O'Doherty: Protests are essential - but so are solutions...
Published 19/07/2015 | 02:30
If there was one positive to be taken from the water protest outside the Dáil the other day, it was probably the fact that nobody was injured this time. The last demo saw some unusually heavy scenes as protesters and cops clashed and the fact that a female police officer was knocked unconscious during the melee didn't do the cause any good.
We might like to think we're radical in this country, but we ain't that radical.
As much as many of us think the protesters are either misguided, mischievous or simply wrong, nobody with any respect for democracy wants to see a crackdown on public demonstrations in this country.
But what we would like to see coming from the demonstrators is something a bit more coherent and considered than simply shouting that they won't pay. Of course, that might not be such a bad thing - from their point of view.
After all, even though the protesters were able to see the footage of the riots in Greece (probably on those bloody smart phones which seemed to irritate Joan Burton so much), many of them seem to think that we should be aspiring to be more like the Greeks, even as the rest of the world can see that this, quite patently, is not a particularly clever idea.
I'm sure some of our more excitable Irish militants have a raging case of riot-envy when they look at the footage from Athens, and they certainly have one thing in common with their Hellenic counterparts - a complete absence of alternative ideas or, God forbid, solutions.
It's easy to protest when you're pissed off. In fact, there are times when it seems the only reasonable response. But apart from muddled and factually incorrect assertions that we already pay for our water, they don't seem to have any practical ideas to fix the crumbling subterranean infrastructure which actually brings the water to our taps. Do they think it just magically appears?
The only people who have a legitimate claim to not pay the water charges are those who have their own well or other source of water - and how many of the protesters can make that claim?
But regardless of the rights and wrongs of the issue - and let's face it, nobody expects free electricity, so why should we get free water? The idea that we should emulate the empty posturing of Syriza and their supporters is demonstrably wrong and, frankly, more than a little mad.
It's all too easy to stand around a placard and loudly proclaim your own determination to not pay a bill that the rest of us will have to pick up, and that's exactly what the Greeks are doing, only on a larger scale.
And, much like their Irish admirers, the Greek rioters and their political puppet-masters seem to think that making a loud noise and smashing a few things up is an acceptable form of political expression.
It's not, and the only thing we have learned from Greece is that allowing communists to control the economy is like having a back-seat passenger grabbing the steering wheel and driving your car into a wall at high speed.
As I've written countless times before, when people are scared and angry they make mistakes - whether it's choosing the water charges as the lightning rod for a broader protest movement, or voting in a left-wing Government that is entirely unfit for purpose.
The commonality between both phenomena is a sullen, unarticulated resentment. It's a resentment which is more about being seen to be angry rather than actually proffering a viable alternative.
So, we know why the protesters are protesting - but we don't know what they actually want.
The problem is, neither do they.
If there is one image from this week which will last long in the memory, it was surely the heart-warming footage of the shark being rescued in Massachusetts.
The 7ft juvenile Great White had been swimming close to shore hunting for seagulls when he was beached and it was only the quick thinking of beach-goers who kept pouring water over his gills which kept him alive until he could be towed back into the water.
But while that story undoubtedly restored some faith in humanity, the fact remains that 100 millions sharks are killed every year -either for their fins or caught up in the vast, sprawling drag-nets of the factory ships.
Let's put it this way, Ireland has some of the best shark-fishing spots in the world, but those once rich fisheries are running dry.
I went out shark fishing off the coast of Achill last summer (tag and release, obviously) and there wasn't a sniff.
In fact, the captain said that since a large Japanese ship had scoured through the area some weeks earlier, the "sea now feels like a desert".
Forget about your green-energy nonsense, when you consider that many shark species will become extinct in our lifetime, surely conservation is more important than more carbon taxes?