Campaign fatigue: it's a matter of relativity

Campaign fatigue: it's a matter of relativity

II HAVE been in a time warp for most of my life, waking up sometimes on the top of the Catskill Mountains and wondering what ever happened to the 20th century where I spent the best years of my life.

As you can imagine, I wasn’t one bit surprised at the news last week that Einstein’s theory about the existence of space and time-bending gravitational ripples in the universe had finally been scientifically proven. I’ve been feeling the effects of those ripples for a long time myself.

The first time it happened was when I was doing my Leaving Cert English exam. Completely oblivious to the fact that two black holes had collided in outer space eons before, I looked up at the clock half way through the essay and saw to my utter dismay that the time was up. Where it had gone I had no idea.

Time management was never my thing.

They say that the older you get, the faster time flies. But it seems to be slowing down at the moment. Take the current general election campaign for instance. It was supposed to last for just over three weeks after Enda had blown the starter’s whistle – nearly a decade ago – and we’re still, as I write, only half way there and bored silly. We’re actually jaded, twiddling our thumbs, waiting for Godot. Even the election posters are weather-beaten and some are even getting faded by the odd ray of spring sunshine. The Taoiseach, by all accounts, wanted a short, quick run to polling day, but this has turned out to be anything but a short, quick run. The 100 years war was a virtual sprint in comparison!

I suppose the weather might have something to do with the apparent deceleration of time. Lousy weather seems to last forever. But the campaign itself is hardly riveting either, and lousy campaigning seems to last forever too. In fact I would go so far as to say that this is the slowest, most tedious election campaign that I have ever lived through, and if someone doesn’t make a boo-boo soon and liven it up, I’ll have to climb the Catskills again. Wake me up when it’s polling day!

Part of the problem, for me anyway, is that we were promised nothing less than a ‘fascinating election’ – a historical shift of tectonic proportions in Irish politics. Well, the earth hasn’t moved for me anyway, and I’m browned off with endless point scoring and tedious pontificating, the likes of which I have never seen before – except maybe in this column at times.

Sure, we’re all saturated with election coverage, but it is less than inspiring and anything but exhilarating.

If I have to sit through another leaders’ debate of personal insults and meaningless clichés - all stage managed by the stars of media outlets, who are more concerned with their own images and ratings than with our enlightenment - I swear I’ll forget the whole thing and turn over to Jeremy Kyle. Anything to pass the time!

To put it in perspective, I was listening on Monday to a radio presenter interviewing Claire Byrne in advance of the seven a-side leaders’ debate on RTE. She ended by wishing her screen colleague the ‘best of luck’. Claire for Taoiseach then, right! Maybe it was just a tongue in cheek remark, but I doubt it. I recall another RTE radio presenter, many years ago in the final fraught hours before the Good Friday Agreement was finally signed, wishing Tommy Gorman “good luck with the peace process, Tommy.” Whatever the ‘leaders’ may think, they are not the stars of the show.

The only welcome news on the airwaves during the week – apart from the universal acknowledgement that a rise in the Old Age Pension is imminent - was the cancellation of the TG4 leaders’ debate. Two of the leaders were not proficient enough in the language to debate as Gaeilge, we were told. What a presumptuous explanation. How could anyone assume that the vast majority of us were proficient enough in the language to understand them in the first place? It’s hard enough for most of us to get what they’re saying in English.

Then, on Monday, along comes the redoubtable Minister Alan Kelly, armed with jump-leads no doubt, promising to all and sundry that the election campaign was about to be ignited. Polling day will be here before we’ve had time to put out the fire. So get ready for the electoral rollercoaster then.

Now, call me a cynic if you like, but I don’t expect any great acceleration in the campaign.

According to my own personal theory of relativity, there will hardly be a ripple. Unless two black holes collide in fiscal space, we’ll still have a dreary ten days of predictable electioneering to get through. But as Beckett pointed out, we shouldn’t really be wondering how we will pass the time. The time will pass in any case.