Wednesday 24 January 2018

The election was addictive but it was in Trivia we found wisdom

TELEVISION Politics is a binge, says Declan Lynch but an obsessive soul made compelling watching

Election 2011 (RTE, TV3)

The Saturday Night Show (RTE1)

Trivia (RTE1)

The Daily Show (RTE1)

It is, of course, an addiction. A lot of things in this world are wrongly described as addictions, but politics truly deserves the title. And for the addicts, a general election campaign is one massive binge.

It is a binge of the old school, not the three-pints-in-a-row binge identified by the stop-relaxing brigade, but a genuine three-week bender, a fantastic orgy of indulgence into which normal people are also drawn.

And, like a man "tying one on", the politics junkies are essentially seeking the obliteration of reality.

It doesn't suit them at the best of times, the old reality, but in Ireland in 2011, reality is a source of constant torment.

Many of us have already gone back there. Personally, I checked out after about 40 seconds of the final leaders' debate.

I knew that nothing would be said that was in any way memorable or important.

I felt the same during the other debates as well, but I was partaking of the drug anyway, enjoying the suspension of reality while they talked and talked and talked.

Addicts love to talk, especially about themselves. As long as they're talking, they're not doing anything, and that is how they like it.

And eventually, politics is a world unto itself.

It is about nothing, but itself.

I have mentioned in other dispatches that the purpose of gambling is not necessarily to make money, the purpose of gambling is gambling.

Likewise the purpose of politics is politics, which may explain why so many of its devotees are unable to offer us insights beyond the confines of their own demi-monde.

Indeed of the roughly 4,000 political discussions which I watched over the past few weeks, I kept being reminded of the televised draw for the FA Cup, in which two men pick numbered balls out of the drum, each ball corresponding to the name of a club -- in the political equivalent, each ball is an election cliche, or some hoary slice of Leinster House wisdom. "Number 43" -- it's the economy, stupid. "Number 7" -- he would say that, wouldn't he?

And, of course, being politics and not sport, in this case the draw is rigged.

Indeed it is a disease more powerful even than the drink, because it purports to be exactly what it is not.

Even as the candidates are claiming most vehemently to be engaged with the harshest reality we have ever known, they are not engaging with anything but their own bullshit.

Interestingly, even in the land of bullshit where the body-language experts live, they can bring us a clearer insight.

On The Saturday Night Show, one such genius took Brendan O'Connor through the body-language of the party leaders, breaking down our scepticism to such an extent, and telling us so much that we didn't know already, in a well-run broadcasting system he would immediately have earned his place alongside the great John Bowman himself on decision day.

For some of us, that is the end of the election. For others, it is the end of the world.

Trivia, which might well have been a better title than, say, The Week In Politics, is about another obsessive soul, the quiz-hound Lawrence.

It is also about his friends on the team and his enemies on the other teams, but Lawrence is the main man here.

He is a classic sitcom hero, a deeply damaged individual who is usually defeated by the forces of life, finding refuge in his own delusions -- again you wonder if a fine political career was lost here.

But they are attempting something very interesting in Trivia.

There are hints that Lawrence might be able to change, that at some point in the distant future he might even be able to form a viable relationship with another human being.

I'm still not sure if they are wise to go in such a radical direction, but I am willing to watch them try.

The true wisdom, as always, is to be found not in general knowledge or in "public life", but in show business.

Kevin Spacey, speaking in Dublin to Lottie Ryan on The Daily Show, explained the importance of giving something back in the words of his mentor Jack Lemmon, who said that anyone who does well in life, at something they love doing, has an obligation to "send the elevator back down".

That is a line to be remembered.

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