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Our columnist finds it difficult to stifle schadenfreudean mirth at the Eircom debacle
Eamonn McCann, 28 Sep 2000
Laugh? I nearly died of embarrassment. Tony Gregory attended the agm of Eircom shareholders to complain that he had bought shares in the company on the basis that, This was to be a company for the ordinary people, not for the rich .
Fintan O Toole confessed on the Eamon Dunphy show that he, too, had bought a block of Eircom shares. As had Joe O Toole of the teachers union. Plus half the staff of An Phoblacht and at least one Green Party TD. Not to mention Nell
For a while there it seemed you were either a left-over hippie skulking sadly in the sixties or a fish-eyed far-Lefty out of touch with the real world if you hadn t had a dab at the market with Eircom.
You can gamble for matches/You can gamble for gold/The stakes may be heavy or small/But if you haven t gambled that the price of Eircom shares would triple in a twinkling and hold their value thereafter/Then you havn t gambled at all.
What can I say to stifle the schadenfreudean mirth? Do all these people believe that OJ was innocent, the moon s a balloon, Pius XII was a saintly human being? Have they spent all their adult lives on a spiritual pilgrimage to Cloud Cuckoo Land?
Has Tony Gregory represented a working-class constituency in the legislature of the land for 18 years without ever forming a view about the essential nature of the capitalist system? Has Joe O Toole been a trade union leader for just as long and still not learnt that there is no such thing as a capitalist company which operates in the interest of the ordinary people . Has Fintan O Toole not grasped that the stock-market is a crooked casino in which plain punters can t win?
The common complaint of these folk seemed to be that share-buyers had been misled . They should try that one out on Terry Rogers : Everybody down the pub said it was a cert. I was misled. Gimme my money back...
An understandably distraught fellow wrote to the daily papers saying that he had borrowed on his mortgage to buy shares in order to pay for his children s education. What, he wanted to know, was he to tell his children now?
I m tempted to advise that telling them to steer clear of entanglement with the fraudulent capitalist system might be a start.
Then there was my old sparring partner Shane Ross s Revolt of the Small Shareholder. The senator gathered together 30 million proxy votes with which to clobber CEO Kane and the Fat Cats, and was cast in media coverage as the type of hero Jimmy Stewart used to play in Capra flicks.
Except that in Capra flicks, the hero won.
Shane shaped up to Kane like Alan Ladd to Jack Palance and hit the Board with his 30 million shares. Immediately, ex-Fianna Fail Tanaiste Ray McSharry retaliated with one a quarter billion shares owned by banks, finance houses and other dodgy institutions. And that was that.
Every measure suggested by the fat-cats was accepted. Every proposal from the plain punters was thrown out.
This outcome was widely presented the following day as a victory for Shane Ross and the Rebels. Nobody phoning-in or being subjected to interview failed to acknowledge the victory of the ordinary citizen and to offer heartfelt congratulations to Senator Ross. One of the Indo papers announced on the front page that nobody would ever treat the common people with such disdain again. (Seeming to suggest that the ruffian O Reilly, for example, was about to change the habits of his parasite lifetime )
To what extent this bizarrely inaccurate coverage was consciously intended to placate angry share-holders by pretending that somehow they d won, must remain a matter for speculation. The facts of the matter remain. Those who lost money are still losers, the fat-cats are still slurping the cream and baring their claws for the next killing.
Within hours of the Eircom agm, the ideologues of untrammelled capitalism were nominating new victims. Aer Lingus and Dublin Bus appear to be first in line for the Eircom treatment. Then, perhaps, RTE and a variety of local authority functions.
Only a fool or a fraud could seriously suggest that the Eircom experience will make executives and directors of privatised concerns more circumspect in the future about stuffing their pockets with ill-gotten, unearned loot.
To believe that capitalism can operate in any way other than the way it operated in the Eircom scam is like believing in the Magic Hill of Cooley, which water runs up.
The only serious response to the Eircom affair is to join in the fight against the capitalist system.
Showing for the S30 carnival at the Temple Bar Music Centre in Dublin on Saturday would mark a beginning.
As dot.comical developments go, the cyber-pilgrimage is a beaut. But not as original as its promoters appear to imagine.
It s reported that ten thousand pilgrims a day are hitting on www.lourdes-france.com, the website of the celebrated shrine in the Pyrenees where, so the story goes, the Virgin Mary appeared to a child, Bernadette Soubirou, 18 times in 1858.
Lourdes at the time was a small huddle of houses on a hillside. Nowadays, it has 273 hotels and 13 official campsites and boasts more tourist beds than any town in France except Paris. The website is aimed at pilgrims who can t (physically) make it to the thriving resort.
It s a big, big success, says Lourdes IT manager Philippe Leroux. People can now petition for a prayer by e-mail, see the celebrated grotto on the webcam and tune into the daily rosary on live audio.
If they are really lucky, a priest will have selected their petition from the daily download and will include it specifically in his service.
Cyber-pilgrims will have the same chance as physical pilgrims of eliciting a miracle through the intercession of the Lourdes Virgin with the Almighty.
This is the way forward, says M. Leroux.
Actually, it takes me way back.
I may have mentioned before that I was once a Lourdes regular myself, and had visted the shrine half a dozen times by my mid-teens. Not that I had travelled to the Pyrenees. I was a spiritual pilgrim . There were thousands of us around Derry.
The spiritual pilgrimage took place every year, at the same time as the Derry Diocesean Pilgrimage proper . Generally speaking, only the better-off Catholics could afford to take the train and plane to the miracle shrine. But for half a crown 121/2 pence in today s money you could buy an embossed certificate signifying your entitlement at home to the same blessings as were being conferred on the trekkers to faraway places.
Spiritual pilgrims undertook to pray to Our Lady of Lourdes every evening, making spiritual connection with the travellers. On the final evening of the pilgrimage period, the spiritual pilgrims would gather in Derry Cathedral at the same time as the climactic service for the Derry contingent was getting under way in the Basilica of Notre Dame. We d attend to benediction, sing Marian hymns and listen to a sermon on the Virgin Mary s presence in the world and Her role in our lives. Physically, we may have been in St. Eugene s at the top of William Street. Spiritually, we were in the church built on the site of Bernadette s apparitions.
The sense of oneness with our fellow-pilgrims which enveloped us wasn t entirely fanciful. Our half crowns had helped subsidise their travel and accomodation. Our contribution was crucial to all aspects of the event.
We were invited to believe, and did believe, that bountiful blessings cascaded upon us in the same manner and measure as descended on the simultaneous assembly at Lourdes.
Many of us have drastically changed our ideas and attitudes since. But I still think it the case contrary to those who argue that there s no essential difference between the various Christian denominations that there never was a Protestant born who could have thought up a scam like the spiritual pilgrimage.
Or the updated cyber version either.