Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

To Vote Or Not To Vote? I’m Glad You Asked Me That Question, Bob …

We had local and European elections in Ireland last week, while I was washing my hair.
  Shame on me, right? Men and women fought and died so that I could have the right to vote.
  If you don’t vote, you’re not entitled to complain.
  Okay, so here’s how I see it:
  If you do vote, you’re not entitled to complain. If you vote, you’re simply perpetuating the same old rubbish – bland policies that are minute variations on centre-right economics, dreamed up by the scions of political dynasties that have little to recommend them bar their longevity.
  If you want to complain, you have to be prepared to sacrifice your right to representation, stand outside the system, and piss into the tent.
  Because if the best this country has to offer as leaders of its two main political parties are Brian Cowen and Enda Kenny, then there’s a good chance the problem lies with the system itself.
  And if a tent can’t take a good pissing-into once in a while, we’re probably best off without that particular tent. God forbid you’d be camping out some night and the weather would turn rough …
  Here’s the thing:
  You wouldn’t let someone run a McDonald’s without a degree in management. Right? You wouldn’t let someone run a football team without a coaching badge.
  So why do we elect people to run the entire country who haven’t spent so much as a wet afternoon studying political theory?
  Now, you might be sitting there thinking that that’s elitist and anti-democratic. Not everyone gets to go to university and get themselves a fancy degree. In fact, most people don’t.
  Maybe that’s why there’s a resistance in this country to intelligent politicians, while the cerebrally-minded likes of Alan Shatter, Garrett Fitzgerald, Alan Dukes and John Bruton spent the vast majority of their political lives in opposition. And maybe it’s just because they were all Blueshirts, I honestly don’t know.
  Anyway, the point is this: I don’t want ‘most people’ running the country. I don’t want you running it, and I certainly don’t want me. I want the best and the brightest. And I definitely don’t want someone performing heart-surgery on me or mine on the basis that his or her father was a heart-surgeon.
  So here’s a modest proposal. The current government, being composed for the most part of the morons who squandered the wealth of the Celtic Tiger and are now penalising the people for their venal pandering to vested interests, should do the patriotic thing and resign en masse for the good of the country.
  President McAleese should then dissolve the Dail forthwith and turf everyone out on their ear.
  Any TD who wants to apply for re-election can do so, but only after obtaining a degree in political science, a degree that should ideally encompass (in no particular order) ethics, management, economics, accountancy, ethics, political theory, and ethics.
  Just so the politicos don’t miss out on their perks and junkets, the course will include mandatory internships attached to another country’s political system, preferably Sweden’s.
  Of course, this leaves us with a minimum of a three-year gap before there’ll be sufficient graduates to go forward for election, so we’ll have to throw ourselves on the mercy of the EU and apply for a form of bridging government.
  A degree in political science being the bare minimum required, anyone wishing to apply for ministerial posts should continue their studies to gain a master’s degree. This, however, can be achieved by attending night-school and / or the Open University while serving as a TD.
  This might affect the running of a politician’s constituency office, of course, and result in far fewer drink-driving charges being quashed. Still, we’ll just have to hope it’ll all work out for the best.
  Sure, it’ll be chaotic for a couple of years, and the rudderless country might well be devastated by a combination of political stagnation, EU meddling and economic recession …


Joe Barone said...

Men and women fought and died so you'd have the right not to vote too. I knew a high school social studies teacher once. I was giving him the old, "Everyone should vote," shtick. He looked me in the eye and said, "The only place where everybody votes is somewhere like the Soviet Union (back in the day) where they make you vote and tell you how to vote. The freedom we have gives us the right not to vote if we choose not to."

I thought what he said was wise. I share it whenever I get the chance.

AnswerGirl said...

Completing a university degree doesn't qualify you to anything but read books. The point of a democracy is to let amateurs run things, and I like that. If we leave politics to professionals, the mass of society gets to duck responsibility.

We still have town meetings in my part of New England -- we have more than our share of government, in fact, and frankly it's because we don't have much else to keep us busy in the winter. But it's fun, and I recommend it.


Rob said...

Crikey, I really don't think a degree in political science is required to be a politician! Just because you've studied politics does not mean that you'd make a good politician or make sensible, ethical decisions. I agree that being elected on the basis of merit and ability is much more preferable to being elected because of one's father, uncle, cousin, aunt, etc. a problem that Ireland undoubtedly suffers from, along with rampant clientelism and cronyism. Cerebral politicians would be a good start, but as a collective cabinet they should have a broad range of knowledge and skills and not just pol. sci. and they need to elected on their ability to make a positive difference to Irish society and economy. Whether that changes is of course the big question and is largely down to the electorate and that tricky thing called democracy. Perhaps you should run on a crime always pays ticket?

Uriah Robinson said...

One of your best posts ever Declan.
Cheered me up no end to see that your politicians are almost as venal and useless as ours here in the UK.
Our MPs need a degree in geography as well as political science as they seem to run up thousands of pounds worth travel expenses even if they live 8 miles from Westminster.
Luckily we have a Great Leader who can see past mere elections and opinion polls and tells us that we the people want him to carry on wrecking the country. His removal of the 10% tax rate was a classic example of not understanding that many ordinary working folk don't earn over £20,000.
Now I read he wants to alter the voting system to keep him in power for ever. If I was Irish I could use the word gobshite !!

John McFetridge said...

The Leader of the Opposition in Canada right now is a guy who was one of McKintey's profs.

If he helped turn out McKintey, what's he going to do to this country when he becomes PM?!?

Stuart Neville said...

My, that was a spirited rant! I voted this time, though I haven't voted in a while. I'm planning on doing a couple of political-stylee blogs over the next few days, one of them focusing on the Euro elections.

Spare a thought for us Nordies, and our democratic choice which essentially boils down to Extremists in Green, or Extremists in Orange. The turnout from the unionist community (i.e. my team) was again appallingly low. While the unionist parties continue to fracture like replicating cells, they never seem to step back and wonder if the reason their people don't bother their arses to vote is because their politicians are doing such a fucking awful job of representing them. In the meantime, the Shinners are lauging all the way to the bank because they, if nothing else, have some semblance of unity.

Declan Burke said...

Clair - "Completing a university degree doesn't qualify you to anything but read books."

Only true if it was a degree in reading books, ma'am ... although I do appreciate that I'm going against the PC flow when I say I'm elitist about how more education makes you smarter, and a more interesting person than a stupid one ... And hey, how come we want professionals to run every other important aspect of society, but we don't want pros running the country. Does that even make sense? Especially when we're demanding professional standards. Besides, if they get paid to do it, they're pros, right?

"Whores, politicians and buildings, they all get respectable if they stick around long enough." Robert Towne, Chinatown

Uriah - I sympathise, squire ... I thought we were bad, but it's a farce in the UK right now.

John - I want McKinty running this country. In fact, I might start a campaign, like Rob suggests ...

Cheers, Dec

Anonymous said...

"Politicians, ugly buildings and whores all get respectable if they last long enough . . ."

If you're going to use quotation marks, brohim, take the time to look up the quote.

Declan Burke said...

Sorry, brohim, we do humour on this blog. Anal-retentive pedantry is the next blog along ...

Cheers, Dec

bookwitch said...

I had two votes this time, my foreignness notwithstanding. I was so full of integrity I only used the one vote, though. And when I did I scandalised the younger family member by telling the blue-rosetted idiot outside the polling station what he could do with his demand to inspect my polling card.

Witches! Can't take them anywhere.

(You don't have that much hair, btw.)

Uiscebot said...

If voting could change the system it would be illegal.

Societal Systems are mad, i read a book once that said the only successful social systems are self protecting systems.

If you look at the country as a system it makes sense to have an idiot at the helm, last thing you want is some guy coming in saying things like 'it's time for change' when your a fat middle ranking civil servant or the like.

Declan Burke said...

"If voting could change the system it would be illegal."

Genius, sir ...

Cheers, Dec

Uiscebot said...

Thanks Dec. But not my own words.

That's a famous quote that i heard once, from a little fat fellah, who lived in Swords I think.

Have to get these things right.