An Island View

I am writing this column from Bere Island, a small island of two hundred people situated off the coast of Ireland, which of course is an island itself, off the coast of another island nation, off the coast of Europe! There might be some who say I am detached from reality here, but I can assure you, the bird’s eye view is indeed as astonishing as it is revealing!

I have spent several isolated long days and nights observing the local and national political scene over here and it is really something to witness. Their political dialog is a combination of sophisticated and aggressive mass confusion, the likes of which would never be fully understood or tolerated in the States, although they are becoming much more “Americanized” in their campaign tactics than they would like to admit. For the first time in more than forty years of visiting Ireland, I now see political posters being placed on public poles, glossy, truth-stretching pamphlets being distributed, and well-financed and organized campaigns being conducted by absolute novices with very little public service experience. Like home, they set out to have their particular “save the world views” imposed on a weary and somewhat distrustful public. The Irish are much more direct in expressing their displeasure, their doubts, and yes, their support along with prayers and even a few rosaries if there is just something about you that they like or can relate to. They are a wonderful trusting people and yet one gets the immediate sense that there is really nothing new in the way of political shenanigans that they haven’t seen. Their penchant for wanting to talk, preferably all at the same time, rather than listen, makes them unique and I suspect rather difficult to engage in a campaign. They do however seem to relish the sport of the political game, just like any good football match, thoroughbred horse race or greyhound dog contest. The latest versions and concepts of state-run capitalism vs. free market enterprise, or big brother socialism vs. individualism, or conservative vs. liberal, are all taken for granted, never mentioned, but yet all creatively commented on to anybody that will lend an ear. Maybe one of the big differences between Europeans and Americans is that we tend to take ourselves seriously, and care about such concepts and how they directly affect our lives.

Bank bail-outs, corporate greed, rising taxes and a growing sense that the people running our governments really don’t know what they are doing seem to be the common belief that binds most people today in countries all over the free world. If there is an international consensus, it is firstly, that nobody knows how to get us out of the dire predicament we find ourselves in, and secondly, that despite senior management fall out, the banks still seem to be driving the agenda. Indeed everything that has been done so far by the government leaders in both nations has been to prop up the banks to the virtual exclusion of everything else including the retention of jobs. At this point it doesn’t seem like the billions, or should I say trillions of dollars that the banks have been guaranteed by today’s and future generations of taxpayers are being translated into eased credit that is so vital to the business sector. The purpose of the toxic loan rescue plan by way of government money was not to deposit money in the banks; it was to ensure that the banks were in a position to continue lending to keep the economy moving. The banks, among the biggest contributors worldwide to this recession, have simply taken the money and locked it up in their vaults. Under no circumstances should they now be allowed to dictate the pace in the ongoing rescue of our economies.

Like in the States, the economy here in Ireland is at a virtual stand still because of the banking situation. This is where good government is supposed to step in. The government leaders who were supposed to be monitoring and regulating that industry are ever so quick to pass blame to anyone but him or herself. Doesn’t this sound familiar? It’s the same the world over; government leaders have encouraged us to blame anything and everyone else lest we focus too hard on their own contribution to the disaster. Some of the more misguided elected and pundits even go so far as to try to foolishly assert that greed is only synonymous with the free enterprise capitalist system and therefore the system must be changed. They apparently haven’t been made aware of how past societies that operated under a state controlled or socialist system have fallen apart because of the inherent greed of its leaders. Greed exists in all forms of governance. How the people who run the government treat greed is the telling and deciding factor. No doubt in the boom years of the past, many people benefited as well as the banks. The developers, the brokers, the home sellers and buyers, the lobbyists etc., etc., but the Government also got a huge boost in the resultant property tax revenues. Indeed it was the government itself that was encouraging the issuance of sub-prime loans and irresponsible banking policies that caused the problem. The boom years suited those in power and with largesse in hand, the so-called regulators and party hacks weren’t about to call a halt to their own acquisition of power and “political greed.” It is now glaringly clear that these so called leaders have neither ability nor conscience and it is time for the average person to invest some real thought and scrutiny before they cast their vote. I am sure that there are critics of any writer that attempts to divulge certain realities, and therefore I will attempt to offer a simple solution that even they would find it hard to disagree with. In my opinion, we have had enough of the “celebrity politician” who has no bona fide background in public service or public policy administration other than what the glossy pamphlets tell you. This type of “politician” is usually backed by self-serving donors, and has no notion or concept of serving the common good, only his ego-driven career. They are guilty of the most heinous of crimes by repeatedly deceiving the very people they are suppose to represent. Since we are now being forced to foot the bill for their incompetence and falsities, I think it is high time we start seeking out and electing people who have demonstrated in their respective fields that they possess the honesty, integrity and courage to stand up against the forces of corruption, greed and self-promotion at others expense. Now, more than ever, we need people who at least will try to do the right thing for the people they represent. Only when we start to witness our leaders serve the common good will future leaders arise that might be able to affect positive change

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