The fantasy, the promised land of today’s Capitalism is a shining high-tech landscape in which there are no more workers or public servants, everyone’s a professional or an entrepreneur. All the dirty jobs are to be done out of sight and out of mind by people living in hungrier countries, while we Europeans and Americans become a kind of techno-utopian master race.
This is the world-view that comes out when Gordon Brown envisages a future for the UK economy making gadgets for the Chinese middle class, that eternally “emerging” phenomenon, or whenever an Irish politician opens their mouth to spew something about the digital economy.
We laugh today at the Victorian world-view, at vintage US advertising and propaganda of the 1950s and ‘60s and at old Soviet posters of muscular workers swinging hammers. But our dominant mythology is the most ridiculous of all.
De Valera’s 1943 speech on “the Ireland that we dreamed of” comes in for particular, and probably well-deserved, derision these days. But the place he describes is one that it might be OK to live in. Nicer anyway than the vision of a Celtic Tiger politician. What would De Valera have said if he had been your average Irish politician or commentator in, say, 2006? Below is my guess, but please add your own comments.
“The ideal Ireland that we would have, the Ireland that we dreamed of, would be the home of a people who valued property speculation as a basis for right living, of a people who, satisfied with infinite credit, devoted their leisure to the purchase of things they do not really need – a land whose countryside would be bright with motorways and the gleaming factories of multinational corporations, whose shopping centres and main streets would be joyous with the sounds of consumption, with the ring-tones of self-absorbed children, the obnoxious bellowing of athletic youths and the insecure laughter of skinny maidens, whose boarded-up firesides would be forums for the serene wisdom of a hundred digital television channels. The home, in short, of a people living the life that God desires that men should live.”