A Count-down to (S)laughter

Now that the count-down to our General Election is getting closer, I would like to appeal to all those angry people on social media who are advocating either spoiling their votes, or plumping, that is, just using their vote for number 1 and no others. I know what it is like to feel that Irish politics is just a charade and changes nothing. If you doubt me cast your mind back over the past century. I have also been tempted to spoil my vote, but I believe that democracy is necessary even though big improvements are needed in the system to make it appropriate and usable in today’s world. [Ed: Now that’s enough of the po-faced introduction! Get on with the message.]

There is a better way and it is a little game that I invented for my own amusement back in the 1970s. It is designed to keep the spirit of democracy alive whilst giving a stiffly raised finger to those who would subvert it for their own sakes. I think of it as:

The Bored Game of Noble Knights a-Pricking on the Plain People of Ireland
A fantastical mediaeval Age of Austerity board game without the gory bits, nor a maiden in distress, and not even a board!

Introduction:

First of all, you must remember that unless your vote is for one of the major parties, under our system of Proportional Representation, you may as well vote on toilet paper, because your vote will have no effect after the first count and you will be the one left with shit on your hand. In a situation such as we face today in Ireland, however, where there is very likely not going to be a winning party with a clear working majority, it is important to vote right down the list if you are to have any effect on the outcome. That is a difficult task, when you look at the list of candidates and see just a bunch of arse holes smiling back at you. This game counteracts the nausea you would feel.

Equipment required:

All you need is a legal voter’s card and a borrowed pencil. The game may also be played with the voter’s cards of the deceased, the incapacitated, and the deranged (but these will require a handbag of disguises as provided by the agents of the registered contesting political parties). For the final stages of the game, a flask of soup, a bottle of wine or a crate of beer, and any “thou” beside you giggling in the wilderness having made the sandwiches for you, will do.

A strategic approach:

So if you are like me, and you are pessimistic about the future of Irish politics, then try this strategy. It means that you can at least have fun throughout the election campaign, right up to the end of the entire count, And you will also have had the satisfaction of seeing where your vote trickles down … and if enough voters participate in this game, we could make the eventual winners sweat long enough to make them think again. Of course, if all of the great unwashed electorate participated then we would have a Dáil that might elect a Government that could terrify the Bejaysus out of  the EU and have trembling despots on their knees crying for forgiveness. It is a simple game for simple minds and simple natures. It is for the childlike amongst us who know that the Emperor was always starkers.

Rules:

This game is played in real time. The game starts once the election is called by the Great Panjandrum himself. During the run up to the polling day, you must listen assiduously to every election broadcast and make notes. Collect all election literature dumped in your mailbox. That information will be a source of invaluable information and ribald comment later (see notes below about the night of the count). If you can catch the departing canvasser(s) before they depart and engage them in pointless debate for at least half an hour, you gain “Lustre Points” (calling them “Bluster points” might tarnish the mediaeval atmosphere of the game).

On Voting Day dress well for the outing. Greet all the one-eyed party minions who have been bluffed into canvassing those entering the building, with a gentle but knowing smile and a wink. Then, bestill your trembling heart as you identify yourself to the officials who will provide you with the voting paper. Don’t panic about the pencil, that will be tied to the voting booth. Neither should you forget about the pencil being tied to the polling booth, because in your haste to escape there would be nothing so embarrassing as dragging the booth after you as leave. Then, take a deep breath, contain your laughter, and just vote Number 1 for the candidate on the ballot paper that you believe will be THE FIRST TO BE ELIMINATED, then continue with the next most likely to be eliminated, and so on down (or is it up?) the list, leaving the last candidate standing with no vote (it won’t be needed, and neither probably will they). Do not write or depict your anti-establishment views by scribbles or cartoons, because that will disqualify you. Then fold the ballot paper neatly like every other sucker (sorry) voter, but knowing that you are actually a revolutionary in disguise, smile at the returning officer, at his/her assistant, at any Guard hanging around, and pop your voting paper in the box. You may,  at this stage, wish to try a little visualisation, such as the ballot box going up in flames when your ballot hits the bin, but do so only if you are sure that you won’t give the game away. As you leave, tell all the party ToaDies outside that you gave them a vote, and smile, damn you, smile gently. Hysterical laughing at what you have done will destroy it all. Then go home and treat yourself to your favourite treat and wait for the early results to come in. Be prepared for a Long Knight at the Count. The latter title is again merely to justify using the word “mediaeval” in the title of the game. It may also give someone the opportunity to remark later about the Long Count of the Night.

This part of the game can also be expanded into an Election Count All Night Party if you persuade your friends to join you for a Party of Parties.  Those participating in the Party might like to prepare victory / defeat speeches in advance, based upon the party literature mentioned above, to bring some light relief to otherwise banal solemnities. This could even rival Eurovision parties as the last resort of contrarians! Do take care, though, and make sure that all sharp objects are removed before you start and that all drinking vessels are of plastic. You may have a closet Party Member attending and we don’t want to upset them unnecessarily , do we!  I do not wish to encourage gambling in an Age of Austerity, but if enough people participated, then the various Turf Accountants in the business might be tempted to give odds. (Note to the unitiated: Turf Accountants are not bog-trotters counting sods. The latter are the current tally-men for the political elite and the former are those who never lose in the long term. And neither is a qualified accountant – or, at least, admits to it).

Above all, have fun. It will be your only chance to have fun at the expense of those whose expenses are guaranteed by making fun of you. And may the Seven Signatories turn over in their graves joining in the laughter.

Awake and discombobulated

… for the General Election, there is one item of unfinished business that should be gotten out of the way, remembered and then forgotten, but noted in history.

I awoke today and felt discombobulated. I am not sure that I understand what that word means, but it sounds like how I felt. But the discombobulation continued. I checked the web and the FaceBook pages are still rancid with stale anger and aimless abuse, abuse being hurled at the sky but falling to the ground, polluting the discourse. Our Taoiseach appears to think that, as did Barnum and Bailey, that there’s one born every minute, and the next dollop of suckers needs a bit of teasing and jollying to get them wound up for the razzmatazz and fairytales that make up an Irish Election. And yes, there must be clowns in the procession when the circus comes to town.

The Government is telling us that they have achieved 93% of their goals. That is brilliant! I mean it. The 7% unachieved or not included probably refers to things like homelessness, rhyming with carelessness, flooding and fear, oh dear, the international banks warning us to sell everything. But sorry, freedom means having nothing left to lose and that’s where most of us are now.

And the uncomfortable feeling of discombobulation began to ebb away. I began to recognise what caused it, why I was feeling frustrated and confused, disconcerted and, yes, upset. You see, there ought to be clowns, just bring on the clowns. Don’t bother, they’re here.

Before the odes to 1916, yes, odes, not “oweds” as in anything as offensive and discourteous as IOUs, yes, before the Odes to the Heroes are paraded and their living, loving and lavish descendents come a-courting the electorate one more, there is a little bit of unfinished business that I think needs attention. Let me jog your memory.

Not too long ago, a Prime Minister of Australia apologised to the indigenous people of that country for what the invading Europeans, aided and abetted by other invaders from abroad, had done to the native inhabitants. And I am sure that you remember when the Queen of England graced our shores and bowed her head in despect for our dead and half-remembered heroes. And we had a little bit of slapstick from our own Chuckle Brothers in the North when the Civil War, sorry, the Disturbances, subsided. But my discombobulation had nothing to do with any of that. I realised suddenly before we have any more celebrating of 1916, or even electioneering for the General Election, there is one item of unfinished business that should be gotten out of the way, remembered and then forgotten, but noted in history.

And it is this. I believe that the leaders of Ireland’s main political parties, namely, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and Sinn Féin, and to a lesser but still tangible extent, the Labour Party, have a solemn and unavoidable duty to apologise to one another and to the Nation for the results of the destruction brought about by the behaviour of their ancestors from 1916 up to the end of the Civil War. I am referring not only to the destruction of life and property at the time, but also to the distortion of the political life of this country as a result, and in the ensuing decades up to now.

It is shear hypocracy to even whisper the names of the heroes who died for the sake of a better Ireland, and at the same time allow the dismemberment and the abuse of Ireland and its communities. The splintering of Irish society has developed as a result, State assets are being hived off and not even to the highest bidders. And too many politicians spouting the language of a disgraced, destructive, and blind doctrine of greed and exploitation continue the drive to sell Ireland to the highest bidders and the greatest exploiters our country has ever seen. The State, instead of cherishing all the adults and children of the Nation equally, is being run like a huckster shop, where everything has a price and everything is for sale.

“Consider all this, and call for the mourners. And send for the wailing women who will grieve and bring on grieving”. Oh dear! Perhaps Jeremiah was also discombobulated.