The River Liffey
A menagerie lion running through the middle of Dublin, the Liffey is an arbitrarily imposed U.N.-blue demarcation intended to promulgate false dichotomies among the urban proletariat to imbue them with a consciousness not just false but pantomimic in its theatricality. Have a good look at imperial practices in the construction of nation-states, the malicious separation of Rwandans into Tutsi and Hutu, and you will recognize once again the pernicious influence of the hand of Empire. The struggle between Northsider and Southsider is presented as eternal, immutable, a fight between two irreconcilable essences, forced together like mutually repelling poles of a magnet: the verb “to cleave” means both to divide in two and also to unite.
The Liffey is a cleaver through the heart of Dublin, wielded by a bourgeoisie determined to pit Dub against Dub in a perpetual war of “Dubbier Than Thou” meant to guarantee their continued and mutual subservience to their regional oppressors. Is it any wonder there are so many corpses floating on the river’s scummy surface? Who would not want to drown themselves when faced with such a depressing mise-en-seine?
Davey Byrne’s Pub
Queue up to be moral at Davey Byrne’s along with all the other sheep. You can arrange yourself in a group outside on the pavement and recline nonchalantly while sipping your Burgundy and Gorgonzola, or you can feign sophistication by quaffing lager by the bucket until the world tilts on its axis. Either way, you end up looking at things askew, imagining that this qualifies as civilized behaviour in a consumer paradise quickly turning as limp and rubbery as the Gorgonzola on your tongue, or maybe turning aimlessly like the rubber tyres of a rental cycle not even the French would want to steal. On long summer evenings, wannabe senior executives hang around on the streets outside this place, talking loudly and comparing Blackberries and cocks. They would even make Joyce into a revolutionary, if he isn’t already spinning in his grave.
A kerfuffle. A scene. A lot of shouting and arguing. And then nothing at all. That’s Leinster House, home to poseurs and statues, a place where fainéance has become an art, and statecraft synonymous with handicraft, most notably fiddling the books while Rome burns or knitting at the foot of an underused guillotine. It would be facile to draw attention to this crumbling edifice’s foundational flaws and make a comparison with the nation’s finances and the fiasco of a parliamentary system that sees the bourgeois parties engage in playground spats in the absence of a revolutionary force that could lay waste the entire landscape, but facile metaphors sometimes need venting as a form of social catharsis, a way of saying the unsaid, giving shape to an entire people’s dreamwork. Off with his head!
And in the absence of revolution we sleep the eternal sleep of the damned, making do with fantasies of wealth. Who knows, It Could Be You who wins the joblottery, but in the meantime use your good money to chase after bad. The spent bookies’ slips seen here littering the concrete after a night at the dogs are testimony to the persistent optimism of the Irish working class, the survival of hope in the face of overwhelming odds stacked against them. All men are mortal, they say to one another, and so we must die no matter how much we will it otherwise. But if that be so, let us at least try to beat the system, if not collectively, then at least en masse, as a crowd of spectators on life, each of us hoping that he might be plucked from the crowd and rewarded arbitrarily. It’s a thoroughly absurd and desperate hope, given that together they could be dancing on the graves of their exploiters. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, but some of those handlers are looking mighty tasty right now.
Further reports to follow, imagination permitting.