May 14, 2015

Imagination can help Ireland take its place among the world's nations

Posted in Irish Independent · 54 comments ·

When asked, the great American satirist PJ O’ Rourke responded: “Yes of course I’d like to come to Ireland in June”. And that was about it. O’Rourke, the most quoted living man in ‘The Penguin Dictionary of Modern Humorous Quotations’, will be coming to Dalkey on June 13 to speak at the Book Festival.

This reinforces rule number one of book, literary or arts festivals, which is that nobody ever got offended by being invited to something. Sometimes we forget that and think that people are “above” being asked; they are not. All they can do is decline. So why not ask them?

O’Rourke is that rare gem, a giant of American satire and analysis who has been poking fun at his own generation, the American liberal baby boomers, for years. He proves not so much rule number two but perhaps observation number two of book festivals, which is that the right-wing tend to have a better sense of humour than the left, take themselves less seriously and are inclined to be more forgiving than the men of the people.

This is the opposite of what you would imagine, but it is often true. Many commentators on the traditional left love to talk seriously about justice, equality and the rights of man, but tend to suffer massive sense of humour bypasses when their views are queried, even in a jocular, eyebrow-raising bout of scepticism.

O’Rourke also proves rule number three of book festivals – and festivals in general – which is the one I want to talk about today. It is that people like to come to Ireland to talk literature. It is a comparative advantage of this country and it is due to a rich literary tradition here.

Irish writing has for many years allowed this country to punch above its weight internationally. Irish writing in the English language has allowed what might be viewed as an Irish worldview to be projected out of this island, bringing a certain type of Ireland or Irishness to the imaginations of millions of people all over the world. Most of these people had no reason to ever think about this country before they opened a book or read a piece of poetry, listened to the lyrics of a particular song or sat in a theatre to experience an Irish play or film.

In today’s global economy, this notion of projecting an image of the country is extremely important.

Its potential is known as soft power.

In the old days, only countries with hard power – the power of the “big guy” such as military or economic power – could project an image of a country far from the homeland. Making foreign people think twice about you was power. Typically, hard power manifested itself not simply by others thinking twice about you but being afraid of you and what you might do to them.

Military power was always a function of economic power, which itself was a function of dominant resources such as coal, steel or agriculture. Hard power is the power of force: dirty, gritty, brute force. The era of hard power has lasted for millennia. It is not over, but gradually soft power is playing a role for countries without obvious resources. Soft power is the opposite of hard power.

Soft power is the power of imagination. It is the power of persuasion rather than force. The essence of soft power is getting inside other people’s heads so that they form a positive impression of you or your country.

This power can enhance the national brand enormously in a modern era. And, of course, the ability to project this brand is hugely amplified by the Internet and modern communications.

But soft power isn’t just invented. It comes from various aspects of deep culture because, like all forms of branding, the country’s brand has to be based on something. For example, the Danes’ pre-eminence in modern interior design comes from a deep artisanal tradition of furniture in Jutland.

You can see these links from the past to the present all over the world in the most unlikely of place and in the most unlikely of fields.

For example, last week I was working in Argentina and was surprised to see that, for the ridiculously fashion-conscious locals, the trendiest restaurants in Latin America are now Peruvian. This is based on the fact that Peruvian ingredients have always been highly sophisticated due to the indigenous peoples of the high Andes being so adept at agriculture.

Today, the brand of Peruvian cooking is based on this historical fact. I am no foodie, but it does seem to accord with the notion that for the national brand to be successful it has to derive from something fundamental.

In Ireland, we have this tradition of writing and, in many ways, the reservoir of historical writing nourishes successive generations of new Irish writers. It is almost as if there is a historical echo of great previous writing which emboldens those who are writing today. All endeavours need heroes who can act as role models – and what better heroes can a modern writer have than the likes of James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and John McGahern?

A good example of this is poetry.

On June 13 in Dalkey we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of WB Yeats’ birthday. Yeats reverberates today and, who knows, maybe our next Seamus Heaney is writing away crafting poetry today, inspired by the words of Yeats?

So Ireland has a comparative advantage in literature. And we are good fun, decent hosts and are easy to get to with great air links from all over the world. So why not build a small, but global business on book festivals?

In Dalkey our main sponsors, Zurich Insurance, a massive international company with deep roots here in Ireland, can see the potential and have come in to support the venture. In many ways, building a global brand with a local vibe is just what Ireland has been doing with the multinational sector. By this I mean that every time a foreign company is thinking of locating overseas, Ireland is bound to be part of that conversation. This is a huge accolade and is the product of lots and lots of small successes.

Why not do the same in the expanding business of literary festivals, building brick by brick, so that every time a big global writer is thinking about showcasing their latest work, doing it in Ireland is on the table? With global media, Twitter, Facebook and international branding in the language of the world, English, this is not an outlandish proposition.

It has to be worth a shot, no?

PJ O’Rourke will be speaking at the ZurichDalkey Book Festival on June 13th. Check out

  1. Mike Lucey

    The nation speaking ‘The Queen’s’ English as its everyday language is both a great tragedy and a great advantage.

    We may as well capitalise on the fact that we speak English, often more understandably than many regions in England.

    I often wonder what Eire would be like if we naturally spoke Gaelic.

  2. Jill Kerby

    The Dalkey Book Festival is a terrific addition to the Irish Festival season, but where is Ireland’s offical “Book Town”?

    As the article below explains, there are 17 official international Book Towns, small towns/cities devoted to the sale of books and literature – Hay-on-Wye being the first and oldest that attract global visitors. Aside from the large number of specialist, antiquarian, general bookshops (but not the big chains) that fill the once-empty shopfronts, these towns put on events and ‘festivals’ all year round. They celebrate literary anniversaries (like the 150th birth of Yeats) to seasonal events – Christmas, Easter, Halloween (all popular with families) – and encourage high value tourism.

    About 7 years ago, we stayed in Sedburgh, Yorkshire, one of the three Book Towns of England. My husband and son went hill walking (they walked 25k of Hadrian’s Wall later)and I went book shopping. It cost me a small fortune to ship the £250 worth of books I bought (we were travelling Ryanair!) in numerous bookshops in Sedburgh, but I love them all. It’s a very small place compared to Hay-on-Wye but had some charming guesthouses, cafes, shops etc, which weren’t there before the bookshops arrived.

    Could Dalkey be our BookTown of Ireland? I’ve written about, and discussed the idea of an Irish BookTown on radio, hoping that maybe a place like Longford would take it up: nice town full of empty shopfronts, central location for the inevitable literary tours of other places (Donegal/Ulster for great poet/playrights; Dublin for the literary walking “tours”; Cork and the “Big House” authors, etc.

    The idea is to bring the literary tourists to the Book Town and keep them there by providing plenty of bookshops; daily/weekly literary events, talks, tours; a variety of accomodation/eateries to suit all budgets; specialised tours to other literary places of note where they get to see the sights, visit the birthplace/workplace/museums dedicated to their favourite author. A central location means these can be mostly day trips so the literary tourists return to your Book Town.

    Dalkey isn’t exactly the most central location for a Book Town, but Dublin is an obvious transport hub. Book Towns create jobs where there were none before, though it takes time to grow and expand. (Just like the Dalkey Book Festival) Ireland has to be the most obvious country in the world for the next Book Town on that international list.

    Perhaps David and his Festival committee will look into it. The template is right there…

  3. michaelcoughlan

    Hi David,

    A superb flawless offering from start to finish. The suggestion about hosting arts festivals here is brilliant. Especially since Kilkenomics is such a runaway success.

    It’s also worth mentioning the charities we send abroad and the musical talent of U2 etc. Similarly the bloodstock reputation Ireland enjoys.

    It would be great if we could exclude the wankers and hypocrites who patronise artists. I think Joyce himself said that the last chapter of Ulysses written with almost no punctuation would keep the intelligentsia guessing for a century.

    John Lennon also expressed similar views when some academic ape from somewhere in Liverpool tried to “interpret his work”

    “He proves not so much rule number two but perhaps observation number two of book festivals, which is that the right-wing tend to have a better sense of humour than the left, take themselves less seriously and are inclined to be more forgiving than the men of the people.

    This is the opposite of what you would imagine, but it is often true. Many commentators on the traditional left love to talk seriously about justice, equality and the rights of man, but tend to suffer massive sense of humour bypasses when their views are queried, even in a jocular, eyebrow-raising bout of scepticism”

    Equality to the far left is what you are left with when you have shot all of the top and mediocre talent into a mass grave somewhere. In the case of Russia under Stalin equality was achieved 10′s of millions of dead people later.

    My own humble contribution keeping the observation’s of Lennon and Joyce in mind;

    Intoxicated Not.

    Intoxicated not,
    by the soap opera rot,
    the soap opera rot,
    of mind numbing sloth.

    Lennon and Joyce,
    both of then knew,
    the masses are asses,
    I’ll give you a clue;

    I am the walrus,
    any lyric will do,
    the masses buy anyway,
    goop goop go ju.

    The last chapter of Ulysses,
    without a full stop,
    a piss-take on the intelligentsia,
    who still won’t on kop.

    Go forth all you prancers,
    posers and imposters,
    ’cause patronised artists,
    their talent won’t foster.

    Very respectfully,


  4. EugeneN

    Hard power and soft power are inexorably linked. The US has hard power and is pretty much dominant in terms of soft power, culturally dominant not just in the Anglosphere but worldwide. As China gets richer I expect that it’s soft power will increase, and will India. I watch some Bollywood and Chinese movies as it is. Cultural power lags economic power, as does the decline in cultural power, hence America is about at peak cultural power but in relative economic decline.

    We are not very powerful either way.

  5. Deco

    PJ O’Rourke is a legend. And you did well to get him to take part.

    Ireland as a literary power has peaked. The Irish media, the Irish establishment, and the Irish university sector would steadfastly maintain otherwise. But that is BS. We are on a downward slide like the rest of the Anglosphere into mediocrity.

    In the century ahead, the literary greats in the English language are more likely to be Indian. They still have the authenticity and the depth that has been washed out by television/over-simplification culture in the richer anglo countries.

    PJ O’Rourke is a genius because he is not afraid to tackle the absurdity that so many others regard as sacrosanct, so as to not make it’s proponents look ridiculous.

  6. coldblow

    Anthony Burgess noted how Dubliners might be fond of talking about Joyce but none of those he asked had ever read Ullysses. I also heard a French West Indian writer (on Bouillon de Culture with Bernard whatiseeezename oh yes Pivot) recall his deep disappointment when he finally arrived in France and everyone wasn’t reading Zola, Balzac and Bovary.

    Is there anything good being written by Irish authors these days? I thought McCabe’s Butcher Boy was good but another of his books (about Nureyev I think) was dire. Per head of population I’d guess that there are more worthwhile books written by English authors than Irish in the last century. As for films, I rarely watch them but I’d make a point of running from Irish made ones.

    Is O’Rourke right-wing? He is no more a conservative than Jeremy Clarkson or Kevin Myers. But David is right about the dreary earnestness of the far left (that is, nearly everyone on the telly in Ireland plus countless wannabes). This used to be the hobby of bearded students on academic reservations and feminist harridans in boiler suits but has of late through some mysterious process (about which I was not consulted) become mainstream. (Regarding the boiler suits, I clearly remember the scene in the staff room of a girls school in SE London at the time of the miners’ strike where two female teachers in ring of admiring colleagues – others kept their distance, demonstrated an aid box they had prepared for the picket lines. At least I think I remember two boiler suits, not one, and it isn’t my ‘imagination’ making it up.)

    Jill Kerby, fifteen years ago we passed through a village in eastern Belgium which is their own version of Hay on Wye. It was all, or nearly all, Francophone with lots of Maigret and that kind of thing. There is a bookshop in Dalkey, or at least there was a few years ago. I think we counted four wine shops and about three Italian restaurants. Plenty of parking meters though.

  7. Grzegorz Kolodziej

    I would like to elaborate on the topic of projecting an image of Ireland from a foreign perspective because Ireland can offer some selling points which in my opinion are totally neglected here and which could contribute to the said soft power. I am imbued with belief that my voice is needed because it is often the case that one has to take a step back to notice certain things on the same lines as one does not see the top of one’s nose (i.e., the most insightful short history of Poland, ‘God’s Playground’, was written not by a Pole, but by a Welshman – prof. Norman Davies, and it ended up on a Polish Department for Education list of textbooks for secondary schools). Those of you who think that foreigners should not advise the indigenous population on how to market the Irishness can ignore my post and those who think my comment may contain some good marketing ideas should read it.

    I remember that some time ago David McWilliams wrote an excellent article on salt trade in Hamburg -as opposed to cheese trade in Sardinia and sugar cane trade in Canaries. In that article he warned that unless Ireland diversifies its economy like Hamburg from construction and computers, it will end up like Sardinia which supplied most of Italy with cheese but fell back into poverty when other agricultural regions copped on and like Canaries which supplied all the sugar cane to all Europe until Europeans discovered the Caribbean and started to harvest sugar at a fraction of the cost (in my opinion even bigger problem is a yawning gap between highly competitive private sector in Ireland – sometimes based on very low wages, like in Hilton, sometimes based on high wages, like Google – and highly uncompetitive domestic sector, especially domestic public sector, like in case of RTE or Dublin Bus, but not only; but that’s for another discussion).

    I think that the same should be done with projecting the image of Ireland.

    First of all, I wonder if any of you here are aware that for an educated Eastern European person, both as an immigrant or a as tourist, Irish selling points are very different than what you may think are her selling points (and there are more people from Eastern Europe who come here to spend money than you might think because they often come here to visit their immigrant friends or grandchildren). I am talking about educated Eastern Europeans not because I am an elitists but because most uneducated football fans (there are some educated too, but in minority) would be very satisfied with the normal drill: Guinness Brewery, Cliffs of Moher and the nightclubs (and very dissatisfied with Dublin Bus and scumbags near the Liffey).

    Educated Eastern Europeans are usually obsessed with history and politics. Even uneducated family meetings almost always start from discussing politics and end up with arguing about it; similarly, a discussion about the Warsaw Uprising can in Poland turn into an exchange more heated than a discussion between the Dubs and Kerrymen during the All Ireland final.

    Ireland is a country with a history that goes deeper than Polish history but which does not do enough trying to sell it.

    Take the offer of tourist offices here. Paddywagon has fantastic tour guides, probably the nicest tour guides in Europe, but it only offers a fraction of what foreign tourist offices offer when it comes to trips around Ireland.

    For example, where in Ireland can you book archaeological tours around Ireland? Where are mountain tours (and do not tell me about Dublin hill walks, I am talking about one week trips for foreign tourists). Americans offer such tours from the US, the Irish do not. Never mind Americans, there is a Polish chap living in Ireland who runs on his own a tourist office called ‘Pendragon’ and his offer is much more diverse than Paddywagon’s offer; furthermore, his website offers more information about little known but interesting places or peculiarities in Ireland than any other Irish website.

    Last but not least, the only comprehensive source of information about free events in Dublin is a website run by a German (that has many Irish and foreign sponsors, including some Polish). Oh, and by the way, when Abbey Theatre was looking (a few years ago) for a study of Irish accents they could not find any such book until I recommended them a Germans source.

    So which elements of the Irish history would be interested for educated Eastern Europeans? Well, those who you think are not interesting: the pagan stuff and its rituals and all the medieval stuff. Also the successful Irish in the history of the British Empire. You look at the Irish who played an active role in British history too much from a victim perspective and I am just afraid that this may turn into some sort of holocaust industry; not without reason Brendan Behan said that ‘Other people have a nationality. The Irish and the Jews have a psychosis’.

    I am not talking here about some knight errands tours to Knock – this would put off most religious people from Poland for it is way too tacky and commercial. In fact I am not talking about religious tours at all.

    Take Glendalough. There are many other places like Glendalough in Ireland, not quite as impressive or well maintained, but still. Why they are not advertised? A tour of 1,000 years old abandoned ruins would be infinitely more interesting for people from Krakow than unbearably noisy pubs or a communist bookshop in Temple Bar.

    Another thing – tours to Glendalough should be also run at night and why there are only two companies that do trips there? And what about the information about Glendalough – why do you not scream so loudly that your voices would be heard in Krakow that Glendalough was a cradle of new technology? That there was a hospital there, there were granaries and a library and that people came here to find out about the latest agricultural methods? Or that new materials were being issued like mortar so that they could build bigger and stronger houses?

    Did you know that Ireland has the oldest tidal mill in the world (619-621)? Well you should, and so should everyone in Europe. And what about the astonishing network of connection when the Irish were colonizing Europe? Did you know that when Iona monks needed to to use the ultramarine blue, there was only one mine in the world in Afghanistan that they could procure the material from – and they did? And why do you not advertise the Kingdom of Dalriada?

    Please do not think I am picking up on you: Poles are the same, they love to celebrate all failed uprisings and they love noble tragic losers (it is telling that the successful uprisings in Poland, like the Greater Poland Uprising 1918-1919 are for some masochistic reasons not celebrated and there are no national celebrations of the three most glorious events in Polish history:
    1. 1610-1612, when Poles occupied Moscow as the only nation in history – BTW, Poles occupied England too: Canute the Great was a grandson of the first Polish king Mieszko the First
    2. 1683, when they saved Europe from a Muslim invasion in Vienna and
    3. 1920 when they saved Europe from the Bolshevik invasion – German trade unions blocked the supply of arms to Polish soldiers at that time; and the first marshall of Poland, Jozef Pilsudski, had Irish roots).

    And do you know what it does in terms of projecting the image? Both in Ireland and Poland’s case it projects the image of losers. We must end all that whinging and self-pity and present ourselves as victors, either in culture or in battles – otherwise we will be slaves.

    So first of all, you need to focus more on the glorious second half of the first millennium in Ireland when the Irish were the most civilized bunch of people in Europe and they were bringing culture to the court of the most powerful European king, the Charlemagne.

    David McWilliams writes that ‘we are good fun, decent hosts and are easy to get to with great air links from all over the world’.

    Yes, you are David, but you are so much more than that and you should not hide or lose what was glorious and culturally dominant in your early history.

    When the Irish had literature, the Picts had strange stones and when the Irish had monasteries, Picts were in the Iron Age.

    The whole 1916 and the Troubles thing may be important for new Irish identity, but you need to focus on other things (at the end of the day more Poles died in the first day of Warsaw Rising than Irish Catholics died during the Troubles and the Easter Rising combined – and Warsaw Rising went on for two months; besides I believe that neither Poles nor the Irish should focuses on their failed enterprises such as failed uprisings in both nations history).

    Secondly, you do not advertise great Irish thinkers and instead you are fascinated by writings of Marx, Trotsky, Lenin his admirer James Connolly, all of them had less understanding of how an economy should be run than my dog, the rough-collie who at least knows that there is no free dinner (you often talk about Catholic Church as a backward force in modern Irish history but at the same time the same people would blindly follow Trotsky and Lenin who moved Russia a few centuries backwards – in 1920 the iron-ore production was only 1.3pc of the production before the war and Petersburg population decreased in one year by 71.5pc, so more than Ireland’s population decreased after famine; for those who think this was because of the war, I have some interesting data: in 1961 Gagarin’s salary was 150 rubbles a month, teacher’s salary was 45 rubbles and a coat cost 61 rubles; this lack of knowledge cannot be narrowed down to a Socialist Party: I spoke to an UCD sociology professor who recommended reading Marx and he had equally little knowledge about Marx and economic theory).

    And who are those great Irish thinkers?

    John Scottus Eriugena, Edmund Burke and George Berkeley.

    Eriugena was probably the most educated person in Europe at the time.

    Whether he was right or wrong in his Panteism is a matter for a debate, but he was responsible for a revival of philosophical thought which had remained largely dormant in western Europe after the death of Boethius and he revived the nominalist-realist debate. Eriugena’s work was distinguished by the freedom of his speculation: for him philosophy is not in the service of theology.

    George Berkeley was a founder of solipsism, which I think suits the Irish character ;-). He was arguably smarter than Newton because Berkeley argued against Sir Isaac Newton’s doctrine of absolute space, time and motion in De Motu, published 1721. His arguments were a precursor to the views of Mach and Einstein. In Poland he was very well known and discussed until his views had been finally refuted by the great Polish philosopher of science, Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz (Ajdukiewicz compared the language used by Berkeley to the language of syntax and found out that Berkeley’s claim that esse = percipi is similar to an attempt to define semantics in a purely syntactic language; however, due to Tarski’s results about the relation between syntax and semantics, this is impossible).

    Finally, there is Edmund Burke. Burke was a founder of the philosophy of conservatism and as such his ‘Reflections on the Revolution in France’ are a textbook for any philosophy or political science student in Poland. While being a part of the English establishment he remained a staunch Irish nationalist and an advocate of the Irish language.

    None of those three thinkers are really known, red, discussed or advertised in Ireland. Neither is John Joly who invented colour photography or Harry Ferguson. And what about Louis Brennan who invented the guided missile? This stealth torpedo was used as a coastal defensive mechanism.

    There are no museums in Dublin devoted to any of those people – but I did find a magazine an article in ‘Connolly’s Bookshop’ praising Joseph Stalin as a great linguists.

    Perhaps it was because of those tradition that the Polish philosopher and logician Jan Lukasiewicz decided to emigrate to Ireland after WWII and not to USA, like his other colleagues. Poland was the world’s capital of logic and philosophy of science before WWII (the Vienna Circle was very small and one-sided compared to the Lvov-Warsaw school; enough said that Thomas Kuhn copied most of his views from its representative Ludwik Fleck and W.Quine, America’s most famous philosopher at the time, came to Warsaw before WWII so that he could learn Polish and read Jan Lukasiewicz in Polish – and yet even De Valera’s dreary Ireland was attractive enough for Lukasiewicz to settle down here).

    Ireland was a country which was so popular in the 80s and 90s Poland that one of the most popular songs in Poland was ‘I love you like I love Ireland’ by Kobranocka and there was a band called IRA which actually triggered panic in London when they had a reunion concert and the London police saw tonnes of people in ‘IRA’ T-shirts standing in brooding menace; they actually wanted to arrest the members of the band but they managed to dupe them by explaining that they are religious band and IRA comes from the Latin ira, as in ‘Dies Irae’.

    Last but not least, you have another national treasure – the beauty and good skin completion of Irish woman (this was noticed even by Queen Victoria in her diary) who even when they are a bit older, they still have smooth faces of young maidens unmarked by the hollows of compromise or the deeply drawn lines of hard decisions.

    Ireland political activists try to copy Trotsky, Paul Krugman, the garbage culture of American black suburbs, the overrated Scandinavian model or, on the contrary, Nigel Farage – as if Ireland could not come up with its own right-wing party which would encompass all UKiPs economic soundness but it would be bereft of Farage’s populism.

    In the past Ireland was a country which used to set trends in entire Europe, from Iona monks through Edmund Burke to U2 and The Bloody Valentine. Many Polish conservatives or liberals would in the 90s talk about Ireland as an example of how to run an economy or how to deal with Brussels.

    Ireland does not need to copy Trotsky or UKiP.
    It can be a country that other nations in Europe would try to copy and not – as prof. Morgan Kelly once said – a country relying on the kindness of strangers.

    But we need to believe in it.

    Perhaps in the future some political movement will come out of this blog?

    • coldblow

      Interesting post. I have heard others also stress the importance of reading philosphical texts directly (rather than secondary works interpreting them) and it follows that this would best be done in the original language.

      The Dies Irae story is a good one. I played for a five a side team called IRA in the late 60s in London. It wasn’t my choice as I was only ten and the Troubles hadn’t yet started. We revived it three or four years later, but that wasn’t a wise move. Fair play to them, they let us keep it, but one or two matches attracted a certain amount of unhealthy attention with other boys on the touchline chanting UDA, followed by crowd trouble after the final whistle (in other years we called ourselves Benfica or Spectrum).

    • PB Hewson

      Enjoyed your port and observations Grzegorz. There is certainly many layers of very interesting stories that are not as well told or marketed in the current Irishness being sold and told. I remember watching on BBC a year or two ago that the beach nearest to David’s beloved Dalkey, Killiney beach, was the scene of the world’s first seismic experiment which was the precursor for the Richter scale used to measure earthquakes and tectonic movement. There is no mention of this at the beach or anywhere in the area. Yet he was a leader in this field at the time. Surely a great Irishman, however during the British times, so his story is buried under the stories of rebels. I do think many many Irish people want to learn more of these stories from our history. ( some would rather keep fingers in their ears as it suits their narrative) Point being what you are suggesting shouldn’t necessarily be just for foreign tourist but all Irish people to understand our full history.

  8. DB4545


    Great article and landing PJ O’Rourke is an absolute touch of pure genius.What other literary colossus of this epoch has produced the pure joy of “How to drive fast on drugs while getting your wing-wang squeezed and not spill your drink” and the “The Holy Land-God’s Monkey house”? Marx, Schumpeter and Weber just pale in comparison. Holidays in Hell just machine guns through the lunatic theories of the left and right and shows how people really live and the sometimes appalling conditions they have to live under. It just shows the genius of American literature in distilling all the crap out of a story and delivery the essence in an informative and entertaining way.

    The literary tradition is a great asset and the book festival is a great idea. It’s been discussed before but I think Ireland in general and Dublin in particular should focus on being a great convention/entertainment destination. It’s convivial and easy-going and comfortable to be in. Fly them in, entertain them, feed them and showcase the attractions of the place. We don’t live half a mile from the sun so they don’t even have to worry about air-conditioning unlike Vegas.Tidy up the transport system and make it simple for visitors to move around and make them feel safe and secure when walking our streets and the rest will follow.

    Ireland has four literature nobel prize winners in literature, the US ten, the UK 10. I’d say that’s boxing well above our weight. That information was news to me but not to Christop Waltz who just happened to mention it in passing when he appeared on the Conan O’Brien show. Waltz went on to say that it points to a certain talent for communication. Waltz is the Austrian actor who played the evil Nazi (is there any other kind) in Inglorious Bastards. He pointed out that the relationship between Austria and Germany is similar to the relationship between Ireland and England. Germans are blunt whereas Austrians have a better sense of the absurd. Are you with me Ted? Know any German speaking actors with a sense of humour? Bingo, hasta la vista baby. And nobody can deny the genius of Austrians bouncing Hitler off to the beer halls of Munich to get rid of the annoying little bo**ox.

    I think if he had been born Adolf Murphy in Ireland the world would have been a happier and safer place. Someone would have sat him down in a snug and marked his card. Jasus Adolf there’s no sense in ranting about reparations and the Master race shite when your own Da Alois was born out of wedlock. Who know’s anyone’s history? Only de female of the species knows dem secrets. And there’s no point picking on that crowd in Clanbrassil Street. They’ve enough problems with half their mick*y cut off and not being allowed to eat a decent ham sandwich.Have a pint and some bacon and cabbage and forget about that vegetarian nonsense as well. I hear yer doin a bit a paintin. I’ve a small job for ye in Ranelagh. Hall stairs and landing cash in hand we’ll keep the taxman out of it. And that folks is how Ireland neutralizes megalomaniacs (excluding Bono of course).

    Ireland is open for business and all tourists are welcome.Now excuse me while I go back to this piano.


    • Grzegorz Kolodziej

      DB4545, I think that Waltz teased something very important out of the nature of relations between big and small states from the same cultural zones when he pointed out that Germany is to Austria what England is to Ireland and that the Austrians have a better sense of the absurd. While I would not totally agree that Germans have no sense of humour (it would be very difficult to judge for English speakers because of the language barrier as the best of any nations jokes are usually based on what Wittgenstein called language games) – Germany has a very old tradition of cabaret – I would say however that German humour is very sharp but it is usually very political and directed against the others. I am not saying that Germans are not laughing at themselves because their comedy shows are full of malicious insights, but it is usually the political enemy or other nationalities that they are laughing at. For example there was a weekly show on German TV that as a fixed part of the program had a Polish joke – I am not sure if there still is because one cannot watch and read everything. That’s fine for me, provided that they would also have a French joke, a Jewish joke, a Muslim joke and ‘how-we-avoided paying war reparations to Poland and Greece’ joke. I would like to add that one of the lecturers of the English literature said on the radio that he was teaching the Oxford students about the book ‘The Third Policemen’ and noone was getting it and then we went to teach the same to Prague and everyone was getting it (Prague, Krakow and Vienna had been a part of the same country for 123 years).

      Austrians are more able to laugh at themselves than German, though probably they are not as good as the Irish, who are really good at that (take Dylan Morgan) – and in fairness, English are much better at that than Germans too (Poles can be good at that too, but it is kinda exaggerated – on the lines that if we criticize something, we will go totally bonkers and if we are serious, we are deadly serious; by the way, Polish sense of humour is probably the most absurd of them all – watch the comedy ‘Sztos’ and ‘Sztos 2’ about the foreign currencies traders in the late 70s and early 80s Poland, which is available on DVD with English subtitles; unfortunately many Irish think that Eastern Europeans lack sense of humour because unlike the Irish body language, which is very interactive and emotional, Eastern European tradition requires you to tell a joke with a Poker face and the bigger the contrast between your face and your statements the better the joke – hence Tommy Tiernan would do very badly in Eastern Europe because he is too much in your face (too much Charlie?), but Ardal O’Hanlon and Dylan Morgan would do very well if they could be translated well– another thing too consider in terms of Ireland’s soft power).

      And because Austrian tradition is free from the all-unifying Prussian tradition, it grates on their sensitivity to be bombarded with that sense of self-importance typical of the post-Bismarck Kulturkampf. I have even seen an Austrian TV presenter jocularly addressing his German colleague ‘Gruess Gott, Scheipi’, which is probably more insulting than saying a ‘knacker’ to a knacker (imagine Pat Kenny with his posh accent saying on RTE to a member of the audience in a tracksuit ‘why do yous knackers always congregate in the Liffey Valley area? Go back to your Tallaghtfornia’).

      When we mention Austrians, I would like to point out to the fact that Austria has a completely different cultural tradition than Germany. The crucial thing is that Austria was not cut of the Latin tradition, especially the scholastic thought, as post-Luther Germany was. This is not place and time to go into details, but I can say that Germany, even though they had a very rich philosophical tradition of Kant, Hegel and Heidegger, these were all philosophers who had very little proficiency in logic – particularly Hegel’s understanding of logic pushed him back to pre-Aristotle times and he was the official philosopher of the Prussian state.

      Austrians, for a change, had thinkers like Bolzano and Brentano steeped in scholastic thought and for those of you who do not know scholastic logic was so advanced that Bertrand Russell came up with many ideas in the most seminal work of 20th century mathematical logic – ‘Principia Mathematica’ – that had been invented a long time ago by Middle Ages monks (he did not know about it; in fact the Polish logician Jan Lukasiewicz who settled down in Ireland was the first who discovered that).

      Austrian political philosophy was free from totalitarian inclinations of the German philosophy which culminated in the totalitarian Prussian state, while Austrian literature and music in the Austro-Hungarian empire was far superior to German achievements (for example the second Viennese school of Schoenberg, Webern and Berg)’ if we exclude the phenomenon of the great Richard Wagner (who actually had a great sense of humour, but again it was always directed at the others).

      Perhaps some of you would be interested to know that the Austrian occupation of Poland in 19th century was the only occupation which is remembered well in Poland, even though it was arguably the poorest occupation zone in Poland – in country side probably even poorer than the Russian zone and the highest percentage of immigrants to the US was from Ireland, Sicilly and Polish Galicja (the Austrian occupation zone).

      This was because the Austrian basically allowed Poles to speak their language and even apply for the highest offices (at some stage the Austrian Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and the speaker of the Parliament were all Polish – there has not been a country so tolerant ever since for even in the US Arnold Schwarzenegger cannot be a President).
      In Krakow there is a pub that until this day has a portray of the Austrian Keiser Franz Joseph the Second and Austrians have the biggest consulate of them all; also Krakow’s cuisine and café culture is very similar to Austrian.

      This actually brings me back to projecting the image of Ireland and how you guys can improve on that – possibly the greatest philosopher of the 20th century, Ludwig Wittgenstein, lived in Ireland and you guys are not promoting it – the series of events promoting it had to be organised by the Austrian embassy (in a private conversation the Austrian ambassador asked about what surprised him the most in Ireland said the amount of knackers in Dublin city centre – except he obviously did not call them knackers; I do not even know what the German word for a knacker might be). So you have a bookshop in the most central place where you can buy collected works of Lenin but no bookshop and a magazine with an article about Joseph Stalin as a great linguists written by a French idiot, but you have no bookshops with books on Wittgenstein in Ireland…

      P.S. Now I started to realise that you weren’t joking when you said that you play piano in a whorehouse. I thought that DB4545 meant Dublin Bus and a bus stop number. Wow, that is very original, and what a strange combination! It must be very posh that whorehouse (not that I would have any knowledge of whorehouse). It must be very stimulating in a way. What kind of music do they require you to play? I picture some ragtimes for undecided clients, Chopin’s Revolutionary Etiude for the actual gig, Chopin’s melancholic and resigned first ballad for those who cannot and ‘Nuages Gris’ by Liszt for those exhausted clients who can and they are trying to catch their breath. For sadomasochists I think Liszt with his ‘Totendanz’ would be a strong proposal while for people who indulge in buggery, such as John Maynard Keynes, it would have to Elvis Presley’s ‘Jailhouse Rock’. For those who are trapped in your nightclub without realising the dance with the girl would cost them a hundred pounds and there is a veteran of war in Chechnya at the door who would make sure the transaction goes on smoothly it would be Shostakovich’s ‘Dance of Death’, the seventh of his Aphorisms op. 13 – my favourite work of this composer.

      • DB4545


        I can only concur with the Austrian Ambassador in relation to the chemical vampires strolling through the city centre most days. Anyone paying business rates must be very irate with the situation. Maybe State funded shooting galleries in an industrial zone might be the politically incorrect but effective solution. In relation to my occupation I’m not a piano player or a bus driver I was speaking metaphorically. The phrase was originally use by President Harry S. Truman. Austrians say that they sent Hitler to Germany and the Germans sent Beethoven to Austria. I’ll leave you to work out who got the better deal.


      • coldblow


        I can’t let a mention of Chopin’s Ballades pass without mention, and I listened to them again this morning. But I also listened to a couple of the pieces you mentioned. I’m afraid it’s too modern for my taste. I like the Leningrad and Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz and Hungarian Dances. Even so, I’d rather listen to your stuff than Taylor Swift. Do you play the piano yourself? Like Fred Wedlock (The Oldest Swinger in Town) on the guitar, I made good progress on the piano for the first few weeks but never really got much further no matter how much I practised.

        I suppose I’d better mention economics. Buy gold.

        • Grzegorz Kolodziej

          Unfortunately I do not play the piano, but we did receive some musical education as kids (I distinctively remember that I hated Robert Schumann whom I had to listen to when I was perhaps 9 years old), some of it was useful (reading scores), most of it was useless (singing military songs which was combined with quasi-military drills from the earliest age, such as climbing 8 metre ladders on time, crawling, jumping over imaginary barbed wires – you were timed and you had to repeat it until you hit the target – using gas masks and learning how to behave if we notice an atomic mushroom cloud, which we found rather futile – especially when you were required to tell by the shape of the cloud whether it is an atomic or a hydrogen bomb, as if it would make any difference; compared to primary school, shooting from an airgun to barn’s door on holidays was actually quite relaxing).

          However, I always was very interested in all sorts of music – from rock through jazz to classical music (I left behind in Poland a huge collection of CDs). I also recall flirting in college with a Hindi student called Mirella (a very unusual name in Poland) who played the piano, but due to financial constraints she was renting a shed where she lived and which she insulated and adapted to harsh Polish winters. We would often discuss various performances of Chopin; these were sometimes very technical discussions. One night she played a practical joke on me and tattooed ‘I love Pakistan’ in Hindi on my back when I was asleep; fortunately it turned out that this was only ink. My favourite composers are Wagner, Chopin, Debussy, Schoenberg, Stravinsky and Guillame de Machaut (a 14th century composer who composed a very technically advanced mass which was studied by 20th century avant-garde composers), but I also like heavy-metal, 60s rock, Lindy Hop and the Irish band Bloody Valentine (I liked U2 as kid but I think they went too pop from ‘The Joshua Tree’; by the way ‘New Year’s Day’ was banned in Poland).

          I do not find Shostakovich avant-garde at all – I think it’s a question of getting used to, like chips with salt and vinegar. Liszt that you mentioned was actually late in his life the most avant-garde composer of his time, but those late works are virtually unknown (he composed the first atonal piece). If you want to brush up on your knowledge of the music theory, I have some brilliant video for you in which arguable the greatest musical educator of all times explains, in the most accessible way I have ever come across, the development of Western music in 5 minutes – he does not talk about the avant-garde, but enough is as good as a feast:

          . And if want to listen to something beautiful, accessible and slightly modern, listen to Karol Szymanowski’s “Mythes”: here is the first part, “La Fontaine d’Arethuse”, in my opinion the most beautiful piece of Polish 20th century chamber music, full of Eastern mysticism and which in my opinion perfectly renders the Polish type of emotionality, which is very restrained (we are a quiet bunch of people, you can easily read Hayek on a bus journey in Poland) and melancholic but it can suddenly erupt

          This characteristic was well expressed by a romantic poet Mickiewicz in one his poems where one can find a statement:

          “Our nation is like lava. On the top it is hard and hideous, but its internal fire cannot be extinguished even in one hundred years of coldness. So let’s spit on the crust and go down, to the profundity!”).

          Chopin’s most beautiful piece is in my opinion his Nocturne 15 op. 55, No 1:

          When I thought about Polish type of emotionally, it reminded me of that conversation we had on this blog about the German sense of humour. Even though I would not totally agree that Germans have no sense of humour – I mentioned their tradition of cabaret, which is older than the Irish comedy – I still think that even though some of that humour is very sophisticated, it is very rarely self-effacing and self-ironic, like Irish, Polish or English humour. True, German TV shows are relentless when it comes to criticizing views of their political opponents or other nationalities, but try to find a TV show in Germany which mocks the politically correct views of their liberal media establishment; equally there is a dearth of documentaries presenting Greek or Irish recession from a point of view different than ‘we Germans have to suffer and pay for those lazy Greek/Irish/Spaniards’ etc (I won’t even mention that non-payment of war reparations to countries other than Israel or lack of recognition of Poles as ethnic minority are total taboos in German media).

          But this actually reminded of another emotional layer which is absent in German culture: the romantic and faithful love. Do not get me wrong, Germans invented romanticism and the notion of a romantic love (Poles copied that notion immediately and stayed immersed in it in a sort of adolescent way), but in German culture romantic love is almost always full of hypocrisy. By hypocrisy I mean that romantic love is reserved for the extramarital affairs while the role of the wife is clean, wash socks, cook and deal with children. I am not saying it off the top of my head, take the book “Hochzeit machen is sehr schön” (“To marry is a beautiful thing to do”, J. Kuhl, Munich 2009). It contains drawings of hundreds of Bavarian kids on one topic: marriage. In it you will find different aspects of their parents’ marriage as their kids see it. Children portrayed how their parents sweep pavements in the front of their houses, recycle, cook, spend money and sleep together. There is no single drawing with words ‘love’, or ‘he loves/she loves/they love each other’. Romantic love in German culture is associated with having a secret lover. It is the extramarital whore who is supposed to be educated, interesting and read authors like David McWilliams lol – the wife is supposed to tell a good washing powder from the cheap one. So it can come as no surprise that the great writer Heinrich Böll wrote a book “Ansichten eines Clowns” (“Opinions of a Clown”) in which two young boys find out that both of their parents have secret lovers; however, they are not surprised – after all their mothers are, as they describe them, “uninteresting”…

          As to gold, it’s for another discussion. My views are close to Austrians and therefore I would be skeptical of central banks and fractional reserve systems; however, I do not share all their views and I am critical of some of the gold-people statements (and totally critical of the buy-silver-now religion, even though the silver prices are historically low: I have made some basic calculations and many of their figure do not add up…).

          Yes, one should own gold, but not more than 25% of your assets. If anything, I think the best commodity investment is palladium for geopolitical reasons.

    • coldblow

      I looked up PJ O’Rourke on YouTube, a piece where he gives a talk about Adam Smith. I was looking at other stuff and let it run in the background. It was pretty dull. The Irish have a talent for communication but the trouble is they have little of depth to communicate.

      Two of the funniest books I have read were by Germans: Grass’s Tin Drum (in German every long sentence ends on a punchline) and Lenz’s So Zartlich War Suleyken.

      The list of Nobel winners for literature is mixed. There are some excellent writers of course and some perhaps not so good.

      As for the Nobel Peace Prize, Kissinger won it in 1973 and the EU won it in 2012. I wonder if they will win it again this year for promoting peace in the Ukraine. Jung Chang, joint author of a biography of Mao Tse Tung, was to speak at the Listowel Writers’ Week a few years ago, the only time I was tempted to go.

      Desmond Fennell, writing on his own website, in an article about how creative thought is neither encouraged nor recognized in Ireland, says, “What Irish writing continues to be notable for, and most valued for, both abroad and in Ireland, is its occasional, strong depiction of life that is sub-adult, sub-literate, offbeat, weird, poor, and possessed of a naive, occasionally hilarious, charm… But men who require popular fiction with a contemporary edge, and all sophisticated readers of both sexes, look mainly to British and American writers to supply novels which reflect their lives.”

      He can’t think of a serious world-class adult novelist coming out of Ireland since Joyce (with the qualified exception of Edna O’Brien).

      • Adelaide

        Thanks for the article, coldblow.

        ps in the same tone of the article, a friend once worked in RTE as a techie and daily met the ‘creatives’ at the canteen for lunch. One frequent conversation regarded the dearth of serious quality drama produced by RTE over the years, there was two schools of thought, A: top quality writers for tv etc do not exist in Ireland and therefore it’s not like RTE is refusing quality submissions B: the writers do exist and RTE refuses quality submissions.

        I went to an Irish Animation Expo a few years back and the heads of these successful indigenous Irish animation companies were scathing about RTE, so perhaps option B is the correct answer.

        • coldblow

          Father Ted was famously made in England.

          Fennell makes his points well. I like the way he spotted how so many books revolve around small town inhabitants seeing visions (although, as I said, I enjoyed the Butcher Boy)and things like that. I wouldn’t, however, talk about ‘sophisticated’ literature but rather am persuaded (and probably convinced) by Milan Kundera’s arguments (Le Rideau) which is a history of the novel and how the art form has thrown light on basic truths about people and life. His shortish list of authors and their works does include Joyce among the likes of Crvantes, Flaubert, Kafka and Faulkner but that’s as far as it goes. (He mentions a Polish author from the first half of the 20th century, Gregorsz, but I can’t remember his name – he wrote Fernyduke or something like that.) Fennell hits the nail on the head again about Dancing at Lunasa, which I thought massively overrated. although I thought The Dark was a fine book and That They May Face The Rising Sun excellent too. He is funny elsewhere about Heaney (whatever you say say nothing).

          • coldblow

            Just remembered – Fennell mentions that two recent Irish books translated in Italy, where he lives now, had children on the cover. One was Angela’s Ashes. When the film of that came out the picture of glum boy in the posters irritated me more than anything else I could think of at the time (and it was a long list, as I recall).

          • Grzegorz Kolodziej

            His name was Witold Gombrowicz (pronounced Gombrovitch), which is an extended examination of what one’s nationality is and what it means. The language of Trans-Atlantyk is in a way similar to the language of Joyce’s Ulysses (but way more crazy), as it is written in the style of a “gaw?da,” an ancient form of oral storytelling that was common among the rural Polish nobility. It is the most hilarious book I ever red and it captures the educated Polish sense of humour, which is based on the absurd, the grotesque exaggeration and the constant play with the old-fashioned and the aristocratic; here is an excerpt from this hardly translatable book:

            “Ciumkia?a, raw-boned, a blond, Oggling, ruddy, has taken off his cap and his Big Redhand puts out toward me: “Ciumkia?a I am.” And by this he put Pyckal into sudden amazement. “Save me!” yelled Pyckal, “I am pounding this one here and he breaks in with his paw and I haven’t seen with my own eyes a bigger Idiot, Blockhead. Why do you break in, why do you meddle?” “I forbid it,” shouted the Baron, “I disallow!”
            Ciumkia?a, frightened by this shouting, became embarrassed and put a big Hand into his pocket and with that hand began to paw about within the pocket; but at once became embarrassed by his Pawing and out of his embarrassment pretended he was trying to find something in his pocket; and by this he made the Baron, Pyckal all the more furious.” What are you looking for, you numskull?” they cried. “What are you looking for, you daw? What? …”
            Till Ciumkia?a, well-nigh dead from embarrassment, as a Beetroot red, took out of his pocket not only his hand but also a cork, some crumpled scraps of paper, a teaspoon, a shoestring, and some small dried fishes. But when they saw the Fishes, silence set in … as they had turned somewhat downcast because of those Fishes.

            Says the Baron: “Scratch yourself not.”
            Says Pyckal: “I’m not Scratching myself.”
            Ciumkia?a said: “I have Scratched myself.”
            Said Pyckal: “I’ll Scratch you.”
            Says the Baron: “Scratch, scratch away—this is what you are for.”
            Says Pyckal: “I’ll not Scratch you, let your secretary Scratch you.”
            Says the Baron: “My secretary will Scratch me if I order him to.”
            Said Pyckal: “I will engage your Secretary for Myself and take him from you—and me he will Scratch when I would, for though you are a High-born Sir and I a Base-born Boor, me he will scratch if I would so or would no. Scratch he will. ”
            Says the Baron: “Whether a Base-born boor or a High-born Sir, you will not engage this Secretary; I will engage him for me, and he will Scratch me, not you.” —Trans-Atlantyk [Trans. French and Karsov]”

            I have found that someone has translated it into English, but I do not know how good is the translation:


            For the best ‘easy’ Polish book ever written try this:


            It’s a story of a 19th century Polish businessman who loses all his rationality and common sense for a woman from aristocracy; in a way is like Nabokov’s “Lolita”, but even better and without the bordering-on-paedophillia disturbing aspect of Nabokov’s masterpiece…
            It would be a great gift for a girl who likes epic stories!

  9. mcsean2163

    I hope PJ speaks about the plight of the Dalkey natives. I recently heard that a Sorrento terrace resident was spotted driving a 132 Audi. Austerity has been particularly cruel in the dalkey locality.

  10. Use your imagination for what happens to your pension, cushy job and savings when the next episode arrives. There will be a distinct lack of festivity.

    • DB4545


      Jesus H Christ Tony you’re obsessed with this gold business and calamity on a lovely friday morning. We’ll just have to use our imagination if or when that happens. On the subject of gold an outfit called Conroy Gold and Natural Resources reckon there’s a million ounces of the stuff under a gaa pitch in a little village called Clontibret in County Monaghan. Try this little exercise if you have the time:

      1. Using googlemaps have a look at the countryside of Clontibret.
      2. Using googlemaps have a look at the superpit in Kalgoorlie in Western Australia.

      I’ve been to both places and Kalgoorlie looks like a scene from Max Max beyond thunderdome. The land has been absolutely raped. Clontibret in contrast looks like a pastoral scene by Constable. I was chatting to a farmer in Clontibret who was appalled at the water pollution that occurred when the testing for gold was being carried out. He said that if a farmer had created the pollution the Environmental Protection Agency would put him out of business. Different rules obviously apply to big business. On this occasion I’m on the side of the pastoralists. Unfortunately Tony as Warren Buffet said it costs a lot of money to dig it out of the ground. Then you have to pay another bunch of people to guard it in another hole in the ground. It is pretty and you’ve explained its value as a medium of exchange but you can’t eat it.


      • Mike Lucey


        It looks like you might be able the ‘eat’ gold or at least pay for a meal using the BitGold debit card which they advise is in the pipeline!

        There is no date set for its launch from what I can see but it should be an interesting option when it happens.


        • DB4545

          Mike Lucey

          I followed the link and signed up Mike. I stuck a few quid in just to see how it pans out and got that little 0.25g bonus. It can’t be any crazier than some of the things I’ve invested in, like Ireland. I noticed it takes a 1.13% fee on a debit card deposit still significantly less than messing around with the physical stuff. I also note the debit card isn’t up and running yet.It’s fairly seamless to deal with. Time will tell if my investment is smart or stupid.


          • Mike Lucey

            I would be happier if they had the debit card up and running as it would then be a good overall service.

            I might be wrong but I have a feeling the BitGold will take off like a rocket shortly as its simple to use and also useful the the ordinary man in the street.

            The last time I invested in stock was back in the IT bubble era. I got a kicking and never invested since. I would to take a small punt on some BitGold stock (XAU.CA) at the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX-V) but have no idea how to do it without too much hassle.

            Any advise appreciated.


          • I have signed up myself and am going to slap in a couple of hundred (by Bitcoin) to match the couple of hundred I have in Vaultoro – as I said before – diversfication. If one of them disappears, at least I have the other. They have a lot of VC investment apparently, but who really knows?


            However, to repeat myself – there is no need for Bitcoin and gold to be intrinsically joined at the hip.

      • You cant eat gold BS is the stupidest statement I continue to hear. Nothing can be eaten except good quality food. nothing you earn can be eaten. You have to use the aforementioned medium of exchange to get your food dumdum.

        As for rape and pillage of the land, I am with you. There is already enough gold in existence to act as money for the whole world. There is no requirement to increase the money supply to have a better economy.

        Then again the article was not about gold per se but about the ponzi scheme we use as money. All about the crashing financial system.

        I am not obcessed with anything but I am appalled at the apparent indifference and stupidity of the majority who act like the proverbial ostridge.

        • DB4545


          I hope the sailing has helped to soothe that irritation. Here’s the deal Tony. I’m an average Joe here to learn and contribute. I’m not here to teach. The majority may be indifferent but they’re not usually stupid perhaps ignorant in some respects. PJ O’Rourke has stated that sometimes you have to shine the cold hard light of stupidity on a subject to get an explanation that the masses understand. I’m bright about some things and not so bright about others like most people I imagine.

          In your view gold is the answer. Explain why clearly and concisely in your own words using a simple analogy if possible and without hyperlinking to esoteric specialist websites. No pressure take your time.


          • Mike Lucey

            @ DB

            From my perspective the answer is in plain view but too obvious for many to see it. Gold simply can’t be conjured up out of thin air like fiat currency!

            In the case of BitGold I am amazed at how simple the idea is. Then again great ideas are often quite simple but not obvious until put under people’s noses and then we have a …. ‘Why didn’t I think of that!’….. moment. It looks like BitGold will be the best of both worlds when they launch their BitGold Debit Card ….. soon I hope.

            Sign up using this link ( #BitGold ) and get a free 0.25g to start your BitGold account. Maybe we will make a convert of you ;-)


          • StephenKenny

            There really is no need. Gold is the currency of history. All of history, all of the time. Every country, every era, every empire, every leader. Its the currency of the bible, old and new testament, it’s the currency of Rome, of the Pharos’s Egypt, and on and on.

            If you want to argue the point, argue with Achilies, and try and persuade him to accept an IOU instead. Tutenkamen’s death mask wasn’t made of copper – it was gold; the top-end Apple Watch – the Edition – isn’t made of steel, or of plastic – it’s gold.

            The UK military still provide 20 gold sovereigns to their people who might get captured – to help them get back. They may chatter on about the ‘end of gold’, but when it comes to real life, they don’t equip they military personnel with a nice new credit card, or a roll of currency paper, they equip them with gold.

            It’s interesting to note that the central bankers are now suggesting that we get rid of cash altogether. Precious metals clearly don’t fit into their thinking at all.

            Even when countries start making ownership of gold illegal, it will still be a standard international currency – just on a black market.

            I’m not particularly a gold bull, but I do know a little history.

          • Been there and done that a 100 times already, but adequately covered already by others here. Thank you.

            We had a rollicking sail in parts and comlete loss of wind in others.

            One hour spent in a two foot choppy sea left me reflecting on the current state of the economy.

            Looks good at a glance but on closer inspection is windless, directionless, with aimless current and tide. A collection of boats with different sails up facing different directions. Little consensus.

            Eventually the wind recovered and we sailed home to a safe harbour.

    • cooldude

      Very interesting article Tony. There is a lot of complacency about the very real increases in all levels of debt and the mainly unreal so called economic recovery which seems to mainly consist of the replacement of full time jobs with part time ones, often without a guaranteed amount of hours, and asset bubbles cropping up globally in equities, property, definitely bonds and now even modern art. Something has to give and there are definite signals that the US is preparing for major civil disturbances very soon.

      Firstly we have had the Baltimore race riots which were openly supported by the local mayor who told the police not to interfere. This is a deliberate play on the race card and the old divide and conquer technique.

      Also we have had the so called attack by two alleged members of ISIS on an anti Islamic meeting in Texas where both attackers were shot dead by a swat team who somehow were already in place waiting on them. It subsequently turns out that both attackers had clear links to the FBI and were probably patsies set up to increase anti Islamic tension which is very high anyway.

      Next there is the Jade Helm 15 operation which goes live in 8 states across the US in July. This is a huge operation involving thousands of military and heavily armed police and involves defensive operations against some sort of potential terrorist attack from ISIS from Mexico.

      All of these situations are very dodgy and it is fairly clear that the US is preparing for some serious civil unrest later this year. This will probably lead to martial law and massive curtailment of civil liberties which are already on the statute books. This can then be used as an excuse for the next economic crash which is now inevitable.

      Sorry to spoil the happy campers here but this is a very real possibility later this year and if I am wrong I will openly admit to it.

      By the way Tony have you looked at this new gold backed money system. Can’t imagine the banksters will be happy with some honest competition

      • Yes thanks Cooldude. I thought I posted Bitgold a few days ago. But I am busy getting to race around Saltspring Island tomorrow.Perhaps I did not.

        Soros and Sprott are invested in the 35 million cap company.

  11. Deco

    I am looking at the various debt write downs offered to corporate entities owned by a billionaire. And the fact that the billionaire is a supporter of a prominent political party.

    And I am wondering at how somebody had the imagination to pull together politicians, regulators, the corrupt institutional state, bank loans and dodgy officials.

    Yes. Imagination works wonders in the field of financial matters.

    • DB4545


      It certainly does Deco. Imagine a billionaire being hypersensitive to a small broadcasting company trying to shine a light on their financial dealings. You might imagine that a billionaire would have some sense of financial security and that security would allow a certain robust ease when dealing with the press. You or I might imagine that a well financed and ethically managed corporate entity underpinning such a billionaire’s wealth would even welcome such scrutiny knowing it clearly has nothing to hide. It’s hard to imagine why such an entity which accumulated much of that wealth in jurisdictions (including this one) which blur the links between politicians,regulators,the corrupt institutional State and dodgy officials would throw everything including the kitchen sink to prevent the public from finding out about its finances. Imagination is indeed a wonderful thing and I’m sure Robert Maxwell, Enron and many others just love people with such an inquisitive nature.


  12. Mike Lucey

    “Imagination can help Ireland take its place among the world’s nations’. I could not agree more with this heading and what DMcW suggests would be great but even if it was hugely successful I think it would still only generate very small job numbers.

    I would like to see DMcW tackle the question of our Irish territorial waters where Ireland hardly gets a look in and to make matters worse, the current fish stock and sea bed / eco system condition is deteriorating year in year due to the continuous rape that is being carried out since we joined the Common Market.

    I am surprised that some political party has not looked at the potential employment that could be created from Ireland reclaiming and properly managing our territorial waters, taking up where BIM left off. Some reports suggest that over 100,000 direct and indirect jobs could be created and I’ve even seen suggestions of over 300,000!

    There are a few politicos pressuring in this area, Ming being one. The solid and depressing facts and figures are there for the reading. I feel its just a case of Irish determination to take back our TWs which is 10 times our land mass area and use / manage it in a sustainable way that will benefit future Irish generations and even future EU

    From my calculations (which maybe flawed but I think not) combining the Irish land mass and it’s territorial waters would put Ireland as the second largest country in the EU behind Spain’s land mass + territorial waters.

    David, maybe something for you to champion?

  13. AlfieMoone

    “You say: “‘Ere thrice the sun done salutation to the dawn”
    And you claim these words as your own
    But I’ve read well, and I’ve heard them said
    A hundred times (maybe less, maybe more)
    If you must write prose and poems
    The words you use should be your own
    Don’t plagiarise or take “on loan”
    ‘Cause there’s always someone, somewhere
    With a big nose, who knows
    And who trips you up and laughs
    When you fall
    Who’ll trip you up and laugh
    When you fall

    You say : “‘Ere long done do does did”
    Words which could only be your own
    And then produce the text
    From whence was ripped
    (Some dizzy whore, 1804)

    A dreaded sunny day
    So let’s go where we’re happy
    And I meet you at the cemetry gates
    Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side
    A dreaded sunny day
    So let’s go where we’re wanted
    And I meet you at the cemetry gates
    Keats and Yeats are on your side
    But you lose
    ‘Cause weird lover Wilde is on mine


    Morrissey “Cemetry Gates”

  14. Finally a digital currency arises that is completely decentralized and incorruptible and solves the double-spend problem (look it up please). It resides on the internet itself and not in one location or under any one person’s/entity’s control. It cannot be shut down unless the internet itself is taken offline.

    So what do you guys want to do with it? Peg it to the value of gold (Bitgold or whatever), meaning we are back to the situation of ingots and vaults and central banks and corruptible guardians and guards – oh and while we’re at it lets get a debit card on that so that everything you do can’t be tracked and taxed just as it is now.

    You really are a bunch of clueless clowns with not a jot of vision or innovativeness between the lot of you.

    • Mike Lucey


      I have some BitCoin and like the overall idea. However I have one niggle and that’s as you put it, ‘It cannot be shut down unless the internet itself is taken offline’.

      I will have much more confidence when the Bricks and possibly the EU set up alternative Webs. Currently, as I see it, the USA is in control of the WWW also at its mercy.

      • Fair enough Mike but I think it’s highly unlikely that the US is going to close down the internet.

        Even if it does go down, your Bitcoin can be backed up on paper (or imprinted on gold, or some other material) on a temporary basis (well it could be done permanently but that would defeat the purpose).

        Nothing is without risk as we all know but I think we are far from the US closing down the internet – it wouldn’t suit their own purposes.

  15. DB4545


    That’s the problem. If you check the index there has been wild fluctuations in the bitcoin rate measured against various indices. People don’t believe anything anymore and so they hedge their bets by putting their eggs in a lot of different baskets. There is no absolute truth or purity in any system because as you know there are no facts just an agreed consensus between interested parties until a better explanation comes along. That’s the real world Adam.


    • I’m not denying that volatility is an issue for some people and I’m not suggesting that people put all their money into Bitcoin but the blinkered suggestions about pegging to gold and getting debit cards are just ridiculous and Luddite.

      As a business who wants to use Bitcoin, you don’t have to worry about volatility as you can use a service such as Bitpay who will take on that risk for you (for a smaller fee than credit card processors). Or you can specify that they take care of 75% of your takings and you take the risk with the remaining 25% (or whatever percentages you want). Services such as Bitpay are themselves just temporary and intermediate but they serve a purpose for now until adoption is wider and the volatility issue becomes less important because increased volume will smooth it out.

      Anyway, you can all research that more for yourselves, my point was that people are not properly informed so they default to the tried and trusted motifs such as gold (which you’ll never be able to access if the shit hits the fan – the vaults will be emptied by the guards long before you get there – besides Bitcoin doesn’t need to be tied to gold) and debit cards, which are a relic – there are plenty of good (and improving) and reliable Bitcoin apps out there for mobile phones etc. It just illustrates a complete lack of vision that people want to bastardize a new innovation to change into something the represents a system that has already failed for most people on the planet and looks set to completely fail in the near future – if we are to believe the goldbugs in our midst. Jokers.

      • I put a couple of hundred quid into this service because I appreciate that the price of gold is more stable at present than Bitcoin. Besides we all know that diversification is very important. And I’m not denying that gold has a value:

        But this idea of trying Bitcoin to the price of gold is just plain ridiculous, misinformed and utterly self-defeating.

        • Hi Adam

          I am curious about your use of the word “peg”.

          My understanding of the word peg means it is fixed relationship. As in a fixed exchange rate. That is there will, according to your statement, be a fixed rate of exchange for gold versus bitcoin and vice versa.

          As far as I can see there is no such suggestion. Only a readily available conversion is offered at whatever the rate is at the time. The only peg being the amount of gold actually bought as a defined weight and purity of gold.

          That was the problem with the Bretton Woods agreement as gold was set to a fixed conversion rate in US dollars. All currencies floated against the US dollar.

          Gold is the measuring stick of all currencies which is why it is hated by central bankers and Keynesian economists. It exposes the lie that expanding the money supply is good for the economy.

          Eventually central bank induced inflation caused the fixed price (the peg) to no longer reflect the market, actual value.

          Bitgold is not Bitcoin with a gold conversion. One can use bitcoin to buy gold but Bitgold is a gold currency backed by the ownership of actual fixed weights of gold. A different animal.

          Adam has a point when he says the gold may not be available if the whatever hits the fan, if bought and held by a third party. So the adage is to hold in ones possession and be your own bank when it comes to gold or silver.

          In the meantime Bitgold offers a fast convenient way to protect oneself from the devaluation of paper fiat currency. But beware that one relies on a third party to actually store the gold for you. There is that counter party risk again.

    • The Trouble with Cash–Alasdair Macleod

      Where do you put your savings if the banks pay no interest or charge for a deposit and then have legislation empowering a “Bail-in” of those self same savings?


    A very comprehensive essay that leaves nothing to the imagination!!

    Full of stats and graphs showing how central bank policies have created one bubble after another with the final one being the current bond bubble.

    The IT bubbles, housing bubbles, stock market bubbles, bond bubbles, etc. all over the world can be laid at the feet of the profligate spendthrift governments and the enabling central bankers.

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