"I don't want to sound paranoid, but this is a fucking government conspiracy" I opined to Rosie as we slipped n' slid down the snowy streets to collect Annie on our way to the protest march on Saturday. I was temporarily convinced that local roads were deliberately being left ungritted in order to immobilise the population, thus denying many of them the opportunity to attend the protest. In hindsight, I may have been crediting the leaders of this country with a greater level of intelligence and creativity than they possess. They don't really need to put any thought or intent into being inadequate, they just are.
As we neared the starting point of the march Annie and Rosie started to discuss whether or not it would be a good idea to withdraw all our cash from bank accounts, in case the banks collapse and they freeze everyone's assets. "It won't come to that," I started out grandly, in that way I have of pretending to be knowledgeable on subjects I haven't a fucking notion about. Even I know it's annoying, at this stage. "The bank bail-out guarantees that won't happen." "But, umm, aren't we on our way to protest against the bank bail-out?" asked Annie.
"I dunno, isn't NAMA separate to this...IMF...interest rates...burble burble..." I trailed off, realising that I was definitely not sure of my facts, and that crossing the road towards Christchurch was going to be something more of an ordeal than I thought. Truth is, it's very hard to know what affects what any more, and what the repercussions of anything are. I never thought for a second that marching on Saturday was going to stop the government from signing us up to the IMF bailout, and I don't think many people really did. No, for me it was about standing on the street and saying Fuck you, Brian Cowen, fuck you for being a fat, boozy, embarrassment of a leader. Fuck you for never looking like you care what anyone else thinks, fuck you and your party for always putting yourselves first, for being such pathological liars. For being such snivelling cowards. For never once telling it like it is. Fuck you for never saying sorry.
It felt good, for a while, being on that march. We skidded and slushed along the streets and enjoyed the pageantry of it all. I wanted to eyeball the gardaí and say You are an evil tool of The Man, and if you come swinging for me with your batons I won't be responsible for my actions. But they were smiling and convivial and, perhaps through their sheer weight of numbers, never looked unnerved by the event. Placards were, as ever, delightful in their schadenfreude. An early favourite, spotted at Wood Quay, read "YOU USELESS BASTARDS!!" on one side, with "Not you, the government (obviously)" on the other. This was only equalled by the sight of an eight year-old on O'Connell Street,trudging along with a sign bearing the legend "My mam told me Justin Bieber would be here." And then there was this little beauty.
Later, back in the comfort of home, the alarmingly superficial RTE news coverage will tell us that official estimates put the attendance of the march at around 50,000 and not the 100 odd thousand the organisers were claiming at the time. I'd probably throw my tinfoil hat back on and scream PROPAGANDA BULLSHIT! at that one, were it not for the fact that I feel it necessary to limit myself to one conspiracy theory a day. But I've been to enough football matches and music festivals to know what a crowd of 50,000 looks like, and Saturday's was far, far more than that. Later still, as we mosey home after an evening of alcohol consumption and snowball-dodging a man on the far side of the road is chanting, a full twelve hours after the end of the march, "Brian Cowen take a hike, we demand a national strike." Wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which fills up first, I think to myself. But still. Still.