As news of yet more economic and financial disasters makes its way to us, one of the questions that I keep on hearing asked is this one: Why isn’t Ireland rioting? Seriously, why aren’t we?
It’s a good question. It’s not a question with any easy answers. It’s not a question that I’m going to be able to answer in full, although I have a couple of ideas. First, though, I’d like to talk about what it definitely is not.
It’s not that we’re not angry. It’s not that we’re not upset. It’s not that we’re apathetic. I’m not even sure that it’s because we’re aware of the risks and have made a decision to solve our problems democratically, as Amanda wrote recently.
I think that it’s more to do with hope, with disappointment, and with our ingrained responses to each. It’s about whose hopes have been dashed, and whose hopes were never there to begin with.
Put simply: those of us who already could hope for something better can- and do- leave. Oh, how we leave. We leave because we can afford to, we leave because we have skills we want to put to good use somewhere that’ll have us. But we also leave because we grew up with leaving. We grew up with glamorous, exciting uncles, aunts and cousins visiting home for Christmas, for weddings and funerals and christenings. Telling us stories of faraway places, and, of course, bringing the best presents. Your dad is the boss? Peh, I had a cousin in America who was a private investigator and an uncle who worked in space. That kind of currency is gold when you’re a kid.
And everyone around us had the same, did the same. I don’t know if anyone I grew up with didn’t have family overseas. I doubt it.
So those of us with hope? Those of us who want something better for ourselves and our loved ones? Those of us with some education, or some money set aside, or even someone we can borrow something from? We know what to do when things are no longer hopeful here. We always knew what to do.
And that’s why we don’t riot. You see, to riot you have to have hope. You have to see that things are bad, you have to feel like you damn well deserve better and be willing to risk something. Either that, or you have to be completely hopeless, and feel like there’s no other possible escape.
Put bluntly, you either have to have a lot to lose and no other way out, or nothing to lose and no other way out.
But us, here in Ireland? We’ve always had another way out.