Do you ever wake up and think: a bit more cruelty in my life would be just the thing?
Maybe you don’t think that. Maybe you think: there are some people who need a good dose of proper order. They may not like it, but it will be all for the best. You have to be cruel to be kind.
Maybe you joke about shooting some group of transport workers who are threatening to go on strike. Or maybe you hear someone make the joke and you chuckle at the audacity of it.
Some man says it, on the radio, on the TV, or in the news report you read. Maybe you feel a kind of admiration for him. Is he not the kind of fellow who will tell it like it is?
Does he not seem like the kind of fellow who is needed to put these politicians, or these public sector workers, or these Eurocrats, back in their box? What would it be like to have that kind of power?
LOVE HIM OR HATE HIM. That is how the news feature on his latest ‘controversial’ remarks begins. Reading that, which do you feel more of towards him – love, or hate?
Michael O’Leary is the CEO of Ryanair. He recently spoke at a Fine Gael breakfast fundraiser. He makes jokes about shooting cyclists. He says the EU seeks to become some sort of fucking communist Valhalla. When workers are protesting in airports, he stands in front of them and courts publicity for himself, promoting cheap fares.
Lots of people think he should be the head of government in Ireland. That he should be sent over to Brussels to negotiate with Europe on our behalf. Maybe you think that behind closed doors, things are different. All this is a front, a persona. He does not really mean those things and he is far more circumspect and canny, far more in tune with good business sense and pragmatism. You imagine that he is only riling people up because it serves his own ends, his bottom line. You could be right. Maybe this makes him all the more admirable to you.
Is there not something alluring about appearing disgusting to so many people, but concealing secret virtues that no-one really knows about, and can only speculate about?
A couple of days ago, RTÉ, Ireland’s public broadcaster, ran a feature, on its daytime TV show, on people in Doonbeg, County Clare who were celebrating Donald Trump’s victory.
The locals were buzzing with pleasure about Trump’s election. The parish priest made an appearance, admitting to have said prayers for him to win. The interviewer asked about all the offensive remarks Trump had made during the campaign.
I do not recall, since I only watched it the once, if it was the priest or someone else, who said in response that Trump had had a bad first half, but that he had come good in the second half to pick up the victory. He seemed to suggest that you have to play dirty sometimes, so that you can come good in the end.
It was a brief window onto the same country where the press presents men who murder their partners and children first and foremost as ‘pillars of the community’.
The worst part of the video for me was when they picked out the one dissenter. She was the one person who was not pleased with Trump’s victory. She muddled through with the mildest and politest of objections. When I watched, it felt to me like all the eyes in the room were searing into her, that all the jaws in the room had gone rigid, that the air in the room had gone dead while she was speaking, all conveying the message to her: don’t fuck this up for us.
Later I thought: was I right to think such a thing? Maybe the same person, if pressed afterwards, after the sing-song the locals put on for Melania, on whether she felt any pressure, would have said: not at all.
She might have said, I said all I had to say and I was happy with what I said. No, I suppose he is not a sexual predator or a racist or any of that, I am surrounded by great people here and I hope he will come good in the end.
And then I thought that that kind of denial, that kind of outward expression of hope for a silver lining, in spite of the glaring evidence to the contrary, and this feeling of not knowing at all what someone really thinks: these are the marks left by the winner, by the enemy.