I emerge from the noughties without property, credit-card debt, or a designer handbag. Did I win? I'm also rolling into the next decade without the overriding emotion of 2009 – anger. Anger has been the coal in the spluttering engine of '09; dirty, inefficient, and very stokeable. From the whining and screeching on talk radio to the red-faced blustering on The Frontline, we were all really, really, really angry. But before we go all Elin Nordegren on the powers that be, wielding metaphorical nine irons at anyone who dares not endorse the collective national ragefest, perhaps now, in the uninspiring dark depths of January, it's time to make like Harry Enfield's Scouser and calm down.
A Dublin radio station last week asked listeners to use one word to sum up their year and someone texted in 'over', which pretty much says it all about how defeated and deflated we are. But 'over' means something new is about to start too. Don't get mad, get even (rather than don't get mad, get leavin', which seems to be automatic solution for my generation. This can be summed up by an attitude of "why sit on my arse in Ireland when I can sit on my arse in Bondi?" which, in fairness, makes a lot of sense if you're actually emigrating to do something as opposed to many who seem genuinely to believe that Australia is some sort of metaphysical wonder that suspends time so you don't have to worry about what you're going to do with your life until you 'go home').
While the bulk of the population are staring listlessly into the few bits of change left in their paws, there's a sizeable chunk left who are still minted, but just don't want to tell anyone. Sort of like the non-zombies in a zombie attack who pretend to be zombified so they won't get bitten. If you're wondering where all these people are, then I have the answer: in the Shelbourne hotel. I went to the Horseshoe Bar the other night with a friend on a 'let's-pretend-it's-2006' evening and there they all were, hanging out, chomping on cigars, high-fiving each other and drinking €12.50 Long Island Ice Teas (the last bit may just have been me). It was like some kind of nuclear bunker for the Celtic Tiger – that bit in the disaster movie where entire cities are exploding or being stomped on by aliens/robots but the president, considerably ruffled, still manages to have a war room dug inside a mountain somewhere with loads of staff and buttons. It was exactly like that, but with slightly more camel-hair coats. Which is when I realised that if anyone gets us out of this mess, it's not going to be these chancers. They're laying lower than ever. The last thing a bunch of rich people with loads of resources and skills want to do is rear their heads in a climate when there's a Simpsons-esque mob whipped up every time someone says 'banker' or 'developer'. So as I floated out the revolving door of the Shelbourne back into Crapville, it was obvious that the future of Ireland will not be written by the same people who scribbled our most recent years.
If these guys personified the Ireland of the recent past, then Ireland is Just Not That Into You. They don't want to know. They won't return your calls, even though you guys had a pretty nice time together. Don't be mad, just do something about it. Chill out. Reflect. Plan. Do something. Anger is a really neat way of checking out of progressive thought. Of course, many people are also reaching for the anger reaction because it's also a really good way of avoiding the horrible truth that so many were complicit in Ireland's downfall, and the squandering of Bertie's government was just a microcosm for our own squandering.
So now, it's time to extinguish that mob flame and make 2010 a proactive year. If we're not going to be saved by the lads in the Shelbourne, we can only be saved from ourselves by ourselves. If this means isolating oneself from the bigger picture, then that's what has to be done, and probably just as well, because the bigger picture – the system – is in disarray as it is.
The only truly exciting and forward-thinking innovations in Ireland at the moment are being driven by individuals or small groups of people seemingly disconnected from a greater network of action – smart property developers dropping rents dramatically or opening up empty building space for use, chirpy art students setting up stands in local flea markets, suburban families helping out at co-ops, enthused investors giving a few grand to a smart start-up, an unemployed guy becoming an activist. Only when enough people are motivated into action for themselves or their communities, will a greater network form from these seemingly individual deeds to create a momentum sizeable enough to bring that spluttering engine back to smooth locomotion. There's no point waiting for anyone else to do it for you.