Friday, May 04, 2012

Michael D - causing drowsiness in the 'city that never sleeps'

Yesterday I checked around because I thought 'd like to see what sort of local coverage President Michael D Higgins was getting in NYC. The answer: not a lot. All I found was a blog post on the web site of a local Westchester County paper and an interview with WNYC.

The interview started badly - for the interviewer & his audience - and got worse from there. The first question was "How are things in your country today?" and Michael D was off. We're "coming out of a number of assumptions" ... unemployment is the biggest problem, people are "hurting from adjustments" to income and services, but "Ireland is doing well."

That was news to me. I thought we were still crippled with massive debts, beholden to our EU/ECB/IMF paymasters and basically looking at a decade of low growth and economic malaise, but no we're "doing well."

To be fair to Michael D (I swear I'd written Pres Higgins, but sounds so wrong) he qualified that by pointing out that we've "gone back to doing what we do best: agri-business, exports" and whatever it is "highly-educated young people can do." He then segued (without pausing for a breath) into "we had a very false version of economic growth for between 10-15 years."

He then waxed lyrical about the lack of bank regulation. He mentioned Glass-Steagall, but admitted our problems were caused by our own regulatory failures.

The interviewer, Brian Lehrer, played into Higgins' hands by asking him something about Ireland needing "a new set of values." Oh, did Michael D lap that one up.

Two things are happening on this score, apparently:
  1. We are "recovering sense of interdependency and the old decencies because you know during Celtic Tiger years we valued people by their possessions, properties." This all happened due to the overspill of the "assumptions of something that happened all around the world, that deregulation led to growth and less reg led to more growth." This was happening in an international atmosphere and within that you had the Irish property bubble. What he's concerned about, what he got a huge mandate for (in a way) was a program of inclusive citizenship. "I've been around the country and people are removing barriers to participation in a creative society... creative in everything we do, not just the arts." *

  2. We are also creating an Irishness we might be proud of, an Irishness that takes global responsibility e.g. soldiers in peace-keeping, aid workers
After that it was mostly stream of consciousness stuff. I was sure I heard Lehrer scratch his head, rub his eyes, stifle more than one yawn. When Michael D started quoting the Irish Constitution in response to a question (he had to interrput) about the Fiscal Compact Treaty I think I heard Lehrer put his finger to his head as if it was a gun. Or maybe that was just me. I'm not sure now.

Finally, around the 13th minute the interview ended. I bet Lehrer and his team were relieved. I know it's a public radio station, but even WNYC doesn't like to lose too many listeners, especially to simple sleepiness. That's a total no-no in New York.

* I did my best to faithfully reproduce what he said here. He moves very quickly.

{Listen to the whole interview. You'll be crying and laughing, sometimes simultaneously.}