of what Fintan is talking about. The Irish propensity for fooling ourselves and others.
"The more you say the less the better. Whatever ye say, say nothing".

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