Diss Engaged


I am here in London for a few days for a work conference. The hotel I am staying in has a per second broadband charge and so I write this in a text editor in advance of subscribing to their service later this afternoon. All I really have to say about the journey from Dublin to London was that leaving Dublin airport seemed to take a lot longer than getting from Heathrow to SE1. I drove you see because I needed the car to get back to work on Wednesday upon my return and the car seemed like a good choice. The Blue Car Park – called this because it gives one the blues – was the only long term one open yesterday morning and so the €8.50 a day charge would be levied for the privilege of parking my car in a space not much more than a topsoiled field with some hardcore and a free bus to the terminal. It’s called the terminal you see because your will to live is terminated by the arrangements made for travelling people at Dublin airport. (Given my spat with Twenty Major and anonymous others last week, isn’t it interesting how phrases can be used in other ways?)

As we landed at Heathrow I saw the cargo being unloaded from the side of the ‘plane. In 15 years will we be able to take a plane to London for a conference; when the miracle of 20th century engineering that is the cargo-unloading machine breaks down will there be affordable replacement parts? This is hardly sustainable transport and airports are places where you are confronted by this hefty measure of unsustainability at every turn. From the plastic lids used at the Costa stand to the sealings used to keep out the elements on the connecting tunnels, all of it will become more difficult to sustain as this century goes on. This afternoon I bought and read the first three or four chapters of P.D. James’ novel Children of Men in Waterstone’s. I really like Innartiu’s film from 2006 and I wanted to see how this unconventional approach to science fiction writing works in the novel format.

London is fine and getting more and more ‘foreign’ every time I visit. Something about the translation of money and the accent that makes it easier for Irish people (with all of the post-colonial inferiority) to be here in Blighty. A few thoughts though on coming to this place where it seems there are more residents with foreign accents than English accents:

  • what is the point of cities outside of commerical activity?
  • losing sight of the significance of our individual lives in the context of others, we want celebrities and politicians to be just like us. Democracy in reality is dead. Felt no more strongly than when I saw tourists taking photos of themselves outside the Houses of Parliament.
  • what can we make of the situation where privatised lives lived in major agglomerations of population like London seems to lead to political disengagement and powerlessness.
  • where does our happiness lie in large cities? We seek identity through logos, through the brands we consume and in other ways. How does this make us political? Where is the power displayed other than in the disposability of our consumption?
  • Are we living in a new nineteenth century or did we leave it at all? Heightened public moralism and lessened political engagement.

Have I lost you? Hopefully not. I am struggling myself with these and connected questions. I also went to the Apple Store on Regent St and was disappointed at how vacuous I (and it) felt compared to the sense of anticipation I had when I realised that Monday could be spent wandering this hall of self-aggrandising products a few weeks back. We don’t have one in Ireland and we are probably the better for it: no bigger a cathedral of empty, self-centred consumerism is there on the planet. And this coming from a fan of the electronics manufacturer.

Blog will be back on Wednesday I hope as I am at this conference all day tomorrow. The title of the conference: the Future of Civil Society.

p.s. this hotel’s broadband is faster than my home broadband. Oi, eircom! No!

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