Innovation and The Council Estate

Written April 2009

No, no, no. The title of this post is NOT a mistake. I'm sure we could inject a little original thought into the 9th circle if we only . . . well, got the fuck out of it.

Balls visited the hometown the other day, and was immediately embroiled in gossip, backbiting, outlandish accusations, mudslinging, petrol bombing, wheelie bin igniting and boy racer death duels along cattle tracks called things like ‘The New Road’ because that's the kind of cartography we're into in the arse end of Ireland, and all of this hyperbole because some wan got off with some fella in some other wan's sitting room.

‘It was a nightmare,’ Balls declared, ‘from which I feared I would never escape. Thank Jaysus for Citylink.’

‘Thank Jaysus indeed,’ said I. ‘It would never have done to have had to accept a lift out of Dodge in a Honda Civic filled with squawkers and their ridiculous updates on who slapped whose sister in the local niteclub.’

Like so.

‘True,’ she replied. ‘I thought I'd never get out of there. Talk about making something out of nothing! The arse end is populated by alchemists and charlatans, I do decree.’

And she's entirely right. There's something about living in the arse end of Ireland that will shrink the world to fit but the narrowest of daft prejudices. Suddenly what way yer wan across the road looked at you becomes important. The tone of voice you overhear by your back wall becomes an invitation to war. You become 270% more likely to slap a passing teenager because their runners offend you. Council estates don't run on money, or - alas - on politics and revolution. They run on fear, loathing and hormones . . . which is all very funny, when I write it in this way, but the reality is more sinister.

I'm not talking about the drug barons or criminal clans who cast horrific shadows over our working class neighbourhoods, mind. That's a post for another day, an angrier day. I'm talking about the despondency that can set in all too easily when your world extends only to the town borders, or the distance of the local bus route into town. The lack of confidence. The fact that you become bogged down in details that don't matter in the grand scheme of things, because you're not aware of the grand scheme of things, or you think there's no grand scheme that takes you into account anyway. You sink into thinking that the world is small and shite, and what Sharon told Laura in Centra matters a shit, or will resonate longer and louder than a gnat's burp. I see some of my old friends and family getting darker and deeper into this kind of bullshit, living their lives like a soap opera no one's watching anyway, and the only way out of it is to start thinking outside the sink estate. Get the fuck out of it for a while. Leave. Meet people from other places who don't know nor care about the time Ger O'Driscoll fecked Bernie Kelleher's lawnmower. Go to college! Get a job in another town! Go to London! Do something, anything to get away from the languishing-as-standard small town/small neighbourhood Ireland. It'll hobble you, make no mistake. The second you start worrying about who Fidelma Finnegan's having the baby for is the second to start packing your bags.

Of course, if we want to think about the whys and wherefores of people getting stuck into these jam-packed-with-pointlessness excitable states, we'll pretty much be here for the rest of the weekend. The Celtic Tiger created a helluva exclusion zone, and we used to be a country united in poverty and misery. Thanks a lot for the social divide, you rabid cat!

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