Irish writer, Joe O’Connor has been appearing on RTE’s (Ireland’s national radio station – akin to the BBC) Drivetime in recent weeks with some witty, inspiring and uplifting poetry.
His beautiful words perfectly illustrate how an economic recession or depression is not the ‘end of the world’ rather simply a period of slower or declining economic growth.
While O’Connor’s poem is focused on Ireland and the end of the Celtic Tiger, the sentiments expressed are universal and have relevance to people throughout the western world suffering from the early stages of the looming recessions.
Unfortunately, recessions can bring hard times to people materially – with some people losing jobs and occasionally even their homes.
However, in the grand scheme of things nothing changes with regard to the most important things in the majority of people’s lives – their family, friends, nature, music, art, poetry, writing, comedy and the simple things in life like a walk on a pier and a beautiful sunset.
All of these – no recession can take away.
Indeed our obsession with money, status, status symbols and “keeping up with the Jones’” and blind pursuit of wealth in recent years may have distracted us from these more important joy bringing parts of our lives. Greed and materialism are dangerous addictions and can blind us from the beauty of simple everyday things – cool creamy pints of Guinness, the beauty of nature, uplifting art and music and the pure joy that the company of close friends and family can bring.
O’Connor points out while we may suffer an economic recession – we live in a peaceful country, not threatened by war or tsunamis or starvation.
As the Irish, UK and U.S. economies continue to deteriorate it will be important to focus on these many positive, joyful and uplifting parts of our lives. A child’s smile, the smell of autumn leaves and the beautiful colours of autumn are more important than GDP, GNP or any other measure of economic growth. Let us always keep that in mind.
The excellent podcast, read by O’Connor himself, can be listened to here.
The poem is more powerful listened to but for those who would like to read the poem:
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
(After Ian Dury)
Lately we’re worried. We need advice.
We were Boomtown rats. Now we’re poor church mice.
Fretful, anxious, broke and fearful
But still –
there’s reasons to be cheerful…
Like Conor McPherson. Daniel Day Lewis.
Sebastian Barry readin’ to us.
Morrissey. Carolan. Marina Carr.
The Beach Boys. Mozart. Rory Gallagher on guitar.
Van Morrison’s Moondance. Séamus Heaney.
Brendan Kennelly. Paul Henry. Puccini.
Aul fellas in a pub drinking pints and blathering.
Flann O’Brien. Anne Enright’s ‘The Gathering’.
Brittas, the Burren, the Cliffs of Moher,
The Green Glens of Antrim; Cul Aodh; Gweedore,
The slow-rolling waves of Galway Bay.
U2 singing ‘It’s a Beautiful Day’.
The Gate, the Abbey, Miss Pauline McLynn.
The Project; Rough Magic; Cork Dry Gin.
Robbie Keane. Colm Tóibín.
Office romances in Stephen’s Green.
Elvis singin’ Blue Suede Shoes
When there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.
McCabe, McGahern, bank holiday Monday.
Dublin and Wexford in Croker this Sunday.
Roddy Doyle and REM.
John Kelly’s programme on Lyric FM.
The dawn in Connemara, the cliffs of Dooneen,
And Sean Keane from Galway singing Revenge for Skibbereen.
You may travel far, far from your own native home,
But where would you find a Patrick Kavanagh poem;
Sweet treasure for all, if only we want it.
A canal-bank walk we take for granted.
No need for frenzy. No need for fury.
Sweet Gene Vincent by Ian Dury.
Turn it up loud, play the air guitar.
Jimi Hendrix. Johnny Marr.
Hugo Hamilton’s book ‘Disguise’.
Deirdre Madden. Sunset skies.
Brahms. The Beat. Dún Laoghaire pier.
Nelson Mandela’s 91st year.
Muddy Waters singin’
‘Got My Mojo Workin’.
Read a page of James Joyce.
Read a poem of Paul Durcan.Read Marian Keyes or Samuel Beckett
Or Edna O’Brien, or the prayer-book, shure FECK it,
We may as well do it since the books are cheap
And they can’t stop us reading. So read it and weep.
Binchy or Banville, whatever you feel.
Dermot Bolger. Brian Friel.
See it ain’t all bad, there’s still reason to chuckle:
Des Bishop speaking the cúpla focail.
Dara O’Briain. Jimmy Magee. ‘Aprés Match’ on RTÉ.
So Leinster House is out of touch
ut whoever’s in office don’t matter that much.
Recession, depression, the figures, the facts,
But there’s stuff they can’t touch, there’s stuff they can’t tax.
Oh they would if they could, but they can’t, so they’re piqued.
They’re hurried, they’re worried, they’re fazed, they’re freaked,
Cos we laugh up our sleeve at their pride and ambition,
We do what we want and don’t ask their permission
Or be told how to vote by irrelevant fellas.
Listen to Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
Singin ‘Summer’s the time for dancing in the streets’
And we’ll all still be here when they lose their seats.
When your daddy was young there were hungry years.
There were slums in the cities, there were emigrant tears,
So the boom is a bust but we’re not going back
So don’t get depressed. It’s not that black.
Yeah, we live in a country where it rains and it pours
But we don’t have tsunamis, we don’t have wars.
We don’t have a famine, a huge national debt,
Fianna Fáil don’t water-board us – at least not yet.
We got Marian Finucane, the Phoenix Park.
The lions in the zoo and they roaring after dark.
We’re not living in England at the time of emergence
Of a deeply troubling Tory resurgence.
Not up there with your Swedens, Your Denmarks, your Hollands,
But it’s a free country, kind of,
Thanks to Michael Collins,
And the provos are gone, it’s peace in our homes.
And Martin McGuinness is writin’ poems.
And the Reverend Ian, notwithstanding his pride,
Has discovered his softer, feminine side.
There’s a pain in the wallet, a strain on the purse
But all things considered –
it could be worse.
We’re a shook-up, mixed-up, post-Tiger Nation
Somewhat in need of consolation.
But look around, you’ll see it’s here.
A kiss at midnight on Barna Pier.
Our loved ones. Families. Our kids. Our mates.
The National Library’s exhibition on Yeats.
The Electric Picnic. Don’t be downhearted,
George bloody Bush will soon be departed!
Glendalough in summer. The National Museum.
We got reasons to be cheerful –
You just have to see ’em.