Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Time for reality check when elites 'standup' for ordinary people

This week's INM regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
People far more knowledgeable than I have been writing and commenting on Trump and Brexit over the last number of months.

I seldom if ever write on the news of the day or on topical matters.

The exception proves the rule.

I can still remember my first visit to Germany. It was summer 1972. I headed off to Germany to do a six-week language course in Cologne, staying with the Dominicans in Lindenstra├če.

Gosh 45 years have passed. Hard to believe it's that long ago.

It was my first time to drive on a motorway. In 1972 Germany was worlds away from life in Ireland.

We had that large green passport and before heading off I had to buy German Marks. If I remember correctly when I changed £100 into German Marks it had to be registered in the person's passport.

At the end of the course I travelled to Leipzig in the former German Democratic Republic. The hoops that one had to go through to get a visa for the GDR was simply mesmerising. And then travelling by rail from West to East Germany the locomotive would be changed at the border. East German police boarded and systematically and methodically check every passenger on the train.

At the time, the 'young fella' that I was, it was great adventure heading east. And then there was all the hassle of changing West German Marks into East German Marks. Add to that the fiddling one could do by changing money on the black market. The East German authorities required visitors to exchange a specific sum of money for every day they were in the country. The official rate of exchange was one West German Mark for one East German Mark. But the true value of the West German Mark was equivalent to approximately seven East German Marks.

In other words it was a madness and all crazy stuff. That's exactly what borders can do.

Whatever gloss the Brexiteers put on their plans, the reality is shockingly worrying.

When I was a 'young fella' there was no Erasmus. We stayed put and the majority of of us grew up in an insular Ireland.

People might be inclined to thank Michael O'Leary and Ryanair for all our coming and going. But no, it has been the genius of the European Union that has given us the possibility of working in Berlin, studying in Paris or getting to know friends in Florence.

The irony of it is that the EU has helped give all of us the lifestyle of the 'elite'.

To hear the likes of Michael Gove and Boris Johnson cast scorn on the 'elite' must be the ultimate in irony. And that's exactly what Trump does too.

There's that old phrase that 'familiarity breeds contempt'. Maybe it is that we have taken all our privileges for granted, got bored with them and anyone who promises some sort of new misty 'paradise' we simply fall for the bate. Does anyone really believe that jobs are going to spring up across the Rust Belt in the US and in the unemployment black-spots of the UK? 

How can people such as Trump, Gove and Johnson even pretend to be on the side of the marginalised? It seems to me to be obscene. They are the elite.

To think that a member of the Westminster Parliament can run off to the US, interview Donald Trump, have it published, never asking the man one delving question is horrific.

The vulgarity, the rudeness of Trump. Everything about the man. His crass wealth.
What's happening? Then there's Vladimir Putin.

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