Most politicians, in my experience, are clever people. Or maybe cunning would be a better word. They know how to flatter people, how to defuse criticism, how to talk in generalities when an interviewer backs them into a corner.
But they have one characteristic that they sometimes give into: arrogance. It’s a kind of craziness, arrogance, and the source of that craziness is understandable if not forgivable. As that great political thinker Idi Amin is reputed to have said: “All power is delightful; absolute power is absolutely delightful!”
Maybe it was that craziness which got into Alan Shatter a few days ago, when he told those resisting government cuts to “Get a life”. The implication being that these people were doing something extremely silly, were wasting their God-given time on this planet, and should emerge from the darkness of their own stupidity and lead real lives. Like, presumably, joining Mr Shatter’s party and piling the debts of private investors onto vulnerable Irish people. “Get a life” – it’s an eloquent phrase, saying as much about the person who uses it as about those to whom it is offered.
And it must have been the same crazy arrogance that motivated Eamon Gilmore when he told protestors at the Labour Party annual conference in Galway to “Have a nice day”. Nice one, Eamon. The protestors carried placards of Labour Party founder James Connelly with the comment “Shame on you, Labour working-class traitors”. They came from Dublin, Dun Laoghaire, Donegal, Wexford, Leitrim and Limerick. They were protesting about septic tank and water charges, about education cuts, about the EU fiscal treaty. They chanted “Labour Party, we know you: you’re a fucking Blueshirt too!” The gardaí responded by using pepper-spray on them. And Eamon Gilmore responded by telling them they should “have a nice day”.
Get a life, have a nice day. Truly, whom the gods would destroy, first they make mad.