Archive for November 22nd, 2010

Capturing ordinary life in extraordinary times

22 November 2010

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Amid the deception, the outrage and the dark, dark humour of it all, last week’s events set me thinking about how we get to the history of the ordinary. In thirty years’ time, when historians – if they even wait that long – get to writing about the collapse of the Irish state, they will have no shortage of indignant voices to draw from. On Friday, the Irish Times carried ‘Two pages of your letters to the Editor’. On Saturday, the Financial Times devoted dozens of column inches to ‘Ireland on the Brink’. The front of this morning’s Metro Herald (or whatever it’s called these days) carries a photo of a hand-made paper sign posted at the entrance to the Department of an Taoiseach: ‘Traitors’.

It won’t stop there. The lucky few to access the RTÉ archives will get a glimpse and an earful of life after the horse has bolted. There will be a whole generation of emigrant stories to draw from, as the refugees of the ‘knowledge economy’ find their talents better valued elsewhere. And a raft of ‘new’ Irish, too, will find their voices and interpretations of life in post-Tiger Ireland.

I could go on. But what’s troubling me is not the process of documenting public outrage. It is simply to wonder, as we live through extraordinary times, how much of their crushing ‘ordinariness’ will be discarded or simply missed by future historians. I’m not claiming that people are uninterested in the manoeuvrings of the EU and the IMF and the massive impact they will have on their lives. However much his words were chosen in the interests of political points scoring, Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes’s comments on the government’s extraordinary ‘we’re fine’ line last week captured the mood of a nation: ‘it’s a pile of shit … and you don’t believe it’. Read More