Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Allow me to choke on my French cheese.

By no means do I want to turn this blog into a political one but there are some things that I just need to say. I have no intention of offending anybody, these are just my ramblings, my opinions and if you don't like them, well, sorry but look away.

First a bit of historical background and a bit of setting the story straight. During a time of great famine, a french princess supposedly said in response to the growing anger of the population: 'Let them eat cake'. OK, it wasn't cake, it was brioche which technically is a type of bread enriched with eggs and butter. But I'll allow that small translation mistake, you have to make it relevant to your readers. This was attributed to a few french princesses but it stuck to Marie Antoinette, for some reason, although when this was reported in one of Rousseau's book, she was only 13 and there was no famine so, more than likely, she wasn't the one who said but I digress.

For the purpose of this post, we will stick with the common misconception that:

During the French Revolution, while peasants were going hungry and bread was lacking, Marie Antoinette, disconcerted at the growing anger of the population, said: 'Let them eat cake'. Obviously, this shows how 'out of touch' and condescending Marie Antoinette was. She had no idea what the population was going through, and really didn't want to know. A while later, the French revolted and overthrew the monarchy in favour of democracy. The French people turned into Alice in Wonderland's Queen of Hearts and went around ordering people's heads cut off which of course included the King's and Marie Antoinette's. So for telling people to eat cake, you got your head chopped off.

Fast forward to 2010, the setting is not Versailles or Paris. It's Ireland and the government has announced a wonderful initiative to help the people through the bad financial times we are experiencing. They have really thought hard and probably way too fast and came up with this.

Imagine the following: sitting around a priceless ebony table, sunk in really plush, red velvet covered armchairs, sipping a glass of the best champagne, wearing Armani suits, with gold cuff links are 3 characters named: Brian Cowen, Taoiseach, Brian Lenihan, minister for Finance and the, up to now unknown to me, minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith. The conversation goes like this:

B.Cowen: 'So, gentlemen, since the people are losing their jobs and their houses, cannot afford to pay their bills and credits, are sitting in the cold because they can't afford to heat up their house, can't clothe their children or buy shoes for them and now shop in Lidl or Aldi, what can we do to help them through the Christmas period? It is, after all, a time when people should be cheerful.'

B.Lenihan, holding his hand up cheerfully: 'Me, me, me. I know. How about we cut another 6 billion in the budget. I mean, they can't afford anything as it is, so they're not really going to know the difference if we take another €10 a week on their jobseeker's benefit, or another €20 a month per child on their child benefit, are they?'

B.Smith, holding his hand up too: 'Me, me, me. I know, the EU has given me more than €818.000 from some kind of scheme they have going. They said we can use it on butter or cheese. We could distribute it to the people! That would cheer them up!'

B.Cowen: 'What a wonderful idea.'

B.Lenihan, not happy at not having come up with the best answer: ' Yes, but butter melts too fast. We'd have to pay for fridges and things to keep it cold and I won't give him the money for that.'

B. Cowen: 'Right, then, we can't pay for fridges and things so we won't give them butter. What was the other option?

B.Smith: 'It was cheese.'

B. Cowen: 'Right so, let them eat cheese for Christmas then! That's going to go so well with their non existent turkey'

So the government, all happy in their knowledge that they were going to make such a difference to the People's Christmas, set off to distribute some 53 tons of cheese.

Now, forgive me if I turn all French on you, but does that remind you of anything? No? Marie Antoinette, let them eat cake? No? And what did the French do? CUT OFF THEIR HEADS.

So they're talking about cutting 6 billion euro in the next budget, cutting child benefit, cutting old age pension, cutting frontline services, cutting benefits, cutting this and that. Now, that 'let them eat cake' anecdote and all that talk of cutting gives me an idea as to what else we, the People, could cut. That would save some money I'm sure, since they will more than likely look after themselves and their buddies bankers again and not touch their benefits, their pensions, their allowances. I, like so many other families and people in Ireland, am dreading the next Budget and I will not be taking the government up on their offer of free cheese. I think it is an insult to the People of this country to have come up with this stupid idea. People don't need Cheddar cheese for Christmas, they need hope and jobs and money in their pockets and those with children want to see them happy this Christmas which, believe it or not, still costs a little bit of money. So what next? An incentive to recycle aluminium cans and turn them into toys for our kids for Christmas? A little Arts and Crafts project?

Now, Mr Cowen and co, if you told me that you were going to give me some nice Brie or Camembert or any other nice stinky French cheese for Christmas, then maybe we could talk. But in the meantime, do us all a favour, call a General Election, find a hole, crawl into it and do not emerge for the next 30 years, maybe then we'll be out of the hole your party has dug for us all. Anybody fancy a remake of the French Revolution? I know I do!

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