In defense of Kerry exceptionalism
// November 30th, 2010 // Uncategorized
It is hard at times to believe that the two men pictured come from the same place and in many ways a very similar background. Yet for all their common rural Kerry backgrounds Jackie Healy-Rae and Joe Higgins couldn’t be farther apart in their political ways. Jackie views himself as the ultimate political pragmatist while Joe is so often appears concerned with ideological purity that he has pretty much cast himself away from ever taking a leading role in government in Ireland .
Joe comes across as righteous and moral, someone for whom learning and extensive time spent reading is probably a massive part of his life. You can picture him at home, sitting in Spartan surroundings, reading copiously by candle light as he seeks to take in the arguments and be influenced by only the greatest thinkers who had the most genuine of intentions. Joe turns these various ideas over in his mind and mulls about how can they serve the workers while not being available to be exploited by the speculators, and the bankers and the developers.
Jackie meanwhile seems to have no interest in thinkers, doers is what attract him, no matter what the end result might mean, just so long as it was the end result that people told him that they wanted. If people wanted a new hospital in Kenmare then that’s what Jackie would work to get, it matters not to Jackie if a minimalist hospital building in Kenmare would be detrimental to the long term care of the people. That if it uses up scarce resources that could be invested in increased capacity and a higher quality of care at an existing location for less money. So long as the people ‘think’ it does them good what matter whether it does or not. If the people want something that not good for them then it’s not Jackie’s place for him to say No to the people. Jackie is a Yes man pure and simple.
Joe meanwhile would be opposed to a hospital in Kenmare or at a central location no matter what services it offers if it breached his principles. If a major company was to offer to fund part of the hospital infrastructure, say the canteen, in exchange for exclusive rights to sell some product like a beverage then Joe would oppose the entire undertaking. Better that the people be keep pure and protected from the evils of the multinationals than they might get the health care they need to stay alive.
Both of these men are products of a kind of Kerry exceptionalism, that peculiar mindset that rears thinkers and poets who can’t stand doers and doers who can’t spare a moment to think.
One of the largest and most successful Co-ops and later agri-food business in the country has grown out of one of the smallest of the countries agricultural bases. Kerry didn’t have the same large pool of milk suppliers but they worked what they had. There are other local enterprises that have flourished in Kerry.
Kerry has exceptional examples of cute hoors, but also of the virtuous and hard-working self sacrificing who organised Siamsa Tire and other local drama groups. There is lovely scenery but also those who would spoil the tourism industry based on that scenery by seeking to build housing of a type and where none existed before. Festivals that genuinely date back in the middle ages and more recent making-uppy soft focus glamour stuff to bring in some tourist cash. Kerry in many way is all the flaws and virtues of Ireland writ large. The problem isn’t the Jackie Healy Rae’s or the Joe Higgins of this world, it’s that if you’re not one or the other you don’t get a look-in. The revolution of the radical middle that Ireland needs can’t happen unless the middle has a voice and neither Jackie nor Joe are that voice.