Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The Whiff of Sulphur in the Air

I'm just back in Berlin from a week in Ireland, where I travelled to Dublin, then up to Louth, and then over and down to Offaly, before finally returning to Dublin. A lot of running around and meeting people, from Austrian embassy staff on Ailesbury Road to cement truck drivers from Armagh.
Then I went to Dusseldorf where my sister had a show opening of her latest beautiful work which moves in and around The Golden Bough. (I also got to see some of this work the day before in Dublin at the Rubicon Gallery on Stephen's Green) I then went up to crash on the couch of my brother in Oberhausen before coming back to Berlin the following day for a long weekend of partying.
I list all this not becuase this is what I normally do on my blog and any readers (if there are any) know by now that I do quite the opposite here, but because during the last two weeks or so I had the distinct feeling that no matter where I went, or who I met, I was confronted with outright right-wing rhetoric and at times downright fascism. This, needless to say, became a little unsettling. It has felt as if I was attracted to it, as if I had been out looking for it.
From people I know voting for the Conservatives in the UK elections to the simple, almost jolly, throwaway remark that 'immigrants come here and take all the social welfare, leaving none for the Irish.' To other, more stranger sights such as a father reprimanding a teenage daughter in St. Stephen's Green, on a beautiful summer's evening, my last in the country for a while, decideing to quite forcibly hit her. I mean like raise his hand high above his head and whallop the girl on the head, swearing loudly. In public. I coughed, made my presence felt. He took a moment to turn around, as if forgetting that other people may exist, and that what he just did was out of hand, before raising his finger at me and saying rather cryptically: 'Excuse me.' I don't think he was apologising.
Everything about this little act stank of what is bad about Ireland: patriarchal (the mother just stood by, looking as remorseful as the seated daugher, smoking), misogynist, not afraid to use violence to uphold 'decent morality' (yes, let's blame the fucking church), and no doubt deeply hypocritical. The only strange thing about it was that it was in public. I had also been told that the victim of rape in Listowel town is still being ostracised (for my foreign readers, yes this sentence is strange, but I'm very sorry to say I have made no mistake). And was sad to hear that the literary festival seemed to go ahead without any attempt of a boycott or such.
I could go on; it has been a strange time when people just seemed too happy to casually add a jokingly racist comment or anti semitic rant - aided and abetted of course by  Isreal's own recent actions - and it is clear that no matter how well ordered and progressive us humans can be, we are just a moment away from letting out the fascist beast in us.
To round things off I was informed of someone who gave their second vote to the NPD in the recent by-election in Nord Rhein Westphalia. The person in question maintained that their first vote was for the SPD. I don't know what this means really,  or the motives, but it put a full stop to what has been a pretty depressing few weeks politically.
At least people still smile.
And this blog post is dedicated to the Persian man who gave me a lift from Oberhausen to Berlin, for free, and shared his stories and his sweets and nuts with me.
Long live generosity!