Saturday 17 August 2019

Declan Lynch: 'US explores the infinite blackness of Trump's soul'

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

Since they landed on the Moon two days before my eighth birthday, I suppose I was as excited about my own small step as I was about the giant leap for mankind.

We were on holidays in Blackrock, Co Louth, so we could watch it on the BBC if we wanted, and this too was a thing of immense significance to me.

To be born into a world in which you could watch men landing on the Moon on BBC television was tremendous, but to be able to watch BBC television in the first place was probably enough for me back then.

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We talk a lot about child-like wonder, but wonder can be wasted on the child - there's so much of it, you can find it hard to discriminate between your sense of awe at the achievements of Apollo 11, and at the fact that you can see the football results coming in on the "teleprinter" on Grandstand on a Saturday afternoon. It's all great.

So I find that the more I understand about the Moon landings, the more wondrous they appear to me - at the present rate of going I feel I am on schedule to achieve that perfect state of wonder when I'm about 98. I love the scenes at mission control, where the most brilliant people in the world can be seen rejoicing in their work, doing something that would improve the state of much of humanity without themselves becoming billionaires - or without maybe slipping in a few little extras into their creation which would deliberately reduce much of humanity to states of utter dependency and addiction.

I love the fact that Neil Armstrong understood his own stardom as only the likes of Bob Dylan and Bowie in their different ways understood theirs, instinctively knowing that once the initial madness wore off, the best way for him to do it was to become a nobody.

Not only would Armstrong not have been recognised if he walked down the main street of your town, if he wasn't wearing his space suit, a lot of people would not easily identify him even in a picture. For a few moments last week I'd actually forgotten that he'd died in 2012.

He seemed to live by the philosophy: "I have walked on the Moon. What the hell else is there to say?"

But without actually saying it, of course.

Armstrong's rejection of celebrity and Buzz Aldrin's voyage into alcoholism would be cited by the conspiracy theorists as further "proof" of their contention that Apollo 11 was faked, that the two main players just couldn't face the truth, that it was all just a movie made by Stanley Kubrick.

And I love this too, because the conspiracists don't seem to realise that if it was just a Kubrick film, it would be an even more miraculous achievement than the one it was pretending to be. On a number of levels it would arguably be the greatest work of art of all time.

So it's win-win there. And the doubters were also reflecting a legitimate view that everything was a Big Lie until proven otherwise, though this was a time when there was at least a widespread acceptance that there was such a thing as truth, and there was such a thing as the opposite of truth - and that one was better than the other.

Trump has swept all that aside. And last week when he might have been extolling the great American poetry to be found in the exploration of space, he continued the journey into the infinite blackness of his own soul.

When he might have been rightly bragging about Apollo 11 proving that America is the Big Kahuna, a mighty and glorious nation which had given all this beauty to the world out of the goodness of its heart, instead he was telling various congresswomen to leave America if they hated it so much, to go back to where they came from.

Which triggered a remembrance of olden days, of Ronald Reagan's last speech as president, and lines like this: "We draw our people - our strength - from every country and every corner of the world. And by doing so we continually renew and enrich our nation."

So Reagan now joins the likes of Kenneth Clarke and Michael Heseltine - reviled in the 1980s as creatures of the right, now crazily transformed by the super-badness of today's right into stand-up guys.

Moreover, instead of giving it a rest for one week only, out of respect for the old and the dead astronauts, Trump accomplished two things which to him were perhaps of equal merit to anything they had done - he had "chosen" his opponents in the next election, not the candidate officially selected by the Democrats, but these four women who need to get back to where they once belonged; and he had created a distraction from his many connections with Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire and registered sex offender.

Today, 50 years after those great men went on a rocket to the Moon, this is where it's at - and nobody can rightly tell if the absolute pits have yet been reached, all they know is that it must be close.

Just one small step…

Hands up everyone who thinks our bankers are 'exceptional people'

Brian Hayes, who has left politics to become the CEO of the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland, criticised the banks a few years ago for "fleecing" customers. Which is fine.

When I hear leading members of Fine Gael making robust statements on such matters, I don't believe they are entirely incapable of changing their minds, in the fullness of time - or even by the time they have left the studio.

There are those who will claim that he was on our side then, but he's on their side now - but again in the fast-moving world of today, I find such distinctions can be unhelpful. There's really only one side now, at the top table.

So when Sean O'Rourke is talking to Brian Hayes about "poachers turned gamekeepers", in the mind's eye I don't see these two groups facing off against each other as natural enemies - I just see them all playing the game, as it were, on thousands of acres of some fine country estate from which members of the general public are barred.

And since the banks probably own the estate, in their case it all sort-of blends into one happy community.

To his credit, away from money matters, Hayes was usually quite strong in his opposition to the Provos, which would give him about 99pc of a pass with some of us, though for much of the Irish media it would seem to make no difference at all, and if anything, it might be regarded as a bad thing.

Still, even with his account so massively in the black on that crucial score, and earning the top rate of interest, I feel that he needs to be called in for a chat about his lines to Sean O'Rourke about "bank-bashing" - he claimed that "for the last number of years, bank-bashing is kind of the new form of groupthink in this country".

It was poor from him, to be dealing in these cliched generalisations, but then I suppose they're not paying him the big bucks to be wasting too much of his precious time on the actual meaning of words.

Just because a lot of people are thinking a certain way doesn't mean they are indulging in groupthink. Sometimes - not often but sometimes - a lot of people with the same opinion can be right.

For example, the multitudes who believe that €500,000 a year is a fine salary for any human being, are right. And they are doubly right to be thinking that anyone on €500k who considers himself to be underpaid is likely to have a somewhat blurred sense of his responsibilities - if any - to society, as distinct from his responsibilities to himself.

So when Hayes mentioned to O'Rourke that the banks need "exceptional people", it was seen as part of the great project of this generation of banking executives - to break the cap of 500k-a-year which was imposed by the government after they and their kind had incinerated the economies of many lands, and mostly got away with it.

Indeed the fact that paying them no more than half-a-million was considered a fitting retribution, went a long towards explaining why it had happened in the first place.

Yes, it was mainly symbolic, but symbols are important, and the bankers know this too, which is why they are pursuing this with such a ferocious ideological zeal, sort of echoing the words of Charles Stewart Parnell: "no man has the right to say… thus far shalt thou go and no further".

"Exceptional people" make their own rules.

Poor Rory feels chill of the dreaded Snowman

A friend of mine teed it up in the Captain's Prize at Woodenbridge Golf Club last Saturday. He is a bad golfer, but of late he had been in a rich vein of form, as happens from time to time even with the worst of slashers.

Making his way to the first tee, he felt the adrenaline surging inside him. He wasn't quite composing the first lines of his acceptance speech, but he had never felt better about his game. He really fancied it this year.

His first drive was not a good one - indeed it was a bad one. His second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth shots weren't great either.

After all the fine optimism of the morning, he would take seven shots on the par-four first. In theory he knew there was a long way to go, in his heart he knew he had already lost the great prize - and he was right. Those seven shots on the first had broken him, exposing the essential badness of his game.

Last Thursday at the first at Royal Portrush, Rory McIlroy took eight shots - a "snowman". There was consternation.

But for my friend and for thousands of other disgracefully bad players all over the world, there was no consternation, rather there was a sense of peace.

They mightn't be much good at golf, but there was some small consolation - at least they weren't Rory Mcllroy.

Sunday Independent

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